February 27, 2008

Clever Veggies

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie poster thumbnail

As I stood on the subway platform the other day, zoning out at the posters that line the walls, I snapped to attention as a most peculiar thing caught my eye: a poster for a movie called The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie. I can honestly say I don’t know much about VeggieTales (the TV show or the films), but damned if this poster, and more specifically, the character on it, aren’t clever.

Do you see it? Right there on the hat. At first glance you might see a skull and crossbones (or in this case, flatware), but that same shape is also a flourished letter “P” for “Pirates” and a sliced mushroom viewed from head-on. So simple and smart. Small details that carry multiple meanings like these are design gold, and this one hit me that much harder because it wasn’t very obvious at first glance. This isn’t going to get me into the theater for the film, but it sure made me stop and stare like a idiot for a few minutes. High fives to whoever the designer might be.

Commentary (30):

1. Susanna says… feb 27, 2008 | 10:08 am

Great example of design. It’s little details like these that make Veggie Tales cartoons enjoyable for me. I have a 2-year-old who, like many kids, likes to watch the same shows over and over.

I think the folks at Big Ideas understand how excruciating this can be for parents because they take the time to make the writing and the visual design of their cartoons rich with small details. So even on the 20th viewing of “Larry Boy and the Bad Apple” I might still notice something new and clever.

2. Scott Lenger says… feb 27, 2008 | 10:19 am

Very cool!

If the poster caught your attention, there is probably enough similar material in the films, like Jonah to warrant at least a rental.

Despite being a children’s movie, there’s a fair amount of highbrow humor, similar to what you find in Elf.

3. Sam Hardacre says… feb 27, 2008 | 10:24 am

It’s a shame this wasn’t around a year ago. This would have been a great snippet to show as part of your @media presentation. The devil is in the details : )

4. Joshua Clanton says… feb 27, 2008 | 10:25 am

That’s brilliant! I noticed the mushroom right away, but I didn’t realize that it was also a letter P till you pointed it out.

5. Ian says… feb 27, 2008 | 10:41 am

Good design = making you feel like a idiot. Check.

6. wayne says… feb 27, 2008 | 10:41 am

yeah, that’s cool. it’s a shame veggie tales is a religious propaganda show…

7. Jason Beaird says… feb 27, 2008 | 10:46 am

I don’t know why exactly, but I know the song.

“We are the pirates we don’t do anything
we just stay at home, and lie around
and if you ask us, to do anything
we’ll just tell you…
we don’t do anything!”

8. Josiah says… feb 27, 2008 | 11:54 am

My brother and I ran a website years ago, selling shirts styled with “Veggie Tales From the Crypt.” We had a few nice legal conversations with Big Idea, and decided to stop. I’ve always loved their design though. It’s nothing if not clever.

@Jason: Relient K for the win

@wayne: it’s not exactly “propaganda.” It’s more like a “blatantly open christian cartoon.” But hey. Call it what you like.

9. rob says… feb 27, 2008 | 12:12 pm

@wayne: What Josiah said. But I won’t say anymore … this should be a place to discuss design, not to start a religious debate.

I noticed the mushroom right away but missed the P. Often things can be read/viewed two ways … but three? It truly is ‘gold’ design!

10. Jonathan Snook says… feb 27, 2008 | 12:50 pm

I’m always impressed by smart design and smart writing. When you have kids, it’s nice to have it subtly marketed to parents just as much as it is to kids. For example, Harry and his bucket full of dinosaurs is a good show with odd references like characters quoting Queen or scenes taken from Psycho. It’s stuff that is totally irrelevant to the kids and yet is entertaining for adults. Enough to watch it instead of Dora or Diego (seriously, if these animals keep losing their kids, we need to see a little more of the pythons eating small animals.)

11. Tim says… feb 27, 2008 | 1:17 pm

That logo was designed by Ron Eddy, a very talented artist. The “P” not only stands for Pirates, but for the restaurant where they work as bus-boys. It’s called the Pieces of Ate - a Pirate themes dinner theater (that’s why the crossed bones are a knife and fork).

12. Todd Coleman says… feb 27, 2008 | 1:19 pm

I see those posters on the Broad Street Line every day and I never noticed that! Great eye Jason!

13. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 27, 2008 | 1:25 pm

Jonathan Snook: Agreed. It reminds me of the muli-layered humor in old Looney Tunes shorts; great characters and gags for kids, but thoroughly entertaining for adults by way of double-meanings and cultural references.

Tim: Do you have a link for Ron Eddy?

