Company: CURRICULUM ASSOCIATES
As Curriculum Associate’s Creative Director, I was tasked to lead the development of new animated characters for CA’s flagship interactive product, i-Ready. In addition to needing new characters, CA was at the time moving from developing in Adobe Flash to developing in HTML5. We knew going in that we needed these characters to:
- Appeal to younger students, grades K through 3.
- To be able to deliver pedagogical content.
- Compete with the look, feel and production values of the content children consume outside of school.
- Perform well in HTML5 over often anemic school wireless networks.
Beginning with my own sketches, the team developed an entire universe for Plory and Yoop, two best friends and space explorers learning more about Earth with their pet, Snargg. From initial drawings, CA brought in the ace animation firm Primal Screen to take my ideas and flesh them out. We began with hundreds of quickly rendered thumbnails, which we iterated on and refined through many rounds. Once we felt comfortable, we tested our results with hundreds of school children to validate that kids would find the work as appealing as we did. Plory and Yoop tested off the charts.
To develop a working pipeline for production and ensure technical performance, we pre-vetted a series of gestures and movements what we would include in a master model for each character. That model would then be included as part of the base download of each animated lesson, making certain that all animation would be smooth and fluid. We designed the visuals of the Plory and Yoop world with performance in mind, favoring flat, bold colors and simple but expressive shapes.
Hundreds of animated lessons starring Plory, Yoop and Snargg have now been developed, covering Math and ELA content for grades K through 3.
Plory and Yoop have been an enormous hit, having been viewed and enjoyed by millions of American school children, and effectively teaching hundreds of millions of educationally rich lessons. The characters are effectively ambassadors of CA’s products, appearing in much of CA’s marketing materials. Kids have really glommed on. There have been Plory and Yoop birthday parties, fan channels on YouTube, teacher-led Plory and Yoop contests in schools. Demand has been so high that CA has created thousands of Plory and Yoop plush dolls to distribute to users, as well as Plory and Yoop mascot costumes so the characters can make personal appearances in schools throughout the nation.