Disney's Animated Storybook

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Disney's Animated Storybook
Disney's Animated Storybook.jpeg
The logo for the series
Genres Point-and-click, interactive storybook
Developers Media Station, Inc. Interactive Family Entertainment
Publishers Disney Interactive
Creators Marc Teren
Platforms Windows, Macintosh
First release The Lion King
November 1994
Latest release Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too
April 1999

Disney's Animated Storybook (stylized as Disney's Animated StoryBook and subtitled A Story Waiting For You To Make It Happen) is a series of point-and-click interactive storybooks developed by Media Station and published by Disney Interactive for personal computers (Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh) for young children ages 4–8 years old, beginning in 1994.[1] The games included both Disney and Pixar licenses. They have the same plots as their respective movies, albeit abridged due to the limited medium. The series is also known as Disney's Story Studio.[2]

Titles[edit]

Title Release Date Notes
Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King November 18, 1994[3][4] Released to compete with Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds;[citation needed] based on the 1994 film The Lion King
Disney's Animated Storybook: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree August 28, 1995[4] Based on the 1966 featurette Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree; first of two entries based on segments of the 1977 film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Disney's Animated Storybook: Pocahontas December 1, 1995[5] Based on the 1995 film Pocahontas
Disney's Animated Storybook: Toy Story April 24, 1996[6] Based on the 1995 computer-animated film Toy Story; the only entry based on a Pixar film
Disney's Animated Storybook: The Hunchback of Notre Dame November 11, 1996[5] Released to compete with Schoolhouse Rock! America Rock;[citation needed] based on the 1996 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney's Animated Storybook: 101 Dalmatians March 18, 1997[7] Released to compete with Logic Quest 3D[citation needed] and to promote to the 1996 live-action remake of the 1961 animated film the game's based on; the only non-Winnie the Pooh-related entry based on a film released before the Disney Renaissance
Disney's Animated Storybook: Hercules July 27, 1997[8] Based on the 1997 film Hercules
Ariel's Story Studio (a.k.a. Disney's Animated Storybook: The Little Mermaid) December 5, 1997[9] Released to compete with Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok[10] and to promote the 1997 re-release of the 1989 film the game's based on
Disney's Animated Storybook: Mulan (a.k.a. Disney's Story Studio: Mulan) September 14, 1998[11] Based on the 1998 film Mulan; the only entry that was also released for a home console (PlayStation)
Disney's Animated Storybook: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too April 30, 1999[5][12] Based on the 1974 featurette Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too; second of two entries based on segments of the 1977 film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

History[edit]

Conception[edit]

The vision of Marc Teren, vice president of Disney Interactive's entertainment division, was to create games with a "true and fair representation of the original property",[4] while aiming to capitalise on "ancillary products to successful theatrical and home video releases".[13] To achieve these ends, this series was conceived; Teren helped ensure the games were animated by Disney animators.[4] From December 1994 to February 1995, the company had hired 50 new employees.[14] Children's Business suggests the series came into fruition because in the contemporary entertainment market, it was "customary now for entertainment companies to release CD-ROMs to support a film or TV show".[15]

The Lion King was the very first film to be given an "interactive story life".[16]Disney Stories: Getting to Digital said that in the early days of Disney Interactive, the Storybook games were outsourced to third-party developers.[16] According to Business Wire, Media Station, a company that produced and designed interactive CD-ROM entertainment, was the developer of the series.[17] In Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King, Terem's team "worked hand in hand with the group in feature animation", while the film's directors and producers worked with the games' designers and artists.[4]

Development[edit]

Disney and Media Station collaborated to create more than 12,000 frames of digital animation for each game, as well as 300 music and vocal clips. Digital music and sound effects were composed, orchestrated, arranged, edited, mixed and synchronized at Media Station.[17] For The Lion King, Media Station contributed 7000 new frames of animation while Disney animators contributed 5000.[18] WinToon, which Media Station had previously developed for Microsoft, aided the projects by "reduc[ing] the amount of data actually required for larger animation playback".[17] Creative Capers provided background art and animation for various titles within the series.[19] While the majority of the storybooks were in a traditional animation style, the one for Toy Story used CGI graphics in order to have the "3-D animation and unique look" of the movie.[20] Pixar animated the Toy Story game, which included around 80 percent new artwork.[21]

The games were generally created on very tight budgets and had tight schedules.[clarification needed] Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King was released "an astonishingly short six months after the movie's release, just prior to Christmas".[16] Winnie The Pooh and Tigger Too was also "rushed out", according to Birmingham Evening Mail, due to its release schedule being brought forward.[12] Teren oversaw development of the series,[22] while Debra Streicker-Fine, head of the marketing department for Disney Software, worked on the launch of titles within the series.[23] When The Lion King was released in Christmas 1994, hundreds of families experienced issues with running the game, and were disgruntled because Disney's technical support team were unavailable.[24]

