November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Google Launches Toontastic 3D, an App for Telling Animated Stories

Toontastic Story arc 600

Could one of your students be the next Ava DuVernay or Steven Spielberg?

A new, free app out today (Thursday, January 12) gives kids the tools to try their hands at directing. Toontastic 3D allows children to create their own animated movies.

“We call it our movie studio in a box,” says Andy Russell, one of the product managers at Google who developed the app. “The goal is to empower kids with the types of tools that Hollywood directors have to tell any kind of story.”

That story could be in the form of a movie, a school report, or even a music video. Unlike other online tools that focus on the technical aspects of filmmaking, Toontastic 3D puts the emphasis on storytelling.

Russell says children are natural storytellers, and this app helps to facilitate that.

While many online tools for children have been criticized for turning kids into passive consumers of content, Toontastic 3D takes a different approach.

“Our goal was to make it feel as toy-like as possible, to model it after LEGO and erector sets, and dolls and action figures, toys that are open ended it and enable the kid to say, ‘Oh, that’s a great start to a story I’m going to take it from there,’” says Russell.

The app allows users to choose from three story arcs: short stories, which are geared toward younger children; classic stories;  epic tales or Hollywood blockbusters; and science reports, which take students through the steps of conducting a science experiment.

The app also teaches students the basic parts of a story. For the short stories, that’s described as simply a beginning, a middle, and an end. For the classics, there’s a setup, a conflict, a challenge, a climax and resolution.But students aren’t limited to this format. If they want to tell a story backwards, for example, they can reorder the sequences.

As students begin work, there’s a brief explainer of each story element . Then the student can start on that piece of the process. But first they choose from eight different settings or they can draw their own. Students then choose or create their characters, move them around in the setting, and allow them to speak. The student then records the dialogue for the characters and chooses music for the scene.

All of this can be done in a matter of minutes, while using an editing program such as iMovie or Final Cut to create a two-minute video can take hours, says Russell.

“We’re trying to get the kids to create rough drafts, to rapidly iterate in their storytelling, and to be as playful and as improvisational as possible,” says Russell.

Once students finish their scenes, the app stitches them together, and the movies can be saved and shared.

A Tool for Creating Book Trailers

Although Toontastic 3D is billed “for the playful storyteller in all of us,” Russell says kids between eight and 10 may get the most out of using it at home, while older kids are more likely to use it for schoolwork, and kids younger than eight enjoy hearing their voices, but they’re not doing as much purposeful storytelling.

So how are educators using the app? Foreign language teachers have used a previous version of it to create dialogue skits, while kindergarten teachers have used it to teach sequencing and English language arts teachers have used it teach vocabulary. Russell says a school librarian in Texas told him she used the app to have students create book trailers.

“Then she puts a little QR code on the back of the book and attaches that to the video that the kid created, so that the next student  that comes along can scan the code and see the movie trailer that the [previous] kid  created about that story. So they’re using cartoons to create book reports in a really dynamic and entertaining way” says Russell.

He says this came about because the librarian felt that students weren’t reading  jacket copy.

“She talked about how by making the jacket covers that much more interactive, that much more engaging she was able to get readership in her library up pretty significantly,” says Russell.

The Toontastic 3D app is now available for download on both Android and iOS devices.


marva_head_shotMarva Hinton is a contributing writer for Education Week and the host of the ReadMore podcast, a show that features interviews with authors including Nicola Yoon and Daniel José Older.

Extra Helping header
Extra Helping header

This article was featured in our free Extra Helping enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a week.

Share

Comments

  1. Amazing Toontastic 3D can be a revolutionary animated video maker if they make that much user-friendly that even kid can make animation great article.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*