What was the inspiration behind creating the Fun Town app?
My love of Richard Scarry books as a child. I’ve rediscovered these recently through having children of our own. In fact I was reading “What People do all Day” last night to my children. I love the immersive quality of the books. The attention to detail. The quirkiness – the bizarre details. And also there’s a huge amount of educational content in the books. Most importantly they’re so engaging.
So Fun Town is our attempt to recreate the sense of fun, wonder and engagement of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town. We’ve created a very distinct art style. Bold, colourful and quirky. We’ve tried to get as much educational content into Fun Town as possible through the mini-games. But most importantly its FUN. A child feels like they’re simply playing a fun game, but there’s subtle educational content running throughout Fun Town. Learning how to grow a flower for example, or sort the money in the bank. Even the unassuming creation of a hamburger in the restaurant in fact reinforces the principles of ordering.
How did your background as an Art Director affect how you designed Fun Town?
I’d say the most influential factor was the push towards creating an app of the highest quality. The film industry is all about pushing the boundaries of what’s presented on screen. In particular on big budget Hollywood features. Thousands of hours are spent conceptualising set designs, costumes, make up, the cinematography. We used the same ethos in creating Fun Town.
My process of set design in film is to create mood boards, sketches, coloured renderings, models and then the final set. We adopted a similar approach in the creation of Fun Town. Mood boards were created showing the style of illustration we’d like to adopt. I sketched many layouts of possible mini-games. Proto-type mini-games were quickly produced and tested. In fact we proto-typed the whole of Fun Town before finally creating the finished app.
Finally, my background as an Art Director obviously meant that the art style was extremely important to me. I spent many a fun hour sketching out designs for the characters and buildings of Fun Town. I love the 1950’s style of illustration and animation – in particular the cartoons of Hanna Barbera.
I read that you worked on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – what was one of your favorite scenes in the movie?
Well, I’m obviously bound to say the scenes in the Chocolate River room – since I was responsible for its design and execution! It was amazing to be given the opportunity to create a set on the fabled 007 stage at Pinewood – one the largest sound stages in the world. My work began with the design of the Pink Boat on the chocolate River – spending time making plasticine models of the boat with Tim Burton! Then the design and build of the exotic plants within the room – giant edible candy canes, toffee apple willow trees to name but a few. Finally the design and build of the set itself. It was a truly wonderful set. The size of 4 football pitches. With steep undulating candy grass slopes and a working waterfall churning 250,000 gallons of (fake!) chocolate into the river…
The Sorting Room always amuses me since I still can’t believe they trained REAL SQUIRRELS to sort the nuts! Its true – I saw it with my own eyes! They trained squirrels to select good nuts and throw away bad!
Any news you want to share with us?
Firstly we have a number of updates for “Fun Town” that we’ll be releasing over the coming weeks. Firstly we’re introducing more interaction into Main Street. More vehicles and characters. Cats, dogs, birds and mice! People popping out from behind windows. And many hidden features for your child to discover. We also have some additional shop/building mini-games to introduce – an Art Gallery and a Bakery are part of the first update, with more to follow….
Fun Town is the largest kids app we’ve produced to date. We’re extremely proud of it. We intend to use it as a template for future app releases – so there will be more apps in the Fun Town range…
Lastly we have some really “off-the-wall” ideas for kids apps. Some crazy left-field ideas that we’ve kept under wraps, but now we’re gaining confidence as developers and are building a loyal audience we may release in the near future. They’re a risk – people may think they’re bonkers! But life isn’t worth living without taking a few risks!
Thank you James for creating this fun town! I love the old-school design as well!