The games had hundreds of clickable hotspots that produced animated gags, as well as many mind-challenging interactive games.[25] The voice cast sometimes consisted of actors from the films reprising their roles; for instance Toy Story featured Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Annie Potts as Bo-Peep and Jim Varney as Slinky Dog.[26] Kevin Kline, Demi Moore, Jason Alexander and Tom Hulce also reprised their roles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.[27][28][29] Meanwhile, at other times voice sound-alikes were used; for instance in Toy Story Jim Hanks, Tom Hanks' brother, provided the voice of Woody.[30] The Lion King was narrated by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor James Avery,[31] while Toy Story is narrated by Cheers actor John Ratzenberger, who plays Hamm in the film.[26]

Pixar subsidiary The Interactive Products Group, with a staff of 95, created The Toy Story Animated StoryBook and The Toy Story Activity Center in 1996 under intense time pressure, to meet the VHS release date for Toy Story. Between the two products, the group had created as much original animation as there was in Toy Story itself. While Steve Jobs thought the games would sell 10 million copies on par with the sales figures of successful direct-to-video releases, Pixar employee Pam Kerwin thought the games would be financially successful but not a runaway hit like the film as the market hadn't reached that scale. At the time Pixar wanted to continue work on Toy Story 2, but the entire studio only had 300 people: 200 working on A Bug's Life and 100 at the new The Interactive Products Group division for interactive media. Therefore Jobs made the decision to shut down the computer games operation and the staff became the initial core of the Toy Story 2 production team.[32][33]

In February 1996, following the success of the first three titles in the series, Disney Interactive planned to develop 23 new foreign-language versions of the games.[34] In July 1997, Disney Interactive announced they would be launching Spanish-language versions of many of its titles in US and Puerto Rico in an effort to penetrate the Hispanic market; the games would begin sale that November in traditional retail, Hispanic shops, and through Hispanic exclusive distributors.[35][36] These included: El Rey Leon (The Lion King), Pocahontas, Winnie Puh y el Arbol De La Miel (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree), 101 Dalmatas (101 Dalmatians), Hercules, and La Sirenita (The Little Mermaid).[37] This was the first time the company had made Spanish-language versions of its edutainment titles, following in the suit of its history of dubbing films into Spanish and other languages. Disney Interactive president Jan Smith expressed joy with Disney Interactive offering "Hispanic parents and kids the chance to experience interactive entertainment within the context of their own culture."[38]

In 1998, Disney signed a deal with Apple which meant Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree would be sold for the iMac.[39][40] On November 3, 1999, Business Wire revealed that Mulan was the first title to be released as the result of then-recent license agreements between Disney and NewKidCo International.[41]

Release[edit]

Every Animated Storybook title was released on CD in plastic jewel cases enclosed in cardboard boxes with the instructions. In 2001, a compilation of three CDs titled Disney's Classic Animated StoryBook Collection was released consisting of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, 101 Dalmatians and Toy Story.[42]

In 1997, Disney had re-released The Little Mermaid as "counter-programming" to Fox's animated film Anastasia, which was set to be released at the same time. The two studios were "scrambling to mine every potential dollar from their investment and make sure neither outdoes the other", so also butted heads in the video gaming space. Ariel's Story Studio competed against Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok.[10] Joseph Adney, Disney Interactive's marketing director, said, "What we're trying to do is go way beyond the movie by providing for the child to direct it".[10]

Promotion[edit]

The games had a variety is distribution methods, including being made available through retail outlets, mass merchants, software and specialty stores, and mail order catalogues.[43][44] The Lion King was included in the Sound Blaster Disney bundle, along with Disney's The Lion King Print Studio and Disney's The Lion King Screen Scenes.[45] The Mirror held a Dalmatian Competition in 1997, in which they would give away 10 free copies of 101 Dalmatians to the winners.[46] Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was demonstrated at the 1995 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Meeting Room No. M-6314, South 6 Annex.[47] The game's release was part of a year-long, company-wide celebration of Disney's Winnie the Pooh franchise, which included cross-promotion with Disney Interactive, Disney Licensing, Buena Vista Home Video, Walt Disney Records and Disney Press.[44] Purchases of Toddler, Preschool, or Kindergarted Winnie the Pooh video games resultied in a free copy of Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.[48] The game was part of a "comprehensive advertising campaign in trade and consumer publications targeting family and home PC audiences".[44] Sunday Mirror and Nestle offered tickets for a free demo CD of the game; customers had to collect two tickets and pick up the CD from Tesco branches.[49] Disney created a "multimillion-dollar marketing blitz" to promote Toy Story, which included the "unchartered approach" of airing two television advertisements in 25 major markets.[50] A playable demo of Hercules was featured in the 1997 Electronic Entertainment Expo.[51] In 1998, a game in the series was included in an iMac software bundle.[52] In 1998, Mega offered five free copies of Mulan and Mulan's Print Studio each in a promotion.[53] Winnie-the-Pooh & Tigger Too was released in retail stores on February 23, 1999, the same day as Sing a Song With Pooh Bear.[54] The A List condicted a promotion through The Mirror where they would give away 10 copies of the program.[2][55][56] In 2001, various entries within the series were repackaged with Ariel's Story Studio in Disney's Animated Storybook Collection: Volumes 1 and 2.[57] On March 1, 2002, Disney dropped the price of Winnie-the-Pooh & Tigger Too to just 9.99 pounds.[58]

