Disney has unveiled the new digital learning initiative Imagicademy, set to launch on December 11 as a suite of mobile educational apps for children.
The suite includes an app for parents to follow along, give their children a virtual high five, and discover a range of physical activities suggested to compliment the in-app lessons.
Disney has plans to release printed material and smart toys in the future.
“As you can see, it’s so much more than a set of digital apps — it’s about a brand,” said Andrew Sugarman, executive vice president of Disney Publishing Worldwide,. “It’s a comprehensive suite of connected experiences, all of which have been created with quality, attention to detail, and, yes, magic.”
Bob Chapek, president of Disney Consumer Products, discussed how when interviewed about existing learning apps, parents said they were cluttered and of inconsistent quality. Even when an app is found that both they and their kids enjoy, it is typically one-time use.
However, Imagicademy plans to offer a suite of 30 similar apps that cover a broad range of topics including math, creative arts, science, language arts and social skills. The company will release Mickey’s Magical Math World on iPad first, as well as the companion app for parents.
A demo of the math app and Mickey’s Magical World of Arts by Jeff Sellinger, senior vice president of Disney Learning, saw five different games included in each app. For example, one game has children assembling rockets while simultaneously learning about three-dimensional shapes.
The games were built with the help of a number of education experts. Doug Clements, an education professor at the University of Denver, discussed the importance of early math learning and how much more children will learn through “a playful approach.”
“Curriculum is not an easy thing to do it really well, particularly when you’re driving towards imagination and creativity,” Sellinger said. “So we were able to draw on some of it, but at some point you have to dive into the fire.”
The smart toy could look like a plush Mickey Mouse, but plans include designing a toy that can hold a basic conversation with children as well as the ability to respond to their in-app actions.
There is currently no demo for the toy, which is supposed to launch in the back-to-school season of 2015, although Sellinger said the toy was “much further along than you would think, given the timeframe.”
The apps will be available for free, with users asked to pay a one-time fee of $4.99 for each game within the app after a “pretty deep” experience playing the game, or $19.99 for all five.
While the target age group for the apps is three-to-five year olds, there are plans for additional apps for six-to-eight year olds, as well as incorporating other brands such as Star Wars and Marvel.