Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 01/20/21

Concept for VidAngel’s original animated TV series Tuttle Twins: Tween twins, a crazy granny & a wheelchair time machine! When Grandma moves in with the Tuttle family, 11 year old twins, Ethan and Emily, have no idea what adventures lie in store. With her pet raccoon and a wheelchair time machine, Grandma takes the twins on crazy trips across time and space to learn lessons in liberty. Based on the award winning children’s book series that have now sold over a million copies, this show teaches kids principles of freedom, economics and government.

Historic TV. VidAngel, the family-friendly streaming app and original-content studio behind the international hit The Chosen, continues to make television history as it bypasses the Hollywood class system. It’s doing so by creating crowdfunded content that supports the traditional (fka classically liberal) values that are at odds with industry’s increasingly intolerant Woke sensibilities. The service is following up on its Chosen success with more innovative new series, including the off-the-wall sitcom Freelancers (more on that in an upcoming post) and Tuttle Twins, an animated time travel comedy based on Connor Boyack’s popular children’s book series that humorously teaches kids (and, in some cases, their parents) about the positive principles America is founded on. Here’s a promo for the show which, BTW, has already met its funding target.

The man with the vision of bringing Tuttle Twins to television is Daniel Harmon, the co-founder of the Provo, Utah-based Harmon Brothers ad agency which prides itself on being behind viral internet ads that have collectively been viewed more than 1.4 billion times and have generated over $350 million in sales for their clients.

JWK: Tell me about Tuttle Twins and the idea behind it.

Daniel Harmon: The concept for the show comes from the hit book series (that) has now sold over two-million copies. The author, Connor Boyack, actually went on to Amazon to look for books to teach his kids about things like principles of freedom and economics and came up very shorthanded on what resources were available. He ultimately just decided to write his own book to teach his kids about those principles. The first book was (about) the law…and it ended up being very successful and has kind of snowballed into one book after another based on classical writings and great principles of freedom, of human rights (and) of sound economics. I’ve been a fan of his book series for years. I bought every last one for my kids. I read them to them. They love it.

Later, we ended up approaching Connor and saying “Hey, we want to make this into a TV series and we think we’re the right ones to do it.” That’s kind of how it came about, in a nutshell.

JWK: So, you actually come from the world of advertising, right?

DH: Correct. I’m the chief creative officer at Harmon Brothers. We’re an ad agency that does online video.

JWK: And this is your first TV series?

DH: Yes, this is my first TV series.

JWK: Why this show? Is it because of the way history is currently being taught in many of our schools?

DH: I have six kids. They range from ages fifteen down to four. I’ve always been concerned about their education – about what we’re teaching them. I try to teach those principles that I grew up with. I grew up in Idaho on a farm. I had an uncle (who) actually taught me extensively about the history of humanity and how it applied to things like freedom. (He) taught me about things like economics and some of these things that people (today) never think about.  So, I had a really strong foundation both in my home, from my parents, as well as from my uncle about these principles. So, it was something that I wanted to pass down to my kids. And, again, the resources weren’t really around for it. When the Tuttle Twins books came along I quickly snatched them up and (began) reading them to my kids.

So, it’s just something I want to see in the world. I want to see these principles carried on that seem to be fading away or even disappearing from school systems or from culture in general. I think doing it in a really entertaining way with a kids cartoon is a great way to get the message across.

JWK: The concept kind of makes me think of a cross between the classic Mr. Peabody and Sherman cartoons from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and those Schoolhouse Rock! interstitials ABC used to run on Saturday mornings.

DH: Yeah, we’ve heard that before from one of the main guys who worked on Freakizoid! back in the day. He was kind of a consultant on our script. That’s what he said it reminded him of as well. That’s a great compliment.

We feel like it has to work first and foremost as entertainment that kids will choose to watch unprompted – that the stories, the adventures, the fun and the comedy have to come across in a really compelling way so that they choose over things like they would find on Disney+, YouTube, Netflix or wherever they get their entertainment – but then also the message comes through in a clear way and they can recall that at critical times in their lives.

JWK: Where will Tuttle Twins be available for viewing?  

DH: Our distribution partner is VidAngel.com. On their platform we raised (over) a million dollars to fund the first four episodes.  We already had some private investors. The hedge fund did the pilot episode but (crowdfunding) funded an additional three episodes. The first episode will be available not only on VidAngel.com but it will also be available – assuming it’s not shut down or blocked (considering) what’s going on – on Facebook and YouTube, as well – as a promotional tool and an introduction to the series. But our distribution partner is VidAngel. That’s where people will go to watch the whole first season.

