- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

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

‘Charlotte’s Web’

A live-action movie based on the famed classic by children’s author, essayist and literary stylist E.B. White arrives in theaters Friday. It stars Dakota Fanning and the voices of Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, Robert Redford and John Cleese.

Paramount Pictures has created a dynamic Web site (www.charlottesweb movie.com/site/index.php) to excite youngsters about the story of a piglet named Wilbur and his special friendship with a spider that saves him from the slaughterhouse.

The site opens to Wilbur in a barn staring at his friend under the moonlight. A quick click on the Enter sign takes visitors to morning and a window view of the Zukerman Farm, dressed for the holidays, as Danny Elfman’s musical score begins.

Visitors can explore the site by a click either on the Menu button or within the barn area for an introduction to its noisy residents and a multitude of multimedia fun.

Before I forget, those who enter their names on the introductory page via the wooden window cover will find the movie’s primary barnyard creatures able to offer a personalized text greeting. Among the animals to see are Wilbur the pig, Templeton the rat, Samuel the sheep, Golly and Gussy the geese and, of course, Charlotte the spider.

Each offers a quick hello and activities. In Templeton’s case, the rodent provides some desktop wallpaper and the art challenge Trashy Poetry. Authors can grab scraps of magazines and newspapers with words on them from the side of a screen and place them onto a piece of cardboard to create a syllabic masterpiece that looks just like an uplifting ransom note (weird but true). Finished works can be printed or e-mailed to friends.

Eleven sections reside under the Menu area, but those looking for fun will immediately find a couple areas worth their time.

First, the area Games and Features delivers six challenges — a few to please artists and others to entertain the traditional game player.

Among the offerings, a paint program called Fern’s Sketchbook enables children to color in drawings of Wilbur and the gang online and print them out; another, Aeronauts, has a player guide Charlotte’s parachuting offspring away from branches and insects to land them safely on the ground.

My favorite game, Barn Break, combines a shooter with Tetris. After the player chooses a difficulty level of Just Piglet or Whole Hog, he or she must launch items such as lemons, apples, eggs, pears and garlic cloves from Wilbur’s food trough at rows of produce to try to get three of the same item to group together.

Once this is accomplished, they all fall, and the player collects points. Of course, the trick is to quickly clear out the rows that all keep moving closer to Wilbur to potentially end the player’s adventure.

Next, the section Holiday Kit delivers an assortment of downloadable items to spread winter cheer, including gift tags, greeting cards, ornaments, table place cards and even recipes for such treats as popcorn balls, fudge, eggnog and a gingerbread barn.

Other sections include a Fan Fiction Library and Fan Art Gallery that enable visitors to express themselves with posted prose and creations for the world to see; and Downloads with its bunches of book covers, iron-ons and bookmarks.

Also, the Links section lists numerous areas to explore on the Web to find everything from facts about brown rats (www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/ brnrat.htm) to up-close photos of spiders (www.pbase.com/tmurray74/spiders&page;=1) to reasons for appreciating pigs (https://www.pbs.org/ wnet/nature/pigs/).

Finally, book lovers can help attempt to break Guinness’ world record for People Reading Aloud Simultaneously by registering to take part in the Dec. 13 event via a link (www.charlotteswebbarr.com/ index.php) from the main Web site.

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 [email protected] times.com. Joseph also writes a Web- exclusive column for The Washington Times’ Web site, where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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