Toontastic Joins Google

7843_550922118279748_965286584_nGoogle has acquired Launchpad Toysthe makers of the Toontastic storytelling app. Now you can download Toontastic for free (along with the company’s TeleStory app).

I interviewed Launchpad co-founder Andy Russell a couple times while writing Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age. His company creates apps that let kids make their own cartoons using digital characters and powerful special effects.

“Our nearly four million storytellers around the globe will be able to look back on their portfolio of stories, photos, and memories of their childhood and perhaps, someday, even share them with their own kids.”

Russell added some advice for how kids can use the apps:

From retelling classic chapter books to remastering the Frozen soundtrack (again and again and again), ToonTube is full of great examples of kids extending their favorite stories. One of the things we recommend in our Parent/Teacher guide is to prompt your kids with questions like “how would the story have ended if ____ hadn’t _____ or if ______ decided to ______?”. You’d be amazed at how little it takes to spark kids’ imaginations – you’ll have a whole new movie in no time!

He also suggested using photographs:

As for photographs, that’s a relatively new feature for Toontastic as well. You can now take your own photos as settings or add your own pictures to our characters. It’s been great to see kids’ travel journals pop up on ToonTube along with dollhouse stories, Christmas Cards, and even Valentines! Here at Launchpad Toys,  For my generation, those artifacts had a pretty short shelf life before they were relegated to the attic or lost to antiquity. 

Finally, Russell outlined how the company has grown since I wrote about Toontastic in Born Reading.

1- “we launched two new apps with DreamWorks Animation to create Toontastic Jr. Shrek and Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda so that younger kids can remix and retell those movies in their own voice.”

2. “We added Special FX like rain, explosions, and falling anvils for kids to create their own Looney Tunes.

3. “We added the ability to pan and zoom through settings using a “multi-plane animation” technique pioneered by Walt Disney himself for kids to tell dynamic stories that look and feel like live action video.

4. “We added a new “RescueTek” theme of playsets with transforming animated vehicles and characters.

5. “Finally, to coincide with revisions to the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), we rebuilt ToonTube – our global storytelling network – to include a one-of-a-kind video verification system that ensures that parents and teachers approve every cartoon their kids post to ToonTube. We’re extremely proud of our new ToonTube verification system. To the best of our knowledge, ToonTube is the only COPPA-compliant UGC network for kids online today.”

UPDATE: ToonTube is closing as the company moves to Google. Creators have less than a month to save their videos before the online site closes. 

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