Case study: Disney Carnival of Words

The Challenge

This interactive mobile application project with Disney presented many challenges. First was making the work of learning another language fun for children inside a mobile application. Second was keeping children engaged and using the application through a very clear user interface by eliminating anything that could be confusing and cause children to abandon the experience. Third was memory limitations for the application. Because the application was going to be loaded onto a phone there were limits with how much memory the application could use—all code, images, and other assets had to fit within tight memory limits so that the application could easily be deployed to phones. Fourth was animating for Disney. We were provided ‘keyframe’ artwork of Disney characters from Disney animators. We took that artwork and animated them to move within the application.

The Strategy

Our strategy to build this interactive language game for children was to make it easy to use, engage, and play with. Its primary purpose is to teach children another language by using images and audio that help children learn a vocabulary of words from different topics like animals (dog, cat, fish), or transportation (car, truck, boat).

This application was pre-installed on the Disney Dokomo phone when purchased in Japan and the application is initially setup to allow Japanese speaking children to learn English, and English speaking children to learn Spanish. Other translations are also possible because the application is extensible—we have the ability to load new languages and add more functionality to the application.

The game works by displaying a word, for example “elephanto,” and will display pictures of what that word is. It also allows you to hear that word spoken to you in audio format. Children then have to select the correct image to match up with the word presented to them.

The application also tracks a child’s progress through their learning. The application gives kids specific learning goals and highlights which areas they need improvement on, and which areas where they are excelling. The tracking is based on a “star system” for each word. Each word gets a star rating based on your child’s understanding of that word—more stars equals a better understanding. To incentivise kids we included a virtual “prize rack.” And because it's Carnival of Words there are carnival type prizes like stuffed animals that the kids can “collect” on their virtual shelf inside the application.

The Results

Our work on the Disney Carnival of Words application has produced great results.

Overall Disney was very happy with the application. They liked it so much that they wanted it included as one of the official apps on the Dokomo phone. This means it’s preloaded on the phone for anyone who purchases it.

When working on sending animations to Disney one would expect there to be a bit of anxiety, after all Disney does know a thing or two about animation. After receiving and reviewing our work the team at Disney said “these are the best animations we’ve received from a third party vendor.” We were very pleased and proud to hear such a compliment about our work.

We also passed through Disney's extremely thorough quality assurance process making the application “bug free” and ready for deployment to phones.

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