Dandelion is an utterly unique and interactive storybook that aims to communicate the following message: “Bullying is for people with no imagination.”
A tale for people of all ages, Dandelion is the story of a little boy as told through hauntingly beautiful imagery that the user is meant to interact with. In each scene, get to know Benjamin and his world a little better by exploring the environment and using your own imagination. Click “more” to take a closer look.
This is the story of Benjamin Brewster, a little boy who is very different from his classmates. Each morning he counts the 972 steps he takes to reach his school, called the School for the Misguided, a place for “n’er do wells and bullies,” and the harsh characters with whom Benjamin attends school unfortunately taunt him mercilessly.
One day, while Benjamin is hiding from the bullies at his school, he plucks a dandelion and makes a wish for happier times. When he returns to school the next day, he sees dandelions appear in the most unusual locations. And when the bullies try to pick on him again, Benjamin imagines dandelions in place of their attacks.
I don’t want to ruin the ending, and thus the full emotional impact, of the story for you, but let’s just say Benjamin fully realizes the power of his imagination and what it can do for his overall happiness. And I’d wager many of you will feel a little twang of the heartstrings at the end of the story — even those of you who are usually immune to anything tinged with emotion.
Like the aesthetics, your movement through the story is reminiscent of using a slide viewer. You progress by swiping the lever in the lower right of the screen. You can also swipe the screen to the left or right to move forward or backward in the story.
In every scene, there is an opportunity to interact with the environment or the characters, and exploring these possibilities make for wonderful discoveries. For example, you can cause leaves to fall, Benjamin to walk forward, and other actions, depending on the scene.
Down the righthand side of the screen you have some options: Home, Help, Language and Share. A Close tab at the very bottom of the screen takes you back to the Home screen.
From the Home screen, you’ll find the options: Read, More, Share, Help and Blow. The More screen introduces you to some Dandelion-related merchandise, such as a hardcover copy of the book, Dandelion wristbands, and a Dandelion activity pack.
There’s also a link that will take you out of the app to the developer’s website, where you can buy said items. Well, supposedly. When I visited the website, it still contained the phrase “Dandelion is still in production and we cannot wait to unveil this interactive fairytale and blow you all away!” So perhaps then, eventually, the merch will be available.
The Share screen lets you tell a friend about Dandelion on Facebook or Twitter, or send information about Dandelion via email. The Help screen provides you with visual instructions for how to navigate the app. And finally, the Blow screen lets you blow a dandelion and make a wish. (You can do this by dragging the dandelion in one direction or another and then releasing it.) Once you’ve successfully blown the digital dandelion, you can choose to blow another dandelion or send a message to a friend.
In addition to the positive message Dandelion aims to communicate, the visualizations are where the app shines. Illustrator Anthony Ishinjerro has used a muted palette of blacks, grays and browns, which allows the bright white of the dandelions to really draw the eye in each scene, serving as the light counterpart to all the darkness Benjamin experiences in his world.
Composer Hylton Mowday’s ethereal score and whimsical sound effects complement the graphics by providing just the right balance between the story’s emotional gravity and the sweet story of a little boy who wishes for happiness.
The team behind Dandelion did an incredible job of considering the technology of the app in conjunction with the animation possibilities. For example, touching the leaves on the trees will make them rustle and drop. Touching a toad will make it “ribbit.” Pulling the dandelion back and forth will make it lose its spores. And tapping the bullies will reveal their cruel actions against Benjamin. In a scene in which Benjamin lies in a field full of dandelions, tapping in the field around him reveals the boy’s dreams of happier things.
In my opinion the must stunning visual comes in the final scene, in which Benjamin, having fully realized the power of his imagination, stands looking upward, arms outstretched, with a swirl of dandelions around him. As you draw a circle with your finger around the boy, you realize you’re controlling the dandelions — you can make them swirl faster or slower, or even reverse their direction.
Dandelion is a wonderful story for people of all ages, and a good reminder that some negative situations can be overcome with the power of positive thinking.
With so many shiny and interesting apps out there that are free or at least cheaper than Dandelion’s asking price, it can be tempting to write the app off as costly. However, when you consider the effort and artistry that went into creating this digital storybook, $4.99 doesn’t seem like very much at all.