Roam And Wander, a toy and children’s entertainment studio that is currently participating in 500 Startups’ accelerator program, is now raising funds for its latest stuffed animal on Kickstarter. Called DiDi, the classic brown teddy bear is twice as large as Roam and Wander’s last toy, a bunny named TuTu, and comes to life with the aid of an iPad.
Didi’s companion apps include games that teach young kids letters, numbers, basic reading, and other skills they will need in elementary school.
“My son’s nickname is DiDi, and when I was a boy my favorite toy was a brown teddy bear (that I still have),” says founder Jason Warren.
“I wanted to create a toy for my son, who has mild autism, and for other kids, to help them connect with and play and learn from the same classic toy that I had.”
I got the chance to test out a DiDi, which is about the size of an infant and has two windows that turn into its “face” and “belly” when an iPad running Roam and Wander’s apps is inserted. The stuffed animal has a wide bottom that keeps it sitting up and is made of high-quality plush fabric.
One thoughtful feature is a sewn-in face so DiDi still looks like a cuddly bear even when the iPad is removed, instead of a nightmare-inducing featureless pile of fur.
“We gave DiDi an interactive belly because we wanted to give kids a space to play games and read books, but keep DiDi’s face and personality while the kids are playing,” Warren explains. “It’s also because it’s a lot of fun to see the food fall into his belly when you feed him. We’re designing some games like ‘Operation’ for DiDi’s belly.”
TuTu is currently available for sale online and in brick-and-mortar retail outlets in Asia. While in 500 Startups, Warren says Roam and Wander, which is also backed by WI Harper and TMI, plans to focus on “growing our presence in the U.S. and expanding our distribution as a publisher.
“We’ve started to license TuTu and DiDi to other game and kid’s book publishers, and we’ve been hiring a team in the U.S. to help with retail distribution and community engagement,” he says.
To help accomplish that goal, Roam and Wander has grown its marketing team and is currently working on several projects with a major entertainment company in L.A.
The Kickstarter’s early bird price is $25, which includes a DiDi or TuTu and a set of interactive toys, including an apple, carrot, toothbrush, and box of milk. The toys are expected to ship in August.