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The wave of the future?

“What is it?”

“It looks like a Disney princess movie!”

“It sounds like a Planet Earth episode.”

Well, not exactly, but not far off the mark, either.

Disney and author Jennifer Donnelly (A Northern Light, Revolution) are collaborating on a multimedia fantasy project set to debut in early May. The WaterFire saga is projected to include four novels, an enhanced e-book, a theme song, and an extensive website with video clips — in short, a franchise on a Disney-sized scale.

What we actually received, inspiring oohing and ahhing as well as the comments above, is a nifty little gadget created by PIM, or Printings in Motion.

photo 1

Imagine a BLAD with marketing specs on the back — and inside, an embedded screen about the size of an iPhone’s. Open the cover and video begins playing: Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live a people of the water…

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Buttons allow you to select between a book trailer and a “making of” short. It even came with a USB cord to charge it and/or play the videos on your computer screen.

donnelly_deep blueSeries-opener Deep Blue begins with Mediterranean Sea mermaid princess Serafina’s prophetic nightmares on the eve of her wedding. As the books go on, several mermaid princesses from other regions will be introduced as they fight together to protect merfolk from an “ancient evil” and impending war. In the making-of video, Donnelly says that Disney sent her a “comprehensive mermaid bible” about the characters and their cultures; she expanded upon their sketches and outlines as she wrote. It’s a bit disconcerting to think of well-respected author Donnelly taking so much direction from Disney.

PIM’s other clients include Yahoo!, HP, and Heineken. Will publishers — and presumably film studios, app developers, etc. — without The Mouse’s or Mercedes-Benz’s global reach be able to afford this technology to market their products? (As Roger exclaimed, “Good lord, how much did this cost?”) Is PIM the Next Big Thing in marketing, or a flash-in-the-pan fad?

Perhaps more importantly: is this PIM marketing ploy a little too much? And will the WaterFire books — with their clear Disney stamp — live up to it? Only time will tell.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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