|VeggieTales - Duke and the Great Pie War|
|Written by Dan MacIntosh|
|Tuesday, 08 March 2005|
“Veggie Tales” is an animated series that is all about values, and this “Duke and the Great Pie War” DVD centers around the admirable quality of looking out for the well-being of others. Its scripture reference comes from the New Testament, in Romans 12:10, which states: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” These ideas are expressed through two major stories. The first is humorously titled “Baby Sitter in De-Nile,” which recounts the story of Moses as a baby. The second story, the main feature, is “Duke and the Great Pie War,” which revisits the Bible tale of Ruth and Naomi by utilizing a duke named Duke, and showing his love for Sweet Princess Petunia. This DVD effectively communicates foundational human values, by sending them through the funny bone and straight to the human heart.
For those not already familiar with the “Veggie Tales” series, this animated collection incorporates the concept of cartoon vegetable characters, which are primarily voiced by adults. Grownups notice right away that these animators have been well versed in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and these wacky inspirations have been kid-sized in order to entertain and inform young children. Each episode is introduced by Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato, beginning with Bob reading a letter from a viewer. In this particular case, Cody from Colorado is troubled because her parents just had a new baby boy, who now gets more attention than her. The parallel is drawn between Cody’s temporary troubles and the Biblical story of Moses, which leads into the first animated segment.
“Baby Sitter in De-Nile” opens with poor Miriam, who is forced by political circumstances to take care of young Moses. At this time in history, the Pharaoh was troubled by the increasing number of Hebrews then living in Egypt, so Moses’ family was forced to keep his male identity a secret. Miriam does nothing but complain about her babysitting chores, until her brother Aaron nearly gets run over by the Princess of Egypt’s chariot, just to protect her. This event causes Miriam to suddenly realize the great value of looking out for others. After this, it doesn’t seem nearly so hard for her to look after her little brother.
The funniest part of the “Baby Sitter” segment is when the Princess of Egypt begins to talk, since she sounds exactly like a spoiled Valley Girl. There’s also a beach scene which finds an Egyptian child building sand pyramids, instead of sand castles. For the most part, however, this is a fairly straight telling of the Biblical account.
In between this DVD’s two main featurettes, there is a “silly song from Larry” portion. In this snippet, Larry miserably fails at trying to sing the blues. He’s helped out here by the true blues man, Blind Lemon Lincoln, who both steals his ice cream and crushes his cookie, in order to cause Larry to get the blues. But even after losing his ice cream and his cookie, Larry still doesn’t catch onto the blues. Besides, he has some tasty strudel to eat. “You can’t say strudel in the blues!” Blind Lemon Lincoln protests, so Larry merely switches to polka-ing instead.
“Duke and the Great Pie War,” the Ruth and Naomi retelling, takes place in the midst of a pie war between the Rhubarbarians and the people of Scone. Before Duke Duke even meets the future love of his life, he must prepare by taking jousting training at “Ye Old Knight School.” In class with him are the silly-named “Three Dog Knights,” as well as the “Sleepless Knight.” It is here that Duke Duke also meets his eventual rival, Otis the Elevated, who is a highly touted “Ye Old Knight School” graduate.
While walking through his apple orchard one day, Duke Duke meets Sweet Princess Petunia, who belongs to the enemy tribe of the Rhubarbarians. Lucas, his traveling partner, warns Duke not to get involved with this Petunia, but Duke is smitten by Petunia’s overwhelming sweetness. Before long, Nona, Petunia’s mom, convinces her daughter to have Duke joust for the other half of the family crest, which is – surprise, surprise – owned by Otis the Elevated. This crest offers the key to the family chest, which contains innumerable treasures.
This story ends with a multi-tiered contest between Duke Duke and Otis the Elevated. First they must get through an obstacle course called “The Obstacle Course of Peril.” Next they need to answer the riddle put to them by The Abbot of Costello, which is a thinly disguised take on Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s On First” bit. Lastly, they’re both asked to engage in a joust. But instead of coming at each other with bladed spears, they ride on horses with pies at the ends of their stakes.
At one point during this final competition, Otis the Elevated speaks out loud about his selfish intents for obtaining the second half of the crest. He doesn’t care who gets harmed in his ruthless pursuit. And this bit of boasting is all the inspiration Duke Duke needs in order to best his foe. Duke Duke out-jousts Otis the Elevated, wins the second half of the crest and ultimately wins the hand of Sweet Princess Petunia. Presumably, these two live happily ever after.
There are always plenty of reasons for adults to get a kick out of this cartoon. For instance, a couple of Rhubarbarian nay-sayers warn Sweet Princess Petunia to stay away from Duke Duke by speaking in accents that are dead ringers for the old lady voices on Monty Python skits. At another point, while Lucas and Duke Duke are walking along the road, surf music can be heard in the background. And when Duke asks what it is, Lucas replies: “It’s that new Serf music.” Lastly, when the jousting prizes are announced, the deep-voiced announcer also promises a set of Ginsu knives to the winner.
While the Big Idea folks that created these characters are unabashedly Christians, these funny stories are never preachy or evangelical. If you know the Biblical stories, you can see through to the roots of these tales. But even if you’re not the Biblical sort, it’s hard not to disagree with the principles these stories teach. In the end, your mom was right when she told you that veggies are good for you.