Disney Animated, A New $13.99 iPad App, Taps Into The Crossover Of Animation Fans And Premium App Consumers

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Perhaps all too aware of how some old media companies have failed to embrace the digital age forced upon them, Disney has tried to jump with two feet into areas like mobile and social media, using some of its traditional mastery of content as its currency.

Today brings the latest chapter in that story: the company is launching Disney Animated, a new iPad app that offers users a catalog of animation art and technology from all 53 films produced to date by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Made in conjunction with Touch Press, the London-based app studio that was also behind Barefoot World Atlas, the app is groundbreaking in another way, too: it’s priced at $13.99, the most expensive iPad app made by Disney so far, the company tells me, catapulting it into the tier of developers releasing premium apps at a premium price.

Up to now, a lot of Disney’s app efforts around animation have been more singular moves around creating games and books around single-character franchises (the majority of the 127 apps that I counted earlier today on the App Store for iPhone). In that sense, this is a more adult-focused, and far more comprehensive, effort. It is more in the vein of what it is doing with Infinity, its cross-platform, cross-property gaming app first announced in January this year.

The app is being launched today to time it with Disney’s D23 Expo, its own version of ComicCon.

The app contains a selection of stills, animation clips, interviews with animators and other texts that give more of the background behind different Disney animated films. In all, there are 750 interactive illustrations, with over 400 short animation clips, 350 images from Disney’s archives (including backgrounds, concept art, character sketches, and super-zoomable storyboards).

This also includes some rare, never-before seen detail: recently during an office spring clean, someone uncovered a dusty cupboard, which happened to contain the original maquette of Pinocchio used by the animators to study how marionettes moved, and to draw the boy/toy himself. 3-D images of the maquette have made their way into this app, along with the story behind him.

With today’s world all about sharing images, and sometimes mashing them up in the process, I asked David Reynolds, Disney’s head of social media, whether all of the images in the app would be shareable.

snow disney animatedTurns out that they will not: while some clips can be shared, it turns out the stills will not (not in a legit way, anyway). There are parts of the app where users will be able to create and subsequently share their own content as gifs — animations of characters from Wreck-It Ralph, for example; or their own glittery sketches using some of the technology that was implemented in Disney’s upcoming Frozen film (a screenshot of this is here on the right).

If users share these gifs with other owners of the Disney Animated App, those recipients can then take those clips and edit and expand upon them — Disney’s little hat tip to a little viral marketing.

Reynolds says the company has not yet decided whether it would ever release an app that distilled the different interactive elements for users to edit and play around with clips of other content beyond that of Disney’s, playing on that other thread of app development at Disney, creating storytelling apps through photos and video (Story.us being one recent example).

It’s all pretty extensive and impressive — one of those examples of an app that will probably be as interesting to animation buffs as to parents looking for educational but still engaging apps for their kids, and another one of those information-laden apps that is bridging the divide between book, game and (yes) app.

Still, I wondered whether pricing it at $13.99 from the start, rather than offering it as free and letting users “unlock” different titles for a price, was a risky move in today’s market, which leans so heavily towards free content.

“This app is entertainment and educational, but it’s also like a museum,” Reynolds explained. “Looking at this opportunity to tell the story and our rich legacy, and you will only see that with full access. It just felt like the right time.” He notes that those who buy the app will get free upgrades with content in the future, but that there are no plans currently to add Android to the roadmap.