Sunday School Moderne
August 20, 2006 3:03 AM   Subscribe

"The Lutherans had Davey & Goliath and I wondered what we Baptists could do for children's television," remembers Dr Paul M. Stevens. Stevens, then president of the Southern Baptist Radio & Television Commission contracted Byers and Perry to develop JOT THE DOT into a children's television show with the purpose to reach children with moral messages on their level." What they created are also a series of modernist gems. via
posted by maryh (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
And if you're interested in classic animation and design, or behind the scenes action with Jim Henson & the Muppets, I can't recommend Nate Pacheco's blog highly enough. Great stuff.
posted by maryh at 3:07 AM on August 20, 2006

Wow, I forgot about these. They were played by that our damned godless local PBS affiliate.
posted by substrate at 5:56 AM on August 20, 2006

Thanks maryh. These are great! I love the trippy guilt-stewing scene after Dot steals the cupcake. You don't get this kind of abstract art in pop culture anymore.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:10 AM on August 20, 2006

Oh wow, I loved this show and have looked unsuccessfully for clips online for ages. Thanks maryh for this find! The smarmy tone of the documentary leaves a lot to be desired but it's worth it for me to learn about the show.

As a very young child I knew I was a non-theist and not interested in the Christian tradition but I enjoyed this show for its discussion of morality, honesty, friendship, consideration of others and kindness.
posted by nickyskye at 9:31 AM on August 20, 2006

Are they seriously comparing Jot the Dot to Davey & Goliath? There's no comparison. I was a southern baptist growing up, and I watched Davey & Goliath all the time but Jot the Dot sucked raw eggs out of a straw. ...does that mean I was always Lutheran and didn't even know it?

Nowadays I'm just barely Christian so it doesn't matter now but back when I was eight that woulda floored me.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:12 AM on August 20, 2006

and on the other side . . . meet Moral Orel.
posted by killy willy at 11:19 AM on August 20, 2006

Baptits. Baptits!

Trying to start a new meme.
posted by nyxxxx at 12:07 PM on August 20, 2006

Your last link in the main body of the FPP (the "via") is malformed. Ask Matt/Jessamyn to fix it.

I watched Davey & Goliath every Saturday morning as a small child and had no idea it was a religious show. I just thought it was another cartoon. Wasn't until I was older that it finally dawned on me. The only thing I remember about Jot was one where they talked about "It's nice to share". Thanks for the links.
posted by briank at 12:11 PM on August 20, 2006

I remember when I was a kid at first thinking Davey & Goliath was just another cartoon, but I don't remember paying attention to it in a way where the actual content caught my attention. I'd just be like, gee that dog is funny or man Davey's sister is a real jerk. It wasn't until a couple years later I think that I watched one and realized it was very preachy, like the teacher in Sunday school, but it was near Christmas and I figured well maybe this is just cuz of the holidays. I was around nine or ten by this time. Then after that every time I caught an episode of Davey & Goliath it'd be preachy. I mean at first it would seem to start off kinda innocuous, then about halfway through I'd start noticing it was trying to prove a point. I remember by the time I was ten I was ashamed that I had liked Davey & Goliath, because it wasn't really a cartoon. I mean it was made by adults and was trying to make me grow up with messages and stuff. I felt betrayed.

Then I learned that all cartoons were made by grown ups! That was a two peanut butter and jelly sammich day. I was really upset.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

In a Sunday-school-for-us-grownups course that was about Christian (and crypto-Christian) themes in movies and on TV, I found out that our (Lutheran) pastors and many of the lay attendees had grown up watching D & G. I grew up in a mostly RC family, but it wasn't long before I discovered what the theme music (warning: MIDI sound!) and the logo were all about.
posted by pax digita at 12:28 PM on August 20, 2006

Hey Daaaaavey, looks like we've been discussed here before.

Sadly, I don't have any decent links to one of my favorite religious kids' shows, The Magic Door. Tiny Tov, the little Jewish elf who lived in a mushroom, would teach his pal Bubby Beaver Hebrew phrases and explain Jewish holidays in language that even a beaver (or dim Catholic kids like me) could understand. I'm pretty sure it only aired in Chicago. Where's the YouTube link for that, people??
posted by maryh at 1:54 PM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Then I learned that all cartoons were made by grown ups! That was a two peanut butter and jelly sammich day. I was really upset.

wow ZachsMind , I found that declaration sincerely moving. You reminded me of the poignant -often upsetting- awakenings as a child, the discombobulations of learning about the world and life in odd snippets. As a kid at night listening to the $5 transistor radio that Granny gave me under my pillow I assumed that the bands played live for each song. One of a gazilion not-knowings about the world.

