Back in November, I reviewed Disney Interactive’s iPhone/iTouch app Disney Puzzle Slider. Essentially a digital version of a plastic scrambled tile puzzle, this app has remained a hit in our household. The key appeal of this app is the ability to collect points to unlock “hidden” images in categories like Villains, Simply Mickey, Disney Stylized, Cuties, Romance, Animal Friends, and Disney Friends. For my little one, it is all about  unlocking the images in hopes that it will reveal a Disney Princess. But for me, it has been about the realization that this app serves as more than a promotional Disney tool. It also serves as a bit of an artist playground.

Throughout the past months I have unlocked some images that are quite stylistic and experimental for the House of Mouse.  A few you would even assume were  fan interpretations if not for the fact they were on an official Disney-licensed app. Disney has really let their artists have fun with their IP, taking classic characters in unique directions. While I do not have a pulse on every piece of Disney merchandise out there, I have yet to see many of these takes floating around the Disney Store. Below, I have shared just a few of  the more interesting interpretations found on Disney Puzzle Slider.

Note: The images were not clearly credited to their original artist in the app. However, a whole category is credited to the  Bloc28 project.

Mickey Mouse Remixed – Mickey Mouse gets multiple, diverse art treatments including reworkings from Bloc28.

Mickey 1 Mickey 2
Mickey 3 Mickey 4
Mickey 5 Mickey 6
Mickey 7 Mickey 8

Tween Princesses – Disney Princesses get a makeover with a look that clearly hits the tween market sweetspot.

Belle Snow White
Jasmine Cinderella

Disney goes Kawaii- Take a Disney character and give it the Japanese touch, and you have these cutesy concepts that would fit nicely on the shelf next to the latest Sanrio creation.

Poo
Bambi

Mini-Makeovers – Various characters maintain their general look, but are re-framed with modern colors, fonts and shapes.

Cruella Snow White
Alice The Queen
Pooh Belle
Sleeping Beauty Evil Queen

What are your thoughts? Enjoy seeing Disney have a little fun with their I.P.? Or would you rather see them leave it alone? Comment below!

All images  Copyright Walt Disney Company

In a previous post, I made it pretty clear that we absolutely love Olivia in our house. And, based on my previous iTouch/iPhone app reviews, we also love our technology. So when the two combine, it is perfect multimedia enjoyment.

When I was given a promo code to download the new Olivia Paints app, I surprised Maia and loaded it up without telling her. She reacted with her trademark dramatic delight when seeing that her favorite pig had her very own app. Funny enough, Maia has also taken an interest in color creation lately – mixing different shade combinations to create new ones. Outside of promoting the Olivia brand, this is at the heart of this cute new app.

Olivia Paints hits the iTunes app store today and allows preschoolers to color virtual stickers with a brush and pallet and then place them on different backgrounds. The backgrounds will be familiar to those who watch Olivia on Nick Jr, as will the voice of the narrator used in the app. For $2.99, this app is worth it for Olivia fans, but also for any creative kid.

For us adults: To celebrate the launch of the Olivia app, developer Soma Creates is giving away an iPad with some Olivia goods. All the details on how to win are here.

Click here to download Olivia Paints.

Oliva the App
Olivia takes center stage in new app

Lately, I find myself surrounded in fairy tales. When we go to the library or select a film, a standard question seems to be “is there a princess in it?” or “is it a fairy tale?” So, with witches, magical kisses, evil stepmoms and happily ever after in mind, here is a list of  my favorite fairy tale-themed iPod/iPhone apps.

Bayou Beats (Walt Disney) – Free

This Disney app is less of an earnest application and more of an “advergame” to promote their Princess & the Frog animated film. However, it is still free and since Maia loves Princess Tiana enough to see the film three times, it was a must-download. Essentially a down-aged Tap Tap Revenge, the game moves to instrumental versions of soundtrack songs. As a toddler used to slower-paced titles, Maia seemed more interested in the quick character clips and music videos. The advergame-style app that came with the film Up seems to serve her interest more, with longer trailer clips and a basic pop-the-balloon game.

