Having not seen the live-action remake just yet, it's hard to know what changes Disney has in store for its new Beauty and the Beast film. But in addition to a love of books, a new Belle doll from Hasbro seemingly reveals the character's newfound love of programming too.
Hasbro's Dance Code Belle, revealed ahead of Toy Fair 2017, doesn't just teach kids that a fancy outfit can woo a savage beast. Belle can talk, move and perform dances all on her own, but this doll manages to rise above the countless other toy versions of the character by also allowing kids to program complete dance routines using a basic programming app, available for Android and iOS devices, that helps teach the fundamentals of coding.
For younger kids, the Dance Code Belle app features an easy to use "connect the dots" mode where dragging a finger across the screen creates a dance pattern that can be enhanced with moves by pressing various shapes.
But for older kids, there's also a more advanced "block coding" mode where moves and commands can be dragged and dropped into a long sequence to manually assemble a dance routine. The sequence can then be synced to the battery-powered doll over a wireless Bluetooth connection, so no cables are ever required.
To help encourage kids, the $US120 ($156) Dance Code Belle doll, which will officially be available in spring, can also speak over 100 different phrases, although without Emma Watson's voice. To make up for that, the doll also includes four songs from the original version of the movie, including Be Our Guest.
For better or for worse, building toys that embrace STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been a popular fad amongst toymakers for the past few years. And teaching kids the fundamentals of coding seems to be the most common way to earn a toy the coveted "educational" branding. If kids are learning something, the toy has to be worth their time, right?
In reality, after spending a few days with Dance Code Belle, kids unfortunately won't be prepared to walk into a job interview with Google. However, learning even the basics of programming can help kids develop problem solving skills, and an interest in learning how things work. And if it also helps spark an interest in science and engineering at a young age, instead of aspirations of finding a rich beast in a castle, your kids will be better off in the long run.