Friday, February 3, 2012

Why the new Disneyland Explorer iPad app is both brilliant and frustrating at the same time

Disney released two days ago their new iPad app called "Disneyland Explorer" and we'll have a closer look at it as there is more to say about this new iPad app than what you may have read on others sites.

First, the design and layouts are definitely brilliant, they did a superb job on these and visually the app is at the height of what you can expect for an app about the Disneyland Resort. That said, any Disneyland fan must be prepared to be disappointed with the features of the app simply because it's not an app that was done for Disneyland fans but more to advertise the park. The whole app is a huge Ad for the Disneyland Resort and as you will understand the target is obviously the families with young children.

Let's begin by the good part, the visuals. When you open the app you have first the title page - picture on top - and then you arrive directly on the Disneyland castle.

You also have a nice menu page on which you can choose and go directly to your favorite destination in DL or DCA.

You can take a spin around the whole resort, all you have to do is to swipe on the iPad screen. Again, the graphics are brilliant with some animated elements and all this is very enjoyable.

Have a better look at this with this Disney promo video.

Now, let's have a look at the interactivity part: when you stop on a destination. Whether it's a DL or DCA attraction, hotels or restaurants, either you'll be able to see a picture of the place, a (very) short movie, or a little game . If it is a picture, let's say for instance of the Pinocchio dark ride, the app will show you ONE picture of it. Not two or there, just one. C'mon guys, was it that difficult to give us the choice between at least 5 or 6 pics?

Sometime you can have an interesting pic like this one showing Mr Toad wild ride decor but mostly it's official marketing pictures that you probably have seen before.

Then, for some rides you will have a short film. And when i say short it's really short, i.e generally a video not more than one minute long. And most of the time it's the ride promotional video which you also have probably seen before and not specially interesting at the exception of those about Jungle Cruise or Indiana Jones Adventure which are also promo videos but are filmed with sepia color and a 1930's style.

The third possibility is the little games. Not all the rides have a little game but mostly major DL or DCA rides, i.e POTC, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, It's a Small World, Matterhorn, Star Tours, Tower of Terror, Soarin', World of Color, Art of Animation, Little Mermaid, Tower of Terror and the Castle Fireworks. Now, if you're more than 8 years old there is big chances that you will find the games not only simple but lame but that's normal as, as i have said, the app was designed for young children. Let's have a look at some of them: the one that goes with Pirates of Caribbean might look the coolest - you fire others ships with a cannon - but not only you will necessary win in less than five minutes but chances are that you won't play at it again as the game is not interesting enough - except if you're 6 years old, of course. And by the way the same kind of game was used on another Disney app released for the POTC movie early last year.

The game going with Splash Mountain is also simple - you have to send water on falling logs with bee hives...

...and the one for the Haunted Mansion is not really a game but invites you to play Grim Grinning Ghosts on an organ.

Now, the first time you discover these little games you'll probably think "oh, that's cool" but the truth is that you will have done all of them in less time than it took me to write this article. Others incredible mistakes can be find in the Star Tours and Soarin' games. In both you have to move your iPad to get closer to a California destination or a Star Wars planet and then a postcard with "Greetings from...the Death Star, Naboo, Hoth, etc..." will appear and you'll be able to send them by email to your friends. Even if we don't mention that Disney is using you to do more publicity for the attraction/resort there is a problem which could have been extremely simple to resolve and make each game not great but at least less lame: each "postcard" you'll get in the Star Tours or Soarin' games have all written "Greetings from...". Frankly, was it that difficult to change the text and have "Best Wishes from..." or anything else instead to have the same "Greetings from..." on EACH postcard. Someone has been lazy on this one...

You can also learn to draw characters in the game of the Art of Animation, create fireworks with a touch of your finger over Disneyland castle ( lot of apps are doing this effect and here the effect could have been done better ) and also "program" the sequence of World of Color and have the fountain "dancing".

However there is a simple but smart idea with the Matterhorn game. Basically you have to snap a picture of the elusive Abominable Snowman while you try to find him on the Matterhorn thanks to a binoculars effect. Now, when you succeed to see him clearly, you get the shot before he disappears and at the end of the game you 'll be able to send these "rare shots of the Abominable Snowman" to a friend. But what is happening is that the shots that appear on the email are blurred! And i think that's smart, because in the legend no one ever succeeded to take a clear shot of him, and so did you even if you have seen him clearly... So the world will still have to wait for a clear picture of the abominable snowman...

At California Adventure others games can be find for the Little Mermaid ride as well as Tower of Terror. It's not really games by the way but more an interactivity with what's on the screen. Nice graphics but not extremely interesting.

At Toon Town however, in Mickey's house, you'll find something that could have been great. You enter Mickey's home and you have the choice of eight old short animated Mickey cartoons. Looks pretty cool until you realize that the one embedded are SHORT versions of these already "short animated". That is to say that they've "cut" in their own cartoons, probably because the files weight was less heavy. But there is also, on most of them a real problem of definition as the definition is simply not good enough for the iPad screen, and you can see it. It's a pity because it would have been simple to do it perfectly.

I want to say one more thing about the hotels and downtown Disney sections as it is there that you will find one of the coolest feature. At the Disneyland Hotel you can have a look inside each of the new themed suites thanks to 360 degree pictures that allow you to look wherever you wish in the suite, and you can also zoom in the pic, etc... It's simple but here it's perfectly done.

So, why will you be frustrated by this app? Not because of the price as, good news, the app is free on the iTunes Appstore! But because of what it could have been if it had been done not only with talent but also with a bit of genius. Disney have tons of documents, renderings, pictures, etc... for each place of the parks, so they could have done easily an app which would have been extremely interesting for everyone, with Imagineers interview, artwork, model pictures, etc... Sure the app will have been even more heavy - the app weight already 429 Mb! - and probably not free, but personally i wouldn't mind to pay for an app which would include real interesting features.

But, again, the app was not designed for you or me but is simply and mostly a marketing product, and on this angle it's a brilliant one. But the "perfect" Disneyland App remain to be done.

App screen capture pictures: copyright Disney


Anonymous said...

Bingo. It wasn't done for you, it was done for a five-yr-old and her parents, to get her excited about going to Disneyland.

So why are you still complaining about it 1,000 words later?

Both targets would not have been served well with one app.

Alain Littaye said...

You're absolutely right, and i could have said only "This app was not made for you, Disneyland fan, so don't bother downloading it and think about something else" but that wouldn't have been a fair review for those who did the app as there is also some real good things in this app.

No, what really annoyed me is that they've been a bit lazy with the contents. They could have put more pictures or have the games a bit more interesting, even considering they were done for a five years old kid. But they'd preferred to stay more superficial and at the end it's only a sophisticated interactive marketing brochure, that's what it is.

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

I completely agree with you on this one Alain.

By the way, regarding the short cartoons, it's not only on this app that they cut it. I made the New Year cruise on the Disney magic this year, and there was a channel on the ship that showed only Disney classic cartoon shorts, and some of them were cut, and were showed under the "have a laugh" title, just like on this app, and I thought that it was the most stupid idea to cut 8 minutes cartoon shorts! On the DCL bus to and from the port, they also showed short versions of the shorts.

On the other hand, I bought your Disney Sea wallpaper app and was not disappointed; the pictures are beautiful!