Iconic Nickelodeon Animator Finds Christ, Embarks on Mission to Inspire Kids’ Faith: ‘Jesus Died For My Sins’

A veteran animator known for creating the runaway hit “The Fairly OddParents” is now on a mission to inspire young Christians.

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Butch Hartman and his wife, Julieann, have created “The Garden,” a faith-based series. The duo, who are outspoken Christians, embarked on the project after Hartman’s monumental success working as an artist, storyteller, and show creator for two decades at Nickelodeon.

“I was there from 1997 to 2018, and … I had this idea around 2005,” he said, noting he had become a Christian a few years earlier in 2000. “Since the year 2000, I’ve always had Jesus on my heart, wanted to know more about Jesus, more about the Lord.”

Hartman said he was 35 years old when he became a Christian.

“I grew up in a very godless home — not that my parents were bad people,” he said. “They were great people, but we didn’t talk about God, because they didn’t know about God.”

Hartman continued, “I knew about God, but I didn’t know how it all linked together. I didn’t know how Jesus died for my sins. What does that mean?”

Watch him share his faith journey:

But one day, while visiting a church, Hartman said something clicked. The message resonated, and his “heart was open.” As time progressed, the couple went to church weekly, with their faith growing in the process.

“I ended up getting saved there. [Julianne] got saved there. My mother got saved there at 62 years old,” he said. “Our kids were raised there. … I went from not wanting to go to church to being an usher standing in the building at 5:30 in the morning in a three-piece suit.”

As Hartman’s faith grew, his passion began to infuse his work and the roots of “The Garden” were set. At first, he spent time crafting various concepts, but ended up sitting on the idea. He said he knew Nickelodeon would never buy an overtly faith-based series.

“I sat on it … like 10 years,” he said. “By 2015, we really felt impressed to make about seven episodes on our own. So we funded them. … We had an animation team, the whole deal.”

Hartman said he and his wife again sat on the seven-minute episodes for a few years until 2021, when they dug in deep and decided to produce 40 episodes. The couple said they now know the importance of following through on dreams, no matter how long they take to come to fruition.

“I don’t care what idea you have, if you believe in it, no matter how long it takes, sit on it … keep building on it, keep watering that seed,” Hartman said.

Julianne Hartman said “The Garden” was approached with great care, with the couple and their team interviewing parents and researching their needs.

According to Julianne, parents said, “We’re afraid to put our kids on devices.” She added, “It’s a real minefield.” Now that “The Garden” is out and available, she said the couple keeps hearing “thank you” from parents weary over cultural concerns and the negative impact of contemporary culture.

“Every episode has a song, and every song has a Scripture in it,” she said. “So, your kids are going to be singing Scriptures.”

The Hartmans launched “The Garden” app earlier this year, complete with episodes of the show, curriculum, songs, games, and more.

They’re hoping for a lasting legacy that brings people closer to God.

“Twenty years from now, we want people to have watched the cartoon, who’ve read the [accompanying] Bible, who’ve been on the app [to] say, ‘Mr. Hartman, I found Jesus because of your show,’” he said. “That’s what we’d love to hear.”

Find out more about “The Garden” here.