â€œI had one of the first Apple computers, God knows how many years ago, maybe 30 years ago, when it all started. And I could dictate into the machine, and I dictated swear words, it would translate them phonetically. I remember Gregory Peck was staying with us. He was horrified! â€˜This is disgusting, Roger,â€™ he said â€¦â€
Sir Roger Moore: tech early adopter. Not that the veteran actor would describe himself that way, as he talks to the Guardian about the technological skills of modern children in a familiarly self-deprecating manner.
â€œThey use a computer as we canâ€™t. Well, maybe you can: youâ€™re young enough. God, I hardly even learned joined-up writing â€¦â€
Why is Moore talking to the Guardian about children and technology? Because the veteran actor has turned developer (sort of) for a new childrenâ€™s app called GivingTales, which launches today for tablets and smartphones.
The free app includes Mooreâ€™s rendition of The Princess and the Pea, with other stories available as in-app purchases. 30% of the revenues will be donated to charity Unicef, for which Moore is a goodwill ambassador.
Moore has history with these stories: in 2005, he was appointed as an ambassador for Andersenâ€™s work as part of the bicentenary of the Danish writerâ€™s birth.
â€œI had the gall to read The Princess and the Pea to the Danish crown princess at the launch event, and thatâ€™s stayed with me. And then my son and his partner in this GivingTales project suggested that they could get Hans Christian Andersen out there in an app, and that there could be profits to Unicef,â€ says Moore.
â€œI had no idea what they meant by apps. But all they said was â€˜can you get a few celebrities to record stories. So I approached Ewan McGregor, whoâ€™s an old friend â€“ and I brought him in to Unicef a few years ago, actually â€“ and I called Stephen Fry, and, of course, Dame Joan. So here we are.
â€œThey did beautiful recordings. Mine, of course, was rubbish. He says modestly before you could say it! And the stories are beautifully illustrated too, by some wonderful illustrators in Hungary.â€
â€œWe are trying to build something that can last many years, and these stories have proven themselves already over a long time. When children get into this stuff, they listen to the stories over and over again,â€ says Klaus Lovgreen, chairman of GivingTales.
â€œWeâ€™ve done our best to cut them down to modern-day childrenâ€™s attention time: they last anywhere between six and 10 minutes, so weâ€™re trying to get all the classic parts of the fairytales across in little, compact modern versions that are easy to digest and entertaining.
â€œAnd they still work! The Ugly Duckling is an amazing story about issues with bullying and self-belief, and while it might have been phrased differently 150 years ago, itâ€™s something weâ€™re still struggling with today.â€
Moore also hopes that modern children will respond to the stories in their latest, digital incarnation. â€œIf children are not familiar with Hans Christian Andersen, itâ€™s a wonderful way for these stories to become part of their education. Itâ€™s good English, itâ€™s well read â€“ even by me â€“ and the stories are intriguing,â€ he says.
â€œHe was a wonderful storyteller, particularly the fairy tales. Every story has a moral: compassion, selflessness, generosity. Thereâ€™s a lot to be learned from it. A lot, without it being thrust down their throats.â€
The app will add more stories over time, with Moore saying American narrators will be included, and ultimately translations into other languages too. â€œWe already have a number of stories in the pipeline to be produced. We are hoping to roll out a new story with a new celebrity every six to eight weeks,â€ says Lovgreen.
The first crop of narrators took little persuasion. â€œTheyâ€™re friends, and a lot of friends find it very hard to say no,â€ chuckles Moore. â€œEspecially when youâ€™re holding a gun.â€
Moore was appointed as a Unicef goodwill ambassador in 1991, with his role including promoting fundraising campaigns but also visiting its work around the world. In 2012, the charity presented him with a lifetime achievement award.
Moore says that he sees the GivingTales app as fitting neatly into that work â€“ and the wider mission of Unicef.
â€œThereâ€™s the awareness that one can use the media, and Iâ€™ve learned how to tweet and do that sort of thing, so you repeat the various messages going on with all of the things that Unicef is involved with,â€ he says.
â€œEverything from health through to education and aid in emergencies. We divide the world up into two types of emergency: the â€˜loudâ€™ emergency, which is what is going on in Iraq and Syria, the earthquake in Nepal, or a flood. But thereâ€™s the silent emergency which is there all the time, which doesnâ€™t get any space.
â€œItâ€™s easy to raise money for an emotive issue when itâ€™s happening and is on the front pages of the newspapers, but it gradually fades away towards the back pages. So itâ€™s up to us â€“ spokespersons for Unicef â€“ to when itâ€™s a silent one make sure that people know what weâ€™re doing.â€
Moore talks enthusiastically about visiting Unicefâ€™s supply depot in Copenhagen. â€œItâ€™s very appropriate for Hans Christian Andersen, actually! The supply depot there is quite extraordinary: volunteers will come in when itâ€™s an emergency and do all the packing,â€ he says.
â€œItâ€™s now very technically modernised and quite brilliant: they can supply anything from a pin to an elephant. Not that thereâ€™s much demand for elephants these days.â€
Will there be more demand for the GivingTales app â€“ and specifically, the in-app purchases that will be making the money for Unicef â€“ though? The childrenâ€™s apps world is tough, commercially, with many parents seemingly unwilling to pay for apps even on a device that cost them several hundred pounds.
Lovgreen is optimistic. â€œI have met my share of pessimists, and of course there are always some people who will not pay for things,â€ he says. â€œBut we think there is a market out there for a fairytales app that is really well-executed and well-read. Iâ€™m very confident that people will be willing to pay if the quality is high enough.â€
With GivingTales now live, Moore is getting to work promoting it â€“ including on his Twitter account, which has more than 32,000 followers. Heâ€™s a fan of the social network and its potential for raising awareness of charitable campaigns.
â€œAbsolutely, I think itâ€™s quite fascinating, since Iâ€™ve been looking at it, to see that amongst the fluff there are serious things. I think itâ€™s well worth looking at.â€