Disney's AR Emoji for Galaxy S9 are thankfully less creepy

Disney's Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse have arrived on the Galaxy S9, and the good news is that – unless you're musophobic – they're a lot less creepy than Samsung's AR Emoji. The Disney tie-in launched today, kicking off with America's favorite mouse couple as free downloads for the facial-tracking AR Emoji feature on the newly-shipping Android smartphone.

Like Apple's Animoji on the iPhone X, AR Emoji track movements of the user's face to animate an on-screen character. Initially, Samsung's big push was to encourage owners of the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ to create their own AR Emoji. The smartphones first take a 2D photo, then analyze that to manufacture a custom 3D avatar.

That avatar is used to automatically generate a whole library of reaction GIFs, running the gamut from excited (though silent) squealing through to miserable sobbing. Alternatively, you can capture your own photos and video of the animated characters in action. The latter can also be automatically turned into GIFs, too.

However, while there's some customization support offered in the initial creation of the AR Emoji, it's not that flexible. The Galaxy S9 decides all the details on facial shape, eye and nose size, and eye color, leaving the user to pick between hairstyles and colors, tweak skin tone, and pick from a selection of glasses and outfits. Adding insult to injury, the range of eyewear and clothes you have to choose from is surprisingly small.

Most awkward, though, is how creepy Samsung's AR Emoji generally turn out. The S9 does offer two styles – one more realistic, the other more cartoon-esque – but either way the result can be more discomforting than entertaining.

Happily, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse mostly escape that fate. After downloading them on our review Galaxy S9 and having a play today, we found they skirt the creepy trap, though some of the mapping of our facial expressions to the characters' animation was a little clunky. They definitely look more like Disney's more recent computer generated animation of Mickey, too, rather than the hand-drawn version many will be more familiar with from the classic movies.

All the same, for a free add-on, this isn't bad. In an ideal world Samsung and Disney would've included a voice-effect too: as it is, we had to mimic the distinctively squeaky tones of each Mouse as best we could. Down the line, Disney says, there'll be more characters from across its franchises being added.

What this has us more interested in, though, is Samsung's potential to build out the customization options for its AR Emoji. The currently underwhelming range of clothes and accessories could easily be augmented by downloadable add-on packs, even pulling in other brand names. Your AR Emoji could get to choose between the same Warby Parker eyeglasses as you yourself wear, for instance.

Whether that's sufficient to take AR Emoji from being a gimmick to something Galaxy S9 owners keep coming back to, we'll have to wait and see.