Spider-Man 3-D Color Explosion (Crayola)

 Posted: Jun 2012
 Staff: The Editor (E-Mail)


Crayola are, of course, best known for their crayons. According to Wikipedia they actually started out selling industrial pigments, then branched out into artist supplies. This lead to the kids crayons for which they became world-famous. More recently, Crayola seems to have set themselves the goal of producing some of the most innovative coloring concepts in the world - this book being among them.

Mind you, innovation is no guarantee of quality!

Story Details

This "activity book" actually includes a 12-page spiral bound book, a couple of special marker pens, and a pair of 3-D goggles.

Technically, Crayola calls the book a "Tablet", presumably because tablets are very cool right now (with iPads and all). But they can call it a wombat for all I care. Maybe I'm just old school, but a collection of paper pages with cardboard covers and bound along the left hand edge is a "book".

Open the "book" to the first "page" and you see the first gimmick for this product. The pages are all black, with images just slightly visible thanks to their gold outlines. Now it's up to you to turn them into color, by applying the two marker pens (aka "Slick Stix" in Crayola lingo). There's one fine-tipped marker for the outlines, and one fat-tipped marker for the coloring-in.

When you apply the markers, color appears as if by magic!

The pictures feature Spider-Man, or classic villains - Lizard, Sandman, etc. The artwork is bold and chunky. I'll confess that I haven't wanted to spoil my copy by actually applying the pens, but I can faintly see bold blocks of color hidden behind the black layer that covers each picture. I'm guessing that the pens just contain a gentle solvent which will remove the top layer and reveal a simple image behind.

Once you've done so, you can get to the second gimmick, the 3-D effect. Simply put on the glasses, and suddenly the images are displayed in vibrant 3-D.

Well, very nearly.

In fact, what you will see is a very simple twin-layer 3-D effect. Anything that is blue will get shifted to appear about 1/4" behind the other colors, given the impression that the non-blue parts of the image are shifted forwards.

It's a bit of a cheat, and I would suggest that the advertising blurb that the images will "3-D GLASSES MAKE SCENES LEAP OFF PAGE!" is somewhat exaggerated. Still, I guess that "3-D glasses make parts of image appear slightly higher than other parts of image" didn't really pack the marketing punch they were looking for.

But it definitely works well enough to give a little extra impact to the images. And the fact that Spider-Man's costume is blue and his gloves and head are red is a very fortunate coincidence.

General Comments

To be honest, I was expecting the "3-D Effect" to be a complete and utter scam. So the fact that it even worked at all is more than I had hoped for.

I hadn't come across "refractive 3D" before. It's a technology based on diffraction grating film that uses spectrum spreading gives a minor stereoscopic effect to multi-color 2D images. Neat trick. You can buy these glasses on line pretty cheaply. In bulk they cost 25c each.

The book is solid and sturdy enough, and the spiral binding is robust. I haven't tried the pens, but I'd be quite confident that the solvent will do its job well enough.

Overall Rating

From one point of view, US$12 for twelve color images is a pretty steep price. But on the other hand, the package includes a cardboard sleeve containing the spiral-bound book, the glasses and two special pens. Looking at it from that angle, it's not a bad value proposition.

This won't knock your socks off, despite what the front cover might try and suggest. But it's a fun little effect, and Crayola deserves credit for trying to so something new.

Three and a half webs.


While this book is "kid safe", the information does warn you to not let the pages get wet, and to "Keep away from upholstery, carpet, finished and unfinished wood, vinyl, wallpaper, painted walls, leather and other materials that cannot be laundered."

 Posted: Jun 2012
 Staff: The Editor (E-Mail)