Posts from the ‘Children’ Category
Children’s author, Babette Cole asked me to create an iOS app for her classic sex-education bestselling children’s book ‘Mummy Laid An Egg’.
Given budget was limited, it was agreed to re-use an already existing animation from the book proofs that Babette had commissioned.
My role as producer on this project, was to chase down assets and work with the developers to launch onto iTunes, along with the appropriate setting up for Babette’s developer account, metadata and so on.
The final app includes the narrated animation from Babette herself, and simple media buttons to cycle back and forth through the book, as well as a cheeky ‘farting babies’ game.
The video conversion work, basic programming and game were created by the ever trusty TWP.
The app is available for download on iTunes.
I creatively directed and produced ‘Pat & Pals’, a children’s digital content publishing venture established with Colin & Jacqui Hawkins and Ross Sleight.
It took the ‘Rhyme & Read’ learning phonics series as a launch set and designed a set of digital downloads that very young children could play on a desktop PC. The original books had a simple consonant and vowel mechanic – whereby the the vowel would change as the page turned, leaving the ‘at’, ‘en’, ‘ig’, ‘og’ vowel in place.
Parents could access patandpals.com and browse the store, view demos of the download, and browse simple click-throughs of the hardback editions, which we also published and sold via the site.
The site also featured slices of the educational games that featured in the downloads – so children could experience the gentle fun of the characters and wordplay.
Early Learning Centre were a launch partner, and took an initial delivery of the books. Macmillan Books also approached us to create an eBook for Room on the Broom, which I oversaw.
I also oversaw creative direction and production across the site and the digital downloads – or ‘eBooks’. Each book followed the vowel sound character – ‘Pat the Cat’, ‘Jen the Hen’, ‘Mig the Pig’, ‘Tog the Dog’ and ‘Zug the Bug’.
Each eBook was designed along the same template, with multimedia features:
- Character animation
- Original music
- Child friendly media controls
- Settings to vowel on/off
- Educational Games
This was a pre-iOS time, with children moving onto tablets – which is why Pat the Cat is now an iPad/iPhone app, and recently we’ve started to publish the original titles onto iBookstore, Kindle and Google Books.
Thanks are due to Will Richards (Art Direction) and Tobias Sturt (Development) along with TWP for their fantastic animations; David Ayers at Creation Studios who did the audio recording and original music, and my sister Sally Hawkins and Bill Nash, the actorly talent who brought the characters’ voices to life.
If you would like to see a sample of the eBooks, please get in contact.
A fantastic opportunity for any little boy obsessed with computers, games and toys, I was commissioned as a scriptwriter and audio director on a number of early LEGO multimedia products.
All the products (CD-ROM plus a case of intelligent bricks) worked with an adaptation of the LEGO MindStorms collaboration with MIT – a series of kits featuring software and hardware to create small, customizable and programmable robots.
MindStorms was the natural extension of LEGO’s ‘just imagine’ principle, connecting the simple premise of building something with bricks with basic programming ideas.
I worked with a talented development team over in Billund, then given the top-secret moniker of SPU-Darwin. Over the years, the producer of the projects, Bo Nielsen, became a good and valued friend. Recently I even, turned up a picture of myself, Bo and Lars having a whale of a time with some of the prototype toys.
Many of the original development team went on to form Ghost DK, a well-established FX house (recent work on ‘Pacific Rim’ I see!), while one of the concept artists, the hugely talented, Kun Chang works as a Realization/Cinematics Director in Montreal.
Set in Technic City, this first product introduced kids to early programming ideas using the core ‘PBrick’ and adding touch sensors to build your robots.
I devised the product guide characters, Taxi Jim, who flew you around the city and the main guide, Joe, a friendly scientific mini fig type who led you through the learning programmes, aided by his accident prone robots ‘Beep’ and ‘Bop’.
The core of the product was to construct two battling ‘bots ‘Crusher’ and ‘Stinger’ for arena-style tournaments. Once properly constructed, kids could try to score points by hitting the sensor areas on the ‘bots.
*I tried unsuccessfully to get Bo to lobby to have the name altered from something sounding less like a virtual sex toy.
A follow-up to Cybermaster, this add-on pack enticed kids with the prospect of building a cool-looking aircraft and flying missions via briefings I scripted to be played from the PC.
A neat take on the ‘programming and missions’ set up established in the earlier titles, in this product we created the scenario of you as a special agent primed with the task for building ‘SpyBots’ to take on secret adventures.
The pack consisted to a Mission Impossible-style CD-ROM briefing, with various maps and gadgets, along with the bricks to construct your SpyBots – Shadowstrike, Gilgamesh and Snaptrax.
Droid Developer’s Kit’ & ‘Darkside Developer’s Kit
And just to round out the boyhood dream, in this final sequence of MindStorms experiences, I scripted a title in which children are trained by the ‘JediMaster 2000’ to build and programme their own ‘Droids’. Lego and now LucasArts – bliss.
