ToonWorks (Microforum – ages 6-12) offers one of the better interfaces we’ve seen recently on a kids art CD-ROM. The program concentrates on allowing kids to create single-panel cartoons, providing a variety of basic templates, cartoon clip art, and drawing/painting tools. What really sets ToonWorks apart from the many other children’s art and cartoon creator programs, though, is the quality of the clip art, and the novelty and ease of use of the tools. The clip art contains backgrounds, settings, bodies, body parts, and extras all of which are well-drawn and represent places/people/things kids will actually want to use. Each piece is fully scaleable, and obvious thought has been given to making everything kid friendly. If you choose a face first, then choose a head to go with it, the head is placed behind the face most drawing programs would place the most recently selected item on top. Try explaining “layers” to an eight-year old; with ToonWorks you won’t need to. The drawing/painting tools are provided in a deceptively simple push-button interface, yet can accomplish some big league effects including skewing, distorting, scaling, spinning, and twisting. And what kid won’t love the Special Effects buttons, which provide tools like the Bomb, which mixes up pieces of your cartoon into Stuart Davis-like abstraction, or the Atom, which spins items randomly? The rest of the tools are just as well thought out, and everything is accompanied by cute sound effects and animation. There could be a few more props and objects available to go with the 100s of character combinations, and we found the “password” feature that keeps young children away from the more complex tools exasperating especially when we discovered that we couldn’t even close the program (it disables the Windows checkbox) without a password. These problems aside, ToonWorks is highly recommended.
– July 1996