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This is Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki doing a commentary on The Toy That Saved Christmas.


Man 1: Hi there! Welcome to "The Toy That Saved Christmas"!

Man 2: (quietly) "The Toy That Saved Christmas".

Man 1: This is, uh, Phil Vischer.

Man 2: And this is Mike Nawrocki.

Vischer: Broadcasting to you live from uh, sunny Lombard, Illinois. And we're watching, uuh, actually, this is my favorite scene in the movie!

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: We did, uh, these snowflakes. We did in a second version. The original version of the show did not have the snowflakes. Well, it had some cheaper snowflakes and we did those really nice ones. And that was really cool. So this show was produced in 1996. Uh, it was released for Christmas 1996, and... Uum, what was it- Oh yeah, there were like, uh, ten of us, I think. Ten or twelve of us that worked on it. So it was still a pretty tight little crew. I think we worked on it for about six months.

Nawrocki: Annie, Annie's, uh, the voice of your daughter. That was Shelby's first-

Vischer: Yes, yes. That was, uuh, experiments in nepotism, we're starting to pull in family members-

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: To do the voices, and uh, George. Actually, George was created for "Rack, Shack, and Benny", so we already talked about him.

Nawrocki: M-hm.

Vischer: But his mustache wiggled in this show as you see there.

(both of them stumbling each others conversation)

Nawrocki: Yeah, yeah. Kinda, a stiff wiggle.

Vischer: Yeah, it took Pixar, like five years to figure out how to wiggle a mustache, but we, we figured it out very early on.

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: You noticed that he has a postage stamp stuck on his hat. I'm not sure if he actually knows that's there.

Nawrocki: No.

Vischer: But that was signify that he's a postman... You see.

Nawrocki: M-hm.

Vischer: Yeah, and that was the first time we ever done stucco. On a wall.

Nawrocki: Oh, yeah! Look at that! Nice vanishing stucco point!

Both: (chuckle)

Nawrocki: There's a corner, alright!

Vischer: Because this show actually, probably had more locations than anything we had done, to date. Oh, and I like this open!

Nawrocki: Yeah, those trees. How about those trees?

Vischer: Oh, the trees are a little simplistic, perhaps.

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: But the car's nice.

Nawrocki: Oh, and this is the first time we've ever done a real opening graphic within a show.

Vischer: Yeah! We never done- and a logo! We never done a logo for one of our shows, so that was new.

Nawrocki: Yup.

Vischer: There's something.

Nawrocki: Yup.

Vischer: And I like the score that Kurt came up with for that part especially well. The score's kinda interesting on this show because we actually, we figured out there was, we didn't have enough time for Kurt to score the whole film, so we split it up, and had two different composers. Actually, at the end three-

Nawrocki: Three! A guy and his dad, right?

Vischer: Yeah, Alan and Jason Moore...

Nawrocki: Uh-huh.

Vischer: Helped out on the score, and they were, uh, they did a lot of, uh, spot work in Chicago. Like Hallmark spots and stuff, so we pull them in to help out with the score. But this was also- Actually, this scene was really the first time, up to this point in VeggieTales, whatever we did a song, they pretty much just stood there and sang it. And watched them sing it.

Nawrocki: Right.

Vischer: I mean, they might've wiggled a little around the waist. But that was about the extent- This was the first time where, I consciously tried to write story running along with the song.

Nawrocki: Yup.

Vischer: So the delivering of the mail thing, um, was, you know, a- A revolution in Veggie story telling.

Nawrocki: And we like the delivering of the mail theme with the song so much that we used it again in Jonah!

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: Yes. So, uh, you'll see that connection. And it's okay to-to rip off yourself. That's one of the rules of film making.

Nawrocki: You have to pay yourself, but that's okay.

Vischer: Yeah, it's one pocket out into the other. It's no big deal. It's- uh, he's (referring to George) never been able to bend his neck like that since.

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: He got a horrible kink!

Nawrocki: Yup. And this, a lot of this is new animation too from what we did the re-release.

Vischer: It is?

Nawrocki: Yeah, I think so.

Vischer: Really?

Nawrocki: Yeah, in that opening scene like the car, the mailman's car he drove-

Vischer: Oh yeah, the car! We made a new car.

Nawrocki: Just looked horrible in the first version, and some of the scenes, but then the song-

(Can't Believe It's Christmas ends)

Vischer: Oh, is that the end? Is it over?

Nawrocki: Yep!

Vischer: There's more. That's good.

Nawrocki: Yup.

(Laura saying "Push it, push it!" in the video)

Vischer: Let's see.

Nawrocki: Oh, I remember this part!

