Bruce Barry never dreamed he’d be teaching kids about Jesus for a living – much less working for God.  And if he had, that dream would have been more like a nightmare.  After all, the New Jersey native had never attended church, not even for Christmas and Easter, and had no Christian relatives whatsoever.

“I thought Christians were like the Hare Krishnas in the airport,” he said.  “You know, some kind of cult.”

All that changed when Barry, a cartoonist and filmmaker who had worked at Nickelodeon, gave his life to Jesus.  Now, just five years later, Barry is launching a new video series for kids called “The Roach Approach,” which has the quality of a Pixar film – only centered around a biblical message. 

The first film, titled “Don’t Miss the Boat,” was released last week, and recounts the story of a roach family and their travels on Noah’s Arc.  The next, called “The Main Event,” about Daniel in the Lion’s Den, will be out next year.

During a recent conversation, Barry shared how he met Jesus and why he’s making movies about bugs.

Annabelle:  How did you get the idea for a movie about roaches?

Bruce:  I was in the 7-Eleven one day and had just asked the Lord what He wanted me to do next, and I saw these kids picking out toys.  One of them was a toy called “Brains.” Another was something just as gross.  And it hit me.  I realized that I had forgotten what it was like to be a kid, because kids like gross things.  I was thinking about this as I went back to my house, where this roach comes out, in the middle of the day.  Now, if you’ve ever been to Florida, you know how big these things are.  You can saddle them up and ride them.  But when I saw that, I said, “That’s it!”  My wife thought I was crazy, but I went inside and started drawing.

Annabelle:  Where does the creative process begin for you?

Bruce:  It starts with character development.  I give each character a bio.  Like Lew, the grandfather in “The Roach Approach,” was in the Navy.  He always went to church and thinks he knows everything, but never listened.  However, he loves the Lord, but his wife, Nan, is always correcting him, because he never listened in church.  That’s based a little bit on me – I’ve put a little bit of my life into all of my characters. 

In addition to making films, you design churches and have done some really neat projects in churches all over the country.  Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into that.

I was designing 3-D restaurants and animated hair salons like Snippets, Jack Benny’s daughter’s hair salon, where it’s like going to Disney World to get a haircut.  I also worked on the ET studio at Disney studios and at amusement parks all over the world.  My father was a cartoonist and background artist for Disney.  Mom was a fashion designer.  I lost my sister a few years ago, but I have two other brothers and half-brother still in New Jersey.

My father died when I was 16.  Mom moved to Florida with my brothers and sisters.  I stayed in New Jersey, because of a girlfriend, where I painted store windows.  I ended up living in my car, in a park, underneath the pier, during my senior year.  I’ve been working since I was 12. I used to take my bike to downtown Danville and paint shop windows – Christmas windows.  At the pier, during my senior year, I used to paint all the arcades and the games, and I did all the sign work down there.  I cartooned for people.  After graduation, I came down to Florida to be with my family and got an apartment.  I remember my dad telling Navy stories, so I joined.  And just like him, I started drawing cartoon characters on envelopes for the guys.  I charged two bucks an envelope and would make $80 or $90 an afternoon.