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Review: William Joyce’s ‘The Numberlys’

Moonbot Studios’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore changed the way we think about and view story apps. Its use of animation and elaborate sets and its timeless story won it and children’s book artist William Joyce, and Brandon Oldenburg, numerous accolades, including an Academy Award nomination in the short animated film category.

The much anticipated Numberlys pays tribute to the classic films of the 1920s, with signature Moonbot originality, wit, and interactivity. Don’t miss the series of short videos produced by the studio on everything from the art to the editing of The Numberlys.

TG Review thinbanner6 Review: William Joyces The Numberlys

photo 7 150x150 Review: William Joyces The NumberlysTitle: The Numberlys
Author: William Joyce
Directed by: William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
Narrated by: Mike Martindale
Music by: John Hunter
Developed by: Moonbot Studios, LA, LLC
Platform: iOS, requires  5.0 or later
Version: 1.0.3
Price: $5.99

PreS Up-Numberlys is a cinematic story with a gorgeously rich orchestral soundtrack, punctuated by more than 20 activities, in which numbers are forged, hammered, and stretched into the 26 letters of the alphabet. For in this futuristic world there are no letters; it’s ordered, yes, but lacking in color and homey names, like Ralph and Pamela. The opening vertical landscape presents a reverent and clear homage to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, as does the dial of the home button, the recurring electric halos on the letters as they are formed, and the leitmotif of the bell-shaped pipes spewing smoke accompanied by the resounding brass section.

photo 8 150x150 Review: William Joyces The Numberlys

Screen shot from 'The Numberlys' (Joyce) Moonbot

The production, shot in black and white, with crisply defined shadows, myriad shades of grey, and even that 24-frames-a-second flicker, tells of five rotund friends (named 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, each sporting a respective number of Seuss-like puffballs atop a single strand or cone of hair), who are tired of eating the same gloopy food at factory break time, and want to create something different. “At first it was awful. Then at last…artful,” and out of a mistake, arises “A.”

Humorous alliteration and puns and a wonderful German-accented narration, temper the grim, grey world. So do the games. The activities are the vehicle for the five friends and for the viewers to work together to forge the remaining letters of the alphabet. The games highlight forces, simple machines, and electricity, and are as engaging for 10-year-olds as they are for 4-year-olds.

photo 10 150x150 Review: William Joyces The Numberlys

Screen shot from 'The Numberlys' (Joyce) Moonbot

The youngest viewers will be captivated by the creation of the letters that they are learning as shapes, and relish the colorful, transformative world of language that ensues. Older players may see this as a cautionary tale about getting stuck in routine (a red light, if pressed, will repeat the dreary factory existence of working and eating, working and eating), and recognize the benefits of collaborating to creating a better world.— Sara Lissa Paulson, PS 347 – “47″ The American Sign Language & English Lower School

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  1. [...] The youngest viewers will be captivated by the creation of the letters that they are learning as shapes, and relish the colorful, transformative world of language that ensues. Older players may see this as a cautionary tale about getting stuck in routine (a red light, if pressed, will repeat the dreary factory existence of working and eating, working and eating), and recognize the benefits of collaborating to creating a better world.—Sara Lissa Paulson, PS 347 – “47” The American Sign Language & English Lower School, NY, NY (1/30/12) [...]