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GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app review

I first became aware of toy start-up GoldieBlox when I saw its smart commercial “The Princess Machine,” in which a group of young girls engineer a complex Rube Goldberg machine using (mostly) stereotypically “girl” toys. The mission of GoldieBlox and inventor/CEO Debbie Sterling is “to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers” with toys that combine STEM concepts and strong girl–centric narratives.

The concept of building toys “for girls” isn’t exactly a new one. (Hey, I had the pinkalicious Dream Builders — “The Building Set Designed for Girls,” with sets for building dollhouse nurseries, shopping malls, and the like — back in the ’90s.) But it’s relative newcomer GoldieBlox, not the old guard of toy mega-corporations, leading the charge when it comes to encouraging STEM-based play for a new generation of girls. The company’s girl-power, princess-and-baby-free approach seems to have struck a chord.

goldieblox titleNeedless to say, with all this in mind, I was intrigued to check out the company’s first app, GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine (2014; iOS only). While it can be used in conjunction with the ($29.99) GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine toy set, this free animation app also stands alone.

The app opens with three menu options: “Make,” “Learn,” and “Watch.” The “Learn” section of the app provides frame-by-frame breakdowns of four simple animations. In the “Watch” section, access five clear tutorials narrated by Mythbusters‘ Kari Byron. The other “Bloxtown Flix” include four short cartoons starring Goldie (voiced by musician Emily Haines), many building tutorials for GoldieBlox toy sets, and a playlist of inspiring YouTube videos.

goldieblox bloxflix  goldieblox goldie's movies
Once you’ve got a handle on the concepts behind stop-motion animation, head into the “Make” section to create your own movie shorts.

To get started, tap the + icon to launch a new project, then choose one of eleven background images or a blank canvas. Make up to twelve looping frames for your movie by using the paint tool and sixteen-color palette, twenty cute stickers, and the camera tool supplied in the toolbox at the right of the screen. (The eraser, undo button, and especially the “duplicate frame” tool come in really handy, as the smoothness of your animation depends on making incremental changes to sequential frames.) As you work in an individual frame, the app provides a faint image of the previous one to guide you. Throughout, Goldie cheers your progress. Check how your movie is coming along at any time by pressing the play icon.

goldieblox frames

When you’re satisfied, save your “BloxBuster” to the app’s library and your device, share it, or print the frames for use in the Movie Machine toy set.

Here’s my world premiere as an auteur:

goldieblox movie

I learned just as much from my own trial-and-error animation process as I did from the tutorials — which, of course, is the point. Engaging, encouraging, and addictive.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.1 or later); free. Recommended for primary users and up.

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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