Disney Princess: Charmed Adventures
Explore worlds, play fun games, and discover new charms.
When Disney Publishing asked us to help build an app to celebrate the strength and resilience of the Disney Princesses, we were thrilled. We’re always happy for a chance to continue our longstanding partnership — 20 apps, in 155 countries and 8 languages, and counting! And it was a chance for us to re-imagine the princesses in a new light.
The vision was to create scrollable 2D kingdoms for children to explore freely as the princess of their choice. The challenge would be to let users navigate through various settings, while encountering friends along the way, all within the context of the story. We also integrated mini-games into the stories and kingdoms, to reward children with charms. Children can collect charms and use them to decorate their own charm bracelets.
Designing with Disney
Weaving the assets together into an immersive world . . . was the challenge.
Our teams follow an Agile methodology, so we created working iterations of the app every two weeks, after which we would re-prioritize the objectives for the following iteration. Designers integrated assets provided to us by Disney to create and refine the characters, settings, landscapes, and props. And our animators gave them the motion and gestures needed to come to life.
It is always a bit magical to receive assets from Disney’s animation studio, and this was no different. Weaving the assets together into an immersive world that follows a narrative with adventures and obstacles was the challenge.
Each kingdom includes four sections and the story determines the order in which the children encounters them. Day to night transitions proved particularly difficult. Tiana, for example, needed to arrive at her restaurant at dusk and move toward a night scene of characters having a meal by a jazz band playing under a gazebo, with fireworks overhead.
Stitching these scenes together seamlessly while transitioning the sky’s hue from late afternoon to night was well worth the extra effort, as it renders beautifully.
Create. Observe. Iterate.
Our teams prioritize the user at every step, letting context and behavior direct their decisions. Princess Adventures is targeted to a younger audience than we are typically used to in our Disney projects, so it was important to get some form of the app into the hands of kids and observe the interactions.
At first, children struggled with finding the mini-games we had embedded throughout the kingdoms. And once they did, they didn’t know quite what to do with them. We needed to provide a guide for these young players. After testing a few different ideas, we optimized the way that we highlighted the mini-games, and it made a dramatic improvement in usability.
Using the Unity game engine to create immersive 2D worlds with parallax scrolling, in the service of strong, independent princess storylines, Charmed Adventures was one of our most challenging and rewarding collaborations with Disney to date. We look forward to more magic and adventures ahead.