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December 11, 2014

Disney Publishing launches digital education apps for young children

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When my children were younger they were big fans of Disney Publishing's storybook apps. These apps allow young readers to be immersed in popular Disney stories -- and practice reading -- because of the many interactive features. Now, it appears that Disney Publishing is building on its success by introducing Disney Imagicademy, a new technology-driven learning initiative designed for families with children ages 3 to 8.

Disney Imagicademy exposes children to fundamental education concepts using familiar Disney characters. The curriculum was developed with the help of education and early-childhood-development experts.

The first five of the 30 app-based experiences are available today exclusively on the Apple app store. In addition, there is a companion app out for parents that will help them guide their child's learning. The apps cover key subject matters that are important for early childhood development, including math, creative arts, science, language arts and social and emotional skills.

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Among today's releases is Mickey's Magical Math World, an iPad-exclusive app that features five math activities: "Mickey's Super Rocket Shapes," "Donald's Number Launcher," "Minnie's Robot Count-Along," "Daisy's Bedtime Countdown" and "Goofy's Silly Sorting." Each experience features progressive early math concepts, including counting forward and backward, sort and classify, skip count, numbers and shapes recognition, reason and logic and more.

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The companion app, Disney Imagicademy Parents, gives parents real-time updates about their children's progress, the ability to reward accomplishments digitally and remotely through digital high-fives, and opportunities to inspire non-digital learning through ideas tied directly to concepts children are exposed to in the apps.

The second set of digital apps in the Disney Imagicademy line-up is Mickey's Magical Arts World. Focused on creative arts, the suite will be available for download in January.

Physical products and learning toys will be available in time for back-to-school shopping in 2015, featuring brands such as, including Smart Toy, Kid Designs, Wonder Forge and Mercury Active.

"Disney Imagicademy's integrated program connects children's apps, a parents app and physical toys to create a unique family experience that helps inspire a lifelong love of learning," said Jeffrey Sellinger, senior vice president of Disney Learning, in a news release. "The physical and digital worlds are coming together in nearly every industry, and with Disney Imagicademy, the learning field is no exception."



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August 20, 2013

Disney Princess Royal Salon & Palace Pets apps allow users to play as stylists

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Disney Publishing has released a new app this month that is sure to be a hit with Disney Princess fans, if my 8-year-old daughter's excitement is any indication.

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The Disney Princess Royal Salon app allows users to play as Royal Stylists for four of the most popular princesses: Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel and Ariel. Once the stylist chooses the princess who will receive the benefit of her cosmetology skills, the stylist chooses her subject's destination. Among the parties are a royal ball, a masquerade, a holiday celebration and a special occasion.

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Then the stylist can put her skills to work on her subject's hair. Tapping first the wand and then tapping near the princess's head makes a hairstyle appear. Users also can brush individual sections of hair, which is a little more difficult, to create unique looks. The Fords' Royal Stylist prefers up-do's for Ariel.

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Next, users can choose their princess's wardrobe and accessories. When her subject is finally ready to go, the stylist can use her device's camera to take a photo, which can be added to the app's scrapbook or emailed to friends and family.

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Disney Princess Royal Salon is available for iOS devices and costs $4.99 in the iTunes Store.

You can see AllEars Senior Editor Deb Koma test the Disney Princess Royal Salon app at the D23 Expo:

Earlier this summer, Disney Publishing released its free Disney Princess Palace Pets app, presumably to sell the Disney Princess audience on a related franchise. Honestly, I can't believe it's taken this long for a Disney pet tie-in to come to market. It seems like a perfect match.

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The Disney Princess Palace Pets app could be considered a companion app to the Royal Salon app, though it is not being promoted that way. In Palace Pets, the user also visits the salon, but this one is for the royal dogs, cats and even a horse.

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Palace Pets offers a bit more back story about each animal at the beginning of the app than does Disney Princess Royal Salon. Then pet stylists actually cover the animals in soapy bubbles, rinse them and put them under the dryer, before the styling begins. Of course the user brushes the animal's coat and then the stylist picks out accessories, such as a flashy collar or a tail that mimic's Ariel's mermaid tail. This app does't have the scrapbook feature, so users will have to take photos themselves on their device, which is not difficult.

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Palace Pets is available for iOS devices and is free in the iTunes Store.