Bayou Screenshot
Tap, tap, princess

Kideos (Big Purple Hippos)– Free

This app was created to accompany the online destination Kideos.com. For those not familiar, Kideos is a kid-friendly video destination with much of the content pulled directly from YouTube and screened by a Video Advisory Council. The content is all easily categorized for navigation (Disney Channel Programs, Muppets, Sesame Street, etc). The app itself follows the same navigation, and even has a Fairy Tales and Disney Movies section where Maia can watch clips of her favorite princesses as well as new takes on classics. Maia’s only disappointment was the low quantity of Princess content compared to that on YouTube.  However, I’ve quickly learned the dangers of exploring kid videos on an all-ages site (fan-made nude Disney Princesses, for example) and can truly appreciate Kideos’ product.

kideosscreenshot
Kid-safe surfing

Papa Gatto and Sleeping Beauty (PicPocket Books) – ($2.99,$1.99)

Both a modern and an age-old fairytale classic are brought to the iPod/iPhone platform thanks to expert e-storytellers PicPocket Books.

Papa Gatto is adapted from a book by prolific writer/illustrator Ruth Sanderson. The story was published in 1999 to glowing reviews from publications like the School Library Journal. This story focuses on Papa Gatto, the feline advisor to the prince who learns that beauty is only skin deep. Sanderson’s illustrations are just as vibrant on a smaller screen and the accompanying narration perfectly matches the tone of the story. For this title, PickPocket has also added interactive audio “hot spots” that trigger animal sounds.

Sleeping Beauty takes the timeless story of a teenager under the spell of evil and adds beautiful, sophisticated illustrations. Martina Müller’s watercolors give this tale a look that feels as classic as the fairy tale itself. The app also makes sure you get to enjoy the illustrations taken from the book by taking sweeping views of them between the narrations.

SleepingBeautyScreenShot
Beauty’s beauty
PapaGatto
Papa’s pages

Make Me a Princess (Rock Island Entertainment) – $.99

Princess-loving girls will be princess-loving girls. So a harmless dress-up game like Make Me a Princess may be spot-on for what your little majesty-in-the-making is looking for. This basic app starts with the selection of skin and eye color, then goes on to the real princess details. A wide selection of hair styles, tiaras, dresses, shoes and accessories are all available for the choosing. You can also name your princess and save her in the gallery for later admiration. A fairly basic app, but one that serves the purpose for younger girls who love princess dress-up play and are too young to engage on social network-style dress-up game.

PrincessScreenShot
Pretty, pretty princess

Audiobooks (Download Edition) (Cross Forward Consulting, LLC) – $.99

Audiobooks (Download Edition) is perhaps the best $.99 I have spent in a long time. And apparently 1 million other people agree with me based on their downloads count. I originally chanced upon this while looking for audiobooks of fairy tales and nursery rhymes to listen to in the car. This app has direct access to 2,800 classic, free, public domain works including a large selection of fairy tales, fables, and children’s books. While some may be a little dark for today’s young audience, there are plenty of jewels here to entertain during rides. And once the little ones leave the car, you can get your Lovecraft or Austen on. The app is free if you want to stream the books and $.99 if you want to download the books. The audio recordings are taken from the renowned LibriVox project.

audiobooksscreenshot
Where audio dreams come true

Any apps that leave you feeling “happily ever after”? Comment below!

It’s time again to look at some of the apps that are leaving smudge marks on my iPod Touch. Here’s a broad look at some of the best kid-friendly applications worthy of some gigabytes on your device.

Anorak Magazine (Oksar Ltd) –$1.99

Based on the beautifully-designed international magazine for kids, this app offers a handful of goodies for just $1.99.  Featuring the urban-art also present in the magazine, this ‘Happy App for Kids’ offers three categories of interaction: Read Stuff, Do Stuff and Play Stuff. Read Stuff features digital books taken right from the pages Anorak, including the delightfully unique “Three Eyed Dog” and the brightly colored and humorous “Gardens of Maryland.” Do Stuff features some standard drawing and coloring apps, but with added twists: the scribbling is on top of Anorak’s trademark character creations and kids are given a prompt on what to draw. Play Stuff features “Whack-Anorak” in a “Whac-A-Mole” style game that I found myself enjoying as much as Maia  did. A Cycling game included in the app is cool looking too, but was less interesting to Maia as it seemed a little above her skill level. This app will definitely be the most colorful and artistic on your iPhone.

anorak2
The many colors of Anorak

Sprout Player (PBS KIDS Sprout)– Free

This free app lets the the little ones stream short video clips from the PBS KIDS Sprout network. You won’t find regular Sprout shows like Caillou or Sesame Street on the player, but instead, original Sprout-owned content like segments from The Good Night Show, The Sunny Side Up Show, and The Sprout Sharing Show. The app is easy to navigate for toddlers, letting them slide through visual thumbnails of the shows until they find the one they want. Maia’s favorites are episode clips that are all under 2 minutes or so, featuring  recipes or crafts being made by kids and their parents.  And, you know you are getting quality content when it is served from PBS.