14. Jina Bolton says… feb 27, 2008 | 1:30 pm

If you ever get the chance to watch any Veggie Tales movies, they’re very clever in their humor (I used to help a children’s sunday school class, and we’d watch these movies frequently) — much like animaniacs, they knew how to make adults laugh as well. I’m a fan. :) The design of this hat rocks too. :D

15. Daniel Marino says… feb 27, 2008 | 2:35 pm

I have a two and a half-year old who will watch VeggieTales over and over and over… I never mind because they are so clever and entertaining to watch, for reasons that were already mentioned above. The DVDs are great too because they almost always have a lot of behind-the-scenes type stuff and commentary with the designers, animators, producers, etc… It’s really cool to see where they draw their inspiration from or get ideas for a specific scene, character, or even just some finite detail. Great stuff.

16. Darrel says… feb 27, 2008 | 4:01 pm

“it’s a shame veggie tales is a religious propaganda show”

While it’s Christian, for sure, it’s pretty light and not overbearing. It’s fairly generic moral lessons (be nice, cooperate, etc.). And the quality of their productions trumps that little annoyance (for me, at least).

All that said, I thought the Pirates movie was consciously secular?

Regardless of all that, that is a GREAT little logo they came up with! That whole ‘works on 3 levels’ is the epitome of logo design, IMHO.

17. Patrick Haney says… feb 27, 2008 | 4:33 pm

I wish I had stopped reading this post until I had a chance to stare at the full poster first. You stole that moment of realization from me!

Seriously though, this is one of those little design gems I come across now and then. I immediately saw the “P” and then realized it was a skull as well. And a mushroom to tie in the “veggie” part too? Perfect.

It kind of reminds me of the moment I finally realized there was an arrow inside the FexEx logo…

18. Carl says… feb 27, 2008 | 4:44 pm

I’ve seen my share of VeggieTales, and the attention to detail you see in a pirate hat is typical of the level of quality at Big Idea. (My personal favorite: Madame Blueberry).

Pirates continues this tradition — and you just gotta root for a film that puts Rock Lobster into the soundtrack of a kids’ movie!

19. Matt Radel says… feb 27, 2008 | 5:28 pm

I made out the mushroom at first but not the “P”. Man, that’s stupid clever. Wait…I mean…

20. Clint Ecker says… feb 27, 2008 | 6:47 pm

Hey Jason. I shared this post with a friend who is friends with the VeggieTales guys. They apparently got a kick out of your post!

Apparently their design team already knew of you ;)

21. Jemaleddin says… feb 28, 2008 | 9:04 am

The writing in that movie was terrible - just absolutely not funny. It’s too bad it didn’t live up to the design.

I’m not a religious person, and you can read about my autistic son’s experiences with Veggie Tales over at my blog. It’s a tricky thing having a child with autism because you want to be careful that they don’t learn certain kinds of information that they’ll obsess about. My son spent months when he was younger fixated on being stuck in things after reading about Pooh being stuck in Rabbit’s doorway, so I try to be careful about certain kinds of abstractions. There’s an interesting ending to the story though, so maybe these movies have more value than I give them credit for.

22. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 28, 2008 | 4:26 pm

Clint Ecker: Good deal! Hopefully they’ll stop by and say hello.

23. Josh Stodola says… feb 29, 2008 | 3:40 pm

Wow, that is awesome. I wish I had such subtle creativity.

24. warren blayney says… feb 29, 2008 | 6:05 pm

Nice design. It’s a shame a mushroom isn’t technically a vegetable! I think it’s a fungi. But yeah!

25. jj says… mar 3, 2008 | 8:22 am

Not only does that little icon represent a vegetable (muchroom, as noted) and a P for Pirates, - it still is a decent skull icon too. Well done.

26. Steven says… mar 3, 2008 | 5:56 pm

Agreed. Nice subtle work. I bet the designer that came up with this and slipped into the poster had a great feeling of satisfaction.

27. Ben McNelly says… mar 4, 2008 | 2:55 pm

I remember seeing one of these posters in a KFC the other day, and I was amused by the clever P/skull and totally missed the mushroom! Nice catch. I am really impressed with not just their creativity but the consistent quality of their work.

28. Andy States says… mar 4, 2008 | 7:59 pm

Amazing. Like the young/old woman optical illusion with a third layer. The ol’ triple whammy!

29. Jason Head says… mar 5, 2008 | 10:19 am

The logo remind me of a shirt I bought my vegan wife for Christmas last year. A shirt that says “Praise Seitan” and has a pentagram made out of forks!

30. niff says… mar 6, 2008 | 12:22 pm

Hey Stan, I don’t remember if you knew this, but many of my buds from college were at Big Idea for a while before it moved to Canada- and I have watched A LOT of these cartoons and the humor is seriously amazing.

They may not have arms, but they sure are clever!

You should give it a try.