App Review: Disney Storyby Stephanie Wien, staff writer
[Author's note: Support for this app was discontinued by Disney in September, 2014]
Social media is a fast-growing segment of modern smartphone life, and Disney's latest application aims squarely at the target market of families with kids who like to share their lives with friends via Facebook or email. The app, "Disney Story," compiles photos and videos from your phone's camera roll and automatically arranges them in groups so that you can create a story to share. Right now, the app is only available for iOS devices such as iPhones.
How the App Works
Disney Story is a relatively easy to use, free app, and requires very little set-up by the user. When first opened, you are greeted by a welcome screen, then shown a few of its key features. After the opening screen, the app pulls videos and photos from your camera roll and groups them by date and location on its My Moments screen. From there, you can jump right into editing the stories that the app has pre-assembled.
Touching a set of images takes you to the editing screen. There, you can touch an individual image to edit, caption, or remove it. The Edit option offers very limited choices—essentially just zooming in or moving the image—so you must perform any additional editing on the source image of the photo on the phone.
If you touch and hold on an image, you can drag and drop it to another location on the story; you can also stack photos on each "page," much like you group multiple photos on a page of a photo album. Touch the grouped photos to see a layout menu option to adjust the arrangemenet of the photos.
If you want to add images that weren't automatically included, use the Menu button to add photos, take a new photo or video, or even add additional text. This Add Text option inserts title cards between the photos. You can also change the background theme of your story; choose one of five backgrounds, including a Mickey Mouse theme. It's also easy to start a story from scratch by touching the New Story button to the right of the My Stories button. This allows you to pick and choose any specific images and videos from your camera roll, editing in the same way.
Once you begin editing, the app stores the new sequence in My Stories. If you exit the current story and return to the group in My Moments, it may seem like your changes weren't saved, when in fact the edited version is now stored under My Stories. This particular feature caused some confusion for the reviewer when first using the app.
As soon as you are satisfied with your story, you can share via Facebook or email. There are currently no other sharing methods or social media venues, although the story is hosted on the Disney Story site via a link, so it could be shared by copying and pasting that link into other social media tools. There is also a button on the host page for the created story that provides an embed code to include the story directly on a web page or blog.
The app has a very minimalist interface, which may confuse users who aren't prone to explore on their own, however the accompanying website does offer assistance and troubleshooting information for those needing more help. The app operates only in landscape mode, which may seem awkward for some users not used to holding their phone in a sideways orientation.
Generally speaking though, the app is very easy and quick to use, allowing you to generate a shareable mini-scrapbook in a matter of minutes and share it online instead of merely posting photos to a Facebook page. WIth the shift to from film to digital photography, physical photo albums and scrapbooks are less common now; this app allows people to generate something directly from the app and share it with friends and family far and wide. I can definitely see the appeal for those who like to share their adventures, children, and pets with others.
In future versions, it would be nice to see:
- More sharing options directly from the app, including twitter and Pinterest
- More background themes, including more Disney-related themes and Disney Parks themes
App Tester Observations
I downloaded the app and barely had to do much before my pictures were in the app ready to play with. The app works with your camera roll and separates your photos by the date into “moments.” You can merge your photos together into “stories.” Stories are what you create with the interface designs. My favorite is the “Mickey” with the fun cartoon background and black and red borders. This theme is very fun for all those Disney trips we all take.
You can create a story from your moments or create a story from scratch. The app allows you to make a title page and also caption the photos. It is very user friendly in my opinion. I find it more convenient to actually start a story from scratch because I tend to take random pictures that I wouldn’t necessarily want included in my story. You can always delete the photos out of the story too if you want to create a story from one days worth of photos.
If your IPhone is your primary camera you will really enjoy this app as a different way to share your photos in a creative way. One downfall to the app that I’ve found is that you can only use the camera roll photos and not your entire photo library.
I would like to see some additional themes added, especially Disney-themed and maybe some additional stickers and borders. It would be really fun if the app had the ability to add music to the background when someone views it.
I briefly read through the details of the Disney Story app, downloaded it, opened the app, and was using it easily within two minutes. Within 10 minutes I had a complete—albeit short—story ready to view. I think that speaks to how intuitive this app's user interface is.
When I read that it would "intelligently" group my photos to suggest stories to create (called "My Moments" in the app), my first thought was that I don't use my phone to record more than just a snap or two of any given moment. I was sure the app wouldn't find any groups of photos that could be used in a story. It appears that "My Moments" just organizes your existing photos by date/time, but I was surprised to notice several groups of photos right away that I could use for a story. Very handy interface, as in reality I am not interested in spending more than a few minutes gathering photos for something like this, and it would be very tedious to have to insert all photos manually.
My first story was created about my husband's softball game. Comments were easy to add, as an iPhone user I found it very intuitive to resize and zoom the photos, and changing the photos into different positions and crops was fun. I did notice a lack of flexibility in actually organizing the order of the photos and text pages—or maybe I just couldn't find the right option, which seemed unlikely as most options were pretty obvious. [Editor's note: As stated above, photos can be rearranged by dragging and dropping.]
One disappointment is that I was hoping for more themes. There are not more than a handful—although I'm sure this is something to include with future updates. I also emailed the story to myself to check out how it would display on the computer, and was a bit surprised at how different it was. It lets you click through the pages manually, which I liked, but I felt like the automatic slideshow version was a bit rushed. I much prefer the "sliding" version on the iPhone.
Overall I think this is really cute, and my favorite part is that it doesn't take longer than a few minutes to put together. It is a simple design and a simple result, with a simple interface, which is perfect for a mobile device.
App at a Glance
- App name: Disney Story
- Developed by: Disney
- Platforms: iOS: compatible with iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, and 5; iPod touch (4th and 5th generation); iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad (3rd generation) and iPad Wi-Fi + 4G; iPad mini and iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular. Requires iOS 5.1 or later.
- Cost: Free
- Version reviewed: 1.0.2
- Size: 18.8MB on iOS
- Available via the iTunes App Store and http://story.us
- Pros: Free and simple to use. Stories can be personalized with text and backgrounds. End product looks polished with minimal time to create.
- Cons: iPhone only. Limited sharing opportunities. Graphical menus can be confusing for those looking for text instructions.
- Steph's rating: 4 out of 5