Apps for Kids: Toontastic and the Golden Monkey Awards

Credit LaunchPad Toys

For the beginner, animation looks like a pretty complicated deal that includes years of 3-D animation software, art school and tons of patience. But lo and behold, there’s a shortcut for kids! I was contacted by LaunchPad Toys who claimed that they had created “a storytelling and animation tool for the iPad that enables kids to draw, animate, and narrate their own cartoons and then share them with friends and family online.” Really? I had to test this by myself. I mean, my girls had to test it. And two days into it, they can’t get enough of the testing!

One morning I sat down in front of my iPad and set to create my own cartoon. After two hours of hard work, it was a pretty lame attempt at a cartoon but still my own production. I drew my own background, animated with my fingers while watching my girls ski down the slopes of Mt Shasta, read the tutorial to make sure I got it. The result was nothing fascinating but given how technologically-impaired I am, I felt overly proud. It had color, characters, a vague story line and even music.

The same afternoon, I offered to my girls that they give it a try. I just let them loose on the iPad, expecting them to come back for help minutes later. After half an hour, they came back with a completed cartoon, apologizing that during the first two frames they hadn’t realized they could record the narrative. What, you can record your own voice? OK, Toontastic, now I know this is an app for kids. And here is what I like about  it as a mom:

  • This a free app to download. Of course if your kids want new playsets or characters, you’ll have to pay for them but the basic set is free. Worth a try.
  • My girls have created 5 different cartoons over these past two days. With each new cartoon, they’ve grown bolder in terms of animation, experimented with different text and announced they were creating “a series.” Clearly, this is tickling their creative streak and technology is not getting in the way.
  • The Story Arc: I looked at the methodology of LaunchPad Toys to come up with a formula for a narrative. What wasn’t my surprise to see in their reference books Robert McKee’s book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting. Not to pat myself on the shoulder but it’s one of the major books I’ve been recommended in writing classes and the guy really knows his craft. Thumbs up LaunchPad Toys, you’re doing this the right way!
  • Yes this is a digital screen indoors activity but I’d rather see them create their own cartoon than spend a numb hour in front of the Cartoon Network.
  • If an 8-year old and a 6-year old can do it without parental guidance, it must be pretty self-explanatory. If a parent like me gets a poorer result, it must be a generational issue.
  • Kids can share their creations on ToonTube. No kidding, YouTube for cartoons. Go ahead, browse their selection. There’s tons of them!
  • In the iPad version of ToonTube (I couldn’t find it on my PC – maybe another generational barrier?), you can browse ToonTube by country and see what other kids are creating – in different languages – over the world. Pretty cool.

Golden Monkey Awards

And the winner is…!  If your kids want to vote for their favorite cartoon, they can visit the page the Golden Monkey Awards page and vote in the following categories:

  • Most Playful
  • Wildest Imagination
  • Top Drawing and Animation
  • Fantastic Foreign-Language Film
  • Best Story

Results announced on February 26, 2012!

All right so I’ve just spent a whole page talking about an iPad app but don’t forget that kids need to go outside too. Apps are great but they don’t replace an afternoon in the woods. Agreed?

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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