Growing Spiritually with BOZ the Bear
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, BOZ co-creators, Dennis DeShazer and Jon Green, join Dennis Rainey to explain how the friendly green bear, BOZ, can help parents teach their children about the world around them. Today's special guest is BOZ the bear.
Dennis DeShazerDennis DeShazer is a veteran producer specializing in the development and production of children’s media properties. He has produced for a wide array of entertainment media, including television, home video, feature film, audio, and live performance. As a co-creator of the internationally acclaimed Barney the Dinosaur, DeShazer played a key role in Barney’s development from the time the character was created and introduced in 1988. DeShazer helped establish and maintain the property’s str...more
Hear how BOZ can help parents teach their children about the world around them.
Growing Spiritually with BOZ the Bear
Bob: What if you, as a parent, were going to come up with your own animated character to help your children learn about life and about God? What would you come up with? Well, chances are, you'd come up with a big green bear; you'd have him live right next door; and you'd name him BOZ.
BOZ: If we're going to build something, we'll need some tools.
Bob: According to Jon Green and Dennis DeShazer and the others who created BOZ, it was because of parents like you that the big green bear came to life.
BOZ: But the most important tool of all is – our imagination.
Jon: We took time early on and talked with moms, and we wanted to find out what they would be interested for us to produce.
Dennis DeShazer: Real parents giving real suggestions about these topics.
Jon: Much of what we're doing is born out of what we call "kitchen table research."
Dennis DeShazer: And you have to really think about – how are they thinking about God and how are they thinking about the relationships – not what you want them to learn but what helps them learn?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 20th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and we're going to have some fun today introducing you to the big green bear who lives next door.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I want to do a little test with you here, okay? I want to see if this brings anything to mind for you, okay?
Dennis Rainey: Okay.
Bob: Ding ding ding ding, didi-ding ding ding ding ding ding, ding ding …
Dennis Rainey: All the way back to Captain Kangaroo.
Bob: You remember the Captain and Mr. Greenjeans and the whole thing? Okay, try this – let's see how you do.
Dennis Rainey: Unfortunately, not many in our audience do, though, Bob.
Bob: That's true – try this …
Dennis Rainey: If you're born after Greenjeans became blue jeans.
Bob: See on this one how you do – dah, dah, dah dah dadah, dah dah dah dah dadah, do you remember that?
Dennis Rainey: Wasn't that Howdy Doody?
Bob: That's Howdy Doody! You're doing all right. You're pulling this out.
Dennis Rainey: You're in my era now.
Bob: Okay, now, let me try one more, okay? "I see Lois, I see Jenny, I see Davy" …
Dennis Rainey: Well, it sounds like a poor imitation of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."
Bob: No, no, no.
Dennis Rainey: It wasn't that?
Bob: It's whats-her-name – Miss Carol from "Romper Room."
Dennis Rainey: I watched Romper Room.
Bob: She'd look through the magic mirror at the end of the show, and she'd see the kids …
Dennis Rainey: I remember that, too.
Bob: She'd see the kids, and there's a reason why I'm asking you all this, because we're going to be talking about preschoolers today.
Dennis Rainey: Yeah, and always here at FamilyLife and FamilyLife Today are very committed to helping moms win in what I believe is one of the most important assignments any human being is ever given, and that's raising the next generation.
You know, when Barbara and I started out, I'll never forget reading some research about how much of a child's capacity to learn, to morally reason, and how much of their character development occurs before the age of six. And, frankly, it caused us to really buckle down as parents and think about not only what we were exposing our kids to in terms of being defensive and not allowing bad things there, but also thinking about the songs, the tapes, it was cassette tapes back then, videos, and today DVDs. And so we're excited to announce a partnership that really came about because a couple of executives from Exclaim Entertainment really sought us out and said you guys are kindred spirit, and we want to link arms with you to help your audience – that's our listeners and those that go to our conferences – do a better job in raising the next generation of young people.
And those two executives are with us today – Jon Green and Dennis DeShazer join us on FamilyLife Today, and it's going to tough to have two Dennises on the broadcast.
Dennis DeShazer: We'll muddle through.
Dennis Rainey: Dennis, forgive me for this, but I'm going to have Bob, when he refers to me, refer to me as Dr. Rainey.
