Back in 2012, we were highly impressed by Toontastic, a puppet show-like iPad app that children could use to create their own cartoons. It was made by a company called Launchpad Toys that was bought by Google three years later.
Now Google is bringing Toontastic back in a brand new app, this time for Android and iPhone as well as iPad. It’s called Toontastic 3D, and it’s available as a free download today.
“With Toontastic 3D, kids can draw, animate and narrate their own adventures, news stories, school reports, and anything else they might dream up,” explained Google product manager Thushan Amarasiriwardena in a blog post this afternoon.
“All they need to do is move characters around on the screen and tell their story. It’s like a digital puppet theatre… but with enormous interactive 3D worlds, dozens of customisable characters, 3D drawing tools, and an idea lab with sample stories to inspire new creations.”
Apps Playground was given access to the app before its release to give it a try, and we think it’s excellent: the playful creativity of the original Toontastic, but fully updated to the capabilities of tablets and smartphones in 2017.
Children start by deciding what kind of story they want to tell: options include a three-part “short story”; a five-part “classic story” or a five-part “science report”.
Those parts are then broken down: for example, a classic story starts with a setup, then conflict, then a challenge, then a climax and finally a resolution. A science report’s parts, meanwhile, are Question, Hypothesis, Experiment, Results and Conclusion.
In the classic story option, kids then choose a setting: pirates, spies, space, a high-school and so on, before choosing some characters to star in their story. The characters can be mixed and matched – pirates in space! – and customised with different colours.
There is also the option to “draw your own” scene and characters, which in the latter case the app then renders into 3D to match the rest of the elements.
Once chosen, the characters are plonked into the scene, and children can move them around, speaking into the microphone to provide dialogue – which they mouth along with – and tapping on the scenery to trigger different effects and events.
Once a scene is recorded, they can choose background music (e.g. romantic, bold, angry) to set the mood, before moving on to the next part of the story. Once finished, it can be given a title and saved, and also exported to your device’s photo library. We’re sure there’ll be plenty of these stories popping up on YouTube in the days and weeks ahead.
So, Toontastic 3D gives children a bit of learning about the structure of storytelling; provides scenery and characters for them to tell their own tales with – as well as the opportunity to create their own elements – then makes the editing and sharing process extremely simple.
An “Idea Lab” button on the homescreen also takes children through to a collection of videos – some with professional storytellers explaining how they work, and others stories created using Toontastic 3D to serve as inspiration.
This being Google, the app is free to download and use. There are no in-app purchases, and no advertising either – it’s part of the company’s wider education activities. Besides smartphones and tablets, the app will work on some Chromebook laptops, which are used in a growing number of schools.
We hope that Toontastic 3D gets plenty of support from Google in the coming months: for example adding new scenes and characters, in response to the ideas of the children who’ll be using the app.
In its launch version, it’s certainly worth checking out: and while it’s accessible enough for children to use alone quite happily, we suspect many parents will enjoy getting involved too.