The Jim Henson Company announced today the debut of its first preschool property to be released "digital first" for mobile platforms, Jim Henson's Chatter Zoo. In the new and engaging app, a collaboration with the award-winning creator of fun mobile learning applications for kids, Mindshapes, the imaginative world of Chatter Zoo will teach early language acquisition as young preschoolers get to interact with four friendly and playful baby animals.
Chatter Zoo, which was created by Alex Rockwell (Pajanimals, Bear in the Big Blue House), will premiere as a digital property prior to any other platform, available in iTunes for iPhone and iPad on August 8, 2013. Launch on the Amazon Kindle Fire will follow in September. The Jim Henson Company is simultaneously continuing to develop the property for television and ancillary products.
"When we create a new world for a preschool audience, we want that world to be authentic and meaningful across many different media formats. In the last several years, the digital space has developed to be a highly powerful tool for preschool learning and, working with language specialists and psychologists, we've created this new app that provides opportunities for our audience to master specific language goals while caring for their new Chatter Zoo friends," said Halle Stanford, Executive Vice President of Children's Entertainment, The Jim Henson company. "The big idea of Chatter Zoo is that young kids at home, who are just a little bit older than our adorable baby animals, get to 'take care of' and 'teach' these characters the very skills that they themselves are in the final stages of mastering using interactive play that is based in a strong curriculum of vocabulary acquisition and early language building."
Mindshapes' Chatter Zoo 'appisode' includes two "Learn & Play" activities, two interactive stories, animations, and music content immersing children into a kid-friendly, entertaining, and intriguing day in Chatter Zoo. Centering on four baby animals: FRANNY the baby cheetah, BAILEY the baby elephant, PIP the baby wallaby, and LULU the baby panda, Mindshapes' custom Livebook(TM) format allows users to interact with and bring them closer to, the characters through a variety of touchscreen interactions.
Users will experience four different activities in the Chatter Zoo house: Playtime, Mealtime, Bathtime, and Bedtime, all relatively time-appropriate ("day" or "night"). With core concepts that help to foster language learning, the Chatter Zoo environment is fitting for toddlers. The app also features adaptive experiences like cause and effect, caregiving, and responsibility, all taught by the Chatter Zoo characters, demonstrating positive social and intrapersonal values.
Nina Pustilnik co-CEO of Mindshapes said, "The strength of this property as a new entrant into the "language learning" market is its emphasis on the world of Chatter Zoo, the characters, and the stories - it is the perfect framework to make a highly interactive and differentiated product to launch "digital first," which makes mobile learning fun and provides great value for parents." Chris Michaels, co-CEO of Mindshapes continued, "In our extensive user testing of the Chatter Zoo app, children were immersed in endless 'play,' while also clearly learning new skills along the way. We look forward to furthering our relationship with Henson as this property grows."
"Kids today are born into the electronic world. We strategically set out to launch Chatter Zoo in the mobile tablet formats because we have recognized that this is how a lot of young children today are engaging intimately with characters and stories," said Melissa Segal, Executive Vice President, Global Consumer Products, The Jim Henson Company. She continued, "We have plans to extend the brand into toys and other categories such as books in 2014. The property eventually will extend across all media platforms reaching parents and kids everywhere."
"Children who are exposed to lots of language in their environment have much larger vocabularies than children who are exposed to fewer words. Vocabulary size is correlated not only with language abilities later in life, but also with important academic outcomes," said Yuuko Uchikoshi, Ed.D. Associate Professor, School of Education at the University of California at Davis. "Chatter Zoo teaches and reinforces language acquisition by transforming screen time from a passive activity into an active learning experience through engagement and interaction and - utilizing techniques drawn directly from a growing science on child development and language learning - incorporates three important factors that facilitate the learning of new words and concepts: frequency of exposure; comparing and contrasting; and routine and rehearsal."
Jim Henson's Chatter Zoo 1.0 is $1.99 USD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Education category. Launch on the Amazon Kindle Fire will follow in September. The Jim Henson Company is simultaneously continuing to develop the property for television and ancillary products. For more information, visit Mindshapes online.