- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2007

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Joy to the cyber-world

“This Christmas” continues to play in theaters, offering some holiday cheer courtesy of the complex lives of the Whitfield clan. The activities on the film’s cheery Web site (www.sonypictures.com/movies/thischristmas) will not dazzle, but the site will be remembered for its slick design, which enables visitors to look virtually around a real desk and interact with items.

The red wooden desktop is highlighted by a scrapbook that opens to reveal standard sections for a movie Web site: Story, Cast & Crew and Videos.

However, more fun can be found by exploring the book. For example, a collection of photographs at the lower right corner of the desk opens up to larger images or movie clips. Or click on a greeting card that’s slightly hidden under the book to send a “Happy Holidays” message via e-mail.

A click on a USB pocket flash drive accesses items to download, including wallpaper, while a click on a camera presents a 34-image slide show. Clicking on a spiral notebook in the upper left corner of the desk leads to a seven-question multiple-choice quiz to see what role a visitor assumes in his family get-together.

The best part of the experience is the site’s soundtrack. A click on an MP3 player offers jazzy versions of some holiday classics, including “Joy to the World” and “Deck the Hall.”

Alvin

A computer-animated ode to a legendary trio of musical rodents arrived in theaters last week with 20th Century Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

The film’s complementary Web site (www.alvinandthechipmunksmovie.com) brings the furry fellows into modern times: The brothers are not only wearing threads that demand street cred but also are hanging out behind a DJ’s turntable with hip-hop blasting in the background.

The turntable has a volume switch and off button, but more important, it rotates a piece of vinyl to access the numerous sections. Three areas in particular will attract visitors.

First, Meet the Chipmunks offers multimedia introductions to Simon, Theodore and Alvin. Each gets a text bio, fun fact, a trio of video clips and a sound bite that’s activated when the cursor touches the chipmunk.

Next, Games provides four activity sheets to take away from the computer and six online challenges. The best of the gaming bunch includes helping Alvin play the harmonica by moving the instrument to catch a stream of colored notes and Theo’s Snack Attack, which involves positioning Theodore to catch food being tossed by his brothers.

Finally, the clever Get Munked enables visitors to create an animated rodent as they customize a chipmunk with head, body and clothing choices as well as background themes, including a Christmas setting. Visitors also can record a message, ultimately played in the trademark chipmunk voice and nearly lip-synced with the avatar.

The recording process is very flexible, and creators can use their computer’s microphone, select from prerecorded audio, make a telephone call or type in a message. The finished work can be e-mailed, saved on the desktop or embedded in a Web page.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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