When The Little Mermaid's Ariel sang about "gadgets and gizmos aplenty," I have a feeling she wasn't singing about parents and kids bringing their iPads to the theater to interact with her on the big screen. But that's just what Disney is asking theatergoers to do with the release of The Little Mermaid: Second Screen Live.
At a time when theaters are begging audience members to turn off their mobile devices and relax to enjoy the show, Second Screen Live is basically doing the opposite. The experience encourages audiences to use their iPads to augment their moviegoing experience by interacting with the film through games, competitions, and sing-alongs.
Ticket holders download a free app prior to entering the theater and receive instructions for signing into WiFi and adjusting their device's settings prior to the movie's start. Disney has arranged the app to sync with the movie so that during popular songs, the lyrics appear on your iPad screen (and on the bottom of the movie screen) to encourage sing-alongs, and games — such as "what happens next" and "puzzle scrambles" — coordinate with what you're watching on the screen.
Want to know what the experience is like in person? Read on to see what we thought!
My preschool-age son and I attended a screening of the film last night to test it out. It had been at least 15 years since I'd seen the animated classic, and it was my son's first time. It was certainly an unusual theater experience, but I could see how kids would enjoy it. The games were fun, and kids of various age ranges can play them. When Ariel's falling to the bottom of the ocean, we were asked to pop as many bubbles as we could. When she washes up on shore, there's a "what's wrong with this picture" activity, and I really enjoyed the "what happens next" quizzes. By far my favorite activity were the sing-alongs — it's always fun to see what you've been singing incorrectly through the years!
But the experience is definitely geared toward kids who've already seen the movie (or committed it to memory, as many tots have), because you miss some of the action and storyline when you're moving back and forth from the theater screen to your iPad screen. It also makes for a very noisy theater, as younger kids can't read the game questions and parents have to read them aloud. The competition between audience members may be a bit fabricated (I have a feeling the good guys always win), but the kids love it.
So would I recommend it? If you have a little Ariel lover at home (or you are one yourself), yes! The Second Screen Live experience is playing in 15 theaters across the country starting today. If you're new to the flick, wait for the DVD to be released next month; your child will enjoy it more.
As for the whole Second Screen Live experience, I see how it could be fun for kiddie flicks, but I don't know that I'd want my Hunger Games experience distracted with the light of 200 iPads in the theater!
For the full trailer, see below.