Vischer: (laughs)

Nawrocki: (imitating Mr. Lunt) I'm a elf! (laughs, in his normal voice) It's coming up, I like that one.

Vischer: Yeah...

(Mr. Nezzer's commercial starts playing)

Nawrocki: Oh, oh, this is interesting! We render this in field- For those who know, uh, you know, kinda video lingo, um, in video, there's 60 fields a second. Um, and uh, in film, there's 24 or 30 frames per second. Um, so we actually rendered this in field, to look more like television, than the actual story going on. So, if you look at this, it looks like you're watching the actual, an national kinda news program or soap opera, and then get back to this and it looks like just watching a movie.

Vischer: Isn't that amazing?

Nawrocki: It's amazing.

Vischer: Actually, I think it was kind of a bad idea.

Both: (laugh)

Nawrocki: I thought it was brilliant! Look at that, it looks like you're looking at a home video right there! Isn't that great?

Vischer: Yeah, okay.

Nawrocki: It just got that feeling to it.

Vischer: (singing) It's got that feeling...

Nawrocki: See, you know that back there, and it's got a nice film look to it?

Vischer: (sarcastic) Yeah, right. And that goes, that one kinda goofed up.

Nawrocki: Yeah... Oh, that was a film dominance problem!

Vischer: (laughs)

Nawrocki: See, we want field one dominant, and I think that was field two dominant.

Vischer: I'm sure you really like to hear about how we came up with these character and story ideas.

Nawrocki: (laughs)

Vischer: We're gonna argue field dominance. So pull out your video manuals...

Nawrocki: Get out your vector scopes!

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: That's, of course, Mr. Nezzer, playing the role of fake Santa. And then, uh, Buzz Saw Louie. The voice of Buzz Saw Louie was, uh, the, uh, adult ministries pastor at my church. And I heard him, actually preach a sermon, from the puppet, and I thought "He has a funny voice!"

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: "I bet he could be a character."

Nawrocki: Uh-huh.

Vischer: And so, I asked him and he said "Oh yeah, I did a little acting". So he was very excited about it, so we brought him, and he did a really good job!

Nawrocki: Yup.

Vischer: And he could sing too!

Nawrocki: Yup!

Vischer: What did you know?

Nawrocki: (imitating Louie's singing) Grumpy kids... (in his normal voice) That's coming up.

Vischer: These kids are grumpy. Actually, this scene got replaced from the original version because there were no toys or anything in the room.

Nawrocki: Yup!

Vischer: It was them in a bare room.

Nawrocki: That's a nice wood floor, too.

Vischer: That's a really nice, that there is a nice wood-

(A closeup of Mr. Nezzer's telescope is shown)

Vischer: Hey, I designed that! I just wanted to say this was before we had any real concept artists. So... Most of the show are my little sketches. So this was back when they let me draw things.

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: I thought that was, you know, the ol' North Pole, barber pole as observatory was kind of a fun angle.

Nawrocki: Yeah.

Vischer: And of course, elevators so that no one has to be animated hopping up and down stairs.

Nawrocki: (chuckles) That's right!

Vischer: That's hard.

Nawrocki: Elevators are good that way.

(Nezzer says "More wilier than my brother, Nebby K?")

Vischer: That's, oh yeah this is-

Nawrocki: Oh, yeah!

Vischer: Uh, we had a little problem because we had Mr. Nezzer in "Rack, Shack, and Benny" as a mean guy, but then he was redeemed by the end and he became a nice guy, and then we sat down to do this video, and we thought "Wait a minute! He can't come back as a mean guy because he turned into nice guy." So we decided to have him come back, but make his nose fat, call him his own brother.

Nawrocki: (giggles)

Vischer: That's clever! (laughs)

Nawrocki: That is clever. But then didn't he show up later again? I mean, were they triplets, or did you just kinda gave up?

Vischer: No, we gave up! We gave up!

Both: (chuckle)

Nawrocki: That's.. Line of logic falling through.

Vischer: Yeah, we- Instead of keep trying to multiplying his family, we just installed a little morality switch on his back.

Nawrocki: (laughs) Good!

Vischer: Good Nezzer, bad Nezzer! Good Nezzer, bad Nezzer! He sees really upon.

Nawrocki: Ah, yup.

Vischer: He does our bidding.

Nawrocki: (chuckles) Oh, the hair on Annie is nice too!

Vischer: Oh, yeah!

Nawrocki: That was, uh, that was all rigged to just move naturally or move automatically with the head, so that was a new innovation for us.

Vischer: Yeah, and this is '96! This is lightyears ago! WAY before "Final Fantasy"!

Nawrocki: (giggles)

Vischer:  Um, this, the penguins were also- I was really with, the penguins and Buzz Saw Louie we had never done anything limb before. You know, unless you count the sheep in "Dave and the Giant Pickle", which I don't.