Dennis Rainey: He's never done that, he's never done that on FamilyLife Today, and so I do have a doctorate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and so Bob, just so our listeners …
Bob: Can I just call you Doctor? Would that be okay?
Dennis Rainey: That will be okay, just call me Doctor.
Bob: Just call you Doctor.
Dennis Rainey: And we'll just have some fun with that. But, anyway, welcome to the broadcast, and we're excited about what your new company is all about, and this goes back to your days when both of you helped give birth and then promote a purple dinosaur. Is that correct?
Dennis DeShazer: A purple dinosaur, and the rest is history. Jon and I became friends when we worked at Lyric Studios, which is the company behind Barney the Dinosaur, and we met there, and so I was involved – I was one of the co-creators of Barney, and Jon was the operational executive, so handled all the business side of what made Barney Barney.
Bob: You know, I remember – of course, all of us were aware of Barney, because he seemed to be everywhere. I remember hearing kind of through the grapevine that there were Christians involved with Barney, there are Christians behind Barney, and there was this little undercurrent of buzz, like, are they trying to work in some Christian themes on Barney? Was that a part of the Barney idea or the Barney mission at all?
Dennis DeShazer: It wasn't part of the Barney mission. It certainly – I think, as you discussed, young families, as parents, have such an awesome job in front of us, and you're looking around at what your children take in not only through media but on the playground with their peer groups, and it's so important that we realize that we are a large community – the community of parents. And part of Barney's mission was not Christian but you know what? We have a lot of the same values as they come down from the aspects such as manners and how we treat each other and, you know, certainly every parent wants their child to learn at an early age the importance of learning, to love learning. And so we all share that, and I think that speaks to Christians and others alike.
Bob: There were common character elements and character development. There were educational goals that you had with Barney, but there was never any mention of any spiritual component.
Dennis DeShazer: And I think that's one of the things that Jon and I saw as being something that was needed. I mean, we needed some programming that focuses on preschoolers and not only has great entertainment value, because without that the child is up and gone, and you have no hope of reaching them. But you also want educational material – you want to teach them about colors and numbers and shapes and manners, et cetera.
For us, for Jon and me, it's so important that the faith aspect, you know, it's an important element in our lives, and it's something you want to pass on to your children. How do you do that? That's the big question that Jon and I tackled. How do young children come to faith? And we look at this program, BOZ, and the character of BOZ, as being a tool for parents to use, for those moms and dads at home who are already teaching their children great values. This is a way that they get a little support through media, and that's something that's very important to us.
Dennis Rainey: Now, Dennis, a few things have changed in your life since you created the purple dinosaur. You now are – you're a parent.
Dennis DeShazer: I'm a parent.
Dennis Rainey: You have some preschoolers that are going to be watching BOZ, right?
Dennis DeShazer: That's right. I went through most of my years at Barney not having children, and so I have a six-year-old – excuse me, wooo – she had a birthday last week, so she'll get me for that. I have a seven-year-old and an eight-year-old, a boy and a girl, and they're a little bit out of this age group that we're talking to with BOZ, but they really taught me the lesson of looking at things through children's eyes. I always knew that was important when I worked on Barney but having children of your own and day-in, day-out, seeing how they see the world, it was definitely illuminating for me.
Dennis Rainey: Jon, as you look at the target age group, it's ages one to …
Dennis Rainey: To six.
Dennis Rainey: What's the heart behind this? I know you're a co-creator of this green bear that's on the table here – by the way, this is a nice plush toy.
This is no second-rate plush toy.
Bob: And what has happened with that plush toy, Doctor, after the program is over?
Dennis Rainey: Thanks for recognizing my need to be referred to as Doctor. I received two of these before Christmas, so it was some time back.
Bob: Oh, good.
Dennis Rainey: Did you not get any of those?
Bob: So you're …
Dennis Rainey: It could be because you don't have any grandkids.
Bob: You're going to share the plush toy?
Dennis Rainey: No, I did not share. I had already given it to my grandchildren.
Bob: But there's an extra one right here that you can share with me, right?
Dennis Rainey: Bob, I want you to have BOZ.
Bob: Oh, thank you.
Dennis Rainey: Don't worry that one of my grandchildren is going to cry himself or herself to sleep. We have eight of them, so, anyway …
Dennis DeShazer: There's a lesson in sharing right there.
