If you’ve been on Facebook over the last few days, you may have noticed that your Newsfeed is now inundated with cartoon comic strips about your friends. At first, I thought my old college buddy had suddenly become very artistic, but as more and more people began posting the images, I started to wonder what the deal was.
It turns out that the images are from a Facebook mobile app called Bitstrips. It allows users to customize an avatar, choose a scene and then add text to the bottom. (Check out my first attempt on the right!) You can also select a Facebook friend (or your child, if she has an account) to appear in the scene with you. And of course, once you’re done, you can share on your social media accounts. New background images are added every day, so it’s no wonder my friends have been so busy lately.
Bitstrips actually launched on Facebook back in December 2012, but thanks to its recent releases of iPhone and Android apps, it is now seeing a massive surge in popularity. Currently, it is the top free app in the iTunes store, and when I first went to check it out, the site was unavailable due to “unprecedented user growth.” According to the official Twitter account, the team is working hard on fixing the program so it will be available on all platforms again. Still, the delays and crashes do not seem to be deterring users. (FYI, if you’re receiving error messages on the website, you may want to try the phone app instead, as it seems to still be running.)
Have you tried Bitstrips yet? Let us know what you think in the comments!
It’s a sad truth that animated movies rarely focus on an entire family, but The Croods is working to fix that. If you missed it in theaters back in March, the film is about a family of cavemen (and women), who face change and search for a new home in prehistoric times. The fun feature—which is now available on DVD—stars the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds.
We caught up with co-director (and father of two infant twins) Kirk DeMicco to get his take on kids’ movies:
Is there a particular message you want children to take away from the movie?
The characters are very pure of heart, especially the father, Grug. I felt like he was just afraid of anything happening to his family. It came from a very good place, even if to his children, it seems like he was wrong. The idea is that parents and children need to keep the lines of communication open.
How have families received The Croods?
It’s been really cool to watch our movie around the world. This is a story about a family and it transcends different cultures. There’s nothing outwardly American about it, so everyone could relate. In Italy, they’d say, “This must be an Italian family because the grandma is there.” And then the Spanish people would say, “This must be a Spanish family because the mother-in-law is there.” And so it was really interesting to see how many cultures took it on as their own, saying “Oh, that’s us.”
Your movie focuses on a whole family, but most animated kids’ movies only have one parent, if any. Why do you think this is the case?
We have a theory that there are often no moms because these movies are always about characters making giant mistakes, so they can learn a lesson in the end. The problem is, a mom would be like “Yeah, don’t run away.” And then the character would realize it was really stupid and then there would be no movie.
What are your favorite animated movies or TV shows?
As a kid, I loved the Charlie Brown episodes. I love how those stories never talked down to kids. They were just kids going through pretty profound situations and having big thoughts about life. Plus, the fact that the animation is not perfect makes it really charming. You see mistakes and it feels handmade, like you could see people working on it. Now, movies are so polished. It’s the little imperfections that bring charm sometimes.
We are excited to announce that Twentieth Century Fox is letting us give away a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of The Croods to five of our readers! To enter, just leave a comment on this post. You can comment once a day between now and the end of the day on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. You can also read the official rules. Goody luck!
Update: The contest is now closed. Congratulations to our winners: Nicole Amorosi Rollins, Bonnie Leigh, Carmen Van Deursen, Mary Singer and Dana Amorosi.
Now that October is here, it’s time to get into the spooky spirit. But finding Halloween-related entertainment that’s not too scary for little ones can be tricky. The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow is a cute mini-movie involving the annual Smurfberry Hunt—and possibly a ghost or two. The film is rated G and features the voices of Hank Azaria, Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen and Anton Yelchin.
We are excited to announce that Sony is letting us give away a prize package—which includes the DVD and two Smurf figurines—to five of our readers! To enter, just leave a comment on this post. You can comment once a day between now and the end of the day on Wednesday, October, 9, 2013. You can also read the official rules. Goody luck!
Update: The contest is now closed. Congratulations to our winners: Amanda Pacurar, Evan Rollins, Livivua C. Chandler, Renee Madeline and Marla Wessland.
October is finally here! I wait for this month all year around. Our family’s annual pumpkin-picking trip is approaching, as are our haunted-house and corn-maze trips. We love our traditions. But after years of doing the same things, I wanted to try something new. So I brainstormed and asked around for unique Halloween traditions, and I couldn’t keep these ideas to myself. Here are the top 5 new Halloween traditions that my friends, family, and I have come up with:
1. Pumpkin Painting Party
Gather your crafty kids for an afternoon of pumpkin art. Mini pumpkins are perfect for little hands to paint, and your guests can take them home as favors.
It’s not too cold for the outdoors yet! Get the kids outside for Monsters University inspired Scare Games. Adult referees can dress in costume, and the kids can compete in potato sack races, tug-o-war, and hula hoop contests. Award candy bag prizes to the winners, and end the day at home with a big pot of pumpkin soup.
Get out your pumpkin pajamas for a halloween themed sleepover. Roast pumpkin seeds, make s’mores and swap scary stories deep into the night. Add to the fun with a Halloween craft like this adorable paper owl.
Growing up, The Little Mermaid was one of my first favorite movies. I had all of the coolest Ariel clothes and merchandise, including a bathing suit, a beach towel, bed sheets, and an umbrella. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve sadly had to retire almost all of those items (although I still use the beach towel!). But my love for the classic Disney film is still going strong.
It’s hard to believe, but soon the movie will be turning 25. And despite its age, The Little Mermaid is still immensely popular with young children. In fact, it is a favorite with my 4-year-old niece, who gave me a colored picture of Ariel’s grotto for my birthday a few months ago. To celebrate the anniversary, Disney is releasing a special Diamond Edition Blu-ray, which includes bonus features like behind-the-scenes animation footage and a “Crab-E-OKE” sing-along.
