On Thursday, the idea that came from a drawing done by 4-year-old Kalley Alexander in the spring of 2012 was launched into an App for iOS devices, which is currently featured on Apple’s list of Best New Apps.
The Alexander Family came to a crossroads two years ago, when patriarch Jon Alexander was forced to obtain a conventional job, outside of the comfort of his home office. His daughter Kalley created a drawing of a machine that she wanted her dad to build, which would make food for the family, so that he didn’t have to work anymore.
Jon, who works as a freelancer, was touched by his daughter’s attempt to bring the family together. Although he wasn’t able to build the exact machine Kalley had in mind, he found a way to make something out of the drawing, while spending quality time with his family.
Kalley’s drawing was a wake-up call for both Jon, and his wife Carrie. They found that the way they were living life was leaving their family fragmented, and they wanted to spend more time with their daughters, Kalley, 7, and Corbett, 8.
“We questioned a lot of our presuppositions,” Jon tells Benswann.com. “We were re-examining family in general, and realizing that family wasn’t working for us, with the way it was.”
“You teach your kids by being with them,” said Jon, who began to ask himself the question, “How do I give the best of myself to my kids?”
Jon was able to use his background in motion graphics and video game development to turn his daughter’s drawing into an interactive App, called Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats, which is targeted at children aged two to eight.
The creation of the App was an experience that brought all four members of the Alexander family closer together, and from illustrations to voice-overs, they each had a part in bringing the idea to life.
“A big part of it was trying to bring everybody along,” said Jon, who explained that working with his children was entirely different than working with professionals. “It was fun to make it something we all wanted, we just had to figure out how to make it happen.”
In the process of creating the App, the family launched an App developing company called RocketWagon, which they hope to use for future collaborations.
“Mostly, we wanted RocketWagon to bring us together,” said Jon. “I realized that I had great relationships with my freelance clients because we created cool stuff together, fought hard deadlines, and pulled all-nighters together. I wanted that with my wife and kids.”
Throughout the process, Jon and Carrie’s mission was to teach their daughters to “be confident in their ability to create things.” They did this by spending extra time with their girls, “re-working artwork and learning the basics of digital production.”
Jon pointed out that the stories children hear shape the way they view the world, due to the fact that, “Storytellers create the lenses through which a culture sees itself.”
“The stories you tell your kids are so powerful. We want to write stories that we think matter,” Jon tells Benswann.com. “Kalley’s Machine just happened to be the story our family needed to hear.”
While “Kalley’s Machine” started as a drawing that took on a life of its own, the second part of the App’s name, “Plus Cats,” was the Alexander girls’ signature stamp.
Jon explained that when it came to illustrating, the girls often became bored with drawing machines, and were more interested in drawing things like animals. In fact, one cat drawn by his oldest daughter, Corbett, was so good; it ended up becoming the icon for the App.
While Jon is pleased with the fact that he and his family were able to turn a “really time-consuming hobby” into a business, he sees the App as the icing on the cake. He puts more value in the lesson he was able to teach his daughters, and in the quality time he was able to spend with his family in the process.
Now that Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats is currently featured in Apple’s Best New Apps section, the Alexander girls are able to see their cats joining the ranks with popular characters from Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street.
“We put it in the App Store and it’s competing against Apps made by huge companies like Disney and Nickelodeon,” said Jon. “It’s exciting to think that our little company at our house was able to compete with those big media conglomerates.”
Watch the video detailing the story behind Kalley’s Machine: