Tag Archives: Disney

Introducing Interactive Books From Disney and Google Home

By Tracey Dowdy

Remember Little Golden Books? I had them when I was a child, and I loved reading them to my daughters when they were little. I have such fond memories of reading together every night at bedtime, even long after they were old enough and reading on their own. I did voices and sound effects, and it was so much fun.

My husband, on the other hand, though he graduated summa cum laude, is dreadful at reading aloud. He hates it, and our girls dreaded if dad was putting them to bed and would be the one reading. The one upside is that they fell asleep quickly, either from sheer boredom or to escape from the situation.

But, with a stroke of genius, the Disney arm of Little Golden Books has announced a collaboration with Google Home that allows readers to listen to music and sound effects as the books are read aloud.

Disney’s partnership with Little Golden Books dates back to the 1940s, in fact, Disney Studio artists illustrated some of the most popular Little Golden Books to bring in income during World War II.

There are several titles to choose from including classics like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan as well as newer stories like Moana, Coco, and Toy Story 3. They’ve promised to continue adding titles throughout the year. To activate the feature, you’ll need two things: a compatible Disney’s Little Golden Book and a Google Home device. To enable, say, “OK Google, let’s read along with Disney,” and your device will respond with “Okay, what book are we going to read?”

Once you begin reading, the music and sound effects will follow the text and bonus! If you skip ahead – you know you’ve done it, we all have – your Google Home will skip ahead with you and pick up where you’re reading. Plus, if your little one wants to talk about why the puppy is so Poky or talk about his desire to be a Lost Boy and live in Neverland, your Google Home will play ambient music in the background until you’re ready to pick up where you left off reading.

Reading aloud to children has been proven to increase language skills, develops positive attitudes toward reading and learning, builds a foundation for academic success, and increases the bond between you and your child. This collaboration enhances your experience and makes it even more fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

First Looks at Disney Plus

By Tracey Dowdy

Back in December 2017, Disney announced plans to launch their own streaming service, one that would rival the content library of the current industry leader, Netflix.

Disney has steadily pulled its content from Netflix and with their March 20, 1019 merger with 21st Century Fox, as well as their recent acquisition of a controlling stake in Hulu (a 60% share), they’ve become a streaming service behemoth which will no doubt have a significant impact on Netflix’ bottom line.

On April 11, 2019, Disney gave us our first look at what’s subscribers can look forward to as well as pricing information.

With Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Disney, and National Geographic the service’s marquee properties,

Disney promises a significant library of content for subscribers who can expect 7,500 television shows, 500 films — including 100 recent movies (“recent” means has yet to be defined) and 400 titles from their archive — as well 25 original series by the end of its first year. Then, by the time year five rolls around, Disney has promised at least 50 original series, 10,000 past TV episodes, and 120 recent films.

One of the most significant announcements – possible through its acquisition of Fox – is that they’ll stream all 30 seasons of The Simspons. Family-friendly Fox content will stream on Disney Plus, while content directed at adult audiences will likely be funneled to Hulu.

All of the Star Wars movies will be available on Disney Plus by the end of the first year, as well as eighteen Pixar movies including all of the studio’s animated shorts. The rest of Pixar’s content library will be available down the road. Disney has promised Toy Story 4 shorts and a Monsters Inc. series is in development.

The Disney Plus app will be available on PlayStation 4 and Roku devices, but Disney hopes to have it available across platforms including smart TVs and mobile devices by the time they launch in November, or shortly after that.

As for cost, Disney Plus will cost $6.99 a month (or a discounted rate of $69 for an annual package) for North American subscriptions. Europe and the Asia-Pacific market will get it in Disney’s second 2020 financial quarter. As an incentive for potential subscribers, Disney is considering a special bundle of three of Disney’s streaming services — Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Disney Plus — into a single package.

