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The Adventures of Toby DVD

 image 7 Think Sunday school stories like you’ve never heard before – or bible studies with a modern twist and you have the Adventures of Toby – a DVD with two fun stories!

The Adventures of Toby is the work of Yipee! Films, the film arm of well-known commercial animation studio Bugbox which is, in turn, behind many well known television commercials.  These include Kellogg’s All Brand Cabaret, the Post Office Christmas Campaign, KFC Survivor, Samsung Heroes, Coke Hello, Coke Pirates, Coke Mozzie, Smarties Grown Ups, Pick ‘n Pay Christmas Elves, Hyundai Jet and more.

These commercials, as well as works for studios in London, Ireland and Los Angeles have helped fund the Toby project which is the masterpiece of a multi-denominational team of 14 artists and writers.  Their ultimate aim has been to give age-old bible stories the same modern day, trendy look as the entertainment DVD’s in local video stores and paint a picture of a God who is both fun and friendly.

The Adventures of Toby tells the tale of a six-year-old boy facing the challenges of childhood.  Toby also has to deal with an absent father, an exhausted mother and his cruel teenage sister Janet.  image 19 He ultimately finds help in dealing with these problems via a new friend, Jesus, who gives him the tools he needs to deal with everyday problems.

In the first film, Monsters and Me, a terrified Toby finds himself alone in his room on a dark, stormy night.  He becomes increasingly frightened of the imaginary monsters on his wall.image 18  He screams for help and a man knocks at the door of his heart.  Toby soon realizes that his visitor is Jesus.  The two become friends and Jesus gives him a laser gun that he can load with the words of God to blast away the monsters.

The second film, Making Friends, begins with a nasty comment from Toby’s sister, Janet, who exclaims that it is a mystery why he was even born.  Toby is hurt but gets no comfort from his mother who hurries off to work.  When Jesus arrives, he takes Toby in a time machine to the beginning of time. image 17  Toby sees God creating the universe, the earth and himself and realizes that he was not only made perfectly but designed to be God’s special friend.

Director of Monsters and Me, Candice Argall, who also wrote the scripts for both films, said she was inspired by both her own relationship with God and her two sons Matthew (6) and James (2).  “My oldest son, Matthew, is largely responsible for the Adventures of Toby.  I was really writing for him, trying to teach him about my own journey with God and put it in words and metaphors that a six year-old would understand.  I want him to learn to experience God’s friendship, not learn theory about God.”

However, when she started writing the script, Candice had no idea that these stories would reach out to so many troubled children.

“The first film was written to communicate to children the fantastic friendship God wants to share with us.  The fear factor was just a vehicle for Toby to call for help, but we’ve received feedback about children overcoming all sorts of fears after watching the film which has been nothing short of miraculous.”

Educational psychologist Bjorn Opper believes that the messages in the films, which operate from a child’s perspective, are powerful tools.  “The use of tales and storytelling for the purposes of learning and healing is an ancient phenomenon. Animation makes stories come alive and really captivate and hold children’s attention.  As a psychologist working with children and adolescents, I have used the Adventures of Toby as a therapeutic tool when dealing with various issues such as fears, worries and low self-esteem.  This DVD offers more than just a story.  It provides a platform from which children can identify with Toby and learn from how he overcomes problems.  It also allows for emotional awareness and exploration.”

The second film, Making Friends, owes much of its energy to the talented James Alexander, who is better known for his television role in Binnelanders. He is the voice of Jesus.  “James is an extraordinary character who loves God and comedy,” Candice explains.

Husband Tim Argall directed the second film and introduced creative elements that provide a whole new perspective on stories that have been told over and over again.  “During the creation scene, we wanted to convey God as having an enormous amount of fun doing arts and crafts.  We sat James Alexander down in front of a table covered with paper, pencil crayons and clay and asked him to design a world filled with creatures.”  He formed the basis for the animation and the end result was a God who was anything but “a boring Being in the sky looking over his creation”.

While the films are adventurous and imaginative, Yipee! Films has also been a stickler for technical excellence and accuracy.  Because the filmmakers feel an enormous responsibility to stick to the truth, they asked Dr Chris Peppler, founder and chairman of the SA Theological Seminary, to screen every script to see that it stuck to biblical principles.  The films have been selected for this month’s Brisbane Animation Festival.

Yipee! Films interactive site features free colouring-in and activity pages for children!

More Toby DVD’s are on the way.  The third Toby adventure is in production and Candice is also busy writing Toby’s adventures into book form.  A full-length feature film (writing has already begun) as well as activity books, a board game and even a computer game are also in the pipeline.image 20

 

The Adventures of Toby, available in English and Afrikaans, retails at R70.00 from leading retailers.  For a stockist near you, e-mail cindy@yipee.co.za or log onto www.yipee.co.za

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