By any measure, the Holy Bible is not
a laugh riot. Cities are destroyed, sinners are smote, prophets are
mocked, believers are martyred and whole nations are enslaved. Don't
even get me started about the book of Revelation.
There are, of course, moments of great joy found therein, but they are
almost always tempered by a profound sense of wisdom, of a difficult
lesson learned. You might find something to smile about in, say, the
tale of the prodigal son, but you'll get more chuckles from the pastor's
golf stories after church.
Thus, Dan Foote steps into some uncharted
territory here. He believes you can have some fun with the Bible, and
he's trying to change people's minds one bobblehead at a time.
"Sometimes, Christians are the biggest sticks in the mud,"
said Foote, an impish sort who makes his living drawing cartoons.
"People outside the faith tend to look at Christians as the ones
who always want to rain on their parades. Which is too bad. We're the
ones who should be happy."
Foote is neither an evangelist nor a satirist. He just thinks it would
be kind of cool to have a bobblehead doll of Moses on your desk or
bookshelf, right between the ones for Austin Powers and Shaquille
"They don't make bobbleheads for just anyone," said Foote, a
43-year-old Texan with Louisville connections. "If you have a
bobblehead, it means you're somebody. I'm sure Moses and Noah would love
their bobbleheads and see it as an honor."
Along with Samson, the guy with the powerful hair, Moses and Noah are
the Biblical "stars" Foote has chosen to test the market for
Bible Bobbleheads, the name he has given his creations. Available mainly
through the Internet for now, he envisions it as the perfect novelty
item for a growing consumer market for Christian-themed books, music,
toys and films.
But what Moses and Noah would think of this isn't really the issue. The
real question is whether Christians will see this as a gently humorous
tribute or as just another sacrilege from an increasingly heathen
society. Foote is banking on the former view.
If you've been to a professional sporting event in the past few years,
you certainly know what a bobblehead doll is. These figurines with
enormous, bobbing heads have become some of the most popular
collectibles in an increasingly collectible-crazed nation.
Also known as "nodders," the figures have been around for
decades but have undergone a renaissance of late as pro teams hand them
out as promotional freebies to draw fans. (It is not uncommon for a
bobblehead for a superstar such as the National Basketball Association's
Allen Iverson to appear on eBay before the game is even over.)
How to get one
Bible Bobbleheads cost $14.99, plus shipping; $39.99 for the current set
of three. They can be ordered at www.isaacbros.com.
Now, just about everyone who
is anyone has been, or wants to be, rendered in bobblehead form.
Athletes, movie stars, political figures, cartoon characters, even
game-show hosts are routinely honored with their own spongy-necked
caricatures. Churchill Downs issues bobbleheads for famous jockeys,
while the Louisville Bats hand them out to honor baseball stars of the
It was probably inevitable, then, that someone would turn to the Bible,
which, you might have heard, has been quite the best seller over the
years. Foote's company, Isaac Bros. Inc., has imported 1,500 Bible
Bobbleheads from a factory in China, and the initial response has been
"As word is getting out, sales are picking up," said Darren
Foote, Dan's 33-year-old brother. A Louisville software programmer,
Darren runs the Isaac Bros. Web site (www.IsaacBros.com) and ships the
dolls through the UPS hub here. "We're starting to get orders from
places where we don't know anybody. That's a good sign."
The inspiration for Bible Bobbleheads was anything but divine, said Dan
"Last summer, I went to see the (Texas) Rangers play at the
Ballpark in Arlington with my friend Dan Hinkley, and they were handing
out bobbleheads of (Rangers star) Pudge Rodriguez," explained
Foote, who lives in the Dallas suburb of Allen, Texas. "We were
sitting there talking and looking at these things, when Dan said, `You
could do one of these.' I told him he was probably right, but I figured
it would be such a big hassle once you figured out who you wanted to
make a bobblehead of, then got their permission and went through all the
licensing and stuff.
"Then I said, `You know, what we need to do is bobbleheads for
people who don't need to be licensed. &elipse; Like Bible
bobbleheads.' I even suggested doing one for John the Baptist, where his
head falls off and everything. Well, I didn't really take it very
seriously, but Dan kept pushing me all through the winter."
Hinkley succeeded in convincing his friend and is now one of the
partners in Isaac Bros., along with the Footes and Andy Dabney, Darren's
brother-in-law. (The name of the company was chosen because Isaac is the
Hebrew word for "laughter," said Dan Foote.)
While some novelty stores sell Jesus bobbleheads — which appeal mostly
to collectors of kitsch — Foote believes his bobbleheads are the first
sincere attempt to celebrate biblical celebrities.
Despite a successful round of retail test-marketing last winter at the
Wellspring Christian Book Center in Louisville and at Southeast
Christian Church, Foote said it is too soon to tell whether Bible
Bobbleheads will generate more sales than controversy.
"Any time you take something to the masses, you are opening
yourself up to criticism," he said. "There are going to be
people who think this is sacrilegious, and people who think we are using
our faith to make money. We are not doing either."
There are other potential headaches that come with the collectibles
racket. A devout Christian, Foote said he has serious qualms about
manufacturing the bobbleheads in China, a communist country where
religion is still outlawed, despite years of capitalist reform and
pressure from the United States.
"The fact is that whenever you do anything manufactured these days,
you have to go through China," he said nervously. "We have
tried to find out as much as we can, and we have been assured that they
are being made ethically. The last thing we want is for these Bible
Bobbleheads to be made by 8-year-old kids chained to a desk."
He perks up a bit at the suggestion that someone in China might actually
be inspired by one of the dolls as it passes through the factory. Each
doll comes with a small comic book, drawn by Foote, that tells that
"Maybe someone in China will see one of the comic books and take
something away from it," he said. "We do know that God works
in strange and mysterious ways, and if we can be one of those strange
and mysterious ways, that would be great."
As a model, they are looking to the popular VeggieTales series of
animated children's videos. Initially offered in Christian bookstores,
they are now at Wal-Mart and other stores.
"Until it's a proven thing, the non-Christian stores won't buy into
it," said Darren Foote. "VeggieTales had to prove itself
through the Christian stores. Now you can get them at Target."
But Dan Foote said he learned another lesson from VeggieTales, which
have been lauded for telling religious stories that are larded with wry
"VeggieTales is a great example of guys using their faith and doing
it in a quality way," said Foote, who has written and illustrated
several Christian-themed children's books. "It is a good model to
follow. Some of that Christian stuff out there is offensive. It's so
Foote and his partners are already looking at adding new bobbleheads to
the mix — even Jesus is not off-limits, if handled tastefully, he said
— and are hoping to draw outside investors and a distributor that can
get Bible Bobbleheads in stores nationwide.
"We're just trying to get this out into the marketplace, and we
hope we can convince some investors to help us take it to the next
level," he said. "Until then, we're just a small group of guys
trying to get this crazy thing out there."