Disney Plus will launch on November 12, 2019.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


New Tech Toys Encourage Imaginative Play

By Tracey Dowdy

Saying toys have changed since we were kids would make even Captain Obvious himself roll his eyes. Heck, toys have changed significantly from when my kids were kids. The big news isn’t that toys are changing, but how they’re changing.

I tried to limit how much time my kids spent in front of a screen when they were young and did my best to encourage imaginative play. We read every day, built a lot of blanket forts, colored, painted and drew for hours. That’s not to say we didn’t watch movies. I could hold my own in a “Wizard of Oz” or “Lion King” quote-off just fine thank you. I simply preferred to play with them the way I played when I was a kid, when the wheel had just been invented and the latest technology meant my Casio digital watch.  As a result, my girls were never big into gaming or tech until cell phones came along. Now, their phones can do what it used to take a calendar, a camera, a phone, a typewriter, a personal assistant and the U.S. Postal Service to do. Tech has seamlessly merged with our lives from the cradle to the grave.

Toy and game developers, who I assume are all exactly like Tom Hanks character in “Big”, have been incorporating imaginative play into their products for years. But they’ve taken it a step further and have become much more intentional by encouraging consumers to submit ideas for games and toys that can then be downloaded or purchased worldwide. In fact, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) recently declared “Custom Built” as one of the top toy trends of 2014.

“Encouraging kid-generated content allows children to tap into their creativity and play exactly how they want to play, whether they are having fun with arts and crafts, designing their own dolls or plush, or building new virtual worlds,” said TIA toy trend specialist Adrienne Appell. “This is an important, growing trend that will continue to have a tremendous impact on the future of toys and gaming.”

Disney, quick to spot a trend, launched “Disney Infinity”, a game where players can take their favorite Disney or Marvel characters and place them in the game. Since its inception last year, the “Toy Box” feature where players can custom design game worlds or download worlds created by others has over 12 million customized toy boxes.

“I believe this generation of players, whether they’re on the digital screen or playing inside their own living room, expects a level of customization in order to feel ownership and pride over what they have,” says Disney Infinity Executive Producer John Vignocchi.

LEGO recently introduced LEGO Fusion, where kids are encouraged to build and create with physical LEGO bricks then scan and import pictures of their creations into the game. Players can challenge their friends to see whose buildings, towers or vehicles are the strongest, the tallest or the fastest. Fans can also submit original ideas through LEGO Ideas and, if the suggestion gets 10,000 supporters, LEGO will consider adding it to their line. They also regularly run contests for their MINDSTORMS platform and fans can submit ideas for the customizable/programmable robots.

User-generated modifications or “mods” are a big part of the video game industry. Nineteen year old Alexander J. Velicky spent 2,000 hours over the span of a year creating the Falskaar mod for Skyrim. It was basically a job application, and though he wasn’t hired by Bethesda, he was hired by Bungie, creators of Halo.

British toy company Arklu hosts social media contests to create outfits for fans of their “Lottie” doll. In May, fans were asked to create a superhero costume for Lottie, so fans from around the world submitted designs. Lilly, a six-year-old girl from Ohio won and now her original artwork, name, age, and hometown will be incorporated into the package design when the costume is introduced in stores.

Similarly, the “My Own Monsters” line from North American Toy Company has creatures based on drawings by employees’ kids about what scares them. “MOrty the MOnkey” shoots at germs with bananas from his belly button and “Yucky” has “very big hands that can wipe off yucky kisses from big people.” Parents can submit their own child’s artwork and the creature will be handmade in North American Toy’s studio.

“Sophisticated content creation is no longer reserved for specialists,” said Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for LEGO Systems. “Children’s bedrooms have become creative publishing studios, so the expectation surrounding customization, personalization and ‘make-it-mine’ experiences is at an all-time high.”

As I parent, I see all this as the best of both worlds. Kids are still dreaming and building, but sometimes the castle they’re defending or dragon they’re slaying is in the digital world and not the backyard. Either way, that’s a lot of imaginative play, a lot of creativity and a lot of fun!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.