Author Mike Nawrocki Makes ‘Cheesy’ Fun


VeggieTales co-creator and voice of Larry the Cucumber, Mike Nawrocki, is working with renowned Disney animator Tom Bancroft and legendary producer and artist Steve Taylor to bring to life the new animated series, The Dead Sea Squirrels, which tells the story of Merle and Pearl, two first-century squirrels from Israel who’ve been preserved in sea salt in a cave alongside the Dead Sea. When 10-year-old Michael discovers them 2000 years later and sneaks them home in his backpack, hijinks ensue after this salty couple reanimates and takes their new friend on adventures.

A few examples include book 4, “Squirrelnapped,” when Michael is enjoying his first Saturday of the school year, teaching Merle and Pearl to play soccer in the house. A stray ball smashes his mom’s prized elephant lamp and Michael sees the chance to lay blame on his little sister. He and the squirrels head to the park to play. When the man in the suit and sunglasses shows up and snatches Pearl, Michael’s friends and family band together to try to get her back! Michael learns the value of honesty. Book 5, "Tree-mendous Trouble," is about the cat Mr. Nemesis' plot to eliminate the squirrels but it backfires, and book 6, "Whirly Squirrelies," tells of their big adventure with a flying drone.

Nawrocki, a Lipscomb University professor, rallied together students hired to help animate the series in coordination with New Zealand’s Mukpuddy Animation Studios. His team and colleagues at Lipscomb include Bancroft (known for his work on animated films like "Mulan," "The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast”) and Taylor, who co-wrote The Dead Sea Squirrels theme song. “I’m thrilled to see the ‘Dead Sea Squirrels’ coming to life. The beginnings of the idea came to me over a dozen years ago. So, to get the opportunity to write a book series and now to move into animation — it is a longtime dream come true,” he said.

Nawrocki hopes that the stories in the new series will help kids make a connection to the Bible and the life of Jesus. The first six episodes of the series are based on Nawrocki’s book series of the same name. There are 8 out of 12 books currently written. Book nine will be out in the Fall and the remaining three are coming later.
“What started as a title based on a ‘cheesy’ pun has developed into a fun-filled world kids will love while giving parents an entertaining resource to pass on biblical values and life lessons. Plus, with VeggieTales, 3-2-1 Penguins, and now The Dead Sea Squirrels, I hope to cement my legacy as the ‘cheesy’ pun title guy,” Nawrocki shared in a statement.

The animation series has been funded and is now in the works. The pilot is complete and they are currently working on the first six episodes before distribution through streaming services. “It will take a couple of years to complete them all. In the meantime, viewers can help by going to www.DeadSeaSquirrels.com to sign up for updates and buy the books.” 

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