Oh for a book and a shady nook...
-- John WilsonSomething wonderful has happened.
Comics theory guru Scott McCloud wrote that it's a mistake in digital comics to animate them, because they are no longer a comic, but just a competitor for video, and they can't win.
Now that sounds very sound to me. But something has just happened to make me re-think it. Admittedly it has not happened in comics, but in picture books, but I think these principles should be very similar.
Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross, I got very interested, and quick. I bought it as quick as my little feet could carry me over to the app store, and virtually hyper-ventilated while it downloaded.
And I was not disappointed. This is just amazing. You know me, I don't gush often, but now I must. The story... well, it hardly needs a story when it's presented so well. And I haven't even finished reading it yet, but the story is good. The voice-over is perfect. And the drawings and the animations... well, they are just outstanding, both from an entertainment viewpoint and from an artistic viewpoint. I love 'em.
It has many neat touches. For example, on one page, with a moving rocking chair, the crow walks past, but it walks across the page, seen from above, not across the scenery. And very well done too, both the scene and the "page" and crow seem very real at the same time.
If these folks can keep up this quality in future books, not only do they have a customer for life in me, but I also predict that this company will become the Pixar of animated e-books.
Now the questions about how this differs from a simple animated video, and the pros and cons of the two media, are many and big, and deserves a whole book of its own. But somehow I feel that it still manages to be a book. It's a much more interactive experience than just watching a video.
And I apologize to all those who are just sick of hearing about the gold-durn iPad, but I must say it: this could not happen on anything else than an iPad. This is a new medium, and the medium is off to a flying start.
In the app, as you might expect, you can turn off the voice-over to read yourself or have a child read it. (If I had made the video, I would have featured this too.)
Update: the man behind this app, Matthew Talbot-Kelly, (who happens to also be the one interviewed in my next post, I didn't realize) wrote to me. A detail he told me that I didn't know is that the app is so three-D that it can, and does, change views on the same scenes when you reboot the app! Frig, it's a whole 3D app running, it's not rendered views. [Update: I stand corrected: Mr. Talbot-Kelly tells me that it is in fact pre-rendered, only with different views created.]
Matthew also told me that the art is based on drawings made for the purpose by Irish illustrator Alan Clarke. I think those drawings are what I like the most about the book, they are just so alive, and so seminal. Although to me they seem superior to what else I have seen of his work, so perhaps the other collaborators had a lot of influence on the art.