Bobble Heads !

Bible Bobbleheads Celebrate Christianity


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 O'Neal.

"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 future.

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 positive.

"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 Foote. 

"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 figure's story.

"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 humor.

"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 pandering."

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."

From: www.Courier-Journal.com

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