Cartoon Creator: a great introduction to animation in an app

Remember flip books? Get a stack of paper and draw something on the first page. On the next page, draw just about the same thing moved slightly, repeat until you run out of paper. Staple the pile together, flip through the pages and if you did it right, your drawings move like an animated cartoon. That, in a few words, is the basis of movement in all animation and motion pictures. When you go to the movies, the projector displays 24 frames per second giving the illusion of movement.

Flip books used to come in Cracker Jack boxes, be sold in stores, and steal hundreds of hours of kids lives who were taken with the idea and who made lots and lots of them. I was one of those kids.

Well, there's an app for that. Cartoon Creator [iTunes link] is a fun app that makes flip books on your iPhone or iPod touch running OS 3.0 or later. Choose a pen and a color and go to work. Draw something on page, click the empty face button and an overlay drops over your first page allowing you to see what you did but also letting you draw a slightly moved version. Wash, rinse and repeat until you have a full animation that will play back at any speed you determine.

The app has some very nice options, like three different pens, each with a thinner or thicker line, lots of colors to choose from, and a bunch of cartoonish sounds that you can attribute to any page. If you are creating an animation of a brick being thrown through a window, why not assign a glass breaking sound to the page where the brick hits the glass?

In addition, and this is something near and dear to my heart, it does anaglyph 3D, (red and cyan) with the appropriate glasses. This works remarkably well. The app gives you the ability to draw on three planes. Along with regular drawing that appears on the plane of the screen, you can draw behind the screen and in front of the screen as well. After digging out my anaglyph glasses, I found this to be some of the best anaglyph 3D I remember seeing. The image is sharp, clear and very dimensional.

This is a really nice app, and a great introduction to animation and 3D. It would be perfect for kids. My flip book period took most of my ninth year. It would also be great if you can actually draw. I have absolutely no talent in this area.

When you run the app, you are presented with a an uninviting lined screen titled 'Cartoons.' Big detriment there, but the web site provides full instructions on how to use the app. This is a problem I've seen with many apps. Load it and then what? At the very least having a link to the site would be a help.

Another problem with the app is that you can't delete anything but a particular page. If you are a screw-up like me and want to delete an entire animation, you can't. Any time you start an animation, an entry named Untitled appears and you can't get rid of it. That may not seem like much of an oversight to someone who can draw, but it's me reviewing this app and a delete option would get more use than anything else.

These two slights are minor and I'm sure can, and hopefully will, be fixed in a an update. As it stands now, it's a fun app, does great 3D, can waste countless hours and might even teach kids about animation.

At $.99US it's worth the money and at the same time you'll get to feel good about yourself when you think of all the trees you're saving.