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January 24, 2017

Disney launches its own adult coloring app

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Adult coloring books have been incredibly popular for a while now, and Disney has been in on the trend with its “Art of Coloring” books that are billed to “inspire creativity and relaxation.” Now, the company is making its coloring books even more accessible through a new app, Color by Disney.

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Color by Disney offers hundreds of coloring pages featuring beloved Disney and Pixar characters – and it’s being marketed to adults as a way to relieve stress. Disney touts the app as having these features:

** Hours of Disney Magic: Experience the joy of capturing the most memorable Disney and Pixar moments through a world of color.

** Infinite Creative Expression: Hundreds of design and character combinations ranging from modern classics like “Frozen” and “Moana” to iconic films like “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid” to Pixar favorites like “Brave” and “Monsters, Inc.”

** Film-Inspired Effects: Add a dash of pixie dust with an extensive collection of classic film-inspired color palettes, special gradients and fun filters, including glitter and watercolors.

** Share Options: Connect the app to social media networks to showcase and share magical masterpieces.

** Instant Access: Color by Disney is an always-on service providing hours of engagement for users taking a break from their daily grinds.

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Color by Disney is available for iOS and Android mobile devices as a subscription-based app. The app is free to download and then the coloring pages are added each week as part of a subscription. Three packages are available: one week all-access for $2.99; one month all-access for $7.99; or a year all-access for $39.99. But users can experience Color by Disney for free with a seven-day trial.

Color by Disney is available for download now on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Windows App Store.

Disney is just one popular subject for adult coloring enthusiasts. There are online and real-life groups dedicated to every niche you can think of – from animal lovers to popular television shows. And with good reason, it would seem.

A story in The Washington Post pointed out: “Coloring books work like other mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation, says Craig Sawchuk, a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Such approaches work ‘almost like a volume knob to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response.’ Coloring can help slow down heart rate and respiration, loosen muscles and stimulate the brain, he says.”

So, break out that tablet or smart phone and start relaxing!



Instagram

August 18, 2016

Disney launches messenger app Disney Mix with focus on kid safety

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Disney has launched a new app that allows kids to chat and connect with friends in new ways, while reassuring parents that the online community it is creating is one with safety in mind. Disney Mix is a free app that is aimed at children ages 4 and older.

The messaging app not only allows kids to talk online with each other, but it also gives them the ability to play games, make memes and share stickers – all within the app. Disney Mix users even can make their own custom 3D avatars that can be customized in an infinite number of ways including animations. Plus, kids can add Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Movies to their Friends List and receive the latest videos and photos delivered directly to them.

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Remember Disney’s Club Penguin? I know I do. For a time when he was younger, my son was quite infatuated with that virtual world. I think we still have all the stuffed Puffles and assorted penguin friends! Disney has said it is building on what it learned from that wildly popular website and community to create Disney Mix.

“Disney has more than a decade of experience in online communities for kids from Club Penguin and our other virtual worlds, and so we know what both kids and their parents want,” Disney Interactive said in a statement with the app’s launch.

“We also know that in order to have fun, kids and their parents, need to feel they are safe. So we’ve used the experience of the Club Penguin team while investing in new tools, moderation and educational resources. And just like Club Penguin, we’re empowering the community to help us keep it safe by giving them easy ways to report bullying and other inappropriate behavior so we can address it quickly.”

In practical terms, Disney Mix users must agree to community rules, which focus on not giving out personal information to people they don’t know, keeping content clean and, of course, refraining from bullying other users. Kids who break these rules will be banned from the app.

To help enforce the rules, Disney Mix has filters in place to block inappropriate chat, language and personal information. Furthermore, users can report any conversation to Disney Mix moderators by clicking the whistle icon on the top of that chat thread. Also, kids can only chat with people they have accepted as “Friends,” and they can remove friends at any time.

