What happens when a prop-maker and CGI expert decide to make books?

What happens when a prop-maker and CGI expert decide to make books?

This Hertford-based startup puts "stories in motion" using CGI... and crafting.


The pitch

Tapocketa Studio produces digital publications that aim to entertain, educate and connect users to the act of physical creation and making in the real world. The company also offers web-based computer-generated animation of other publishers' content.

In February, the team launched their 'Boovie' (book-movie hybird) Galdo's Gift, a children's ebook for ages 5-10 featuring animated illustrations, pop-up word definitions and audio narration, as well as printable paper-based activites.

"Our core aspiration is to engage and enthuse the reader/viewer in a way that encourages curiosity, discovery and fun beyond the medium itself," explains co-director Trevor Young.

The team

A storyteller, illustrator and animator, Young has over seventeen years experience in visual effects for feature films, including three of the Harry Potter films and Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

His co-founder Eleanor Long is an architectural artist and prop-maker whose credits include The Graham Norton Show and The Borrowers. She designs the environments and sets for the ‘animated illustrations’ that form the bedrock of Tapocketa's work.

Contributing members include Ken Jones, a publishing software expert with over ten years experience at DK and Penguin Group UK, and John Quinn, a digital media and marketing consultant.

What's the gap in the market?

The Tapocketa team believe that, in a world of content overload and social scrolling, both parents and children crave digital publications that foster much deeper engagement.

"We saw a perfect opportunity to expand the depth and richness of the digital storytelling experience in ways that can really explore and make the most of any medium," Young explains. "Using our collective skills, Tapocketa recognised that we could produce fantastic stories, capable of inspiring adults and children to discover, make and create in ways that are long-lasting. We are pushing individual engagement beyond the quick hit of social media and the vast quantity of digital visual data consumed today."

He also feels that the company's expertise in animating static artwork will prove a sought-after skill for publishers hoping to upgrade their ebook offering. 

Success so far?

"The design, storytelling, illustration, animation and sound effects for Galdo’s Gift marks a significant advancement both in development of our techniques and in digital storytelling itself, " Young reports. "This includes custom movies on every double page spread, background audio, professional narration by the British actor Brian Murphy, ‘read aloud’ text highlighting, over 250 pop-up word definitions, text personalisation, interactive animations and puzzles.  It illustrates how much an ebook can actually offer in terms of depth of experience."

The company had yet to share download stats, but reports that reviews are gratifyingly positive. It has already acquired commissions for external projects, including ongoing web-based animation for Faber Music Ltd.

Biggest challenges?

"It can be a challenge to present an exciting new edge to an existing product in a market that believes it already knows what ebooks can do," Long says. "The phrase ‘ebook’ now has such well-established associations that producing a progressive and exciting approach to the ebook format is demanding."

She cites Scroll.in's much-shared recent interview with Arnaud Nourry, chief executive of Hachette Livre, in which Nourry admitted that "we don’t really have the skills and talents in our companies, because publishers and editors are accustomed to picking a manuscript and creating a design on a flat page."

"We are approaching from a different route to traditional publishers," Long explains. "With experience in other creative fields, we're able to draw on a different skill set that involves both practical and digital creativity."

Ultimate ambition?

The team believes that ‘hand-crafted’ digital media has a strong future. "We are very excited to see connections being made with wider audiences," Long says. "We see potential in collaborations with other publications, sponsors, writers, researchers, animators and illustrators. The scope and reach for Tapocketa is growing."

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"Establishing a core team of talented and committed contributors is the key to achieving goals and building innovative projects from idea to finished product," Long says. "Keeping to clear, simple goals and maintaining focus is always challenging but absolutely fundamental to success."