Dennis Rainey: There really is. Could we look at one of these episodes right now? What's the heart behind BOZ, Jon, because you are a co-creator.
Jon: Yes, well, I was thinking back to something you said at the beginning of the broadcast, and you made mention of how so much of a child's being is formed by the time – you had referenced six years old. And Dennis and I, when we set out on the journey to create BOZ, we had taken note of a book that George Barna had written, "Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions," and he says the same thing that you mentioned earlier – that, really, a child's spiritual and moral core is being formed by the time they're nine years old, he claims in his book.
And so we had taken note of that and felt that we could do something with BOZ and do something that was important to help the faith journey of the child.
Dennis Rainey: So you're creating a series of DVDs that are capturing moral lessons that are all anchored in Scripture with the reality of God, backing them up. You're not ashamed to present that in the process? And it's all around this character, this green bear.
You know, Bob, I wish we could have had the opportunity to have interviewed a green bear. We've never had that opportunity in all these years.
Bob: When you told me that we were going to have a couple of executives from this company come on, I said, "Well, what about the bear? I mean, why talk to the executives who" …
Dennis Rainey: Well, we've got the plush toy, but he doesn't talk.
Bob: I dug around, and I got BOZ's phone number.
Dennis Rainey: Where does he live, Bob?
Bob: He lives in a big treehouse right next door. Not next door here, but that's where he lives in the show, right, the big treehouse?
Dennis Rainey: The byline is "the green bear next door."
Bob: Who lives next door, right, and so I've got the phone number here, and we just punch it in, and let me see if he's home, and if we can get him on the line, maybe we can talk to him, okay?
Bob: BOZ, hi, it's Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today along with Dennis Rainey.
Dennis Rainey: Hey, BOZ.
BOZ: Bob – you mean Dr. Dennis Rainey?
Dennis Rainey: Thank you, BOZ, you can just refer to me as Doctor, would you do that?
BOZ: Oh, wow, sure. You can call me, uh, BOZ.
Dennis Rainey: Tell me about this tree you live in.
BOZ: Oh, golly, I wish you could see it. It's a really wonderful treehouse. It's multilevel, of course, it's painted very brightly, and it's got its own little elevator, and it's got a great big slide chute that I like to jump down whenever I go to see my friends, Drew and Gracie.
Bob: You live right next door to Drew and Gracie, is that right?
BOZ: I do. I live right next door to the entire Baxter family.
Bob: Yeah, and Drew and Gracie – how old are they?
BOZ: Drew and Gracie are four-year-old twins, and they're my best friends.
Bob: You go out and play with them? What kind of things do you do?
BOZ: Oh, golly, we spend a lot of time playing outside if the weather is good. We sing songs, we play games, we love to read books together, at nighttime we look at the stars – never a boring moment.
Dennis Rainey: This is Dennis – I understand that you're in kind of a mentoring role as a bear with these two children, is that right?
BOZ: Well, you know, Dr. Rainey, historically, bears make great mentors.
Bob: I didn't realize that. Bears make great mentors?
Bob: If you're looking for a mentor for your four-year-old, find a bear, that's what I would …
Dennis Rainey: A green bear.
BOZ: It's got to be a green bear, yeah.
Dennis Rainey: It's got to be the green bear next door.
Bob: You're kind of like a big brother or a big sister to Drew and Gracie, aren't you? Well, I guess you'd be a big brother, wouldn't you?
BOZ: I think that's right – let's call it big brother, yes, that's a wonderful way to put it.
Bob: BOZ, let me ask you a serious question – as you spend time with Drew and Gracie, these four-year-old twins who live next door – what are some of the most important things that you want to impress on their hearts?
BOZ: Golly, what a good question. You know, I think the most important thing for me is remind Drew and Gracie and all of our friends in the neighborhood that God is everywhere, and He's love, and He wants us to be nice and help one another and, golly, I can't think of a better lesson than that, can you?
Dennis Rainey: No, I really can't, BOZ. I know that you're trying to influence Drew and Gracie as well as the other children who you relate to. What are you hoping that will occur in their lives as a result of your friendship with them?
BOZ: Wow, that's another good question. I just think if we could all be the same toward each other, and if we could all treat each other the way that we would want to be treated, I think that's a lesson that comes right from God, and it lives in all of our hearts.
