Release Date:  August 2005
Genre:  Cartoon
Run Time:  Approx. 30 min.
Creator/Publisher:   Bruce Barry and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Bruce Barry has done it again.  With his latest “Roach Approach” film, the former Disney cartoonist serves up yet another top-notch creation full of brilliant animation, catchy music, great dialogue and a solid biblical story.

Fresh on the heels of Barry’s first film in the series, “Don’t Miss the Boat!” which took kids back to the story of Noah and the Ark, “The Mane Event!” is just as much fun as its predecessor.  It’s all about the roaches, folks, and Barry, who resides in South Florida, knows all about them. 

Chatty Cathy Cockroach Lou is back, this time on a camping trip with little roach grandkids Squiggz, Cosmo and Flutter – a Roach Ranger wannabe.  After munching on special treats topped with three-day-old maggots (“That’s so gross!  Awesome, Nana!”), the kids set off with their grandfather, braving a beachside boardwalk, some pesky mosquitoes and a dangerous drainpipe. 

During their outing, Lou tells the kids about his adventures as a young roach, when he found himself smack in the middle of a lion’s den.  As it so happened, Lou and Nana actually watched biblical history unfold when Daniel, a faithful man of God, was thrown to the lions for praying, in violation of a new law that King Darius’ advisors had passed in order to thwart Daniel.  Two lions are ready to dig in for dinner, but Meisha, a lion cub, is torn.  She wants to obey her elders, but something about this guy makes him seem … well, different.  Soon, Meisha is learning a valuable lesson about following her heart, and standing up for what she believes in.

Meanwhile, back in the pipe, the roaches have just discovered that those comfy “hammocks” they’ve been enjoying are actually spiderwebs – and they’re now at the mercy of one vicious spider.  “When you’ve done everything you possibly can, say a prayer, stay calm and trust,” says Grandpa Lou, as they face their doom.  Will God save them as he did Daniel?

The animation in this film is outstanding.  Shadows fall across characters, cave walls and on the ground.  Whiskers twitch; fur ruffles and the gold medallion of a hip-hopper bat named Fang swings as he finally flies – his lifelong dream.  Rust mars an old grate, and as the animals walk by a puddle, we catch a brief glimpse of their reflections in the water.  This is quality stuff, and while kids may not notice, parents definitely will.  No wonder Fox Home Entertainment has picked up this little gem of a series.  It’s that good.

We’re also treated to some great voice-overs and music, including singer Michael McDonald, acclaimed contemporary jazz artist Kirk Whalum, gospel sensation Nicole C. Mullen and the 2005 Dove Award-winning talent, tobyMac.  The Reverend T.D. Jakes even does a turn, voicing the few lines of King Darius.  I loved the music – particularly Fang’s song – and only wish that there had been more of it. 

The film is geared to a slightly older audience –e lementary school to ‘tweeners – but it also works great for younger and older kids, which is a real testament to its family-appropriate plot, dialogue and message, as well as its quality.  My 35-month-old daughter sat riveted to “The Mane Event!” during its entire duration (although the fact that we just happened to be learning about Daniel and the Lion’s Den, no doubt, helped).  She went to bed, then asked to watch the DVD again the next morning.  How could I say no? 

Although I would have liked to have seen more about Daniel – perhaps something more about his relationship with Darius, why the ungodly law was passed, and how faithful Daniel truly was – the film is still outstanding.  In fact, it’s some of the best entertainment that’s out there – Christian or otherwise.  Look out, Pixar.

“The Mane Event!” is available on DVD  for $14.98 and VHS $12.98.  For more information about all “The Roach Approach” films and products, visit www.wackyworld.tv.