My daughter thoroughly enjoys both Disney Princess Royal Salon and Disney Princess Palace Pets and would recommend them to other kids who love to play dress-up or have an interest in fashion and hair styling. On her wish-list when the apps update: To be able to move the styled pets to the Royal Salon app so they could be reunited with their owners.

May 16, 2013

Disney Worldwide Publishing, Lilly Diabetes expand global collaboration

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Disney Publishing Worldwide has announced it is expanding its outreach to children with type 1 diabetes through a series of custom books that have been co-created with Lilly Diabetes, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly & Co. The books, which debuted in 2011, are being translated and made available in 18 countries through doctors' offices.

The Disney group entered a partnership with Lilly Diabetes two years ago to educate children and their families about the disease -- and to help them find a sense of normalcy in their lives. Now, the two companies aim "to reach even more families who have been impacted by type 1 diabetes - emphasizing what they can do instead of what they can't do, and offering stories of familiar characters, such as Mickey Mouse and his friend, Coco, the fun-loving monkey who has type 1 diabetes," said Lilly Communications Director Kelley Murphy.

Coco's adventures can be found in two titles that are part of the popular children's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series, "Coco Goes Back to School" and "Coco and Goofy's Goofy Day." The latter is the first to be translated for global distribution. In "Coco and Goofy's Goofy Day," Coco shows Goofy that she can attend his birthday party, enjoy the treats and activities in moderation and still have fun. Goofy is the one who struggles with limiting himself on his special day.

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A third book starring Coco will be released this summer. "Coco's First Sleepover" was written to help children and their families prepare for the child's first night away from home after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes, which often has an onset in childhood, have high blood sugar levels, usually because their bodies do not produce enough insulin or respond to the insulin that is created. They must monitor their condition daily and adjust medicines, food and exercise accordingly.

To that end, another Disney book in the series is a cookbook, "Dishing it up Disney Style," with healthy recipes for the entire family to enjoy.

Tweens also will be offered books that address their concerns about sharing their type 1 diabetes with their peers. Among them are "Up for the Challenge," "Power Forward," "Running Interference" and "Hannah Montana - Uptight, Oliver's Alight"; the first two are being translated into languages other than English. Two new titles for kids ages 9 to 13 also will be introduced this summer: "Superstar Dreams" and "Covering the Bases."

In another effort to reach more families, the first three books that are being translated and the cookbook will be posted online when a new website is completed in August or September, Murphy said. In the meantime, Disney is hosting content from dietitians, psychologists, nurses and families on its website, spoonful.com/type1. It offers tips for everyday challenges and includes recipes and printable resources.

"Lilly Diabetes' objective is to bring safety, health, comfort and a bit of magic to children worldwide," said Andrew Hodge, international vice president of Lilly Diabetes, in a statement. "We saw the positive impact our collaboration with Disney Publishing Worldwide had on families living with type 1 diabetes in the U.S. over the last two years, and we are excited to expand our reach globally."

Lilly introduced the world's first commercial insulin and continues to market related medicines.

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And though guests at Disney Parks won't see the Coco character, the little monkey already is having a positive effect on some.

One AllEars.Net reader whose 9-year-old daughter who lives with type 1 diabetes said the resources were invaluable in her family's planning for an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. "Coco carries her diabetic supplies in a backpack and wears a diabetes bracelet, too," said Sheila Meyle. "Thank you Disney and Lilly Diabetes for bringing this very important issue to the public's attention and making a friend of Mickey's seem as normal as all the kids with diabetes want to be."

AllEars.Net has a section about how to plan for a vacation at Walt Disney World when someone in your party is living with diabetes. Plus, we have updated and complete menus for all the resort restaurants, so you can plan meals in advance.

April 9, 2013

How fans can be Kingdon Keepers for a day at Walt Disney World

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This weekend, my 10-year-old son set out to be a Kingdom Keeper at the Magic Kingdom using the self-guided quest in Birnbaum Guides 2013 Walt Disney World edition. We didn't encounter any villains, but we did have fun with a new challenge in a favorite theme park.

For those not familiar with the term "Kingdom Keepers," it comes from a popular series of books by the same name from author Ridley Pearson. The Kingdom Keepers are students who protect the theme park from Disney villains, known as Overtakers in the books.

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In 2011, Disney Youth Education Series (YES) launched the first Kingdom Keepers Quest, a self-guided tour that Pearson helped design to create an immersive experience for the series' fans at Magic Kingdom. Because that program also has educational components -- such as building skills in problem solving, creativity, language arts, mathematics and critical thinking -- it is offered to groups of students.