Dennis Rainey: So you're going to be talking about sibling rivalry, then, aren't you?
Dennis Rainey: That occurs in the neighborhood, I'll bet.
BOZ: It does, it absolutely does, and sometimes the green bear has to step in between, you know? But that's just a part of it, too.
Bob: Well, BOZ, we appreciate you taking a few minutes to talk with us, and I know you probably want to get back out and play. It's kind of a nice day out today, isn't it?
BOZ: It is a beautiful day outside. I wish you'd all come by the treehouse. I'm having such a good time. The birds are singing, and [sniffs] – uh-oh, you know, I am going to have to go because I think Grammy Bee is making some pie.
Bob: Heading out for the pies.
Bob: Well, if Dr. Rainey ever comes by the treehouse, and the two of you had a chance to hang out, what would you guys do?
BOZ: Well, I'd probably give him some more plush dolls for his grandkids.
Bob: BOZ, thanks for taking time to talk to us.
BOZ: Oh, thank you, Bob and Dr. Rainey, for calling and take good care of my friends, Dennis and Jon.
Dennis Rainey: BOZ, thanks.
Bob: Bye, BOZ.
Bob: That's a lot of fun to talk to – obviously, that's …
Dennis DeShazer: That's never happened to you before, has it? Talking to a green bear in a treehouse?
Bob: I never called a green bear in a treehouse and, obviously, that's a – you've got a great voice actor who is stepping in and doing that, right?
Jon: BOZ is BOZ.
Bob: Oh, it's a real bear, okay.
Dennis Rainey: You're getting ready to release two DVDs in Christian bookstores, secular bookstores as well?
Dennis DeShazer: Not right now, no. It's exclusive into Christian retail at this point. We really felt it was important to go straight to the audience we knew would have a heart for this kind of programming, and we're really excited. The first two DVDS, one is Colors and Shapes, and the other one is Friends and Helpers, and so on each DVD there are three 13-minute episodes, and then we have also on there some music video content that I think children will really love. But the shows are packed with music, they have little stories – the approach we took to this is how do young children talk with one another? You know, how do they view God? How do they talk about God? And so instead of telling them how they do that, we really tried to adapt our programming to be on their level, you know, give them something that they can understand, concrete examples of what it means to show God that we love Him and what are concrete ways that God shows that He loves us? And so you find that running throughout the videos.
Bob: And, Jon, at the same time, you're helping them learn, I mean, colors and shapes and friends and helpers, you're trying to help them learn some basic things that preschoolers need to learn, right?
Jon: Absolutely. One of the things we know with great certainty is that mothers and fathers place a high value on education. Every parent wants their child to have the greatest opportunity possible to them. So it was natural for the educational element to be a part of it. What we added that was unique was the faith element, the spiritual element. No one was doing that.
Dennis Rainey: Dennis, talk with us about the graphics. I've seen part of an episode, and they're not cheesy graphics.
Dennis DeShazer: Oh, thanks.
Dennis Rainey: Well, they're not, they're not.
Jon: We're glad, yeah.
Dennis Rainey: Sometimes we, in the Christian community, can create some stuff that's just not top drawer, but this is excellent. To give our listeners some idea of what – kind of where you'd place it, it really is the same kind of animation that you'd find in some of Disney's movies, right?
Dennis DeShazer: That's exactly right. It's the same technology that's behind "Toy Story," behind "Finding Nemo." A lot of the feature films that you see, this is state-of-the-art, CG 3-D animation, and we thought – Jon and I thought that was really important that we deliver something of first-class quality.
Dennis Rainey: Hold it, hold it, you said CG and what was the other one?
Dennis DeShazer: It's computer generated, it's 3-D.
Dennis Rainey: Three-D?
Bob: That's three-dimensional – I thought I'd share that with you, too.
Jon: We have that third dimension, it's very special.
Dennis Rainey: But it is first-class, and I think that is important because we're competing with what's on TV and other computer-generated movies and entertainment.
Dennis DeShazer: That's the real world.
Bob: And I want to ask you about that, because I'm thinking of a three-year-old. Does a three-year-old really know the difference between high-quality, computer-generated animation and something that somebody slapped together on a computer? I mean, they're three, come on.