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: Because they didn't really move much.

Nawrocki: Now, didn't this come out before "Toy Story 2", where all of the toys were lined up?

Vischer: Of course!

Nawrocki: Yeah!

Vischer: This is '96, the year after "Toy Story" one. Whada ya saying?

Nawrocki: Well, I don't know! I'm just sayin'!

Vischer: Coincidence? Coincidence?!

Both: (laugh)

Vischer: Of course, this did- This did come out AFTER, um, uh, Nick Park's- The "Wallace and Gromit" with the rooster... Or the penguin that dressed up as a rooster.

Nawrocki: Ah. Coincidence?

Vischer: No, that was not a coincidence. I-

Both: (laugh)

Vischer: I really liked that penguin! Penguins are so much fun! They could work in CG!

Nawrocki: (laughs)

Vischer: But then.. We did- Then their next show, uum, "Wallace and Gromit", uh, the- The one with the shearing machine. What was that called? I don't remember.

Nawrocki: Uum... Uuh... Oh, "A Close Shave"!

Vischer: "A Close Shave", right! That had, was chock full of sheep!

Nawrocki: Yup.

Vischer: And we done like, two or three shows with sheep at that point. So, ha, ha, ha! It goes both ways!

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: I'm not actually saying that they ripped off our sheep. But we hear that some of them were fans of ours. So... You know. Cross pollination.

(Buzz Saw Louie opens the factory door)

Vischer: Oh, I like this part.

Nawrocki: Yup.

Vischer: (imitating George) "How hard could it be?". Down the ol' stairs, down the hill- That was some of our first attempts at particle animation.

Nawrocki: Oh, and we did that in the redo version too. We didn't, uh, have that in our very first release of it.

Vischer: Right. Cause we never had the money to do particles before that.

(George says "Maybe a little harder than he thought...")

Vischer: I like that. That was our first overhead twisting camera move.

Nawrocki: Oh yes!

Vischer: Yeah, we never had done one of those before either, at least on purpose.

(George announces the oncoming Silly Song segment)

Nawrocki: Ooh, here we go!

Vischer: What are we, where are we going?

Nawrocki: This is Silly Song with Larry.

Vischer:  Oh yeah, you can explain this.

Nawrocki: I remember, I had seen, uh, "Kiss of the Spider Woman" with Chita Rivera. (chuckles)

Vischer: What?! (chuckles)

Nawrocki: Chita- Chita, yeah? Chita Rivera. Yeah, I think that's who it was. But it was, it's a famous, uh, musical we saw at the, my wife and I saw at the, uh, Chicago theater. And they had this song within the play where they're simultaneous singing going on, and so people were kinda, you know, going back and forth lines and singing together in different lines. And I thought that was really cool, and so I wanted to write a song, um, that kinda, you know, had that element in.

Vischer: Just like "Kiss of the Spider Woman"?

Nawrocki: (chuckles) That's right! So when the bandits come in, they get that little singing thing going.

Vischer: Yeah, you'll notice there's more particle action going on in the background there.

Nawrocki: Oh that's just regular- That's just regular confetti, although some of it is bouncing around there, look at hat.

Vischer: We spared no expense on this film.

(silent for 5 seconds)

Vischer: This is a good one. (pause) See, and we saved- (bumps mic) Whoops. Sorry, I didn't mean to bump the mic. We saved money on the mouth animation there by putting a handkerchief around his head.

Nawrocki: That's right.

Vischer: That's good.

Nawrocki: M-hm. You know, those cookies, um, for the last three Christmases, uh, Geni Personki, who is the wife of the head of our HR Larry Personki, bakes the whole company, uh, Christmas cookies in the shape of these cookies right here.

Vischer: Right.

Nawrocki: And they look exactly like them and they're very yummy.

Vischer: And since there's now ten thousand people on staff...

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: Estimate about 25,000 cookies

Nawrocki: Oh, and that, uh, the set for this. I went out out and got a few different issues, uh, on log cabin living.

Vischer: Really?

Nawrocki: Yes, I did. And uh-

Vischer: And that's the best you could come up with?

Nawrocki: (chuckles) Yeah! I found this, uh, fireplace that I really liked, and, you know, these logs that I kinda liked, and I just sorta just, you know, just painted them in Painter 4, I think was out at the time was the paint program I painted them in.

Vischer: You painted the logs yourself?!

Nawrocki: I painted them myself, thank you very much!

Vischer: Wow! That's pretty cool!

Nawrocki: Impressive, huh?

Vischer: See if John Lasseter can paint his own walls!

