New Peter Pan iPad app is beautiful to read and view, thanks to artwork from legendary Disney artists
Apr 13, 2012 (The Orlando Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
For many of us adults who grew up before the days of Disney films on DVD and a 24-hour Disney Channel as close as the TV remote, there once was a shared experience in how we more readily enjoyed Disney stories.
There were motion pictures and TV shows, of course. But many Disney storylines of our youth came more often from illustrated books. And none, perhaps, are remembered more fondly today than the Little Golden editions that were filled with richly illustrated stories of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, Pinocchio and Bambi, Davy Crocket and Dumbo, and a host of other Disney titles.
In 1952, two longtime and influential Disney artists created a children's book that came out at about the same time as one of Disney's early classic films, "Peter Pan." John Hench and Al Dempster created a Peter Pan children's book for the Western Publishing Co., which along with Simon & Schuster Publishing created the Little Golden titles that filled the bookshelves in American kids' bedrooms in the 1950s, '60s and beyond.
The "Peter Pan" Hench and Dempster book was -- and remains -- a creative wonder with lush illustrations and a color palette that overwhelms the reader with a sense of awe that only childhood can engender. Jungle flora and fauna are cast not only in green but in vibrant yellow, purple and red. The ocean is iconic blue, of course, yet it glistens with the whitecaps of sunlit waves so brightly you almost have to squint when viewing them. On another page, Wendy walks the plank into a sunset that is as fireball orange as the danger that awaits her below. Clearly, the book is as fun to view as J.M. Barrie's story is to read.
Now, a newly released iOS app perfectly captures this same kind of colorful enchantment by lovingly and creatively using the same illustrations Hench and Dempster created both in print and for the iconic Disney film version of Peter Pan.
Hench provided color and styling for the Disney film, and Dempster was a background artist for the motion picture, too. But this is akin to saying Michelangelo provided some interior painting for the pope. Google both men's names, and you'll find an incredibly rich history of contributions that both men provided for Disney filmmaking and book illustration over a long course of Disney's history.
The new iOS app is called simply "Peter Pan." And that nonadorned title is telling in a fundamental way. After all, this reading app, which is available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, isn't designed like so many other e-books and smartphone app products today that take a well-known story and recast it to try to "reach" new audiences.
There's no retelling of the Barrie oeuvre to add story elements that aren't in the original. You'll find no alternative plotlines or newly introduced characters designed to appeal to specific demographics of readers or game-hungry app users, so neither vampire love nor zombie fear make an appearance in this otherwise modern creation.
What the app makers have done, instead, is to take an already wonderfully illustrated story and enhance it with an interactivity that takes nothing away from the story and the illustrations that were created half a century ago.
Like the illustrated children's book, the app tells the film version of Peter Pan, and takes readers into the familiar territory of Never Land and Skull Rock and the pirate-filled ocean around both. Wendy, John, Michael, Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys confront Captain Hook in a swashbuckling story that, though familiar to most, remains a joy to reread and, particularly, to share with young beginning readers, too. (The app is designed for readers age 3 to 6, but my 7-year-old daughter enjoyed it as much as other interactive apps on her iPod touch.)
Users of the "Peter Pan" app can choose how to proceed through the story. They can read along with a word-for-word narration or without. At various points in the story, interactive features offer additional surprises. Sound effects enhance the storyline at various points, too.
The app also features story illustrations that users can color, interactive puzzles and a memory matching game. Another highlight of the game is a simple yet addicting musical component that allows users to create simple but fun tunes on a "Pan" flute.
None of these aspects, though, take away from the simple joy of reading the story, viewing the Hench and Dempster illustrations, and letting imaginations soar.
The app is available for $3.99 at the App Store on iTunes. Other classic Disney stories -- Jungle Book, the Aristocrats and Bambi -- will be available later, too.
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