Jon: Absolutely, they know the difference, and they absolutely can't articulate it to you – what it is that makes a program special to them, but they know it. It registers with them. The pacing of the show, the colors that are used, the simplicity of the story lines, the quality of the music, all of those things matter, and you can watch what your own child watches and see what their reaction is.
They're very demonstrative. They just get up and walk away if they don't like the programming. So we spent a lot of time watching children watch television and watch video.
Bob: I wanted to ask you about that, because you've undoubtedly brought in a roomful of three- to five-year-olds, and sat them down and popped in the latest episode of BOZ and said, "We want you to watch this," and watch them watch it, and then talk to them afterwards. What have you found out and how has it shaped what you do as you produce these?
Jon: It's just an amazing thing to be able to be at the point, after years of development, of being able to show children BOZ, and we've gotten great response. They really seem to take to the music really quickly. BOZ himself, he is just the kind of character you feel like you can reach out give a hug to. He looks furry, and he feels furry, you know, you just know it. And so they really connect with him and I think, also, they connect with Drew and Gracie, those four-year-old redheaded twins who are in the show.
Bob: How can you tell that, though? Can you tell it by they're on the edge of their seat or when you talk to them afterwards – what kind of information are you looking for from them to say "We're on target here."
Jon: They'll sing a song back to you or a piece of a song. They'll tell you what happened in that show – what did BOZ do? What did Drew or Gracie do? They can tell you the little snippets, and then I think the biggest thing of all is they say "More," and you know.
Dennis Rainey: You know, I think what I want our listeners to know is that this is not only quality, but these gentlemen have forged some partnerships with not only FamilyLife but also MOPS, Mothers of Preschoolers, and you're known by the company you keep and, hopefully, we're good company. I'm very impressed with what you guys have done. Frankly, that's what we want to do with families is bring them the very finest tools and resources to help them win in what we believe is one of life's most important assignments.
Bob: Well, again, the cool thing about these DVDs is that you've got the combination of educational content, strong character and values messages, and then the spiritual component that is absent from so much of the other kinds of materials. You can get a lot of videos that will talk to kids about being kind to your neighbor or, you know, some positive moral message, but God is absent from that conversation.
Now, our listeners may want to know just exactly what this green bear looks like. On our website at FamilyLife.com, there is a picture of BOZ. In fact, on the home page there's a link you can click that will take you right to the BOZ area where you can get more information about BOZ and Drew and Gracie and the rest of the Baxter family and the neighborhood they live in.
There is also information about how you can order the DVDs. We've got the first two BOZ DVDs. One is called "Thank you, God, for Friends and Helpers," and the other is "Thank you, God, for Colors and Shapes." Each DVD has three episodes on it. And along with that, we'll send you a FamilyLife exclusive. It's a sing-along CD that has the songs from the BOZ DVDs so that you can listen to those while you're in the car. The kids can learn the songs, memorize them, and sing along with them. And we're going to send you a coupon that's good for a free BOZ plush toy.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click on the picture of BOZ that you see there on the home page. You'll get more information about BOZ there, and you can order the two DVDs and receive the sing-along CD and the coupon for the BOZ plush toy as well.
If you'd prefer, you can call us at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources sent out to you.
Now, as many of you know, FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. During the month of March, we wanted to find a special way to say thank you to any of you who could help with the costs associated with syndicating our program all across the country. So if you make a donation of any amount during March, you can request a set of Resurrection Eggs. Now, you may not be familiar with these. It's a carton that includes a dozen plastic eggs, and each one has some kind of a symbol or a representation of an event that took place in Jesus' life during His final week of life on earth. It helps children learn the Easter story, and we would love to send you a set of these Resurrection Eggs as a thank you gift when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount this month.
You can go to our website to donate, if you'd like – FamilyLife.com. As you fill out the donation form, when you get to the keycode box, type in the word "eggs," and we'll know that you'd like to receive that thank you gift of Resurrection Eggs. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY – you can make a donation over the phone and, again, ask for the Resurrection Eggs when you call us to make a donation. We'd love to send them out to you. Again, it's our way of saying thank you for your support of this ministry, and we really do appreciate your partnership with us.
Well, tomorrow we're going to continue to find out more about BOZ, the big green bear, and we're also going to talk about what children can learn when they are preschool aged and what they need to be learning when they're preschool aged. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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