Last January, Disney premiered their latest princess, Sofia, who stars in her own Disney Junior animated series, Sofia the First. They also released a companion app, Sofia the First: Story Theater.
A Princess Never Gives Up
Sofia the First: Story Theater follows the show's opening storyline. Narrated by Ariel Winter, Sofia’s original voice actress from the show, the app tells the story of how an ordinary seven-year-old named Sofia becomes a princess after her mother married the king of Enchancia.
Throughout the interactive and beautifully illustrated pages of the book, you see how Sofia learns that being a princess is harder than it looks, and frets when the King tells her that they will dance a waltz together at the royal ball. She tries her best to fulfill her own expectations of a princess, but her efforts do not seem to go well. First, she gets tricked by her stepsister, Amber, during her dance class. Then, she ends up reciting a spell that makes everyone at the ball fall asleep.
Fortunately, Sofia has a magic amulet that allows her to call upon other (Disney) princesses for help. To Sofia’s surprise, Cinderella appears and encourages her to work together with Amber to break the accidental enchanment.
In the end, Sofia manages to talk things through with her stepsister and even gets a dancing lesson from her. They also break the sleeping spell. Sofia gains an important lesson: that being a princess is more than just about looking like one, it is also about behaving like one from the heart.
Sofia’s Puppet Theater
In addition to an interactive storybook, Sofia the First: Story Theater also includes a virtual theater where you can stage and record a simple animated show featuring the story’s cast. To begin your show, first you choose up to three characters to start in your story and up to three different backgrounds. Next, you choose up to four kinds of props and finally, a soundtrack.
When you’re ready to record, tap on the red button at the bottom of the screen and start moving your chosen characters and props around the scene. If a puppet is too large, you can resize it by pinching with two fingers. You can also take it out of the scene by dragging it to the edges of the screen.
You can also provide dialogs and narration by speaking into the microphone. There is no maximum duration for recording, so you can go as long as you like.
Parents Need to Know
While Sofia the First: Story Theater was created to accompany the animated series, it is surprisingly solid on its own. The book covers the opening storyline, so you should not struggle with gaps in the plot or character recognition. Seeing as the story is centered around princesses, I will say that the app will probably appeal more to girls, but the theater provides good fun for everyone. It is simple and intuitive, so even younger juniors would not have much difficulty using it.
One thing that I would advise parents is to monitor the app’s storage usage. As there is no maximum duration for each recording, the theater recordings may get quite large. Unfortunately, you currently can’t export the recordings to Camera Roll, so my only suggestion is to manually organize from within the app.
Things I Like
While I have not yet watched the animated series, I thoroughly enjoyed Sofia the First: Story Theater. The plot is interesting as it puts a twist on Disney's stereotypical princess stories.
For one, you get the viewpoint of a girl who comes from a single parent family as she deals with important changes in her life, like moving into foreign environment and dealing with new family relationships. I like that the story disperses the conventional belief that all stepsiblings/stepparents are evil. Admittedly, Sofia and her new siblings do not get along straight away, but they learn to communicate their problems with each other in the end.
I also like how Sofia actually works to become a princess instead of getting magically poofed into one. She goes to school, takes classes, and practices waving in front of the mirror; these things you don’t see often in princess stories. The moral lesson is also pretty spot on for younger girls: it’s now how you look that defines you, it’s how you behave.
In terms or presentation, the app features lovely, painterly illustrations that I have yet to see in Disney's other book apps. The interactions that you get in every page are subtle, but I actually like them better that way because they don’t distract you from the story. The grand orchestra in the background also fits the royal theme very well.
Finally, my (and probably everyone's) favorite part of the app is definitely the theater. While it is not as advanced as Puppet Pals 2, it is fun to play with. It's easy enough for younger kids to operate on their own, and I'm sure parents will find amusement watching their little royals put on a show.
Sofia the First: Story Theater is an app that I highly recommend. With its relatable characters and charming plot, I expect the app to be a hit amongst little girls everywhere. Its intuitive puppet theater will also spark the imaginations of your own little royals.
If your juniors (or you) like the app and are interested to watch the series, you can get the first season on iTunes via this link. Or, if you would rather have a physical version of the story, you can also buy the book on Amazon.
App was provided for our honest review.