Toontastic 3D Educational animation app for kids launched by Google,

Google has launched Toontastic 3D, a free app meant for children that adults might find fun to use as well. The application allows kids to create animated videos for use in school projects, short stories, design pitches or just to explore their creativity. Google describes the application as a “digital puppet theater.” The application can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Using the application is very simple and straightforward. There are a number of scenes available, which are the staging environments for the animations. First, a type of animation has to be chosen. There are three options, a short story, a classic story and a science report. Each story is cut up into parts, or scenes. The interface for navigating the parts prompts children on how the animation can flow. For example, the classic story has prompts for setup, conflict, challenge, climax and resolution. The science report has question, hypothesis, experiment, result and conclusion parts. These clearly labelled parts shows kids what should be done in each scene.

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Next, kids have to choose an environment or setting for their animations. Kids can draw their own setting, or choose from one of the colourful environments available in the app. There is a cutting edge command center straight out of a spy movie, an ancient and mysterious temple, a typical classroom, a pirate ship, the lost city of Atlantis, a camp in the middle of the forest and a flying steampunk airship.

The next step is to add characters to the scene. Toontastic 3D has a large roster of characters, including some wacky ones that are attractive to kids. Some of the characters are a robot, a jellyfish, a shark with machine legs, a mermaid and a gorilla. The characters are organised according to themes such as city, space, explorers and pirates. Alternatively, children can express their creativity and draw their own characters. The 2d drawings are automatically converted to 3D by the application.  Each scene can have a cast of up to 7 characters, and the same character can be added multiple times.

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Now comes the really interesting part. The children have to record each scene, and move around the characters or the background. Swiping moves the scene in different directions, and these movements are recorded. The characters can be directly manipulated with the finger, and made to move about the scene. Kids can record voice over narrations at this stage to explain what is happening, or provide dialogues to the characters. Toontastic 3D automatically adds the animations for turning and walking. Once the animations are set, the movements can be exaggerated or enhanced by setting a mood. Available moods include gloomy, tense, stormy and curious.

The app has an “Idea Lab” section that has example animations so kids can understand what the application is capable of. It also has a video lesson on storytelling by animator Austin Madison who has worked on a number of Pixar movies including Wall-E, Up and Brave.

Toontastic 3D by Google is the latest in a number of educational applications and content offerings aimed at kids. Google has previously launched YouTube Kids, a library of learning oriented content. Project Bloks teaches children to code using blocks similar to LEGO. Verne: Himalayas lets you roam across the Himalayas as a giant Yeti. The locations are peppered with interactive objects, panoramic photographs and voice narrations. Google Expeditions is a VR app for schools that allows teachers to take students on virtual field trips around the world from the classroom itself.