Western Animation: The Storykeepers
It's A.D. 64, and the infamous fire of July 18 has separated four children from their families. The kids, Anna, Cyrus, Justin and Marcus, find shelter with Ben and Helena, a Jewish baker and his wife. They also discover that Ben is the leader of one of Rome's underground churches, and is known as a storykeeper; that is, someone who passes on the stories of Jesus' life and ministry. Together with teenage Zealot Zakkai, the kids and their guardians go through many adventures during their search for the kids' missing parents
, all the while spreading the stories of Jesus and
trying to avoid Nero's ever-tightening noose on Christianity in Rome.Storykeepers
was a children's cartoon produced by Zondervan and Focus on the Family from 1995 to 1997. It comprised 13 episodes and two holiday compilation specials. Three of the last four episodes make up The Easter Storykeepers
, a project for which more famous voice talent was brought in.
Storykeepers contains examples of:
- Action Mom – Helena becomes this after Ben is arrested.
- Aesop – The entire premise of the series. Often several Aesops are present in a single episode.
- Alliterative Name – Ben the Baker, though by all technicalities his “legal” name would be Benjamin bar Simeon.
- Aloof Big Brother - Zak to the adopted siblings. Or at least he tries to be one.
- Animation Bump – Seen in the third episode as a precursor to the series’ art evolution.
- Annoying Younger Sibling – Marcus to Justin, and in one episode, Cyrus to Justin.
- Ascended Extra – Tacticus after "Trapped."
- Antonius the Miller counts to an extent. When we first meet him he's a random attendee at Nero's birthday party, where it's implied he's a tailor (he gives Nero a ball of string). By the next episode he's been promoted to anti-hero and given a name and official occupation.
- Art Evolution – In the earliest episodes, the animation can be crude at times, and there’s little continuity in character body features, such as the number of fingers on the hands of some characters. In the later episodes, the animation and designs of the characters remains consistent, and Helena even gets a makeover. Oh, and Justin gets a new wardrobe.
- Art Shift - Every time a parable is told.
- The Atoner – Though Ben doesn't go into this detail, the message that Jesus became the atoner for mankind still gets across. Capella later plays it straight.
- Badass Preacher – Ben. Especially with that bull's-eye and driving in "Ready, Aim, Fire".
- Berserk Button – Do not stop applauding Nero, even if he tells you to stop.
- Big Bad – Nero.
- Big Eater – Stoutacus.
- Bittersweet Ending – Easter story arc.
- Black Best Friend – Cyrus to Anna.
- Category Traitor – Tacticus and Capella. Technically, Ben and Helena count as well, since they’re Jewish.
- Chekhov's Gunman – Thastus the goat.
- Chekhov's Skill – Marcus and Thastus’ ramming act. Also Zak’s archery skills.
- Christmas Episode – Starlight Escape.
- Collapsing Lair – Zak organizes a cutoff escape route in the catacombs in case the church is discovered. Used literally in an earlier episode when Anna removes a beam intended to hold up the unstable tunnel roof.
- Concealing Canvas – A plaque denoting Ben’s position as Nero’s official baker hides an escape route for Christians.
- Conflicting Loyalty – Capella begins to experience this about halfway through the Easter story arc.
- Conspicuously Light Patch
- The Corruptible – Cyrus, when he gets caught up in the idea of being a star.
- Crossdresser – Most of the heroes at one point or another.
- Darker and Edgier – Ben whump seems to be the sport of choice in the last three episodes. In fact, the whole Easter special is generally darker.
- David Versus Goliath – Cyrus, when he and some other Christians are about to be thrown to a huge gladiator named Giganticus. Helena references this story while trying to encourage Cyrus.
- Deadpan Snarker – Zak, and sometimes Anna.
- Although Tacticus gets a pretty good line in, too.
- Disney Villain Death – Nihilus.
- Double Aesop – Constantly, especially when one character is retelling one of Jesus’ parables.
- Dragon-in-Chief – Nihilus.
- Easy Evangelism – Tacticus. Subverted and almost averted with Capella. In fact, for Capella it requires Ben's willingness to die for the opportunity to tell Capella about Jesus' resurrection to initiate a Heel Face Turn.
