The Great Puppet Debate

Hey Kidmin people! First off, you probably don’t know me because I’m not involved directly in kid’s ministry in any way, but we do have some things in common. For one, we’re both passionate about reaching our audience and regardless of the differences in our demographics one thing connects us all; we’re all human beings!

Walt Disney said in 1938 — “When we’re making a picture we don’t think of grown ups and we don’t think of children, but just of that fine clean un-spoiled spot down deep in every one of us, that maybe the world has made us forget and that maybe our pictures can help recall.”

I love that quote because it so beautifully describes what it is we do—tell stories, and great stories connect with us all regardless of age.

One of the more troubling trends I’ve seen in kid’s ministry in the last few years is the propensity to throw out mediums that have been effective at telling great stories for years because we believe that a particular medium is no longer effective. This is incredibly naive, and I say that with all due respect to those who chosen to serve our kids.

Recently I re-watched a documentary about the history of Pixar and I was struck by a remarkable comparison to kids ministry today. After Pixar had a real string of hits under its belt and the company really began to take off financially, an unfortunate thing began to happen. Many of the other animation studios started laying off their traditional 2D cell animators thinking that 2D animation was a thing of the past. They thought that Pixar was succeeding simply because they worked in a different medium.

When the leadership at Pixar heard about this troubling trend they were crushed. To think that in some way they had contributed to the destruction of a medium they cared so much about killed them. As it turned out they had learned so much of their craft from the people who had pioneered traditional 2D cell animation. In fact they love 2D animation because they understood what Walt had laid out so many years ago. That the medium is secondary to the story. Pixar’s movies work not because they’re made in a computer instead of by hand, but because they’re great stories.

So when Disney bought Pixar and they merged the leadership structure of the two studios what was the first thing they did? The Princess and the Frog. A 2D traditional cell animated film. And it was a success.

That brings me to this “great puppet debate.” What’s the debate? Puppets work when you know how to use them. They are a means to an end, not the end itself, and when you mix those two up you’re destined to do some really bad creative work (i.e. most DreamWorks movies).

Consider this: If you didn’t know how to use a shovel wouldn’t you look like a fool to throw it out claiming it had no purpose?

I realize not everyone in kid’s ministry has the capability of producing a great puppet performance. I get that. Video may be your strong suit just as computer animation is Pixar’s but don’t be so narrow-minded that you throw out an entire medium of beautiful art because you can’t figure out how to use it.

Creativity is not limited to the mediums that we deem worthy, story transcends medium and until that truth hits you like a ton of bricks, you’ll always make bad creative decisions because you’ll be focused on the wrong things.

Think I’m wrong? Ask Pixar.

comments powered by Disqus
Whitney George
Arts Director
Whit is the Arts Director at Church on the Move, where he oversees the teams that are responsible for service planning, worship, video, graphics, and production. Whitney is passionate about the local church and loves connecting with other church leaders. He and his wife, Heather, have five children and he loves Notre Dame football.
@whitneygeorge