It’s taken him more than three decades, but a cartoon theologian named Theo is finally making it to the small screen.
Mike Joens created Theo, a kindhearted theologian, in 1978. And, finally, the character is making his debut in a series of DVDs and curriculum. The debut DVD of the animated series is Theo: God’s Love (Whitestone Media).
When Joens got into the animation industry in the late 1970s, it just became so clear to him: “Kids love cartoons,” he says. “What a great platform cartoons are to communicate the word of God.”
But between that initial idea and its fulfillment, Joens had to, as he put it, “grow up as a Christian and grow up as a filmmaker.” He worked in all levels of animation during that time, and faced some hard times, but it all prepared him for Theo.
Finally, after years of waiting, the details fell into place. “Not only did God provide for us the funding,” Joens says, “he provided the talent—these top-tier guys who were just available for this time in history.” The “top-tier guys” he refers to are former Disney and Don Bluth animators who bring Theo and his mouse companions to life.
The series uses the humorous antics of two mice to introduce theological concepts like justification, suffering and sanctification—topics not usually associated with children’s media. Theo is then able to use the mice’s misadventures to help explain the concept.
“When kids understand this,” Joens says, “it gives them an anchor later in life.”
Theo: God’s Love includes three episodes teaching about faith, obedience and forgiveness. The bonus episode “The Good News” is a presentation of John 3:16. Joens says the bonus episode is on every DVD release. “I want to make sure everyone who picks up a DVD of ours will get a chance to see the Gospel.”
Joens’ desire for children to understand the Gospel is also evident in the “Buy 1, Give 1” campaign: For every Theo DVD sold, Whitestone Media will also give a copy to a child in need, through Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Boxes of Books initiative.