WASHINGTON (RNS) — Cru, the evangelical Christian organization that created the “Jesus” film four decades ago, is producing an animated version that is set to release in theaters around Christmas 2025.
“Do you realize that there are more people in the world today who have little to no knowledge of Jesus than ever before in history?” asked Pastor David Platt, an international missions expert who spoke at the announcement of the new project at the Museum of the Bible in Washington on Thursday (Nov. 30), where Jesus Film Project staffers joined animators and supporters.
“What an opportunity we have to use a medium that God has ordained to reach not just people, but the next generation with the gospel,” said Platt.
Similar events announcing the film were held in South Korea and Japan.
The original “Jesus” film, released in 1979, has been translated into more languages than any other movie, according to the Guinness World Book of Records. (The 2,100th translation was recently completed.)
Josh Newell, executive director of Jesus Film Project, said he views animation as a fitting means to speak to younger generations about the life of Jesus. “Animation is a compelling way to tell stories,’’ said in an interview ahead of the event. “There’s a moral resonance that people have with the story of Jesus, that what he teaches is good and is true, and is relevant for kids and for families.”
The new film’s director, Dominic Carola, who has worked on films such as “The Lion King,” “Mulan” and “Lilo & Stitch,” said the animators are working closely with historical experts to depict the faces and clothing of characters living in the time of Jesus, including Jesus himself.
“He’s from the Middle East, he’s Jewish, so we knew there’s certain skin tones, textures, things that we can lean into, because this is the part of the world he came from,” Carola said in an interview ahead of the launch, noting the importance of getting confidential feedback from global focus groups.
“We don’t want him to be a surfer from Malibu or looking like somebody from a GQ magazine. He walked among us, and he lived in the flesh. So we went through a very strict process of trying to stay in these bumper rails.”