Cosmo Kimball and the Perfect Hat is, at its core, an interactive animated film, delivered as an app for iPad and similar devices. Imagine reading a story where the main character reaches a crossroads, and you decide which of two options they should follow. But rather than the “turn to page 173” interface of print, the concept is perfectly realized as an animated film on a touchscreen device, the ideal delivery medium for nonlinear storytelling.

 

As Cosmo moves through the story from beginning to end, you are asked to make different decisions, each of which seems relatively unimportant, yet which completely alters the course of the story. The story pauses, you touch the screen to choose which option you want Cosmo to follow, and the story resumes.

From a behind-the-scenes, structural standpoint, each choice you make doubles the number of possible storylines. So from the common beginning point, the story branches off in two directions, then each of those storylines splits for a total of four, and then each of those storylines splits for a grand total of eight. So there are eight possible endings that you can experience, through multiple viewings. Characters reappear throughout, so someone you see in the background of one storyline might be a major player in another.

While the film is otherwise entirely animated, the eight different appearances of Cosmo’s puppet Gus on the talent show are done with a real puppet on live video.

 

It should take about twelve minutes to get through the story one time. Then of course, you can start again at the beginning, making different choices to discover all eight endings. A hat rack on the “The End” screen keeps track of how many hats you’ve discovered.

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