Fans who weren't visiting the Magic Kingdom with their schools, though, were disappointed and had no such opportunity -- until this year's Birnbaum Guide was published. So, what can fans like my son expect from the individual self-guided quest?

"[The quests] are all me, so they're the same feel," Pearson told me recently. "I think that because of space limitations, they're certainly truncated. " They may be a little more difficult in YES, but those take 3 to 4 hours, and this one takes, maybe, an hour and a half."

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Don't be fooled, though. Birnbaum's Kingdom Keepers Quest is not simple -- at least not for a fourth-grader and his mother. We didn't have any difficulty finding the various locations in Magic Kingdom that the clues describe, but some of the codes and word play took multiple readings to decipher. This was especially true of the first quest in the set of five. Fortunately, you can solve the quests in any order and then put the clues together for the final answer, so we did skip the first one and save it for the end.

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Embedded in each quest are passages from "Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark," the first book in the series, which hint at some of the answers. And, if you have a smartphone and download an app, there are extra goodies you can unlock in the Magic Kingdom to help entertain and guide you through the quests. I don't want to give those surprises away, but the ones we saw were pretty darn cool. Plus, smartphone users can tackle an additional Expert Challenge Quest.

Can't get enough Kingdom Keepers? You're in luck. Disney Youth Education Series currently is testing a new quest for school groups at Animal Kingdom that will launch soon. Individual fans will get their own Animal Kingdom quest in the 2014 Birnbaum Guides for Walt Disney World, which will be released this fall.

"I'm just finishing now a new [Birnbaum quest] for 2014 that is four pages of Magic Kingdom and four pages of Animal Kingdom," Pearson told me. "I think we'll build that out as the years go forward."

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In the meantime, fans can meet Pearson this week when he appears at Walt Disney World to sign copies of the latest book in the series, "Kingdom Keepers 6: Dark Passage," which was released April 2. For details on these events and more about what's in store in the next Kingdom Keepers books, please see my earlier blog post.

March 16, 2013

Ridley Pearson says fans will help write last 'Kingdom Keepers' book in series

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"Kingdom Keepers" readers: Get ready for a couple of new adventures. Author Ridley Pearson has some exciting news for fans of the young-adult series that is set in Walt Disney World and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships.

Of course, readers of the series know that the sixth installment, "Kingdom Keepers 6: Dark Passage," hits shelves April 2. But what they probably don't know is that after they read the book, readers actually can participate in the writing of the seventh and final book in the series - and they will be able to read most of it as chapters are produced weekly.

"I have outlined the seventh book, but I really feel so grateful to the readers that I felt it a little unfair if I was the only one who decided how this whole world was going to come to a close," Pearson said when my 10-year-old son, a "Kingdom Keepers" fan, and I interviewed him recently at Epcot.

So, Pearson has spent two years with the help of a software company, to develop an app called Kingdom Keepers Insider (KKI). (Initially, it was referred to as Kingdom Keepers 7 Fan Fiction Experience.) The free app will be available across all platforms, and there will a web version for people who don't have access to an iOS or Android device.

Pearson described Kingdom Keepers Insider like this: "I'm going to post a chapter every Sunday and a piece of the outline for the next week. The readers will come in and vote on things and give me suggestions and write fan fiction that I will actually clip right into the book. Then I will finish that next chapter and post it Sunday, and we'll start the process over. So, in real time, the reader will be seeing what the book is going to be as I'm writing it and help me decide where it goes. Near the end, we'll stop that and I'll finish the book on my own " It's really going to be a fun process."

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Pearson is embracing fan fiction, something many authors might not do, so we had to ask his thoughts on all the stories written by fans who are inspired to create their own stories with his characters.

"I haven't experienced much of it because I didn't want anyone coming back and suing me and saying, 'Oh, that was my idea.' But it's a world that is so active in the Kingdom Keepers world. I have experts that I work with - high school juniors and seniors who are really well-read in the series - and they participate in all this and they are all part of KKI," he said. "This software protects me, but allows people to write fan fiction within it that then I can use if I want. Everyone is happy."

But hardly anyone is happy about the series drawing to a close, including Pearson. "I kind of wish it wasn't, but I have always felt it should. I don't like open-ended series," he said. "I wanted to end this originally at five books, and Disney talked me into seven."