The JediMaster computer resided on Tattoine in a workshop featured in this sequence – we knew about the forthcoming Phantom Menace at that time, so the idea was to evoke the young Darth’s tinkershop.
The core droid in the pack, and obviously its key USP, was to build your very own R2-D2 unit. I seem to remember we had one running around our Shoreditch offices back in the day…
The follow-up pack was a nice offshoot idea – children could cross to the Darkside and build an AT-AT.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure I scripted it that you could ever return though – once gripped by the Darkside, I think that’s pretty much it – you kids just don’t know the POWER!!
This was a project I took creative director and producer role for Macmillan Childrens books, who approached Pat & Pals – the children’s publishing company I had helped found with Ross Sleight and Jacqui & Colin Hawkins.
Macmillan were keen to explore a multimedia version of the original best-selling title written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
This was pre-iOS and Mac Appstore days, so the idea was to create a desktop download, which would be available for purchase via Patandpals.com – which in turn was powered by Macrovision’s DRM system (now part of Rovi group I believe.)
Armed only with the original source material, an audio recording voiced by the comedienne, Josie Lawrence and some of Julia’s own musical compositions, we set to work.
Creatively I wanted to make sure we didn’t mess with the book too much. It was important that we struck a balance between the multimedia ‘effects’ and the simple purity of the illustration.
In addition, due to the gentle lilt of the storytelling, it was important to reflect this rhythm in any animations we created.
The delightful animation and clever flash programming was created by the team at TWP – who I would heartily recommend on any childrens-related interactive work.
I’m very proud of the finished work – which is sadly no longer available for purchase and download. Largely due, I suspect, to the appearance of the TV version over Xmas 2012*.
The final product featured all sorts of lovely things – the animated storybook, some fun flash-based games – ‘Broomstick Dash’ and ‘Dodge the Dragon’ (thanks to Atari’s ‘Defender’ and ‘Pac Man’ respectively), a drag-and-drop ‘Story Maker’ for kids to create their own Room on the Broom adventures; and some thoughtful printouts – a theatre, a board and card games. Thanks to Tobias for working hard on those!
I’m not able to put up the application it self – but I’ve included some relevant grabs in this post, which you can view larger like if you click the thumbnails.
Macmillan also featured the final product as a CD-ROM on a reprint of the title.
*An odd bit of family serendipity. My sister, Sally, voiced the green bird in the TV version!
‘…the witch tapped her broomstick, and WHOOSH! They were gone.’
Given the initial desktop downloads for Pat the Cat and his other phonic friends were released well ahead of the iOS revolution, it was with some due creative satisfaction to finally produce Pat as an app.
With ‘Pat the Cat’ on iPad and iPhone I also wanted to add some unique features made possible by the transition to the iOS platform.
Children can now literally get to grips with the friendly fat cat while they learn the basics of the ‘a’ vowel sound. Now young users can press chunky controls to stop/start or refresh a page; stroke Pat to hear him purr; tap a caterpillar to make them laugh, or even tickle Pat’s feet to make him chortle.
My favourite added feature was the ability for children to record their own voices – so that they may repeat the sentences, and the large vowel and then on tapping these elements hear their voice played back to them. Parental guidance would be required, although I ensured we kept the ‘listen’, ‘say’, and ‘play’ sequence as simple as possible.
The app was awarded a ‘Kirkus Star’ by notable review site Kirkus Reviews, and featured in its top book apps for the year. Kirkus said:
‘Based on the picture book of the same name, this charming app is a flawless combination of music, sound effects, narration and interactive elements.
The experience isn’t merely entertainment, but an excellent tool to help emergent readers identify and practice the sounds and letters that make up words that rhyme with “at.” The star of this entertaining show is a very proper British cartoon cat, Pat, who wears a top hat and who, yes, is fat. “He’s even got fat feet!” says one of the endearing duo of caterpillars that move across the expansive white pages with satisfying clicks and bounce on top of each word as it is voiced. When Tat the Bat and Nat the Rat emerge from inside Pat the Cat’s top hat, more good-natured silliness ensues. The spot-on British narration and the droll, jazzy bass-line accompaniment round out this terrific app. There are a few well-chosen interactive features throughout, including a particularly helpful option for beginning readers to practice by easily recording and playing back their own voices. The only quibble one could possibly have here is with the humor at the expense of the overweight cat, but it is so good-natured (and such an obvious rhyme) that it can be overlooked.
This irresistible app gets everything right, proving that simplicity is sometimes best. (iPad storybook app. 2-7)’
Next in Pat’s evolution is being printed to iBooks very soon and hopefully Android at some point this year. Watch this space, Pat fans!
‘Pat the Cat’ is available for download on iTunes.