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Carving out a niche

Woof Woof Studio is bringing interactivity to children's stories

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Bangkok-based Woof Woof Studio blends the magic of fairy tales with the evolving wonder of digital devices, while keeping the fun and playfulness of both. Its first mobile app Stone-carver reimagines a way to tell a traditional Chinese tale for the iPad generation and shows how the old art of storytelling can fit with new technology. 

The interactive, animated story app is an interpretation of the classic Taoist tale of a stone carver who wishes he was someone else. The carver's wishes are always granted, only for him to find that everyone's life is affected by the forces of nature. Finally, he finds happiness as himself: a stone carver.

Some see this as a lesson in the futility of envy. Others feel that it teaches that the perfect life that others seem to have is just an illusion. We all face similar problems, and we are all at the mercy of natural forces. Some think the lesson is that satisfaction is an internal feeling, not created by external wealth. It certainly is a thought-provoking story, which can stimulate useful discussions with your children.

All of this is presented in the richly illustrated pages of the app. It includes interactive animations to engage your children with the characters, without diverting attention from the storyline.

On the first page, you can make the stone carver work harder by tapping him. Or tapping the clouds, on page four, will create a lightning flash. Tapping the horses will encourage them to pull harder.

"We realise that if it has small interactions, it's impressive," said Dr Ian Fenwick, creative coach at Woof Woof Studio. The story is told with text and narration in English, Thai or Chinese. There are no in-app purchases and all links out of the story are restricted to a child-protected parental page. The app is targeted at children aged between two and eight years and their parents.

All the animation programming is done by Thais, although the art director is in Canada and is someone who has broad experience in hte industry creating games for Disney and Electronic Arts.

Dr Fenwick noted that besides great fun, the app has been created with many interactive features for children to explore. The iPhone version will be complete in a month or two.

Apart from the languages already available, the developer will soon offer Stone-carver in Spanish; the plan is to add more and more new languages by allowing people to submit their own voice-overs.

"Children's stories are full of imagination and fun. The iPad is the ideal device and I want to take traditional storytelling and move it to new technology. I really think this is the future within the next decade with children," Dr Fenwick said.

Woof Woof is planning to develop more apps based on the same idea. They're now finishing The Dragon Dream, another traditional Chinese story where a boy and his poor mother finds a dragon pearl. The artwork is almost finished now.

Next in line is Things To Do: Before You Are Nine, an English-rhyming app. The design is to encourage children to fill in sentences through the help of the animated app and animal characters.

Stone-carver is available free for its initial launch, but the developer will charge US$4.99 (157 baht) later. The Android version will be available soon.

For more detail, suggested activities and freebies, visit the website

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