Gameplay[edit]

The games are within the adventure gaming genre and as such use a point-and-click interface. There are a series of icons that the mouse turns into when it runs over hotspots, depending on how one can interact with them. This can include interactions like a minigame, song or animation. The method of going from page to page is often creative and unique to the storybook; for example, in Disney's 101 Dalmatians Animated Storybook there are a series of inked feet leading to the exit (a reference to when the dogs roll in soot to evade Cruella De Ville).

Commercial success[edit]

By February 18, 1995, Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King had sold more than 200,000 since its November 1994 release."[4] Eventually, the title sold 400,000 copies.[24] The Lion King became the top selling children's title in both 1994 and 1995.[59] Winnie the Pooh In the Honey Tree was the 3rd most popular title in the Macintosh category, sold across seven Software Etc. stores in the Washington area in the week ending December 28, 1996.[60] Together, The Lion King and a Winnie the Pooh title grossed between $1 million and $2 million in the fourth quarter of 1994.[61] NewMedia's bestseller list of CD-ROM titles found The Lion King to be the fourth best-selling title in April and May, 1995.[62] According to PC Data data released in November 1995, The Lion King had the 8th highest retail penetration, being featured in at least three-quarters of 16 major chains.[63] Pocahantas and Winnie the Pooh In the Honey Tree were the 2nd and 5th most popular titles in the Macintosh category sold by 11 Software Etc. stores in the Washington area in the week ending February 3, 1996,[64] and 10th and 2nd in the Macintosh category sold by 10 Software Etc. stores in the Washington area in the week ending March 30, respectively.[65] From January to April 1996, these two games were ranked among the top three titles in the Education category, according to PC Data.[66] On May 13, 1996, PR Newswire reported that in the three weeks since the release of Disney's Animated Storybook: Toy Story, the game had sold more than 100,000 copies at retail.[59] The same day, Pocahontas was named the second-highest selling title in the Macintosh category sold by 10 Software Etc. stores in the Washington area in the week that ended May 4, after Myst.[67] Revenues from Toy Story were included in Pixar's second quarter financial report.[68] In the week ending August 10, 1996, the animated storybooks of Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh In the Honey Tree Disney, and Pocahontas were the 5th, 6th, and 7th most popular titles in the education category sold by seven Software Etc. stores in the Washington area, respectively.[69] Disney's Animated Storybook: Toy Story was the best selling software title of 1996, selling over 500,000 copies.[70] The 1996 games Toy Story Animated Storybook and Toy Story Activity Center had a combined sales total of around one million units by March 31, 1997.[71] Two games (1st and 10th) were best sellers in the DOS/Windows category in the first half of 1997, while two (2nd and 5th) were best sellers in the Mascintosh category.[72] The Hunchback of Notre Dame was among the top-10-selling children's animated CD-ROM titles for 1997.[73] Hercules was the best selling educational title of 1997.[74] Ariel's Story Studio was the 10th top-selling home education program across nine retail chains (representing more than 40 percent of the U.S. market) in the week ending January 31, 1998.[75] According to PC Data of Reston, Mulan Animated Storybook Disney was the top-selling home education software at 11 software retail chains, representing 47 percent of the U.S. market, for the week ending July 25.[76]

Critical reception[edit]

The first full-length Disney animated film to be adapted into an adventure game was The Black Cauldron; it wasn't until Disney's Animated Storybook that Disney achieved a "stunning visual quality" that was comparable to the theatrical films, according to Disney Stories: Getting to Digital.[77] The Exceptional Parent recommended the series due to allowed parents to "develop [their] child's interest in words and reading".[78] Computer Shopper favourably compared the series to Living Books' Arthur's Reading Race, saying the activities in the former were "purely entertaining".[79] Daily News thought the series was "terrific".[80] The Boston Herald thought the games were "beautifully produced", though did not consider them edutainment.[81] Three of the games were featured in The New York Times Guide to the Best Children's Videos.[82][83] Daily Herald thought the series was a "tried-and-true formula".[84] Daily Record praised Disney's creation of quality software in an untapped market, writing that through this series, the company "manages to home in on a niche market others tend to ignore - the ankle-biters who can work a keyboard and mouse as efficiently as a rattle or a spinning top".[85]

See also[edit]

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Further reading[edit]