- Everything's Cuter with Kittens/All Animals are Domesticated – Marcus finds and adopts two lion cubs in one episode. Turns out the cubs are being trained to eventually devour Christians in Nero’s gladiatorial games. The episode revolves around protecting the cubs from Nero’s cruel trainer.
- Expy - Nihilus, to real-life Sophonius Tigellinus (who in turn may have been a victim of Historical Villain Upgrade).
- Five-Man Band – Color Coded for Your Convenience.
- The Hero – Usually Justin, though Zak frequently fills this role as well.
- The Lancer – Cyrus, or Justin when Zak is the Hero.
- The Chick – Anna.
- The Smart Guy – Alternates between Justin and Cyrus, depending on who’s the Hero. Anna has also filled this role on occasion.
- The Big Guy – Ben sometimes, but not always, fills this role. May also go to Zak when Justin is the Hero.
- Tagalong Kid – Marcus.
- Team Pet – Thastus the goat.
- Four-Fingered Hands – As stated above, most of the characters in the first three episodes. Though the number of fingers keeps changing.
- Friend to All Living Things - Marcus, who even goes so far as to befriend a wild lioness and her cubs.
- Heel-Face Turn – Antonius the miller, and later, Capella.
- Hey, It's That Voice! – Tim Curry as Nero and Debby Boone as Helena, both in the Easter compilation special.
- Historical Villain Upgrade - Emperor Nero, here portrayed as Straw Nihilist.
- History Marches On – It was never proven that Nero ordered his own city to be burned down, and recent historical evidence strongly suggests that the great fire of July 18, AD 64 was in fact an accident, and Nero was not involved in its start in any way. But this series uses the assumption that Nero ordered the fire as a driving force behind the series’ plot. Regardless of how or why the fire started, the fact remains that Nero used the Christians as a scapegoat, thus beginning the Roman persecution.
- Hostage Situation/I Have Your Wife – Nihilus locks Helena and the boys in the bakery and threatens to burn it down unless Ben turns himself in.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness – Marcus.
Capella: Listen, you little brats, the baker’s wife is out there worried sick about you. Tell me where he is, and I’ll let you go back to her.
Marcus: No. You’re bad.
- Killed Off for Real – Capella, who pulls a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Large Ham – Ben. He passes the ham ball to Zak during "Raging Waters."
- Nero embodies this trope in the Easter Storykeepers. But what do you expect from a villain who’s voiced by Tim Curry?
- Lethal Chef – Captain Hadiran’s cook. It seems he prefers to invoke this trope:
- Limited Wardrobe – All the characters, though Justin does gain long sleeves and a vest in the fourth episode.
- Meaningful Name – Several characters, most notably Nihilus, Stoutacus and Snivelus.
- Could arguably include Milo, the old trail guide. Milo is a German name, but in this case it could refer to the Latin word “mil,” meaning "thousand", in reference to the number of miles Milo has traveled.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain - Tacticus' conversion was sealed when Nihilus abandoned him to die in the catacombs, giving Justin and Anna the chance to demonstrate Jesus' command to love their enemies by rescuing Tacticus.
- The Obi-Wan – Zak’s uncle Mordecai is a rare example of this trope in which the character is not killed off for real.
- Official Couple – Tacticus and Miriam.
- Orphan's Ordeal – The underlying plot of the series, and the driving plot of at least one episode. The kids do eventually find their parents (except Anna, who is instead adopted by Tacticus and Miriam).
- The Other Darrin – Jesus’ original voice actor is never heard from after the first episode.
- Paper-Thin Disguise – Ben. Played straight with Nero, but averted with Zak. Lampshaded by Cyrus.
- Professional Butt-Kisser – Snivelus.
- Seekers – Tacticus and Capella.
- Shout-Out – The cook on Captain Hadrian’s ship gets his recipes from Julius Child’s Cook Scroll.
- Story Arc – Ben’s eventual discovery as a Christian leader and his family’s subsequent retreat to Shem Hadar.
- Team Mom – Helena. This seems to be her only real function in the series.
- Theme Tune Cameo - During a wedding scene in the last episode.
- Title Drop – Ben, in the very last scene of the series.
- Villain Song – Nero in "Easter Storykeepers."
- What Happened to the Mouse? – Thastus the goat.
- Wraparound Background - Seen in "Ready, Aim, Fire" when Ben and Justin attempt to stop a runaway horse that's taking Helena and the kids into the heart of the fire.