Playper’s Webb Knudsen on merging AR, paper crafting and 70s Kung Fu culture in Kung Fu Boogie
Playper, a new company specialising in eco-friendly, paper-based, AR-enhanced toys and games has debuted its first product in the form of Kung Fu Boogie.
A new augmented reality dance battle game for kids, Kung Fu Boogie sees kids craft 3D characters made out of paper, before taking them into the AR world for some dance battling.
As the campaign for the project continues to drive towards it’s $150k goal on Kickstarter, we caught up with Playper CEO and co-founder Webb Kundsen to find out more out the team behind Kung Fu Boogie, and why AR play and paper-crafting are perfect match.
Who are the folks behind Playper and what is the company’s looking to bring to the toy space?
Playper is led by three leaders in the kids, technology, and CPG space: Michael Bruza, myself, and Susy Christiansen. Our first product, Kung Fu Boogie, is the brainchild of Michael Bruza, our CCO – an Emmy award-winning creative director with a long history in family entertainment and technology – from Disney to Netflix to Samsung and Leapfrog and Dr. Seuss, and more.
Susy Christiansen is Playper’s 3rd co-founder; she and Michael met at Disney where Susy was a creative producer. Susy has an impressive pedigree creating apps for the kids’ market, working for brands like Pixar and DreamWorks, and has successfully turned her experience into product successes for small startups and Fortune 500 companies alike.
I have a strong background working in film, mobile, social media, and start-ups across sales, BD, marketing, and management roles, so I have the know-how to execute a go-to-market strategy and drive a profitable team.
Talk us through Kung Fu Boogie – where did the idea come from?
Michael has an incredibly creative mind, and is always coming up with cool new ideas. He and I met in early 2018 and started talking about AR and how it’s a perfect technology for the kid space. He showed me some ideas he had been dreaming up and over time the two of us developed Playper.
We all love the beauty of paper’s simplicity, enjoy paper crafts, and feel there’s something therapeutic in the experience of building something out of paper. We felt like augmented reality provided a unique opportunity to watch these cool paper toys come to life in a magical way.
So what is it about paper craft that makes it such a great fit for AR play?
We love crafting generally. The creativity market for kids is huge and growing daily. Kids love to build things with their hands, and we love that experience because it’s tactile, hands-on, and keep them engaged in their environment. The AR lets us extend that cool experience, so that kids can still benefit and enjoy the hands-on craft and the pride in building something, then can take it to the next level, watching it come alive through AR and even battling their character in a fun dance-battle game!
The campaign for Kung Fu Boogie is currently on Kickstarter. Why opt to launch via crowdfunding?
We felt that our product made a lot of sense for Kickstarter given that it’s both a game and a tech toy – two categories that tend to do well on Kickstarter. It’s also a great marketing tool to generate awareness for our product and brand, and it’s a great way to generate first sales of our product.
Looking ahead, do you have further ranges in mind for Playper? And as well as creating your own IP, do you see yourselves embracing partnerships with existing brands and giving popular IP the Playper treatment?
We have a lot up our sleeves here at Playper! Kung Fu Boogie is part of a larger toy series we call ‘Boogie Bags.’ We also have a separate line of paper toys based on a subscription model, where play-sets are delivered to your door each month. For example, kids can assemble a magical castle in the ‘Forgetful Kingdom’ where a confused king, befuddled queen, and helpful dragon engage kids to solve problems and learn as they explore the kingdom through AR.
We have big ambitions for our own IP and licensing other IP at Playper. At Playper, we see licensing as a two-way street. We create our own intellectual property (like Kung Fu Boogie and a lot more), and we plan to license out those characters. Also, we plan to initiate partnerships with popular brands to adapt their IP through our unique products.
For example, imagine a McDonald’s Happy Meal Box with a paper-folded version of Ronald McDonald or a line of AR-enhanced Disney Princess or Marvel characters built with 100% biodegradable paper.
Finally, how do you and the Playper team fuel your creativity?
We’re fortunate to have a creative powerhouse like Michael Bruza on our team. He’s constantly dreaming up incredible new experiences. Susy and I support Michael’s creative spirit with production experience, technical knowledge and marketing expertise; when the three of us get together, we’re great at brainstorming amazing kid experiences.
Ultimately, we try to view everything we do from a kid’s perspective. We’re lucky that we all have kids ourselves, so we can use them as our own little focus group to run ideas by. And we’re also inspired by our own kids. They inherently see the world through a more creative lens, so we try to listen to them and strive to see things from their perspective.
You can check out the Kickstrater campaign for Kung Fu Boogie here.