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Pixel'd: app of the day
What is it?
Disney's new drawing and animation app, which wants to help children and adults alike create their own pixel-art masterpieces featuring the company's characters.
A Buddy Draw mode lets two people draw at once on the same canvas, connecting wirelessly using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
iPhone / iPad - Free
Disney has released dozens of apps in recent years, from storybooks based on its classic films through to games with brand new characters like Where's My Water. Now it's trying something different again: drawing and animation.
Pixel'd appeared on the App Store with little fanfare, but it's perhaps the most intriguing app that the company has ever released.
"Pixel art, 8-bit, sprites...whatever you call it, create it with Disney Pixel'd," explains its App Store listing. That's an app for drawing in pixels, turning them into 20-frame animations, and sharing them with friends via various social networks.
Something super-simple for kids to play with? Not quite: Pixel'd is actually a pretty powerful tool with a light dusting of Photoshop-esque features, including three drawing layers on its canvas, which you can pinch-zoom in and out of at will.
Besides drawing whatever you like, you can paste in pattern-fills and characters from Disney's catalogue. The initial download includes Mickey and a few friends (Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy etc), as well as some stars from Cars, a smattering of Disney Princesses, some 'Vintage Mickey' black and white stamps, and characters from Bolt.
Each category can be boosted by buying expansion packs: 69p each or £1.99 for all five. There's a decent amount of stuff to play with in the free download, rather than the app trying to make you pay straight away - a good thing.
The app's interface is well-designed, with tapping and dragging moving you neatly between options and animation steps. also impressive is the Buddy Draw feature to draw with a friend, connecting via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Pixel'd also uses iCloud to keep your artworks synchronised across your iOS devices, while its sharing features include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, as well as email, and the ability to export animations as MP4 or animated GIF files.
Pixel'd is innovative, then. It's also pretty brave on Disney's part, given the ability to draw whatever you like - rather than be restricted to moving character stamps around on digital backgrounds.
Why brave? It's ripe for subversion. If you want to slap a grinning Mickey Mouse face onto a background of swastikas, or make a Disney Princess do something unladylike, then share it on Twitter or YouTube, you can. It will be interesting to see what approach Disney takes towards this sort of content, if and when it appears.
Still, Pixel'd is good fun. It's a little too complicated for young children to use - a stickerbook-style app with much simpler controls would be more suitable for that age group.
In fact, I'm not entirely sure who it's for: graphic designers who love Disney? Pixel'd will need to find an audience, but if it does, the results should be creative and interesting.