To create an account, users must be 13 and older or have their parents’ permission. Disney Mix is available on iOS and Android devices, both tablet and handheld.



Instagram

July 23, 2015

Enter Disney Infinity IN Games for chance to compete at D23 and on Disney Dream

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Leading up to the launch of Disney Infinity 3.0 on Aug. 30 – and the introduction of the Star Wars franchise to the gaming system – Disney Interactive is hosting three summer tournaments. The three winners will be invited the final round of the contest, which will take place onboard the Disney Dream cruise ship in its new Disney Infinity zone.

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The first leg of the tournament was held during Comic Con in San Diego in July, and the second contest takes place on Aug. 15 during the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. But the deadline to enter is this week – 11:59 p.m. PT July 26 to be exact. Disney Interactive will choose 16 players for this leg of the tournament. They will be filmed for broadcast during the tournament at D23, and all 16 will receive Disney Infinity Prize Packs.

To get started, potential contestants should make a video that is no longer than 1 minute in length. In it, the player must:

** State his or her first name only to protect privacy.
** Tell what he or she likes most about Disney Infinity.
** Describe his or her favorite toy box ever made and explain why.
** Choose a favorite Disney Infinity figure and explain the selection.
** The video must be all original content, so get creative!

There are a few rules, too, that must be followed:

** Entrants must be at least 13 years old, and those who are minors must have a parent or guardian’s permission.
** Entrants must be legal residents of and physically live within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia.
** If other people are in the video, they only can be immediate family members. They also can only use first names.
** There cannot be any brands or logos, other than Disney, visible in the background or on clothing.
** No rude gestures or profanity and other inappropriate behavior will be accepted.
** Only one video per person may be entered.

Disney Interactive offers these tips for making a great video:

** Make sure to hold the camera so your video comes out wider than it is tall, like a movie screen.
** Use sunlight, light bulbs, whatever! Shoot with lots of light coming from behind the camera and shining on you or your family!
** The closer you are to the camera or separate microphone, the better your voice will sound.

The winner of each of the three legs of the tournament, including the upcoming contest at the D23 Expo, receives a Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition Starter Pack and a trip to the IN Games Finals Nov. 6-9 on the Disney Cruise Line, aboard the Disney Dream. “This epic showdown will take place inside the new immersive Disney Infinity zone onboard the Disney Dream. While onboard competitors will have the chance to pilot hyperspace inside the new Star Wars: Millennium Falcon, taste goodies galore at Vanellope’s Sweet & Treats, and unwind after the competition at Disney’s private island paradise, Castaway Cay,” promotional materials state. The 3-night Bahamian cruise includes the following:

** 2 coach airfares if the winner resides outside a 200 mile radius of the ship’s home port.
** Round trip ground transportation from the airport to the ship.
** 3-night cruise on the Disney Dream for two people in one stateroom. This includes pre-paid gratuities, government taxes, fees and port expenses (as defined in the Disney Cruise Line brochure), plus all meals, except at Palo and Remy.

Log in here to enter!

Fans at a D23 presentation on Sunday, Aug. 16, will be among the first to see new gameplay, trailers and surprises from Disney Interactive. Throughout the weekend, guests on the expo floor will be able to experience play sets and new Star Wars characters from Disney Infinity 3.0 before their release date. Plus, they will receive limited-edition giveaways.



Instagram

August 13, 2013

Review: Disney's 'Planes' video games stay true to story

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Much like the just-released Disney movie "Planes," the companion video games from Disney Interactive are aimed at a young audience and rated for everyone. As such, they are a fun way to continue the story. For older kids, though, the challenges might not be enough to sustain their interest.

My almost-11-year-old son piloted both a console and a handheld platform of the game, and he found them to be similar to each other and true to the story line of the movie. (For my review of Disney's "Planes," please see my previous blog post.)

