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VeggieTales creator Big Idea relocates to Nashville area

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Big Idea Productions, creator of VeggieTales, has moved its headquarters from Chicago to Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville, and observers predict more family oriented entertainment companies will follow.

Tennessee’s governor, Phil Bredesen, participated in a welcoming ceremony and carnival for kids July 14 at Big Idea’s new home. Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, stars of the VeggieTales films, were also on hand, and Bredesen named them official citizens of Tennessee.

“Today’s announcement is a testament to what can happen when we all work together — state and local governments, as well as private interests — to make something positive and exciting happen in our state,” Bredesen said. “Big Idea’s decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to Tennessee, where it began, is reflective of a growing interest in developing family entertainment in the Franklin area. Big Idea’s move here is sure to spark additional entertainment investment in this community and its workforce.”

Over the past few years, the city of Franklin has developed into one of the nation’s major hubs for a half-dozen recording, publishing, management and distribution companies involved in family oriented entertainment enterprises, according to a July 14 release from the governor’s office. Entertainment corporations in the area generate nearly $1 billion in revenue each year, and the growth is expected to continue.

For its new headquarters in Franklin, Big Idea has redesigned 12,000 square feet of space at The Factory, a former stove production facility listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The location will house Big Idea’s executive, creative and production teams near major distribution partners Word and EMI in Nashville.

“Big Idea is thrilled to call Tennessee home,” said Terry Pefanis, chief operating officer at Big Idea, Inc. “This vibrant area of the country is not only rich in culture and hospitality, it is also the center of the Christian entertainment and country music industries. It is the ideal place for Big Idea and VeggieTales to grow and prosper.”

Compared to the Chicago suburb of Lombard, Big Idea’s previous home, Pefanis told The Tennessean newspaper that operating costs are less expensive, cost of living for employees is lower, the tax environment for both individuals and corporations is more favorable, traffic isn’t as bad and the airport isn’t as crowded in Nashville. About 20 employees will relocate to Franklin, and Big Idea plans to hire eight to 10 more.

A year ago, Big Idea lost a breach of contract lawsuit and declared bankruptcy. The company’s former distributor, Lyrick Studios, Inc., sued the VeggieTales creator for allegedly breaking a verbal contract when Big Idea moved its mainstream market distribution to Warner Home Video in 2001. A federal judge in Texas upheld a jury’s $11 million award.

The lawsuit, along with a premature expansion of Big Idea, caused the company to be sold for $19.3 million to New York-based Classic Media, known for characters such as Rocky & Bullwinkle, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Lassie and The Lone Ranger.

With new owners and a new location, Big Idea is set to move ahead. The company now sells about 5 million home video products a year and a million albums, generating an estimated $40 million to $50 million. Big Idea’s first feature film, “Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie,” was in the top 10 at the box office for three weeks in 2002 and grossed more than $25 million.

“VeggieTales: Sumo of the Opera” is set to be released on DVD and video in late August. The wrestling-themed movie features Larry the Cucumber as The Italian Scallion taking on Apollo Gourd for the World Veggie-Weight title, teaching a lesson in perseverance based on Hebrews 10:36.

Also on the horizon: a live VeggieTales show in Franklin and possibly a theme park.
For more information about Big Idea Productions, visit www.bigidea.com.

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  • Erin Curry