Mike Nawrocki has a well-known voice when it comes to children. Wednesday morning, Belmont students were able to hear him again as he hosted a convocation about his journey with God.
As a part of the EMERGE: Spiritual Emphasis series of convocations, Nawrocki spoke about the challenges and decisions he had to make leading up to his co-founding of Big Idea Productions and the show “Veggie Tales.”
The convocation began normally with a performance by the worship band and a prayer from University Minister Guy Chmieleski, but the dynamic changed the moment Nawrocki stepped on stage. His first sentence was in the iconic voice of Larry the Cucumber.
With the students’ interest peaked, Nawrocki conducted the convocation in the form of a “Veggie Tales” episode, starting with and on-the-countertop clip about sharing. Afterward, Nawrocki began sharing his own story.
“When I was a kid, I loved to make people laugh,” Nawrocki said. “The other thing that happened to me at that age was I became a Christian.”
Convinced that God was calling him to be a ministry doctor, Nawrocki joined the school’s puppet team due to the required student ministry and his love of performing.
“I didn’t care, I was a nerd who liked Weird Al Yankovic,” Nawrocki said.
While a part of the team, Nawrocki met Phil Vischer. Vischer would later become the voice of Bob the Tomato. As they became friends, they decided to move in order to continue college after failing to attend chapel enough to stay at their school.
“I was a puppet nerd turned puppet rebel,” Nawrocki said.
In 1990, the idea for “Veggie Tales” began forming. However, Nawrocki viewed the idea as a temporary one, as he still intended on going to medical school.
“Production work was just a means to an end,” Nawrocki said.
But the character design continued. The animated characters needed to be simple, which meant no limbs, no hair and no clothes. At that point, Larry the Cucumber was created. Bob the Tomato came later as a contrasting companion.
“They just felt like everyday vegetables with everyday names,” Nawrocki said.
After a promotional video was created for the series, Nawrocki continued on his path to become a ministry doctor by applying to the Peace Corps. However, animation and “Veggie Tales” began to change his mind as he was animating the environment for one of the episodes.
“For the first time, we were creating this whole world. It looked so magical to me,” Nawrocki said.
Nawrocki’s Peace Corps acceptance arrived in the same month as the funding for “Veggie Tales,” so Nawrocki felt he had to make a decision. He ultimately chose to follow the path of animation.
“I prayed about it, but it was one of those moments where the decision I made would likely affect the rest of my life,” Nawrocki said.
Like any episode of “Veggie Tales,” Nawrocki ended his talk with a closing countertop clip and an iconic phrase from the series.
“Always remember, God made you special, and he loves you very much,” Nawrocki said.