Let’s say you run an enormous toy distribution operation located at the North Pole. You have a large staff and very tight deadlines. It’s a lot of work.
Now imagine that global warming made your melting work site uninhabitable and you had to move the entire organization to the South Pole. You’d probably need a really good mover, a lot of luck and maybe a little magic.
That idea is the premise of a charming new book, children’s iPad app and e-book called "Moving Christmas," created by an Austin-based company of two called Trusted Cape. And, if the creators of it have their way, it’ll be the start of several franchises with Hollywood-scale production values made by small teams of techies and established artists.
Trusted Cape started two years ago when two friends who grew up together in Dallas began brainstorming ideas. One of the friends, Brandon Camp, grew up to be a writer, producer and director in Hollywood while the other, Jonathan Osborne, was a journalist at the Austin American-Statesman before going to business school, then helping launch several tech startups. Camp primarily works in Los Angeles while Osborne is based in Austin.
Camp says that he and many other Hollywood creative types often find work they produce is paid for then goes nowhere. "The irony of Hollywood is you can make a great living producing nothing," he said. "Out of that frustration, when I was talking to Jonathan about this, that became the seeds of Trusted Cape. There are so many incredible stories out there that have never had the opportunity to flourish."
Camp and Osborne decided that there were other avenues than pitching expensive films or television shows to bring the creations of writers and illustrators to life.
They partnered with screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio and illustrator Max Miceli, who has done work for Disney and Nickelodeon, and Austin app development company Chaotic Moon to bring to life a character named Frank Duffy. Duffy, "Mover of the Impossible," helps Santa Claus and his crew relocate across the world. Camp and Osborne hope Duffy will be one of several characters that can kick off family-friendly franchises across multiple platforms.
The iPad app for "Moving Christmas" mixes elements of the print version with wacky animation and innovative features like a page that offers a panoramic view of New York City when the device is held up and swung around 360 degrees. The 64-page illustrated book is $12.99 on Amazon. The iPad app is $3.99 (currently free for a limited time) and e-book versions for iOS, Nook and Amazon Kindle are also available.
The Trusted Cape team is hoping to work with Hollywood talent while staying a bit outside the system, Camp said. His inspiration is his father, Joe Camp, who created the Benji franchise in Dallas. The family distributed the first Benji movie themselves, taking it to movie theaters across the country before it became a hit.
Compared with other children’s iPad apps, "Moving Christmas" does stand out. It’s longer than most stories, which tend to run 10-20 illustrated pages (it has more than 40), has very well-produced animation and a clever story.
But Camp and Osborne recognize the App Store market is a little saturated and that they may need to be patient for this Christmas story to find its audience. "We have to believe that if we create a quality product and if we create characters that are truly memorable, that eventually people will find them," Camp said.
The team is working on four more projects, but managed to hit very tight deadlines to get "Moving Christmas" out before the holiday.
"We’re really proud of it," Osborne said. "We hope it’s a perennial favorite."