Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - Superbook: A Giant Adventure (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)  is an internet-based store that specializes in Christian themed movies.  They carry a wide range of films, from major motion pictures to smaller biopics of inspirational figures.  There is also an extensive children's section.  Among the offerings is Superbook: A Giant Adventure.  The DVD we received contains a single 3-D CGI-animated cartoon episode plus bonus features. Run time is a "standard length" 22 minutes (no commercials), plus bonus features.  We decided to watch it one day as we ate lunch.

The Superbook series features middle schoolers Chris and Joy, along with a robot friend, Gizmo, who grapple with living Christian lives.  When they are tempted to stray from God's teachings, they are magically drawn into the "Superbook"  (the Bible) and brought back to times when biblical heroes experienced the same dilemmas.  The episode A Giant Adventure begins with Chris, an aspiring guitarist, struggling to work his courage up to audition for the school band.  An older student sneers at him that it's impossible for him to join --Chris will never be good enough. Joy tries to give him a pep talk, but it's a dejected Chris who, along with Joy and Gizmo, that is drawn through the Superbook to the Hebron countryside.  They find a young David struggling to prove he is more than a pesky little brother.  When the Philistines offer an all-or-nothing battle to win their war, the Jewish leaders are elated -- until the find out the single soldier they are putting forth is the giant Goliath.

Here, the stories begin a clear parallel.  While Chris was ridiculed for wanting to play guitar, the soldiers ridicule David for stepping forward, deriding him as a "giant...among sheep."  At first, the leader of the army brushes him off, saying, "What can one child do?"  David's responded, "What can that child not do, when that child goes with God?" The king acquiesces, and David returns to the countryside for the night.  I was really impressed with the 3-D anime style that this is presented with.  The colors are bright and intense, and the digital animation allows for crisp images.  Look at David's resolve reflected in the leader's eyes!

Chris and David have a fireside jam session.  Chris admits he "used to play," but nobody thought he was good.  David challenges him: "Who do you play for? I play for God," pointing out that talent comes from God, and doesn't need to glorify man, but to be honed to glorify Him.  Gizmo hands Chris his guitar, and the boys play together.  Jude remarked that they were playing the same song, while Celia found the little bow that tied up the lesson:  the boys each had their talents from God, which is why they could play the same tune.

The story continues with the slaying of Goliath (Luke interjected the medical theory behind how David's rocks took Goliath down) and David's anointing by Saul.  Eventually, Hebron is left behind, and Chris and friends return to their school auditorium.  Chris recalls the words of a his new friend, "If God gives you the ability, then the size of the giant doesn't matter," and asks the judges for a second chance. He admits he was afraid before but isn't now, and plays his guitar.  He earns a place in the band, much to the chagrin of his earlier detractor.  Jude caught on right away, "So it doesn't matter how hard it is, you need to just remember that God can make you brave."

Tatsunoko Productions
via Wikimedia Commons
(US Fair Use)
As I researched, I found out that the current episodes are remakes of an older series by the same name, both created by cable network Christian Broadcast Network (CBN).  I had never heard of the Superbook series before, but when I mentioned to Neal I was writing this review, he looked at me and said, "That sounds REALLY familiar.  Is it a cartoon with Bible stories, and the kids go into the story? I think I used to watch something like that when I was a kid."  A quick google found the cover art for the original series from the early 1980s.  He agreed that that was what he remembered watching in the mornings before he left for school.  (He probably had the opportunity to watch it because he had cable television; where I lived, cable wasn't available until I was in high school.)

I can't compare the two series, but I think this version is very well done.  The artistic elements are fantastic, and the stories are well developed.  It's often hard to find Bible-based entertainment that isn't "bludgeoning," and after 18 years of children's TV programming, I've developed a pretty quick reflex for turning off cartoons that are nagging or over-the-top. Superbook deftly weaves Bible teachings with real-life scenarios, giving kids strong modeling without being preachy.  After lunch was over and I turned the DVD off, everyone asked, "Do you have another one we can watch tomorrow?", but carries five other episodes, so we may soon!

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