My son first tested the Wii version, which offers four modes of play: Story, Air Rallies, Free Flight and Balloon Popping. Story is just as it sounds -- missions based on the actual movie -- and Balloon Popping is self-explanatory, as well. Air Rallies gives players the chance to race, while Free Flight explores the game's 10 locations. Playing a console version of the game requires participants to use both a nunchuck and Wii remote simultaneously -- something that can be difficult for young players until they get the hang of it.

My son liked the selection of characters -- 10 choices, and some are reprised by the actors who voice them in the movie. Players can store up to three profiles, and the auto-save feature is a nice touch. He did not like the long tutorial, or basic flight training, at the beginning, though. Sure, it's a necessarily evil for beginners, but advanced players would like to get right to the game and figure out the controls themselves. Once he made it through the tutorial, he found the game to be pretty easy for his age and skill set. For beginning gamers, though, the aerial contests may be just the right level of difficulty.

Disney's "Planes" for Wii can be experienced by one to two players at a time, with the second using a drop-in and drop-out feature. Expanding gameplay to more than just two people might have helped it soar with families having kids of different ages.

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Unlike the "Epic Mickey" sequel games, Disney's "Planes" is very much alike across platforms. The Ninetendo 3DS version also starts with a series of tutorials to get players up to speed. Then, they can take off as one of six characters and soar through six environments inspired by the film. Again, there are four modes of play -- Story, Challenge, Racing and Ballloon Popping -- and more than 40 challenges and missions.

StreetPass, a 3DS feature that allows users to share content when they physically pass by each other, is enabled on Disney's Planes. Based on Mii figures, the social system grants players more access depending on the number of connections they make. My son does love this feature about his 3DS, though at his age, he did not want his friends to know he was playing the "Planes" game because he thought the games, like the film, is more for the younger set.

Disney's "Planes" is available exclusively on the Nintendo platforms of Wii U, Wii, DS and 3DS. Prices range from $29.99 to $49.99.

DISCLAIMER: Disney Interactive provided me with review copies of Disney's "Planes" for Nintendo's Wii and 3DS systems. This did not affect my review or my son's reactions; my opinions are my own.

June 18, 2013

Disney Infinity: My kids preview game with help from artist, designer

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Disney Interactive Studios invited gamers and Disney guests on both coasts to play its much-talked about new gaming system, Disney Infinity, this past week for the first time. At E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles, players formed long lines to try their hands at the game that has been compared repeatedly to Activision's Skylanders. In Orlando, the game was set up for two days at Car Masters Weekend at Downtown Disney's West Side.

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There was no way my 10-year-old son wanted to miss out on the opportunity to preview Disney Infinity two months before its Aug. 18 North America release date, so we headed to Walt Disney World and braved the crowds Sunday afternoon. When we arrived, the line to play the game was shorter than I expected, especially considering that people who played the demos were given the Dash ("The Incredibles") character piece, which will sell for $13.

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The Disney Infinity booth had four gaming stations set up -- two for playset-only mode and two for Toy Box mode. We asked to play the Toy Box version each of the three times we stood in line because that is the key difference between Disney Infinity and Skylanders. The Toy Box allows players to mix Disney and Pixar characters and environments, each creating their own unique games that they can share with their friends. Play-set mode, by comparison, puts the game characters in their own self-contained world that is appropriate only to their movie or TV show franchise.

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Jared Bald, senior designer for Toy Box, was among the staff at Downtown Disney showing visitors how to play the game. He said the developers he has worked with for the last two years compare the Toy Box in the game to a physical toy box, albeit one that holds many more of toys, but the fascination by young players is the same. "Give kids hundreds of toys on a living room floor and they will play for hours," he said. "There is no end to what they can do with Disney Infinity."

It took my son, who is an avid gamer, a few minutes to get acclimated to the game, but once he did, he was excited about the Toy Box option. He especially wanted to race his sister's characters in vehicles or on mounts. Could his Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster beat her Cinderella Coach?

