For today’s kids, content consumption isn’t enough—they want to be creators, too. With this in mind, Google is launching Toontastic 3D, a new storytelling app that launches globally today for iOS, Android and select Chromebook devices.
Aimed at six- to 12-year-olds, Toontastic 3D lets kids make their own animations (including shorts and classics) based on pre-set options. Users are able to pick settings and characters—from pirates to aliens, to images of themselves. They can perform tasks like shooting off canons or opening trap doors in order to create storylines. They can also select a mood, which changes the look and adds music. Finally, they can add their own narration to the story.
The original Toontastic, released in 2D animation in 2011, was created by Launchpad Toys, which was acquired by Google in 2015.
“I don’t think the creation aspect is the novel part. I think that’s always been there,” says Andy Russell, product lead for Toontastic 3D. “I think what’s really new and exciting is that these devices are evolving in such a way that we can capture kids playing in ways that others can see and learn from and be inspired by.”
Storytelling platforms are certainly in vogue, from tried and true standbys like Minecraft, to new apps that let kids build their own picture books. But one aspect that helps the new Toontastic app stand out is its 3D animation.
“These are big immersive worlds, it’s not like a middle school play where you have a single static backdrop and your whole story takes place in front of that,” says Russell. “We’re talking about a huge pirate world where there’s a ship with multiple levels, and there’s a treehouse, an open ocean and a volcano, and you can tell your entire story all within this world and travel around it. We’ve found over and over again that kids are really drawn to realism. I think what that translates into is that if kids are going to put their heart and soul into these stories. They want them to look as much like what they see in the movie theaters from Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks.”
The transition from Launchpad Toys to Google happened exactly two years ago, with its small team having grown vastly since then. Russell says that he has a lot of ideas of how to add to the app and where he wants to go next, but for now Toontastic 3D’s launch is top priority for his group.
As for Google, the company is increasingly focusing on the kids space through initiatives like Google Science Fair and Doodle for Google.
“I think this launch is a perfect example of Google’s plans. This is what we’re committed to doing, which is making technology accessible for kids and creating these programs,” says Susan Cadrecha, communications manager at Google.
Of course, virtual reality is the ultimate way that storytelling has changed over the years, which Google has been a part of with its Cardboard headset. There’s also augmented reality, which Google has been involved with creating through its Project Tango platform, for which companies like Crayola are developing apps. Russell says that his team built Toontastic 3D in such a way that they can scale it over the years, which might mean virtual or augmented reality stories are on the way as we speak.