For fans who dread April 2014, when the last "Kingdom Keepers" book will be released, Pearson offers some comfort -- there will be a second "Kingdom Keepers" series.

"We were debating something considerably different for the second series, and I think it won't be all that different in a lot of ways because I'm having a hard time letting go of the characters and the readers polled are having a hard time letting go of it being about the [Disney] parks. They'll be older. I hope it will be mostly the same characters and also set in the Disney parks," he said.

"On my last book tour, I took a hand poll of what people wanted - the same characters or the same locations. It was weird because I expected it to go one way, but it was 50-50. I was going to take the same characters and move them overseas into kind of a different world -- more our world, but with the Overtaker world coming into our world. I haven't started it yet. So we'll just have to see."

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In the meantime, Pearson is poised to begin his national book tour for KK6 in April. "In 'Kingdom Keepers 6,' the Kingdom Keepers are halfway through a long cruise that's going through the Panama Canal, and there are added Overtakers and there are some added helpers to the Kingdom Keepers. The stakes are much higher because of the Overtakers involved, and some really scary stuff happens that readers may not forgive me for," Pearson said.

He may well find out when he visits 11 stops on his book tour, beginning April 2. Pearson will be back at Walt Disney World to meet fans and sign books toward the end of the run. He is scheduled to appear from 4 to 7 p.m. April 10 at Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney Marketplace and from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. April 11 at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Admission is required to attend the theme-park signing. (You can read about last year's event on my previous blog post.)

A tip to fellow Kingdom Keepers fans: We have attended the Downtown Disney book signings for the last two years and readers line up well before the start time. Fans should expect the same as this popular series continues with the last two books.


June 26, 2012

Disney's 'Brave' storybook, comic apps loaded with cool features

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Two new apps from Disney Publishing have a lot of fun to offer kids who enjoyed seeing the new Disney-Pixar animated movie "Brave." They allow readers of all ages to relive the story and to become part of the experience with interactive features.

"Brave: Storybook Deluxe" stays true to the story of Merida, a Scottish lass who is determined to choose her life's journey, rather than accept her fate as a traditional princess. On this app, even the narrator has a Scottish accent, which was a great touch. And as a parent, I appreciated that each word is highlighted in red as he reads, mimicking the finger-tracking strategy taught to young readers. My almost-8-year-old daughter really liked the feature that allowed her to record her own voice reading the story and then play it back.

The story is chock-full of interactive icons, such as a bear claw that scratches the page with sound when it is clicked, a needle and thread that sew a tear on the page describing mending the tapestry, and even a Will-o'-the-Wisp floats at the bottom of one page.

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In addition, the story links to the six coloring pages and puzzles when they relate to particular scenes. These extra features allow users to tap colors and then apply them to outlines of characters, in the same way the coloring pages operate on the Tangled app with Rapunzel. Users also can break a page into a puzzle and put it back together again.

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Kids can choose from two games on this "Brave" app. In Merida's Challenge, they help the spirited princess shoot her bow and arrow while she is riding Angus, her horse. My daughter liked this game, which seemed easy enough for even the youngest reader. In Archer's Quest, readers go on a scavenger hunt through the story, searching for three separate bundles of arrows.

"Brave: Storybook Deluxe" is $6.99 and is available on iTunes for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

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"Brave Interactive Comic" is a more advanced interactive graphic novel for kids ages 7 to 12. In the comic, each cell has some animation, plus music and sound. In addition, there are links to the concept art that inspired the movie. There is no narration option, however, which is a sure sign this is for older kids.

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Probably the coolest feature on this app is the How-to-draw feature. There is a step-by-step course for users to actually draw Merida, Elinor, the triplets and Mor'Du on the screen. A line or two will appear and then the user copies it. The original (in blue) disappears and another guide appears. Young artists can use the magnifying glass to focus in on details of the drawing, and at the end, they can take a photo and save it.

I was surprised that my almost-10-year-old son who loves the Walt Disney World learn-to-draw books was not as fond of the same activity on his iPod. He said he found it difficult to maneuver, and he was frustrated when it didn't cooperate. Perhaps, he just needs more practice.

"Brave Interactive Comic" is $1.99 and available on iTunes for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Can't get enough of "Brave"? I've written about the Merida play-and-greet at Magic Kingdom and Brave: The Highland Games Tournament at Epcot. Deb reviews the movie, too.

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About Disney Publishing

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Disney Publishing category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Disney Princesses is the previous category.

Disney pumpkin carving is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.