Nawrocki: (laughs)

Vischer: I don't think so! (moans) Pajamas are nice.

Nawrocki: Oh, thank you.

Vischer: Think those showed up in, like a book or something.

Nawrocki: Yup.

(cuts to Pa Grape at the door)

Vischer: Ohhh!

Nawrocki: It was fun doing, uh, research for viking, uh, costumes to-

Vischer: That came in handy later.

Nawrocki: Yeah, I still have that little book It's a little book on vikings in those little, uh, you know, it's like a 3-by-5 little mini viking book.

Vischer: Wow. (chuckles a bit)

Nawrocki: It's a real viking looking helmet, except for- Horns on a viking, uh, helmet are a modern fabrication. You don't really do that, it must've been-

Vischer: We'll go over that in a little more detail when we do the commentary for "Lyle the Kindly Viking".

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: But for now, you know- Oh, this is the longest Silly Song ever, right?

Nawrocki: Yeah, this is, like, over 5 minutes!

Vischer: Yeah, this is insane.

Nawrocki: Yup.

Vischer: Holy mackerel.

Nawrocki: Tells quite a story.

Vischer: Wooh!

Nawrocki: Oh, and I also have my, uh, you know, who's coming up next is the IRS Agent. I hope I don't give it away for people watching the...

Vischer: I assume they've watched the first-

Nawrocki: (chuckling) The first time without the commentary! But, um... You know, in the early days of Big Idea, because we were also poor, I was working a lot of freelance and, um... When you work freelance, you have to pay your full social security contribution, um, which, you know, I would always forget about from one year to the next.

Vischer: (laughs)

Nawrocki: So this particular year, I had a huuuge tax bill and I was a little sore at the IRS.

Vishcer: (laughs)

Nawrocki: So this was my little passive-aggressive way of getting back at Uncle Sam! (chuckles)

Vischer: Needless to say, the revenue from this video helped bail Mike out of jail.

Nawrocki: (laughs)

Vischer: Which, you know, made the next video all the stronger. He was able to contribute once again. (pause) That's funny. See, the guy fell over.

Nawrocki: He did.

Vischer: That, kids- That gets kids every time.

Nawrocki: That, and also Bob backing out of the fireplace.

Vischer: Yeah, Bob stuck in the fireplace. That's a pretty nice beard.

Nawrocki: Yup, that's not bad.

Vischer: Oh, did you see that little wink? That's to tell kids "I'm not really Santa."

Nawrocki: (chuckles)

Vischer: "I'm Bob!"

Nawrocki: Get it?

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: But he's missing his belt and his hat!

Nawrocki: Oh yes, where could they be?

Vischer: Very elaborate cross... Thematic scoring there from Kurt.

(six second pause)

Vischer: (imitating Bob) And wiggle my nose!

Nawrocki: Hey, he notices something!

(eight second pause)

Nawrocki: I guess we should be talking instead of watching this. (chuckles)

Vischer: Yeah. I like this part!

Both: (laugh)

Nawrocki: I like the little box that you see right there doing the little snowflakes.

Vischer: Yeeeah, yeah, we never found out who was holding it off-screen.

Nawrocki: Nope.

Vischer: They must've been tall.

Nawrocki: (chuckles) See, there's another little IRS thing right there.

Vischer: Yeah. You're full of it.

Both: (chuckle)

Vischer: Ooooh, that was fun!

Nawrocki: Alright.

Vischer: Fun, fun, fun. (in George's voice) And back to The Toy That Saved Christmas! (in his normal voice) We need to bring him back, he hasn't appeared in anything, although he's in Jonah. He has a tiny cameo in Jonah, but he doesn't get to say anything.

Nawrocki: Yup, yup.

Vischer: Oh well- You'll have to find that on your own. (pause) Hey, this was added in the newer version. (pause) The original just had still shots.

Nawrocki: Oh yeah, that's right.

Vischer: and they fly through them, See Bob's always in the Back, he can never see. (pause) and what if anything goes wrong he gets the worst of it.

Nawrocki: Yep.

Vischer: That is his plight in life.

Nawrocki: It's Rellay I remember it being rellay hard to um (pause) to come up with a lit snow on a bright day.

Vischer: Oh yeah, that's lit snow is very hard.

Fun Facts

Real-World References

  • "Final Fantasy" is a RPG video game series. Phil was probably talking about the film adaption  "The Spirits Within", as it came out a year before the commentary.
  • The Painter 4 software Mike was referring to is possibly Corel Painter
  • "The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea" is a direct-to-video sequel to Disney's Little Mermaid. The scene Phil referenced that was similar to the cliff scene they did was when Tip and Dash were trying to rescue a baby penguin from a shark.

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