… the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. —Mark 4:10-12 KJV
Even Jesus, the greatest speaker of all time, knew that the way to grab an audience was to tell a story. One of today’s storytellers is Superbook. If you are not familiar with the biblical animated children’s series Superbook, you will be soon.
Long before Veggies Tales became a household name, there was little known animated cartoon series that was created to be used as an outreach to Japanese children and their families. Back in 1981, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) greenlit the Animated Parent and Child Theater, an anime television series that reached over four million people each week. The show ran for two seasons of original episodes of 26 stories in each.
This new television adventure featured Christopher Peeper and Joy, a pair of friends who find a “magic” Bible or “time book” that not only speaks to them but transports the two into real Bible stories as they are happening. Chris’ toy robot, Gizmo, goes along for the ride as well.
Produced in Japan by Tatsunoko Productions, (who also produced Speed Racer), in partnership with CBN, the show became a huge success and has been known to be a contributing factor to the growth of sales of the Bible in that country. Soon, episodes began to air throughout the world from Asia to North America.
Back in the states, the series was sold in Christian bookstores in the form of VHS tapes, dubbed in English and re-named, Superbook for American audiences. In 1989, Superbook even began to air during primetime in the Soviet Union.
To date, the original series has aired in over 106 countries, was translated into 43 different languages and is estimated in have been viewed by over 500 million people. In 2005, the first editions of Superbook on DVD hit store shelves.
By now though, the limited animation had begun to look and feel dated. Children were not as impressed with the series as they once were. By 2008, CBN began the steps in creating a new, re-imagined version of the show using the latest in 3D computer animation.
In 2009, the world was introduced to this new project based the story David and Goliath. “Our goal is to produce a new series that will honor the life-changing legacy of the original series and re-introduce it to a new generation,” said a CBN representative. “It’s time to re-imagine the original Superbook series, to take advantage of its legacy and introduce it to a whole new generation.”
Truth that is found in the Bible is both simple as it is complex. The strength of the Superbook stories has been because they maintain biblical accuracy while creating a unique element of time travel. In addition to the new technology to produce these cartoons, the new stories have a more modern feel to them. Chris and Joy are more realistic-looking and they tend to do things that modern kids do.
A CBN representative said, “Our goal is to have the kind of legacy where we can look back 20 years from now and find people, whether they are in Russia, China, Japan, Africa, Central or South America, that say, ‘My introduction to Christianity happened because of a cartoon.’ If we can present the Gospel in a clear way, I literally think we can see a new generation come to Jesus Christ.”
The new Superbook is off to a great start in reaching its goal. To date, 14 new episodes have been created, (not all of them have been released just yet) and CBN has been looking into new ways outside of its network to promote Superbook.
This summer, the series received a big boost in promotion due to an agreement with both ABC Family and CBS. For five days, children were treated to the new series on ABC Family in June and CBS created a special Superbook Saturdays promotion in July where they aired three of the episodes. Whether or not more specials will be aired on these networks remains to be seen, but it is a step in the right direction. Also, the new series has its own website, a new downloadable app a lot of praise from young fans.