Naturally, I was thrilled to interview Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel and a mother of two kids (a 14-year-old son and a 12-year old daughter). She told me all about her reactions to the beloved movie, her best parenting advice, and her experiences with homeschooling.
Why do you think the movie has such a lasting appeal with both kids and adults? At the time, I think everyone was ready for a fairy tale. There hadn’t really been one since Sleeping Beauty [released in 1959]. We also had the incredible Howard Ashman and Alan Menken writing the score, plus the hand-painted and hand-drawn animations. It was just the perfect mix at the right time.
Between sequels, soundtracks and promotional events, it seems like being Ariel has become a full-time job for you. Did you realize in the beginning that it would be such a big part of your career? It’s been a really great ride. But no, absolutely not. It was all a huge, wonderful surprise. I just expected to do the job and disappear, so we were completely blown away.
Do you have a favorite song or favorite scene? I have to say “Part of Your World” and that whole underwater grotto scene. I think it is just beautifully animated. And getting to record that song with Howard Ashman at my side, just directing me every step of the way, was really such a great memory for me.
Did your children watch The Little Mermaid growing up? I revealed it to both of them when they were about 2 or 3. I tried to make the connection by standing next to the TV screen and singing and speaking along with it, just to help them make the realization, “Mommy is Ariel!” They reacted very positively. But once my son made the connection, he would start crying when I sang in public at concerts if he was there. It was like, then I wasn’t his mom anymore. He liked it when Ariel and Mommy were just for him in private.
You’ve homeschooled your children for 11 years. What is that experience like? It’s been an incredible journey. We had put our son into a little preschool in Los Angeles and it was just not going well, so we brought him back home. We had every intention of putting him back into a traditional school setting but we just really couldn’t find the right match for him. And then we moved to Georgia and again couldn’t find the right match. So year by year, it just kept going and going. And then our daughter was here, and it just became part of our life. We realized the flexibility it gave our family; the kids can travel with us, so it just seemed to work best. So 11 years into it, we’re still going strong.
Do you plan to continue all the way through their education? We take it pretty much one year at a time. It’s a huge calling and a huge responsibility, and it’s very challenging. But we feel like this is what God has called us to do for now. And it might not work for next year, so we’re very open to whatever is going to be best for the kids.
It is tough to balance homeschooling with your work schedule? Yes, it can be a challenge with work and travel. Both of the kids are in club soccer so they have some intense travel seasons as well. But homeschooling has given us some wonderful flexibility and some great life experiences, especially with our son. He is a sophomore in high school at this point, and he would be missing some of these once-in-a-lifetime trips with us because of needing to stay home. So he made the decision to stay in homeschooling. It needs to be the kids’ decision.
What’s the best parenting advice you would give? I can only speak for my husband and myself, but we don’t feel like we could do any of this parenting without our faith. We are in uncharted territory when it comes to two teenage kids but we do rely a lot on a whole ton of prayer. We also work hard to keep great bonds of communication open with our children. Ever since the kids were babies, we have treated them with respect. We are the mom and dad for sure, but we look for opportunities for us to sit down and say, “How are things going for you? Is there anything that we can do as parents to help you? Let’s all come up with a solution together.” We work better as a team.
We’re big fans of the The Story Pirates, a musical sketch-comedy group with performances based on stories written by children. (It’s been described as “Monty Python meets Schoolhouse Rock.”) So we’re especially excited to announce that you can now enter the No Kidding? Just Kidding! Sweepstakes for a chance to win a family trip to New York City this fall to meet and watch The Story Pirates live. And if you win, the group will even let your child perform in the show!
This weekend getaway—sponsored by Symphony Space in New York City and Sirius XM Satellite Radio’s “Kids Place Live”—will be full of comedy, music and delicious food. There are other great prizes included in the sweepstakes, including T-shirts, books and CDs. And everyone is a winner this time, because each entrant receives free digital downloads of over a dozen childrens’ songs, by artists such as Justin Roberts, Recess Monkey and Joanie Leeds.
For more information, watch this fun video featuring Lee from Story Pirates:
Feeling lucky? The sweepstakes closes on August 21, 2013, so hurry and enter now. (Note! Leaving a comment below doesn’t mean you’ve entered, so make sure you follow the above link).
The Australian music group, The Wiggles, has been entertaining millions of children around the world for over 20 years. This year, they’re announcing three new cast members, including the first female Wiggle. Emma Watkins joins as the Yellow Wiggle, Lachlan Gillespie as the Purple Wiggle, and Simon Pryce as the Red Wiggle. Anthony Field, the founder of the The Wiggles, remains as the Blue Wiggle.
To introduce the new Wiggles, the quartet is on an international tour called “Taking Off!” and they will visit 35 U.S. cities starting in August. In addition to the tour, the group has also released a new CD and DVD. (To find a concert in your local area, click after the jump for confirmed tour dates.)
Watch a video of the new Wiggles performing “Do the Propeller!”, a song from their CD:
The power of friendship, adventure and reading could soon be coming to a city near you!
The popular Emmy-nominated preschool TV series Super WHY! recently announced dates for an upcoming live tour “Super WHY Live: You’ve Got the Power!” Written by the show’s creator Angela Santomero (also the creator of Blue’s Clues), the show features music produced by guitarist Jack Antonoff, of the Grammy Award-winning band fun. Kids (and parents too!) will love dancing and singing along with the cast of superhero characters plucked from the pages of classic storybook favorites, as they heroically take on challenges in the name of literature.
The tour kicks off April 2nd in Seattle, and will travel to 27 cities around the country in April and May.