JWK: Is there any chance Tuttle Twins could find a home on a traditional cable network or streamer – or do you even have an interest in that happening?

DH: Absolutely we have interest in the distribution going beyond VidAngel. VidAngel has the online distribution but there totally are possibilities of us going to cable networks or things like that. We would totally be open to it if it’s the right fit, the right audience and the right opportunity. That would be spectacular.

JWK: Why is this show so important? Specifically, what is it about what kids are being taught in school that bothers you?

DH: What I find is that I think we’re at a point in history where freedom is just tremendously taken for granted. Everyone loves their freedoms. Everyone. That’s on the right. That’s on the left. That’s (anywhere) on the political spectrum. Everyone likes their own personal pet freedoms – but very few people actually understand what freedom is.  That’s the gap that I think this show – and this book series – really tries to close. It’s (about) the understanding (of) freedom…There are principles that freedom adheres to and, if you get away from those, those freedoms are going to go away.

Obviously, we’re seeing a lot of it firsthand (regarding) freedom of speech (and) what’s happening in the news. I’m not commenting about violence. I hate that. I think that’s all terrible. I’m talking about so much of what’s being called the Big Purge – or whatever they’re calling it right now – of so much of what’s being shut down and (the implications for) free speech. I get that companies have a right to do that but the market also has a right to respond. And that’s a little bit of what we want to educate on. One of the (issues) we’re planning to touch on – even in the first season – is freedom of speech. That’s something that’s near and dear to my heart.

JWK: When will be first season of Tuttle Twins episodes be up and available for viewing?

DH:  (For) the first four episodes, we’re looking at the latter half of this year that they’ll be released. We’re looking at the first half of this year (for) releasing Episode #1.

JWK: What kind of response have you been getting from the public for this project? 

DH: It’s huge. It’s absolutely been a phenomenal response. There are a lot of people out there like me (who) are very concerned for the education of their kids and for the principles that are being instilled in the next generation.  I would say of the 2500 that invested in that million-dollar-plus round that we did of crowdfunding, it’s probably at least a third of them that said “I don’t even care if this makes me money. I just want it to exist.” That’s the kind of level of passion that they have for it.

I think another evidence of that is the response to the books. They’ve now crossed more than two-million books sold…There’s definitely a market for this. People are craving it. They’re not getting it from places where they used to get it – from things like schools. In fact, it’s often times – especially in higher education – much the opposite…When you lose sight of the pillars and foundations of what makes a country and a society work really well, that spells trouble pretty quickly.  Everyone can see that coming and can see it happening firsthand.

JWK: It seems to me that fanning the flames of shame or rage – depending on what individuals are susceptible to – is being used to divide and demoralize Americans. We need to heal that. Do you see this show playing a role in the healing?     

DH: Freedom is tremendously unifying. Like I mentioned before, everyone loves their freedoms. I think it’s something that people really can rally around. I don’t think anyone wants to see a dystopian future where government is in everybody’s lives in an intrusive way. No one wants to see that. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the extreme right or the extreme left. No matter where it is on the political spectrum, Hollywood has obviously painted some very vivid pictures of what it looks like when there’s too much control exerted over a people. They (will) naturally cry out for freedom. They have a natural drive for that. We’re trying to do this in a way where it’s very inclusive of all different groups. It doesn’t matter the race, the religion, any of those things. Everyone needs freedoms as a backbone of the way society functions. There’s huge drawbacks when you go away from that.

So, this will give kids really practical ways of seeing that in really fun, adventurous stories of how that applies (and) how the Tuttle Twins solve problems with these principles.

JWK: So, to be clear, this isn’t a political show that favors Republicans over Democrats or vice versa.

DH: Oh, no.  We’re very much doing this from a principled basis. We’re trying as much as we can to stay away from the terms Democrat or Republican anywhere in this. It’s all about what’s right and what’s wrong. When is it right for me to tell you what you can and can’t say? When is it right for me to take your money away from you? Those are the kinds of questions that the series asks?

JWK: Anything else you’d like to say as we finish this up?

DH: I would say there’s tremendous hope for the future. I know a lot of people don’t view things that way but I think there’s always a way to look (for) the silver lining. My efforts going into the creation of this show are very much aligned with that. I feel like the changes I want to see might not come in the next year or in the next election or whatever it might be but I feel like the long game looks very bright for the way people are starting to wake up to what’s going on.

____

For more on the Tuttle Twins TV show, click here.

Now, a little nostalgia:

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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