Andy Russell and Thushan Amarasiriwardena
Some adults use mobile devises to shut kids up. The founders of Launchpad Toys think children should use them to speak up. Through cleverly-designed apps, Andy Russell and Thushan Amarasiriwardena are harnessing the power of mobile technology to foster creative learning experiences for young storytellers.
“The best part about working at Launchpad Toys is getting to see kids play with our ideas, but a very close second is getting to see everyone else's pure glee when they see and hear a 5 year old's imagination unfold onscreen in the form of pirates and princesses and furry monsters and cartoon special effects that would make even Michael Bay proud.”
Andy and Thushan think they can change the minds of parents, journalists, and youth advocates. Their secret weapon? Cartoons. As fingers point to mobile phones and tablets as the latest “digital pacifiers,” squashing childhood creativity and numbing young minds, the founders of Launchpad Toys couldn’t disagree more. If channeled correctly, they think mobile devices are the perfect vehicle for innovative learning tools any parent would want in their child’s hands.
“For the first time in the history of Children’s Media, the limitation isn’t actually the platform, it’s developers’ lack of imagination,” says Andy. With mobile devices’ “large capacitive multi-touch screen, microphone, intuitive interface, and powerfully dynamic development platform,” and their sophisticated operating systems, the team “can create open-ended, creative, collaborative, and playful learning experiences that blend the benefits of traditional play patterns with all the captivating capabilities of digital media.”
Andy received his work experience at Hasbro and Sony, his education from learning design programs, and his love of games from years playing with Legos. Thushan’s the tech-y dude and designer who cut his storytelling chops as a multimedia journalist at the Boston Globe. Together, they’ve created two wildly successful apps, Toontastic and Monkeygrams, that capitalize on a child’s gift for storytelling and the Internet’s capability to distribute it.
“Watching young children play with puppets, dolls, and action figures, we were inspired by the incredible stories they produced at such early ages – stories that would be the envy of many Hollywood scriptwriters,” said Andy. Lauchpad Toys seeks to capture the creative flourish of child’s play. Focusing on the crucial years between the beginning of imaginative play (ages 4-5) and the adoption of formal learning (ages 8-10,) the app helps children develop their storytelling skills through playful cartoon creation, then share their work with others online via Toontastic’s Global Storytelling Network. Monkeygrams picks up where Toontastic leaves off, allowing older storytellers to use Facebook, Twitter, email and text messages to share narrated cartoons with their friends. “By enabling children to share their cartoons online,” says Andy, “we’re building a global community where kids can learn about other cultures, customs, and lifestyles.”