THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS is the best selling fiction book in history, it has never been out of print, it is the first novel written in English...and is a timeless story that can give us the courage to live out our faith in a culture that often stands against us. A culture that makes us believe that the easy path is the one to take. A culture that questions absolute truths.
Since this film is both animated and an allegory, it is a perfect tool to help missionaries share the Christian journey in countries where believers often face persecution. The filmmakers have committed to donate this film to missionaries, home church leaders, underground church leaders, and others around the world, in 100 languages. The film is already being translated into 26 languages most often in regions where Christians face extreme danger, including Mandarin, Spanish and Farsi. On Easter weekend, THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS will be aired on the second largest network in Iran - with an estimated audience of 6 million people.
We are honored to be able to the movie's director and writer Rob Fernandez for this exclusive interview.
Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us. What prompted you to a movie on "The Pilgrim's Progress"?
As an animation director and writer, I always felt that Pilgrim's Progress was one of these stories that was eventually meant to go on screen. Professionally, the creativity in the characters, locations and situations were screaming to be visualized. On a personal Christian level- it is the journey of every Christian soul and a great roadmap that can help so many people now and in the future.
Q: For the sake of some of our readers who may not be too sure about the storyline of "The Pilgrim's Progress," can you briefly sketch for us the major plot of the story?
The book starts off with a man named Christian with a great burden on his back as a result of a book that he is reading. The more he reads, the more his burden grows until he is prompted to flee the City of Destruction where he resides and on which judgment looms, and to make his way to the Celestial City. The journey that takes him through fantastic places of peril and adventure where he meets characters and creatures that assist or try to impede him.
Christian's motivation is not just for his own benefit but he is eager to see if indeed the Celestial City exists so that he can return and get his family and friends.
Q: Can you remember the first time you read "The Pilgrim's Progress"? What were your initial thoughts about the story?
It resonated with me from the start. I can honestly say that I was unable to read it in one sitting as each chapter prompted me to stop and think. It is a book that is both enjoyable to read but also one that causes you to think. It has been extremely helpful as it maps out the journey that any Christian shares no matter what your background or culture. It helped me tremendously as a young Christian because I quickly came to realize that following Christ was not always a bed of roses. The Pilgrim's Progress is really the journey of the original author who began writing the book while he was in prison for his faith. That in and of itself tells you a lot.
Q: This is also the first time the story is told with CGI Animation. What were some of the joys in the making of the movie via CGI Animation?
One of the greatest joys of making this film in CGI is that it gave us a huge blank palette to be create the characters, locations and situations in a way that we felt would speak to a modern audience. We went further than what the book in some cases- not veering from it but taking a further visual step to highlight its characters. For example, in the book Mr. Legality lives on a gravity-defying hill that threatens to topple over Christian. We combined the character of Mr. Legality and this hill and came up with a character that is made of stone- whose every word is turned into a commandment slab. Eventually he does indeed topple over Christian when he does his best to overwhelm the pilgrim with his never-ending commandments. As you watch the film you'll see that every place that Christian goes to and every person that he meets is almost a world unto itself, and so we had a lot of fun and a lot of challenges as well, creating the correct environment for each one of these characters, which changes from location to location.
Q: What were some of the challenges?
Probably some of our greatest challenges had to do with time and budget constraints because it's such an epic story and there's so much to tell, and of course we wanted to tell it in the best way. Trying to fit in everything that's in the book into one film was hard, and in fact we had to drop several scenes that were scripted, recorded and in some cases, animated. It was sad to have to do that, but it was necessary in order to make a movie that could be watched in one sitting. Probably some of that will be added when we create a DVD release.
Q: How can this movie encourage us Christians in our walk with the Lord?
The journey of a Christian has a lot of ups and downs. It's not like we accept Jesus as Savior and everything just works out beautifully. We continue to live in this world that has a major amount of challenges, and we can either go through our journey on our own or we can go through our journey with the help and accompaniment of our Creator and of His son. This is really a wonderful story that highlights the way that God leads souls through their life journey. The journey that each one of us experiences in life is different, we encounter the difficult and at the same time God places people and situations along the way to continually point us in the right direction, and so this movie will speak to a lot of people. There's a lot of truth, a lot of God's Word, embedded in this film, and as such we trust that it will continue to bear fruit for years to come.
Q: This movie is also made to aid worldwide missions, tell us more.
Pilgrim's Progress is a story of a Christian's journey, and it's not limited to the original country in which it was based, which was England, nor is it an American film. It's a story that has to do with Christianity, and so we wanted to do all that was possible to make this available in an easy format in the local languages for the people around the world.
Q: How has "Pilgrim's Progress" helped you personally in your faith journey?
I write a lot of scripts. I also work on a series called "The Torchlighters" which is all about Christian Heroes, and for every script I've written, as I delve either into research of a Christian hero, or in this case Bunyan and his experiences- it affects me deeply. Bunyan began writing The Pilgrim's Progress while in prison for his faith. All of the Christian heroes of the past that I write about met with challenges. Granted, they experience a lot of grace but it always came with a measure of difficulties. So starting with the fact that the story is written by a man willing to suffer for his faith is enough to get me to think about my own commitment to the Lord.
Secondly, the story itself is really and truly based on a Christian's journey so I see a lot of my own life - my highs and lows, my times of temptation and victories- in the story itself. The ending of course is of great importance. In the Word we are told to "look unto Jesus- the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross..." This is a story that helps us do just that by encouraging us with an allegory of God's companionship in our life and the ultimate great joy that awaits us when we enter into the City He has prepared for His children.