It’s been a few years since Pixar’s successful release of ‘Cars’, an animated feature that took us inside the world of its titular characters, and the life of hotrod racecar Lightning McQueen, in particular. Of course, it was just a couple of years ago that the second iteration hit theaters, with McQueen and his comic relief, Mater, heading to the World Grand Prix. And now it seems that Disney is looking for a repeat performance, but on another plane. In fact, their latest animated feature is literally on a new plane thanks to a switch from a focus on motorized vehicles that race on tracks to a high-flying adventure that takes place in the air. And kids are sure to get on board with hero Dusty Crophopper, an unassuming crop duster that decides to try his luck at aerial racing. But Disney just wouldn’t be the company they are today without merchandising to go along with their latest flick. And instead of the tees and toys parents have come to expect, Disney has decided to rely on interactive technology to rake in consumer dollars in association with ‘Planes’.
Don’t get the wrong idea: you’ll still be able to find plenty of branded toys, apparel, and decor related to the release of the movie, just like every other Disney product. But the company has also made a bid to enter the technology arena by creating interactive experiences that allow kids to immerse themselves in the world of ‘Planes’ to a degree unparalleled by their other releases. For example, at least one toy made in collaboration with Mattel, the Wing Control Dusty Crophopper Radio Control Plane, allows kids to make the toy mimic their movements. Thanks to the “role-play” remote control, the plane moves when they move their body. And then there’s the U-Command Super Charged Dusty (made by Thinkway) that lets kids program 10 different buttons so that Dusty will move and speak at their command.
Of course, the cream of the crop in Disney’s latest lineup of merchandise may be the Planes: Storybook Deluxe app, currently available for $6.99 on the iTunes store for the iPhone or iPad. The idea is fairly simple and straightforward, but no less genius for it. The application basically follows the storyline of the movie, with a narrator taking users through 41 separate story screens. But unlike your average reading experience, this one provides you with the ability to tap the interface in order to watch animations, see clips from the film, or even compete in races thanks to the “tilt-and-play” feature. In short, this app provides users with a truly interactive experience that centers on the same storytelling that most parents would get through a standard paper book.
The concept takes reading to a whole new level, creating an immersive experience that pairs the activities parents prefer (reading) with the technological pursuits kids love (playing with mobile devices). It’s the best of both worlds, and Disney may be the first company to really pull it off, especially in association with a branded product. As a result, the Planes: Storybook Deluxe application is likely to end up on plenty of lists for the top holiday toys of 2013, and it seems likely to get more use than fifty-dollar toys that your kids will play with a couple of times before relegating them to the closet.