The VEGTOONS animated series is an entertaining, educational initiative designed specifically with omnivores in mind. In a light-hearted, sympathetic way, the show will help to raise awareness for living more compassionately and consciously. The intent is to open the door to a deeper conversation in our society, one that is respectful in articulating the values of vegetarianism, but also fruitful in broadening people's imagination for what is possible.
The VEGTOONS animated series centers around the lunchtime conversation of three protagonist friends: Hugh Manatee, Harang-Utan, and Rufus Peeve, Jr. III; an unassuming manatee, world-weary orangutan, and pampered apologist pup, respectively. The principal environment for the series is a restaurant milieu called The Meet Market. It offers strictly vegetarian dining, whereas across the street is an all-you-can-eat meat buffet, the Meaty Ogre.
The show explores a variety of issues, concerns and assumptions surrounding the vegetarian lifestyle -- ranging from the foods that vegetarians eat, to health and ethics, to relationships with family and loved ones. Each episode has a specific theme and therefore can be enjoyed on its own; however, the larger trajectory of the story unfolds over the entire series.
VEGTOONS is being designed and animated by Cartoon Saloon, whose brilliant film, The Secret of Kells, was nominated for Best Animated Feature in the 2010 Academy Awards®. The studio also produced the award-winning TV series Skunk Fu! which was broadcast in over 120 countries via the BBC, Cartoon Network, Canal J, France 5, Super RTL Disney and ABC Australia.
The following teaser clip -- from the first episode, "Bean There, Done That" -- offers a glimpse into the show's style, main characters and gentle humor.
The luminous singer-songwriter Nellie McKay has provided her music for the show, an original cover of "The Dog Song."
The Vegtoons Series is geared toward an older audience. As the show will be freely available online and seen by a wide spectrum of people across cultures and ages, it is important to be mindful how Harang-Utan, the cigar-chomping orangutan, is portrayed.
While we understand the concerns that people may have with a cartoon character smoking, there are story reasons behind this small, tangential character device. Harang-Utan has a somewhat gruff personality, because he had a difficult history which is mentioned in one of the show's 10 episodes. Certainly we could focus-group test our story for the approval of all people. However, our narrative choices have meaning and speak to the reality in which we live.
The Vegtoons show has very gentle humor. There is no strong language, and it is meant to be educational, inspirational and respectful throughout. The element of smoking does not detract from the intent and spirit of the show. Also, as the show is designed for omnivores, having a character who is not perfectly attentive to his own health serves another purpose. Namely, being healthy involves more than just being vegetarian.
To be clear: We are not promoting nor advocating smoking in the show. With your help in realizing the Vegtoons Series, maybe in the future people will have the same adverse reaction to seeing characters eating meat.
The Vegtoons Series encourages less meat consumption for our health, the environment, and the earth's creatures. Overall, the show advocates for a vegan lifestyle: everything from the foods we eat to the non-exploitation of other living beings.
Veganism is a form of vegetarianism. Specifically, it means not using any animal products. While some people may focus on words -- e.g., vegan, vegetarian, plant-based -- of more interest and meaning are the virtues we embody. Because the show is designed for omnivores -- to encourage and inspire, to promote understanding and awareness -- we are addressing the assumptions, stereotypes and concerns that "veg-curious" people often have. The show does this, in part, by promoting an ethos of kindness, respect and compassion -- the very qualities we hope to see manifest in the world.
The Vegtoons show is meant as a stepping stone, a springboard to further conversation. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter (as much) what a person calls themselves or espouses. Action is eloquence. Our small everyday choices, and the expression of loving-kindness in our relationships, are what transform the world for the better.
If you're interested to learn more about healthful eating, the following popular resources might be a starting point.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Engine 2 Diet
Forks Over Knives (documentary)
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