Gigglebug, a newly released iPad app from Finland, uses infectious laughter to encourage social play among children. Through touching and swiping the screen, players can tickle various 2D animated characters to make them smile and laugh. This sort of interactive, responsive play is irresistible to kids, and elicits a reaction that may or may not be desirable to parents:

Infectious laughter has proven to be a guaranteed form of entertainment—how else could videos of laughing babies have 60 million views on YouTube? Several cartoons, toys and other products have found success in using laughter, such as Sesame Street shorts and Tickle Me Elmo.

Then there’s Sh-h-h-h-h-h, a clasic Tex Avery cartoon about a man trying to escape the constant laughter and noise of his surroundings. The soundtrack of the cartoon comes from the early-1920s Okeh Laughing Record, a bizarre recording that features a man and woman laughing uncontrollably.

Gigglebug also features lush watercolor backgrounds and laugh scenes that are fully animated with quality not often seen in 2D animated apps. Not surprisingly, the app was developed in part by Helsinki-based Anima Boutique which has extensive experience producing animation for entertainment purposes. They are simultaneously developing Gigglebug as a children’s TV series. The success of another Finnish creation, Angry Birds, appears to have normalized the idea that a successful app can lead to cross-media adaptations on more traditional platforms like TV and film.

Chappell Ellison

CHAPPELL ELLISON is an award-winning design writer and critic based in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to contributing to various publications, she has lent her editorial skills to several visual arts-based institutions and companies, including the Museum of Modern Art, Design Observer, Etsy and the Museum of the Moving Image. Chappell regularly lectures at universities and currently teaches at the School of Visual Arts. She blogs often and tweets twice as much.