Classes for Monsters University are enrolling this summer and we can’t wait for the first day of school. While counting down the minutes, we started playing around with the Monsters University Storybook Deluxe app to pass the time. We asked Mike Zagari, a Senior Producer on the Disney Publishing Worldwide Digital Media team, to give us some insight into the making of – and the story behind – the app.
The Monsters University Storybook Deluxe app was released in the iTunes store yesterday. Tell us more about how the Monsters digital initiative began.
The Monsters digital initiative began with the release of the Monsters, Inc. Storybook app last year. This is when we first started working closely with the Monsters filmmakers, mainly Kelsey Mann and Ricky Nierva. All of our storybook apps initially start with our core publishing team, who create physical storybooks based on our films. That core product incorporates beautiful illustrations and the essence of a film’s story, which is then adapted further to extend the experience to the digital and interactive space.
The app is a multimedia product with the assembly of many parts: prose, illustration, music, animation, interactive activities, game play and more. It combines the flow of the film with the pacing of a book, along with the fun and interactive elements of video games to create an immersive reading experience.
You mentioned working closely with the Pixar filmmakers and their influence on the storybook app. Can you elaborate further and describe how they have affected its outcome?
The filmmakers are so close to the material that the flow of our digital product is something that they can help shape. They help us maintain the correct look and feel of the Monsters world, as well as ensure that the characters stay true to their personas so that we can focus on the other part of the user experience – ensuring engagement and immersion. Another major contribution from the filmmakers is making sure that the humor and wit, as well as the emotional mounts, truly shine through in our app. Above all, Pixar is known for its high standards of storytelling and animation, and the filmmakers hold our app to the same level.
There’s a big difference between telling a story in a film and telling a story in an app. What are some of the steps you’ve taken to adapt this story digitally?
A film is a succession of moments in which case the filmmaker has complete control over. You experience a movie in real time, and there is no opportunity for input or output from the viewer. In a physical book, you have complete control over the pacing of a story. A digital storybook takes these two mediums and puts them together in a way that gives the reader control over the pace, but still allows them to experience the robust aspects that filmmakers rely on to enhance the experience.
What were your favorite parts of creating this app? Any hidden gems or easter eggs, like in the films?
I love being able to introduce the world of Monsters to a new audience through an immersive reading experience, leveraging the evolving digital space. Having the ability to implement video clips within the app that really captured the humorous and emotional moments from the film was a big part of that.
One of the most exciting parts of this, for me personally, is thinking about how an app could be a family’s first entry point into a movie or a Disney•Pixar story. You become immersed in the story through activities such as creating your own Monsters University ID badge or participating in the official Scare Game competitions.
As for Easter eggs, you can unlock unique Scare Cards and character ID badges featuring official Monster Scarers throughout the app. I won’t elaborate too much as you’ll have to figure it out for yourselves! (But here’s a hint… compete in the Scare Games.)
The Monsters University Storybook brings a new level of interactivity to the app experience. Tell us more about this and how the Digital Media team is making strides in the digital space.
Our team takes cutting edge technology and combines it with Disney•Pixar’s storytelling expertise to create something new and exciting and bring it to the next level. Having the chance to give users this experience on handheld devices allows us to recreate this magic anywhere and everywhere, which brings the user closer to the characters and stories they love. We strive to create engaging product that fuels imagination and creativity, while immersing you into the stories and characters you know and love!
You can get ready for the school year at MU by downloading the app for your iPhone and iPad.