Sprout content
Bite-sized Sprout

Disney Puzzle Slider (Disney Interactive) –$2.99

This app is currently getting the most usage in our house. Just like one of those scrambled tile puzzles you would find in a birthday goodie bag, this app serves up almost 100 puzzles with Disney characters on them. Users choose the number of tiles, a Disney theme and image, and then solve away. Maia especially loves collecting points to unlock “hidden” images. Some of the themes include Villains, Mickey and Friends, Classic Mickey, Fairies,  and my personal favorite, the stylized work of Bloc28. A recent app update also added a slew of “Princess and the Frog” puzzles to the mix. Favorite images can also be saved and used as backgrounds on your device. My daughter’s only complaint was the missing Princess category.

Disney eliminates need for dime-store plastic puzzles
Disney eliminates need for dime-store puzzles

Little Red Riding Hood StoryChimes (Siena Entertainment) – $.99

One of a series of digital books in the StoryChimes line from Siena, Little Red Riding Hood is a great addition to our growing digital book series. This book was notable for its ease of use, unique & retro artwork, professional narration and original music. Yes, “Little Red Riding Hood” can often be scary, but this version is softened with no dead grandma or slaughtered wolf.

littlered2
Little Red meets Big Bad

Belindra–Vegetable Delivery (Morgan Marion) –$.99

This cute interactive storybook features “hand-drawn” style illustrations that really pop on this platform. ‘Belindra’ is certainly not flashy, but it is quirky and sweet in its appeal. The book tells the story of Belindra as she delivers veggies to her neighborhood. As an added bonus, this digital book features surprise interactions by clicking on cherries featured in each image.

Belindra
Belindra delivers veggies and a smile

Old MacDonald (Duck Duck Moose) – $1.99

The creators of one of my favorite apps, Wheels on the Bus, are back with a worthy follow-up, Old MacDonald. Similar to its predecessor, it is described as an “interactive musical book” where users sing along with each line of the song on a different page. Each page also includes a different activity as well, such as using your fingers to shear a sheep, paint a pig, operate a tractor and trigger a cow’s alien abduction. Duck Duck Moose have definitely found a way to tap into the interactive possibilities of the iPhone/iTouch touch screen.

And on that farm he had a painting pig...
And on that farm he had a painting pig…

Slide-a-ma-jig (Lucky Radish Amusements) –$.99

This app is definitely not going to be called educational, but Maia has a lot of fun with it. Players create wacky, and sometimes gross, character creations by either shaking the iPod or sliding the hat, head, torso, legs and feet. Backgrounds can be switched up as well, creating tons of new scenes with every play. The entertainment value is provided by the detailed work put into the design of each character, and the humor behind it. Definitely an inexpensive distraction for older children.

Mobile gooey, gross-out fun
Gooey, gross-out fun goes mobile

As a kid, I have a feeling my parents were probably feeling both awe and hesitation when they started purchasing those books with the yellow read-along tapes. While this new technology may have been impressive to them, I am sure there was some concern that the Fisher-Price tape recorder would completely cut into the traditional bedtime story experience.

Eventually they learned that this was just a new way of telling stories, something that allowed me to enjoy stories on my own time. Bedtime stories and parent-child bonding were not going anywhere, and it was just another way to explore narratives and the art of storytelling.

(Bing) Turn the page…

Fast forward a few decades later and here I stand as a parent in the same situation. No, I am not whipping out the Fisher-Price tape recorder and The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree book. Instead, iPhone and iTouch books have come along and worked their way into our house.

Maia first became comfortable with the iTouch thanks to a slew of  Toddler-targeted apps. After that, we started to explore the world of mobile picture books and haven’t looked back. While reading an old-fashioned book will always be a tradition in our house,  I would much rather see her touch and slide her way through a iPod book than watch an extra hour of TV.

Not convinced to put down $.99 or so to try one? Below are a few of the titles we have tested out, and we have the greasy thumbprints on our devices to prove it.

