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'Toy Story 3': Hope the movie is better than its app

How to botch a movie tie-in: Make your app free, then charge for games and other content. This has "Disney marketing" written all over it when it should have "Pixar magic."

The other night I watched the last half hour of "Toy Story 2" on TV. So what if the children were in bed? It's one of my all-time favorite movies--go ahead and laugh--and I can't wait for "Toy Story 3," which opens Friday.

Needless to say, I was jazzed when Disney's free "Toy Story 3" app arrived yesterday. That is, I was jazzed until I ran it; what a depressing, disappointing, borderline insult of an app.

Here's what you'll find inside:

Woody's Wild Ride
Woody's Wild Ride is a pretty lame-looking action game that's clearly aimed at young children. I have no problem with that. However, my problem is that its $3.99 in-app purchase price.

Toy Story Mania 
Mania is a batch of "Toy Story"-themed carnival games inspired by the eponymous attraction at Disney World. How many games do you get? The Wii version has 30, but this app doesn't specify how many games you get, it could be 30, could be three. Price: $4.99.

So far, this "free" app will cost you $9 if you want to do anything meaningful with it. It's supposed to have comics as well--no doubt for an additional charge; however, as shown in the above video, I can't find them anywhere.

The "Toy Story 3" app does have a few freebies, such as "Toy Story 3" trailers, in-app access to the "Toy Story 3" mobile Web site, virtual pins you collect by buying stuff, and a tool that turns your iPhone or iPod into a wireless controller for "Toy Story 3: The Video Game," but only for the Mac version. Thanks, but I'm a Windows user.

The apps sole redeeming feature is Woody's Greetings, which creates a personalized message, including your child's name, based on answers to a handful of questions. Wait a second! That's not even Tom Hanks' voice! In fact, all of the voices in the app are from sound-alikes.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I was so impressed by the "Toy Story" Read-Along titles, to say nothing of the movies themselves, that I just expected a lot more. I think little children will quickly get bored with this app, if they're  not confused by certain areas of the interface. Also, the bait-and-switch  tactics--the app is free! No it's not!--is sure to annoy parents.

Please, please, please let the movie be better than this. I'm confident that it will be; however, I guess we'll all have to wait till Friday to find out.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Daniel Terdiman's cool look at "Toy Story 3's" groundbreaking tech.