I’m pleased to present the first guest blogger of my blogging administration. Or perhaps I should say Vice-Blogger. I told you all up front that there was no way I could go to EVERY event so like all good leaders in the blogosphere, I have put together a trustworthy cabinet of children’s media veterans to step in while I’m on vaca in Kennebunkport. It is with pleasure that I introduce the lovely and talented Jennifer Oxley, children’s television creator, Creative Director, Director, Animator, Writer of books, TV shows and well phrased e-mails. Jennifer is the recipient of an Emmy Award for her work on “Little Bill,” she created the look and animation style for “The Wonder Pets!” and is currently working on “Peg + Cat” a new show she created with Billy Aronson for PBS Kids! Jennifer is going to give us some insight into the event Talking Tech: Turning books into apps. Take it away, Jen!
I got an iPad when my 1 year old son was born as an excuse to download all the cools apps for kids I’d been hearing about. First to download was Sesame Street’s THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THE BOOK app. I’m a huge fan of the book and was very curious to see how it had been adapted for the iPad. I was impressed! Narrated by the lovable furry old Grover himself, this app is charming and sweet with clever touches of interactivity that are perfectly woven into the story.
Ever since my first download I’ve been having a blast playing with new apps. Few are up to the level of the monster app, but I did find a lot of great standouts. Like Mo Willems DON’T LET THE PIGEON RUN THIS APP.
So when I heard Women in Children’s Media was doing an event with Editors Tracey Keevan from Disney Publishing Worldwide and Betsy Loredo of Sesame Workshop, the two companies who created these genius apps, I immediately signed up.
The event was very well attended with folks from all areas of Children’s Media. Incidentally, it took place at the Sesame Street offices in Lincoln Center, where I worked years ago in the Interactive Technologies Department. Back when interactive CD ROMS were the wave of the future. Now years later these interactive games seem to have been reinvented in downloadable apps.
The Talking Tech presentation began with an informative case study of how an app gets made, using my favorite monster app as an example. We learned that the original 1971 golden book written by the Sesame directing legend Jon Stone has sold over 5 million print copies. So turning this beloved story into an app was a no brainer. The trick would be living up to the unquestionable greatness of the original book.
Rule #1: Start with a great story
Rule #2: Advocate for your audience
Rule #3: Ask Questions (and don’t be afraid to look stupid)
To visualize what the app would look like the team created storyboards and wireframes (similar to a choose your own adventure) to map out the content. The team made decisions about the animation style (they wanted a vintage look) and how the text would be handled (they wanted it highlighted).
Then after 3 months of development time they tested a first pass with kids. And they addressed notes from researches like “can you give the kids more of a clue what to do with the ropes.”
80 days later (and a day before Christmas) the final build was done. And it launched with great success reaching the status of top 10 apps for kids.
Betsy closed by saying what you need to make a successful app is a “good story, a cute adorable monster… and at least 80 days.”
I certainly agree with all this, but couldn’t help but wonder, do you also need a best selling book that’s sold over 5 million copies, and a huge company backing the project? How can an Indie developer be successful in the growing App market? This question was asked, but wasn’t really addressed.
Next Tracey from Disney took the podium and highlighted some of the different types of apps that are out there:
1. Storybook Apps: A reading experience with some bonus features, like IT’S A SMALL WORLD.
2. Storybook Deluxe: Usually based on a feature film
3. Original Feature Apps: Taking a popular character and building an original app around that character, like Mo’s Pigeon app.
4. Comics and Graphic novels
5. Learning Apps
6. Interactive Digital Books: basically the book with a couple add-ons
Afterwards there were loads of great questions asked, like “do you expect parents to play with kids.” And the response was, after about 3-5 minutes the kids are usually in complete control of the iPad. So you need to design your content so kids can play independently.
I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, and was particularly excited to hear all the details about the monster app. Although, I think it would have been a stronger discussion if a successful indie panelist were added to the group. As interesting as it all was, the talk felt a bit one sided.