Arts: Character Tales

It started out with a sketch, an idea from one of Gerald Coury’s sons, Matthew, then 23. He was drawing animals and Coury recognized that they couldn’t just let the captivating characters stay on the page. The creatures had a job to do.

Character Tales was created by the Edmond resident and his family as a response to what they saw as a lack of positive entertainment options available to young children. “There’s a huge group out there that are saying ‘our kids are seeing a bunch of junk and we don’t want that.’ What we’re saying is ‘OK, let’s bring a good, solid, strong alternative,’” Coury says.

Coury is no stranger to taking on the task of developing and improving character. He has worked in the field for years, teaching character skills to corporate and government employees. “Because of my background in character training, I have a desire to see people grow,” he says.

To bring this idea to life, Coury and his wife invested their retirement fund into the business venture. The plan was to start with a short video about character, but when Coury recognized its potential, he decided they should make a full-length animated movie. “When I saw this story unfolding, I said to my wife, ‘we could really impact children and families across the country,’ ” he recalls.

The story is about a squirrel named Chippy who tells tales about character to his forest friends. Chippy’s stories take place in an imaginative place called Cooptown, run by chickens, literally. The sheriff is a selfish, cowardly rooster who has to change his ways to save Annabelle the cow from a kidnapping by a wolf and buffalo.

Creating this world was not easy, but Coury says he is proud that the majority of work took place right here in Oklahoma. Only the actual animation of the film took place overseas. The characters were designed by Matthew, and the family hired a local graphic designer to create activity books to reinforce the movie’s lessons. The music was composed by Oklahoma City University professor Lendell Black, who has worked with the Oprah show, according to Coury.

But perhaps most cementing of the film’s family values was the choice the Courys made to use their children’s voices for the film’s characters instead of professional actors. “We like to have fun as a family and as a company,” Coury said. He and his wife Maureen have Matthew, now 26, and three other children between the ages of 18 and 22.

They recognize the unique opportunity of having a family business and these family ties are transferring from the production studio to the screen and out again. Coury says that they have a label on the DVD that states the film is good, clean family fun and are receiving a positive response from parents who say their children really connect to the characters.

“The feedback we’re getting is ‘my gosh, my child watches it over and over. They’re learning and enjoying it,’” Coury says. He adds that viewers also are impressed with the quality that comes out of the production. To achieve that quality, Matthew had to sketch detailed story boards for the animators. This painstaking process took three months, but he says that he is fulfilled by the purpose behind the process. “You get to do something you’re passionate about as far as the art goes, but also being able to get that message out there, to me, is the most important part of it,” says Matthew.

To further reinforce good character, a large component of the film’s message is based on the Gospel. “We’re not trying to force any religion on anybody but we want them to see if you operate your life on good principles, you’re going to be a benefit to all people,” Coury says.

The film came out in early spring and Coury is attending conferences throughout the region and U.S. in a grassroots campaign to promote it. “Our goal is to spread the Gospel, to give good family entertainment with values that families appreciate and are crying out for.”

Already Matthew is hard at work on a second story. Eventually, Coury says, they want their message to meet the big screen. Visit www.charactertales.com for more information or enter PromoCode: OUTLOOK to receive 25% off your entire order through the month of July.

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