Big Stuff: Dinosaurs ($.99) and My Friend Isabelle ($3.99)
PicPocket Books

One thing I have found while app shopping is that many companies churn out apps just to make a quick buck. They become jacks of all trades, releasing also-ran apps that capitalize on whatever is topping the charts at that time. PicPocket Books is not one of these companies. Specializing in creating/adapting children’s books for the iPod/iPhone, you can clearly see the sincere effort put into these.

On my iPod, we like to read Big Stuff: Dinosaurs (by Robert Gould) and My Friend Isabelle (By Eliza Woloson, Illustrated by Bryan Gough). Both are adapted from their real-world counterparts, with a high tech twist. ‘Dinosaurs’ introduces kids to various dino-beasts, complete with silly humor and shots of real kids. ‘Isabelle’ lifts the full-color illustrations straight from the book, bringing this story of two best friends, one of whom has Down Syndrome, to life.

Although Maia is too young to fully take advantage of this feature, parents with early readers will enjoy the text highlighting on each PicPocket Book story. As the professional narrator reads along, each word is highlighted to build a connection between words and sounds.

206787
Fun with Isabelle
Dino-fun
Dino-fun

The Adventures of Lily and Stella – We’re Home! (Free)
4Square Labs

This simple, short story by Tracie King is a favorite in our house. Telling the story of a little baby and her pug living in Brooklyn, NY, I think the appeal of ‘Lily and Stella’ is the narration and colorful illustrations. Also available as a book and based on the author’s real life, the story will resonate with young parents with new babies that are trying to make sure the pet still remains part of the family. This title allows users to read the story themselves or let the soft-spoken narrator do her thing.

Lily & Stella: BFFs
Lily & Stella: BFFs

Binky the Pink Elephant ($1.99)
iStoryTime

Similar to stories coming from PicPocket Books, this story app comes from a company focused solely on creating books for kids. iStoryTime has a slew of titles for families, including the upcoming (and a must-purchase in my house) No More Pacifier. Binky the Pink Elephant, written by Sonowa Jackson and illustrated by Jaclyn Mednicov, tells the story of a cotton candy-colored elephant who learns being different is not always a bad thing.

A unique feature for this app is the ability to choose the voice of a child or an adult to narrate. You can also choose to have the book auto-page turn or slide the pages on your own.

It's ain't easy being pink
It ain’t easy being pink

Bo’s Rainbow ($.99)
Bokan

Apparently off-colored elephants are a trend in the iPhone book world. This story (no credited author), focuses on Bo the blue elephant as he interacts with his friends and discovers what his special talent is.

This app takes things to the next level by letting kids interact with some of the colorful images within the book. Touching certain triggers will inspire a sound or action. The narration is also more cartoon-like, with different voices for each character in the book. Brightly colored with cool illustrations and basic animation, this may feel less like a book to some parents. Regardless, it is favorite of Maia’s and still has a good moral lesson attached.

Blue elephants, pink dolphins and a pocket full of sunshine
Blue elephants, pink dolphins and a pocket full of sunshine

ICDL Books for Children (Free)
International Children’s Digital Library

This free app is a spin-off of the online International Children’s Digital Library project, which collects children’s books from 60 countries and archives them online. This app features 4 translated stories: the German Waldo At The Zoo by Hans Wilhelm, the Arabic Black Ear … Blonde Ear by Khaled Jumm’a, the Mongolian Six Silver Stars and the English Three Little Pigs. While the technology isn’t as flashy as that of the other apps, it is exciting to expose children to books from all over the world as well as older titles not always available in your library.

That being said, a cool feature of this app is the ability to scan each book as it exists, and then tap the text using “ClearText” technology to zoom in on text and make it larger and sharper.

Choose your own adventure
Choose your own adventure

Buddy the Bus #1: There’s Always Tomorrow
iOrbi

Buddy the Bus is the creation of smartphone content developer iOrbi. This first ‘Buddy’ takes readers on Buddy’s daily route while setting up the character for future adventures.

This app is notable for a few cool features. iPhone users have the ability to record their own voice for a super-personalized version of the story. The story also has 5 language options to choose from, both audio narration and text to read along with.

Buddy on duty
Buddy on duty

Have a storytime iTouch/iPhone app you like? Please share! Look forward to your comments.