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Disney Infinity concept artist Ben Simonsen

Ben Simonsen, a concept artist on Disney Infinity, said that designing the vehicles was, in fact, one of his favorite aspects of working on the Disney Interactive project. He said that my son's interest was indicative of what they had seen by other players at the demonstration: Kids seemed to be more focused on interacting with other players than progressing through a goal-oriented game. And Disney Infinity allows for that, to be sure.

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My 8-year-old daughter had one question, though, when encountering anyone affiliated with Disney Infinity: Will there be any Disney Princess characters? So far, none have been announced, but the coach vehicle and Cinderella Castle are available, as well as an environment from "Tangled" with Rapunzel, in the Toy Box. Although no one officially could confirm that any of the royal beauties will join the gaming system, it was suggested that they would be a logical progression, given their strong market brand.

Disney Infinity will have another booth with demo stations on Aug. 16 near Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney Marketplace. A Disney World cast member said that she hopes the game will be available for purchase at that time, and she expects developers to be there to answer questions and sign copies.

To read my previous articles about Disney Infinity, please click here and here.

Disney Infinity at E3


June 11, 2013

Disney Infinity debuts at E3 today and possibly at Downtown Disney later this month

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With only two months until the scheduled launch of Disney Infinity, the highly anticipated gaming system that is expected to give Activision's Skylanders a run for its money, the marketing is ramping up. Participants at the three-day E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles that begins today will be among the first to play. It had been previously announced that the gaming platform would be available to guests at Orlando's Downtown Disney last week, but that didn't happen.

Disney Infinity allows players to place physical versions of their favorite Disney characters onto an Infinity Base and seemingly transport them into the virtual worlds of Monsters University, the Incredibles, Cars, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lone Ranger. What sets Disney Infinity apart from Skylanders -- and other Disney Interactive games -- though, is its Toy Box feature, which allows users to mix various Disney and Pixar stories and characters.

Disney describes the Toy Box concept this way: "Unlock virtual toys from each play set - characters, buildings, weapons, gadgets and more - and bring them into the Toy Box where you can mix them all up to create your own game. In the Toy Box, there are no rules and you can create any adventure you want."

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Disney Interactive will be offering E3 participants the opportunity to try all of the announced play sets and the Toy Box mode at its 18 demonstration stations. In fact, when they approach the booth, those same attendees will feel as if they have stepped onto a life-size version of the Infinity base that lights up.

"If you look around from the base, you will catch glimpses of iconic Disney characters and environments, re-imagined as toys using our unique Infinity art style. You will see new characters like Wreck It Ralph and Tonto mixing it up with old favorites like Bullseye from Toy Story and Stitch," according to the press release.

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Executive Producer of Disney Infinity John Vignocchi

There also will be a photo op that features a Toy Box-like fusion of Cinderella's Coach and a monster truck in front of the famed princess's castle.

Among the Disney merchandise that fans are sure to stand in long lines to get their hands on: custom T-shirts, shirt sleeves or hoodies made from 10 combinations exclusively at the booth and pre-release Infinity character toys that will be distributed through a vending machine.

Like Skylanders, Disney Infinity will be available for a variety of console gaming systems, including Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii-U, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Disney's version also will be compatible with PC computers and mobile devices later in the year. One or two players can tackle the structured adventures, and "Toy Box" mode allows up to four players in the game.

Starter packs, which include the video game, Infinity Base, three play sets, three characters, one Infinity Power Disc and web codes, go on sale August 18 for about $75. Additional play sets are priced about $30 to $35.

Through June 23, Nintendo is hosting a booth outside Once Upon a Toy Store at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World as part of its Wii U Tour. Guests can stop by and try at no charge a variety of Wii U games, including Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, LEGO City Undercover and Need for Speed Most Wanted U. Disney Infinity was expected to be available, as well. Perhaps after the marketing splash at E3, it will be. We'll keep you posted; expect a review if it becomes available.

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