One of the most popular Christian books that is not the Bible is The Pilgrim’s Progress. And it’s in a cinema near you, this weekend.
Revered for centuries since it was first published in 1678, author John Bunyan’s rich allegory of the Christian life has been animated for modern audiences.
“The Pilgrim’s Progress is not sugar-coating the Christian journey.” – Ben Price
Australian comedian and impersonator Ben Price provides several voices in The Pilgrim’s Progress, which is screening at selected cinemas across Australia this weekend before being available in homes and on digital devices.
Price thinks the appeal of experiencing it as an animated adventure should be a no-brainer. “Hopefully, people will be intrigued because they will, perhaps, see it as some kind of fairytale,” Price tells Eternity. “They might be interested in seeing it, in the same way that they might watch The Lord of the Rings or one of those fantasy-action films.”
Believing LOTR and another famous Christian allegory, The Chronicles of Narnia series, were influenced by the style and approach of The Pilgrim’s Progress, Price was personally affected by Bunyan’s novel. As a kid, Price remembers reading a children’s version of The Pilgrim’s Progress. But he was more struck by the live renditions of the tale, acted out during chapel services at the Christian school he attended.
““I’m hopeful that if non-Christians see it, they will understand that we are not out there to bring hate or bigotry to the world … but to see that we do want to bring the truth in love.” – Ben Price
“There’s so much about it. I love how The Evangelist at the start tells him to go on the path and to stay on it and not to veer,” explains Price about a story centred on Christian, an “everyman” who embarks on an odyssey from his hometown (the “City of Destruction”) to the “Celestial City”. On the road, he meets a gallery of characters with names indicating what they are about – Obstinate, Pliable, Mr Wordly Wiseman – as Christian must follow the way of God to reach his destination.
“I love how, in general, The Pilgrim’s Progress is not sugar-coating the Christian journey. It really shows the trials and difficulties that we face. But I also love how it shows we can have joy and we can overcome, even in the midst of trials.”
As an adult, Price returned to The Pilgrim’s Progress and thought it would be “fantastic if this was an animated movie like Shrek.” That’s hardly a surprise, given Price appears regularly on television and corporate events with his arsenal of impersonations, including green ogre Shrek. He’s got about 200 others, from Donald Trump to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Borat to Bear Grylls.
Price heard about an animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian broadcaster and filmmaker Ray Comfort posted about it going into production. Price worked with Comfort on sexuality drama Audacity, so he asked to be put in touch with the Pilgrim production team. Thankfully for Price, they were happy to hear from him – and got him to provide several voices in the Vanity Fair sequence (including the Chief and Judge Hategood)
“I was rapt to be involved because I was so connected to the story. And being an impersonator, it was always a dream for me to be able to do voices for a movie. So it’s the perfect combination for me.”
Being part of the film helped Price grasp something he had earlier overlooked – the lead character, Christian, shares his faith with his wife and that encourages her own journey of faith. Price wants viewers to walk away with similar stirrings about “counting the cost of following Jesus”, offset by The Pilgrim’s Progress upholding how God gives the strength to persevere.
In that light, Price sees The Pilgrim’s Progress movie as particularly helpful to Christians facing persecution and for those serving on the mission field. But he also believes it’s a colourful tale that can teach anyone what Christianity is actually about.
“I’m hopeful that if non-Christians see it, they will understand that we are not out there to bring hate or bigotry to the world … but to see that we do want to bring the truth in love.
“It will also show that, as much as it can be difficult what [we all] go through, Christianity can transform their life. If they are on that narrow path, their burden can be lifted.
“It deeply impacted myself and hopefully it will have the same impact on people when they see it because the gospel is presented in it.”