Disney’s “It’s a Small World” Interactive iOS App

Loading Screen of the "It's a Small World" App © Disney
Loading Screen of the “It’s a Small World” App © Disney

Anybody who knows me personally will know that I am an enormous Disney geek. Interestingly, for me it is not so much about the films as it is the theme parks. There are paintings all over our house of the parks, I have a collection of plates and collectables and several boards full of trading pins. The best present I received this Christmas was a surprise from my husband, a set of figures based on characters who appear only (or mostly) in the parks, the yeti from the Matterhorn, Figment from EPCOT and a Ghost from the Haunted Mansion were included amongst others. So when I heard that Disney were releasing a story app based on one of their most beloved (or possibly infamous) rides, “It’s a Small World” – I absolutely had to try it out.

I will first answer the question that every single person familiar to that ride is currently asking, yes it does include the song. However this is a version of the song that has been toned down to more instrumental and melodic background music, rather than the invasive song well known to Disney park patrons. The music hums away in the background and provides a perfect score to the story without being intrusive. That’s until you get to the very end when the chorus of the original song pipes up on repeat until you hit the menu button and you’re stuck with it in your head for the rest of the day.

All the scenes are beautifully drawn & use vivid colours © Disney
All the scenes are beautifully drawn & use vivid colours © Disney

The story itself is based on the lyrics and take the reader on a journey through a series of beautiful settings based on different countries and cultures. Each scene is accompanied by a single line from the song and features a variety of interactive elements that can be activated by clicking on parts of the image. Clicking an animal might cause it to make a noise, a boat might sail off across the sea or a child might laugh and blow a kiss. The app automatically pans across the image, however you can use your finger to drag the image back and revisit parts of it. All sorts of countries and cultures are represented from the Arctic to Africa, Japan to London.

The menu screen with spinning wheel to select a scene © Disney
The menu screen with spinning wheel to select a scene © Disney

Inbetween scenes a hot air balloon sails onto the screen to take you on the next stage of the journey as the scene loads. If left alone, the app will automatically work its way through each line/scene of the song, however the menu does give you the option to jump to any you choose through a nicely designed animated scrolling wheel. This can be accessed at any time throughout your journey and also allows you to return to the home page.

The day after I received this app, I switched it on and handed my phone over to my two year old. Despite the app being rated 4+, my son found it easy to get to grips with; he was quickly poking at things and getting dogs barking and bagpipes playing (in case it isn’t obvious – this is NOT a quiet app.) I do have to admit that the app hasn’t held his attention for long, however I can honestly say that I think this is simply a phase he is going through as none of his previously favoured apps have been left running very long lately either. Because of the auto scrolling, he was able to move through the different screens without needing my help and if his attention span was longer, he could easily have worked through the full app.

The word "laugh" appears as you tap a laughing girl © Disney
The word “laugh” appears as you tap a laughing girl © Disney

The app would also work well as a simple short story book for an older child, each line is spoken aloud so no reading skills are required, however the words are printed on screen for those learning to read. Do remember however that as this story is based on song lyrics, there are not that many lines so the app’s value as a “learning to read” tool is limited. Certain characters also produce a written word that relates to the action they are performing when they are tapped, these are simple words such as “give” and “laugh.” The app contains one other small feature, a karaoke screen which sings the chorus with the words up on screen and a traditional karaoke bouncing along on top of them. This is the same screen that appears at the end of the story but it can be accessed directly from the main menu. I suggest you don’t tell your kids about it if you ever want to get the song out of your head.

As a Disney park enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed this app and would happily sit and watch the story unfold even by myself. I would love to see a range of these interactive story apps based on other Disney park rides – the Haunted Mansion being my number one desire – and if this is the quality benchmark then I’d be very happy indeed. If you’re not a Disney fan this app won’t win you over, however given the subject I feel that an app like this was always aimed at existing enthusiasts rather than a more casual market. All together this is a beautiful looking app with a simple interface and lots of fun to be had within, please make more Disney.

“It’s a Small World” is available for iPhone and iPad for $3.99/£2.49. A copy of this app was provided free for review.


GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #6: Grown-Ups

HolidayLogoIIRegardless of what holidays you celebrate, the end-of-year festivities are right around the corner. If you choose to purchase gifts online, you need to order then in advance to allow for shipping time, backorders, and comparison shopping. We at GeekMom are here to help you with ideas for anyone on your gift list, from babies to grownups. This is the final post in our series of gift guides for 2010. Many of our writers have contributed to our series of gift guides, so the ideas run the gamut from popular bestsellers to more obscure, interesting gifts with which you may not be familiar. Chances are there will be something that appeals to you. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below.

This week’s guide is targeted at the grownups out there. And remember to visit our other gift guides that have already run: Week #1: Books, Week #2: Games, Week #3: Small Kids, Week #4: Larger Kids, and Week #5: Toys For Most Any Age, Including Grown-Ups. Happy Holidays to all!

GeekParent Wear
Show off your parental geek pride by sporting a GeekMom Tshirt from ThinkGeek, or a GeekDad Tshirt for any geeky fathers you know. There is also a GeekDad mug and GeekDad ornament available!

Shades of Milk and Honey
Mix Jane Austen with a generous helping of magic and fantasy, and you get Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. Ms. Kowal is an accomplished writer as well as amazing puppeteer, and was one of the puppeteers on the show LazyTown.

Damp Squid and How to Read a Word
If you’re interested in words, their history, and their usage, these two books will fascinate you. From the Oxford University Press, both of these books will take you on a journey of where our words come from, what constitutes a word, and how to learn more about words that fascinate you. (Photos: Oxford University Press)

This puzzle/game activity isn’t strictly for grownups, but it had to be included. Play by yourself, or in a group, and finding where all the pieces go can get as fun or as difficult as you let it.

Asus Eee PC
If you’re looking for a netbook to tote around, the Asus Eee PC is a very good option. With Windows 7, an excellent keyboard, and a very light weight, it is as useful as it is attractive. Read GeekMom’s reviews of the Asus Eee PC: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Apple App Magnets
Know someone who’s crazy about iPad and iPhone aps? These clever fridge magnets are the perfect gift. They look just like the ones on your iPhone or iPod and are just as functional, holding up scrap notes and grocery lists in style. Order a set for every app lover on your list. Eighteen magnets retail for $12.99.

Fracture: Photos Printed on Glass
Custom framing can be a drag. Literally. You drag your family portrait to the frame shop, pick out mat and frame styles, then wait for weeks, hoping the frame shop doesn’t lose your photo in the back room. After you lug the finished product home, you need to indulge in some cleansing breaths just to forget about the cost before you can hang and enjoy your portrait. Couldn’t technology save us from this fate? As a matter of fact, it can. A startup company called Fracture has figured out how to print your precious portraits – up to 11 x 14 – right onto shatter-resistant glass. Upload your jpg image to Fractureme.com, choose any border design you like (including none), and they ship it to your home, fasteners included. Brilliant! Prints start at $8.

iPod Touch (4th generation)
The newest iPod Touch version has two built-in cameras allowing you to use FaceTime and record HD video. And it has a retina display. These are improvements over the 3rd generation version. If you can’t afford the monthly fee of an iPhone, and iPod Touch is an excellent option. Now you can have everything you can have on an iPhone, without the actual phone part (or the 3G connectivity, or the contract headaches).

iPod nano
The stylish, new iPod nanos are square instead of oblong, and they’ll clip right on to wherever you need them. Wear them on your wrist and they’ll double as a watch! But mostly, they’ll play your music for you, including FM radio. Sensitive to movement, you can shake them to shuffle to the next song.

An excellent gift idea for this year, the iPad is more than just a large iPhone or iPod Touch. Because of its generous size, it is much easier to use to play certain things, such as chess or checkers, or to do work, such as editing documents or writing email. Use it for play, for work, or for education.

Marian Call CDs
Marian Call, geek musician lady extraordinaire, is extremely talented with a beautiful voice. Her 49>50 Tour has taken her to 49 out of the 50 states so far, with just Hawaii left to conquer. If you love music about geeks, Firefly, Alaska, or Battlestar Galactica, give Marian a listen.

Ultimate Geek Pen
There’s really no such thing as “ultimate” to a geek, since the next best gadget is sure to be more appealing. But the Ultimate Geek Pen is pretty handy. It’s a ballpoint pen, a stylus tip, and a laser pointer. But wait, there’s more. It’s also a flexible flashlight and UV light.

Have a great holiday season!

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