There's a short book, called One Writer's Beginnings, by Eudora Welty that nicely describes what growing up is like. It's hard for grown-ups to do, remember what it was like to not know the world.

maryh, Have been Googling away, trying to find you some Magic Door. Only a small bit here and there from Wikipedia,

Other people remember it and want to see the show again too.

The series of 12 shows can be purchased. One of the shows on eBay for only $3.75.

Trying and failing to dig up any vid of the show I found this gem, gotta check it out, the Jewish Rapper. He's good.
posted by nickyskye at 4:02 PM on August 20, 2006

I once worked for a college that did research with a children's tv cable channel - and I was the only one there who could discuss their programming and refer to the days when Davy and Goliath was the only toonish thing on on Sundays. (And my coworkers looked at me as if I were a dinosaur - sigh) I feel I should remember Dot - but I don't and it is indeed waaay trippy so I'm sure I couldn't have forgotten it.

Oh and I didn't figure out that Davy and Goliath was a religious show either, briank. An adult clued me in. I think the only reason I did watch it was because there was nothing else but talking heads on the other 4 channels that we received back then. (Yes kids, once some of us only had 5-7 channels on our tvs! Maybe I am a dinosaur...)
posted by batgrlHG at 4:07 PM on August 20, 2006

The "DOT" link is malformed too. But here is a link where one can see the second Dot clip.

I like Nate's work. Charming. His art reminds me a bit of Leo Leonni.

The Dot cartoons are intense. I like the messages to not lie and not steal but the cartoons are disturbing, nightmarish in places, and I think too dark for little kids and to harshly Biblical in my opinion. However, it always seemed to me that a lot of kids' cartoons are dark.

I do really like the concept of Dot though, changing shape and color to reflect inner states of mind and emotion. I wish there were more subtle, emotionally deeper cartoons these days.

It's interesting to see honesty and morality called "modernist" as compared with post-modern perceptions.
posted by nickyskye at 8:11 PM on August 20, 2006

The "DOT" link is malformed too

*groan* This is the last time I try posting anything at 3AM. Thanks for making the save, nickyskye.

I think too dark for little kids and to harshly Biblical in my opinion.

I absolutely agree. I was the kind of kid who couldn't not watch a cartoon, even if I knew it was going to be lousy. The Jot cartoons used to leave my stomach tied in knots; they're really very effective at producing an emotional response, but the response they often seemed to be going for was a crippling, despairing guilt with only the religious message at the end to offer relief. I wasn't a religious kid, so the 'God loves you anyway' message did nothing to alliviate my anxiety.
As an adult, I appreciate the design and the subtlety of the acting. For such a simple character, there's an amazing range of emotion on screen with a minimum of dialog. But it seems to me that the severity of the message is at odds with the high quality of the art.
posted by maryh at 9:15 PM on August 20, 2006

Is it really possible to make entertainment for children that isn't 1) skewed to a particular theological point of view that not all parents agree upon, or 2) isn't trying to convince children to get parents to buy them something? When I was a kid all a good cartoon really had to do was physical slapstick. Create a simple situation where one character would chase the other character around a particular environment for three minutes and periodically get the ever lovin' crap beat outta him. It's what makes Kenny Rogers Jackass work so well. Kenny's like Tom and the other two kids are like Jerry. Same premise. Invent a situation that'd cause characters to attack one another or chase one another around the screen. No hidden meaning. No social point of view. No commercial entanglements. Just good clean sadomasochism.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:43 PM on August 20, 2006

...Kinder Jackass.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:57 PM on August 20, 2006

I remember the Jot cartoons. At the end there would be an address where you could send off for a package with all sorts of Jot stuff. Hard to remember what was in there--cutouts, pages with stories and connect the dots and word finds, etc.

The local station showed it right after Davey and Goliath, so they are also linked in my mind as well. (I'm a bit surprised no one has mentioned "Moral Orel" on Adult Swim, which is such a parody of D&G that you'd almost need to be a D&G fan to enjoy it properly...)

Anyway, thanks for this FPP as it stirred up some fond childhood TV memories for me.
posted by First Post at 1:38 AM on August 21, 2006

the response they often seemed to be going for was a crippling, despairing guilt with only the religious message at the end to offer relief

Nicely said.

But it seems to me that the severity of the message is at odds with the high quality of the art.


I'm a bit surprised no one has mentioned "Moral Orel"

Actually killy willy did and there are clips of it online too.
posted by nickyskye at 10:13 AM on August 21, 2006

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