capsule review

Magic Artist 3D

If your child (or you, for that matter) can't wait for the next Disney animated extravaganza, perhaps you should just try making your own. With Disney Magic Artist 3D, your child can create simple 3-D pictures and animations that they can either view on screen, print out as pictures or greeting cards, or send via e-mail.

When you launch Magic Artist, you're presented with a simple stage surrounded by a set of powerful creation tools. The main tools are located on the left side of the screen. Select a tool, and its respective options will appear on the right side of the screen. Navigation, saving and loading, and other basic functions are included in a panel of buttons along the bottom of the screen. The menu bar and Finder access are hidden, which means that you can leave your child alone with the software without worrying about something going terribly awry.

Within the simple 3-D drawing kit are tools for creating long, tube-like shapes, boxes, spheres, pyramids, and simple extrusions. There's also a full library of prebuilt objects ranging from cars to bedroom furniture. By clicking and dragging, you can easily place these prebuilt shapes in your scene and scale them to any size. Using the Paint Bucket tool, you can paint with a solid color or choose from among two dozen patterns for any object.

Animation in Magic Artist is very limited -- you simply select a shape and assign one of eight predefined motions to it. You can't define your own paths or control the speed of an object, but you can create some pretty goofy looping animations.

A highlight of the program is the Mickey tool, which lets you create a Mickey Mouse figure. You can customize Mickey's body to suit your taste, and then choose one of six predefined animations for him to perform. Although you can't do much animation of your own, you can fill in the details around the professional-level Mickey animations. You can also construct your own set around Mickey to flesh out the world in which he performs. Mickey's animated stories are very charming, and the animation of the Mickey character is first-rate.

Although the idea behind the program is to allow children to create through exploration, parents may be frustrated by the program's ineffective HTML-based help system.

Move Your Mouse: Magic Artist's Mickey tool creates a malleable Mickey Mouse that can perform one of 6 pre-scripted animations.
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