Second Screen Live: The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid on Blu-rayIf the advertisements are to be believed, Ariel–the fiery haired mermaid in love–“gave voice to a whole generation.” Which is kind of messed up … seeing as the titular character of The Little Mermaid quite literally gives up her own voice in a fairly gruesome process.

I’ve had a very Mermaid-filled week–Disney invited me both to an iPad-friendly Second Screen Live showing of the movie as well as a PR event to promote the DVD release of the 1989 film–so I’ve had a lot of time to consider voice and voicelessness and little miss Ariel (which I’ll tell you about soon).

My feminist concerns about “voice” and “agency” aside, I really do love Mermaid. It was my middle sister’s favorite movie–because Ariel was a fellow redhead and there were a dearth of blazing-haired role models in pop culture–so I’ve seen it well over 100 times in the past 24 years.

Yet, despite how frequently I’ve visited the undersea world of Triton and friends, sitting in that movie theater full of “gadgets and gizmos aplenty” last Friday night, I was incredibly surprised by how much of an impact the movie had on me.

The Little Mermaid Second Screen Live screening : ticketOf course Disney doesn’t do this sort of thing for funsies or so I can reminisce: the event was held in support of the re-release of the film, which comes out on DVD and Blu-ray on October 1 and is running in limited release on the big screen at least through this evening (check local listings). And not just any limited release: but a trial run for a Second Screen Live movie experience.

Previously, the interactive iPad tie in was only available on select Blu-ray editions of Disney films like Tron: Legacy, but this is the first time the company had rolled out the technology–which allows the device to link up with the film and offer a variety of information and trivia on both screens–on a wider scale.

The Second Screen experience changed the whole film, with sometimes-written, sometimes-spoken additional commentary by Flounder, Sebastian, Ursula and Ariel throughout. The foursome introduce a variety of games through the film’s running time–a lot of games. Watching the film in the theater with other guests, it seemed clear to me that the games were best suited for kids who’ve seen the movie several times as well as kids-at-heart who grew up with and have a deep connection to the film.

There are several rounds of Triton’s Trivia, Sea Scramblers (a timed puzzle), Scuttle Scope (a “what doesn’t belong” game), What’s Next, Mer-Maze and (my favorite) Crab-e-oke. There were also some mini-games, including opportunities to steer Eric’s ship, pop bubbles and poke Flotsam and Jetsam in the eye.

Of course all of this works only if you have an iPad that has the Second Screen Live app loaded and ready to go when the films starts. Otherwise, you just have a strange movie-going experience with little to connect the weird additions and pauses on screen to anything happening on an iPad screen.

Luckily for poor, non-iPad-owning me, the family sitting near me DID have an iPad, and they were cool about letting me look on so I could–sort of–experience the app.

The app-and-film experience is definitely cool, but it unsettled me a bit.

The Little Mermaid Second Screen Live screening : iPad in action

As a child of the iGeneration who very rarely just enjoys a program without multitasking, I understand the impulse behind creating something like this. It’s a great way to get kids interacting with the film and take up more of their brain space. It’s also a great way for Disney to make some additional money in the future if the technology catches on and progresses.

But … It just doesn’t feel right. And maybe that’s because they’re still refining the system–it would, for example, be a lot more powerful if you could target the Second Screen games to an age range–but I don’t think that’s it. In a lot of ways, enjoying a good movie, be it a childhood favorite or a new release, is, for me, the last bastion of unconnectivity.

Aside from reading paperback books, enjoying a film the only time I (almost) completely put my phone or laptop down and fully interface with a story. And that’s rare and valuable as far as I am concerned. Keep your gadgets out of my theater (and my bedroom, for that matter)!

My reaction, too, may be related to the power the film has over me as well as the fact that, though I’ve seen Mermaid countless times, I’ve never actually seen it on the big screen with the full effect of the audio.

Much like when I saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters last year, seeing The Little Mermaid on the big screen was incredibly powerful and nostalgic for me. It made brought me right back to carefree rainy afternoons hanging with my siblings and eating cheese-from-a-can and Ritz crackers. It made me incredibly happy.

The screening also left me with two very serious questions: First, did Sebastian coin the term OFF THE HOOK? And second, why don’t we have a Chef Louis meet in the France Pavilion?! I had forgotten how delightfully cute and bumbling the chef is!

Would I do Second Screen again? Of course–I’m interested to see how the technology progresses and it’s definitely fun. But would I make it a regular part of my life? I don’t think so.

Did you see The Little Mermaid in theaters this week? Tell us about your Second Screen Live experience!

Disclosure: I attended this film screening free of charge. My movie ticket was paid for by Disney. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my own experience.

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