FIRST LOOK: Disney Creativity Studio for iPad Hands-On Review

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With Apple’s iPad dominating the tablet population, it’s small wonder that the emerging ‘apptivity’ market has becoming increasingly competitive at an exponential rate with companies chomping at the bit to develop creative and enticing physical objects to provide additional interactivity with the iPad and its apps. Already a pioneer in the field with its Cars app and toys, Disney is once again looking to set the bar, this time with the Disney Creative Studio by eKids.

The ‘appcessory’ included here is the stylus which allows children (of all ages) to use the iPad screen as a drawing surface. Using the stylus with the app, artists are able to engage in various activities featuring their favorite Disney toons which includes learning to draw them with guidance from actual Disney character artists. Much like the popular ‘Animation Academy’ at Disneyland’s Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney World’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios, an introduction (here provided via embedded video by master character artist John Quinn) talks about being an artist and how it’s okay. However, unlike its theme park counterpart, this stylus includes a virtual eraser along with a host of other tools. Clicking the eraser cycles through the tools which includes various brushes and a stamp tool, while a rocker switch on the stylus itself helps determine the thickness of the brush. Selections are immediately displayed on screen in the app, so there’s no confusion.

Using the stylus itself is as simple as it gets: press and drag to draw, press any one of the dozens of available colors to select it, or flip the stylus over and use it as an eraser (there’s also an undo/redo button on-screen). The stylus also has a special mode in which the brush magically cycles through rainbow colors as you draw — this mode is engaged by shaking the stylus.

In addition to the character drawing lessons, the app includes other activities such as coloring, connect-the-dots and tracing, as well as a blank canvas mode if you’re inspired to go at it on your own. Creations are automatically saved and can be emailed at the press of a button to all of your adoring fans.

Below is a video demoing some of its features as well as some photos of the app and stylus in action:

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Having played with Disney Creative Studio myself, I was greatly impressed with what it has to offer and found the stylus very comfortable and natural to use. The stylus uses audio cues to interact with the app and, as you can tell from the video above, appears to work pretty well even in extremely noisy environments. Because of the nature of how it works, at launch time, multiple styluses are advised to be kept at least five feet away from each other, but I am told that a free software update coming down the pipeline will fix that so they can operate independently even when two iPads are being used right next to each other. Updates also promise to add additional features including the ability to automatically remove the guide lines when using the learn to draw feature.

Disney Creativity Studio will be available for purchase beginning November 1, exclusively through Apple Stores and will retail for $49.99 which includes the stylus (either Mickey or Disney Princess designs), a carrying case and a code to download the app for free (regularly $3.99). The app will be available as a standalone purchase and is completely usable in all of the activities, but will lack most of the special features afforded by the stylus. As an added bonus, Disney will be updating its free PIXEL’D app to incorporate being able to use the stylus. At launch time, the app will contain only Mickey Mouse-inspired activities but future updates will introduce additional content from other Disney franchises.


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