Thankfully, there’s an app for that.
Secret Legion Studios is made up of former Disney animators who worked in the traditional method of 2-D animation. Members of the studio worked on such Disney animated films as “Mulan,” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” “Brother Bear” and others. The studio, which has offices in Universal Studios Plaza, was formed after Disney closed its local shop of animators in 2004.
Dave Holbrook, a former Disney animator and now creative director at Secret Legion, said that, unless you’re a student filmmaker, it’s often hard to get funding for small, personal projects unless you work within the fabled “studio system” used by major filmmakers. That system, of course, doesn’t really promise favorable odds for getting your short film from storyboard to the big screen.
Holbrook said that he and others at Secret Legion were trying to form ideas for getting the money they needed for “Combover for Dinner.” Eventually came the idea of creating an app and selling it for about a buck a download. After all, Holbrook says, “Everyone has a smartphone today and everyone wants something to play.”
That assessment seems to be spot on. Although the app was released only a few weeks ago and with little fanfare, Holbrook said they already have seen more than 7,000 downloads. An iOS app, the DooWaru word game can be played on iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. The game’s popularity even has the potential to grow further, Holbrook says, when an Android version is released, possibly in a couple of weeks.
The game is available at the iTunes store and sells for .99 cents.
So, other than an odd-sounding word, what exactly is DooWaru?
“Quite simply put: It’s the most unique word game out there at the moment,” Holbrook says.
That might not be just marketing hyperbole either. Consider how it works:
Like many other word games, users must pick out words from a collection of letters. But unlike most other games, DooWaru’s field of letters are ever-changing, transforming quicker and quicker through each successive level of play. Pattern recognition is crucial, but so, too, is speedy dexterity in making your touchscreen selections.
And at some levels of the game, explosions even threaten to take out part of the field of letter choices, making word selection even more challenging.
“It’s a very complicated and fast-paced word game that, by level 10, you can’t blink,” Holbrook says.
The game’s name means “to find” in Arabic, and came to Holbrook courtesy of his wife, Ninette, whose parents are from Egypt. She also helped Holbrook conceive the idea of a word game because both she and Holbrook are “big word-game fans,” he says, adding that they both came up with about a dozen ideas for a game before they pared the list down to about three. Of those, DooWaru emerged the winning idea.
So far, the game has generated favorable feedback from users, says Holbrook, who credits game programmers Shane Reynolds and Neal Monday at Fu Manchu Media for much of its success. (Fu Manchu Media LLC is a new mobile application development company that specializes in creating games for Apple iOS devices and Android devices.)
Some user suggestions, such as Facebook integration, might be incorporated in future releases, Holbrook says. Such a revision would allow users to post their high scores as part of their Facebook status updates.
No matter how popular the game, though, Holbrook says the studio’s main labor of love is the animated short, “Combover for Dinner.” The light-hearted tale is about a middle-age man who invites the “girl of his dreams” over for dinner as he tries to win her heart while hiding a not-so-hiddensecret: his combover.
Holbrook, a graduate of Sarasota-based Ringling School of Art, said the idea for the film’s plot came to him about four years ago, and he’s been working on it in his spare time ever since. The animated short is just in the visual development stage now, he says, but he’s ready to move on to the actual animation aspect of the project. That is, as long as he can raise more money for a project that his studio wants to be able to submit for an Academy Award consideration.
“Animated short films are just beautiful little snippets of animation that are beautiful to watch,” Holbrook says. “But to get something to that [level], it takes lots of money. … You have to jump through a ton of hoops … [and] it gets extremely expensive.”
But it’s an expense that he and his studio are tackling, even if only in .99 cent increments. Although the app might not cost a lot, all those downloads can add up to real money over time, especially as an app gains in popularity. In fact, Holbrook says the financial incentive is attractive enough to make him consider creating other games in the future.
“If this is the new media we have to be in to [raise money for filmmaking], then we’ll do it,” he says.