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DVD cartoons tell children story of Jesus’ life, death

Mark I. Pinsky The Orlando Sentinel

Evangelical animators are rushing to release new, technically sophisticated cartoon versions of Jesus’ life and death, aimed at children.

At least two are now on the market, both the handiwork of Disney veterans.

“The Animated Passion Trilogy,” a three-DVD set, is described by its producers as “colorful, child-appropriate storytelling with biblical accuracy.”

It is directed by Richard Rich, who also directed Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound” and more recently “Muhammad: The Last Prophet,” an animated feature for children about Islam.

“The GodMan” combines the New Testament’s four Gospels using computer-generated technology similar to that of “The Polar Express,” its creators say.

They describe it as “a powerful animated version designed specifically to appeal to school-aged children from diverse cultures.”

Directed by Bob Arvin, who has worked on Disney and Universal animated projects, “The GodMan” aired nationally on religious television stations, networks and cable systems the third week in March before going on sale in DVD form.

In the past, conservative organizations such as the American Family Association have criticized commercial television shows such as “South Park” for animated portrayals of Jesus they say trivialize the religious figure.

But some see little chance that a cartoon Jesus produced by evangelicals will offend religious conservatives.

“Evangelicals have always invited imaginative stories that faithfully retell the Christ story in new situations and for new audiences,” says Robert Johnston, professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and author of “Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue” (Baker Academic, 2000).

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