Cal Ripken, Nolan Ryan, Mike Piazza and … Noah?
Move over baseball bobbleheads. There’s a new nodder in town: the Bible Bobblehead.
Bobbleheads—also called bobbers or nodders—are roughly 7-inch figures with spring-loaded heads. They were especially popular about 50 years ago, and then regained popularity a few years back as the hottest collectible from America’s ballparks.
But bobbleheads aren’t just for ballplayers anymore. Thanks to the drive of Dan Foote, they’re for biblical characters too. A Web site touts his Bible Bobbleheads as “Real Faith. Real Heroes. Real Fun!”
A few years ago, Foote, a cartoonist and illustrator by trade, was watching the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark at Arlington. Foote and friend Dan Hinckley were conversing and pondering the evening’s promotional giveaway—a bobblehead of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.
Foote had remembered bobbleheads from his childhood days, and had been aware of their resurgence of popularity in recent years—particularly for sports celebrities and others. He became enamored with the idea of doing something with bobbleheads, but licensing celebrity faces is expensive.
That’s when Hinckley suggested to Foote that he pursue an avenue that required no licensing. They began joking about “dead authors” bobbleheads. But Foote had a better idea: Bible characters.
“They make bobbleheads for heroes of the sports world, and these are heroes of our faith,” Foote thought. But he didn’t immediately pursue the idea. He was busy with other things—but Hinckley kept after him, finally driving Foote to the drawing board one evening.
“I sat down and worked for a couple or few hours and roughed out the original designs,” he said. “I wanted something that was iconic that goes with them.”
As for whose heads to make bobble, he settled on Noah, Moses and Samson.
“I was shooting for a cute way to point toward the rain that did come,” Foote said of the umbrella in the crook of Noah’s arm. “And of course he has the dove.”
Moses, ankled by a snake, is holding the Ten Commandments—numbered with Roman numerals, which incidentally didn’t exist at the time.
“This is not realistic,” Foote said of the whimsical designs. “This is a cartoon, fun interpretation of each of these.”
Samson clutches a jawbone and sports an exercise shirt. “I just couldn’t resist putting ‘God’s Gym’ on it,” Foote said.
And why even choose Samson, whose dalliance with Delilah led to his downfall? Foote said he chose the muscleman “not necessarily for his ethics, but he was broken and used by God.”
“With sports figures, it’s all about their expertise on the field,” Foote said. “From Genesis to Revelation, the thing you get from the Bible is that God uses imperfect people to enact his perfect will.” Samson fit the bill.
Foote, a non-denominational Christian, said he was born and raised “in church,” but that it was not until adulthood that he got serious about his faith. He likened his walk to Jacob, who wrestled with God.
“I walk away crippled but blessed,” Foote said.
Other businesses sell “biblical action figures,” but these Bible Bobbleheads, which sell for $14.99 each or $39.99 for all three, are pretty much unique. (At least one popular culture novelty store, Archie McPhee, does sell its own bobblehead, the Jesus Nodder.)
Foote markets the dolls with several partners, collectively known as the Isaac Bros. The Isaac Bros. team is comprised of: Dan Foote; Dan Hinckley; Darren Foote (Dan’s brother, who handles Internet sales and distribution); Andy Dabney (Darren’s brother-in-law, who handles wholesale and retail sales); Amy Foote (Dan’s wife, who manages the books); and Foote’s father, David (the CFO who “keeps us all in check,” Dan said).
Their bobblehead business is based in Allen, Texas, where Dan Foote lives, but the shipping and distribution run out of Louisville, Ky., where brother Darren is based.
Those biblical heads first began bobbling in November 2002. Isaac Bros. saw a boost in sales over Christmas, but Foote said the bulk of their business has come in the last month or so following a round of media attention. It now takes 6-8 weeks to fill an order, due to heavy demand.
“We’re probably lousy businessmen,” said Foote. “We don’t have a five-year plan.” What they do have, however, is a sense of humor, a creative side, an entrepreneurial spirit—and faith.
“We are here in our walk in faith because, in some part, of each of these guys,” he said. “Not only do they point to a specific story, but we are still part of that story.”
“We hope and pray that you laugh with us at the great, unfathomable, mysterious joy of God,” they wrote on the Web site. In fact, they chose the name “Isaac Bros.” because “Isaac” means “laughter” in Hebrew.
Foote said the Isaac Bros. want to celebrate and share their faith through this popular culture product.
“We’re just about sharing the story of each of these people and reveling in the hope that we have and the joy that we get from a relationship with God,” Foote said. “If it all ends tomorrow, it’s been a lot of fun.”
He said they have received numerous phone calls and e-mails of encouragement from all over. If the endeavor continues to go well, Foote said Isaac. Bros. will expand their bobblehead stock with another set of three heroes: Daniel, Esther and John the Baptist.
“And no,” said Foote of the latter. “His head’s not going to be on a platter.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.