Sam Jordison (and his daughter) on a Winnie the Pooh app from Egmont, from the Guardian books blog:
Egmont have attempted to mix minimally animated versions of EH Shepard’s original illustrations with music, sounds and a shortened version of AA Milne’s story (which you can read for yourself, or have read aloud). The rationale behind this is alarming. Kristian Knak, lead user experience designer at Egmont, told Metro: “The attention span and patience of today’s children is obviously different than in 1926. If children are not engaged in the storytelling almost instantly, they’ll just move on to the next app. On one hand, we really want to preserve the integrity of the original work by Milne and Shepard, but on the other hand, when you want to reach out to children you need to adapt the storytelling, you need to enhance it.”
He says “enhance”, I say “ruin”. The animations (which you press to set running) get in the way of the words. The words get in the way of finding and pressing the next animation. It wasn’t quite a book, it wasn’t quite a cartoon, it wasn’t quite a game. But it was quite boring.
Admittedly, I’m not the target audience. I am not – alas – one of today’s children. But my five-year-old daughter is – so I gave her the app to see what she made of it. At first she looked very pleased. She listened to the story, she enjoyed the EH Shepard pictures, which are, after all, beautiful. But as soon as she worked out that you could make the pictures move she became distracted. Then she became annoyed that she couldn’t make the animations do more. Then she started to express frustration that she had to push through the text to get to the next pictures. Then she started skipping. Then she lost track of the story. Then, within five minutes of first opening the app, she got to the end.
“You can delete it now Daddy,” she said.
“Don’t you want to look at it again?”
So much for the digital revolution.
It could be argued that my daughter had proved the point about today’s children and their short attention spans – but if you put a distracting animation in front of her, she’s of course going to try to find out what it does. If you sit down and actually read Winnie the Pooh to her, from the page, she loves it. And I’d bet that most of her five-year-old contemporaries would have the same reaction. These stories and pictures have been enchanting kids for almost 100-years. They ain’t broken. There’s no need to fix them.