REVIEW: THE LITTLE MERMAID SECOND SCREEN LIVE

For those who have read my reviews before and are wondering about the lack of a spoiler disclaimer, this review is about the experience of The Little Mermaid: Second Screen Live, not the movie itself.  If you’d like a review of the movie, let me know and I’ll post one as soon as possible.  Are you wondering what “Second Screen Live” means?  I certainly wondered.  Second Screen is a Disney app for iPads and iPad minis that allows you to unlock extra content on certain Disney Blu-Ray discs – Cinderella, Bambi, The Lion King, Oz the Great and Powerful, and more.  Disney is now bringing that concept to the big screen (hence the “Live”) creating an experience that allows you to interact not only with the film, but with your fellow audience members, as well.  In order to participate, you need to bring an iPad or iPad mini with you to the theater.  (There was some mention of using it on iPhones, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.)  Before you do go to the theater, though, be sure to download the app, because it’s a large file and will take some time and battery power.

Update September 23, 2013: GIVEAWAY!

We’re giving away a $10 iTunes App Store gift card along with a Disney Junior iPad cover.  The iTunes gift card can be used to download Disney Junior “Appisodes,” or anything else you’d like to download.  Don’t know what an “Appisode” is, then check out this review.  Use the “Rafflecopter” link below to enter the GIVEAWAY until Monday, September 30, 2013.

Disney Junior iPad cover

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Original article from September 21, 2013 follows below..

THE LITTLE MERMAID

THE PREVIEWS

I wasn’t expecting previews at this screening, so I was very excited to get three!  First up, DisneyNature’s BEARS, the seventh film to come out under the  Disneynature label.  (Can you name the first six without googling it?)  I am very excited to see this movie, having seen bears in that area of Alaska in real life.  Look for it to open around Earth Day 2014.  Next up was MUPPETS MOST WANTED, another movie I can’t wait to see (March 2014), because of all the famous stars in it, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Sam Eagle, Fozzie Bear, Animal (!), Swedish Chef, and, straight off the Disney Fantasy, Pepe the King Prawn (and some other up-and-comers, like Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and some of the popular Disney Channel stars – Debby Ryan, Ross Lynch, Bridget Mendler).  Our final preview was for WALKING WITH DINOSAURS, opening in December 2013, produced by BBC Earth and based on the BBC miniseries.  I’m not sure what the Disney connection is.  I couldn’t find one in my research, but I did learn that parts of this were filmed in the same area where BEARS was filmed.  You can draw your own conclusions.

GETTING STARTED

After the previews, Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel, herself) took us through a tutorial about how to get started, including instructions for the iPad settings (which are different from the iPad mini – do not set your mini to Airplane Mode or you’ll lose wifi access; instead, turn on Do Not Disturb).  You’ll be prompted to start the program, which will go into listening mode and you’ll see “Success” when you’re ready to go.  The app is only available with Apple devices for now.

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

THE EXPERIENCE

Flounder and Sebastian started us off by having us choose clams, which then put us on either team (I was on Flounder’s team).  The draw is random and I assume the teams are equal or off by one, if there’s an odd number of participants in the theater.  Ursula puts herself into the game, too, and, suddenly, there’s a much more sinister aspect to the outcome.  Will she beat us?  Will we become poor, unfortunately souls?

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King Triton’s castle appears on the iPad screen as the Disney movie starts, mimicking the action onscreen, down to the fireworks.

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Throughout the film, we hear Flounder and Sebastian (and, later, Ursula) giving us prompts, as well as a notation at the bottom of the movie screen.  There are several types of point-building games:

Mazes – you have to get from Start to Finish before times up and there are bonus items along the way to build points.

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Scuttle Scope – you have to pick out the item(s) in the scenes that don’t belong.

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Triton’s Trivia – multiple-choice trivia questions relating to the film

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

What’s Next – multiple-choice questions about . . . what’s going to happen next

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

Ursula throws in a few stumpers herself, in an effort to throw us off our games:

Puzzles

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and a cheat of maze where the maze timed out before the timer did!  Naughty Ursula!  She also swirled around the theater peering over guests’ shoulders and commenting on their progress.  I hope that feature is available in all theaters – that was a fun addition to the experience.

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

Disney is all about the well-rounded family experience and Second Screen Live is no exception.  I don’t have pictures, because I was too busy trying to win, but there are several occasions where the only skill necessary is the ability to tap the screen, such as bubble popping and pot and pan banging, so little ones who may not do as well on the mazes and trivia questions, can still bump up their scores.  Ursula offers a similar point-bumper, but hers is a little more slippery – you have to poke the eyes of Flotsam and Jetsam (her eels) to keep them from finding Ariel’s treasure.

Not all of the activities are point-builders, though.  A clear favorite of the children around me was the Crab-E-Oke, with the song lyrics appearing on the app for the children to sing along with the movie.  The lyrics appeared on the big screen, as well, and, for an extra bit of fun, some of the words turned to depictions of those words as they were sung.

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Several times throughout the movie, our team scores were shown so that we could see who was ahead.  As I mentioned above, Ursula was cheating (harsh word, I know, but that’s what happened), so Ariel stepped in and joined the game, combining the audience teams into one.  It could be argued that Ariel was cheating, too, but I would argue that once Ursula cheated, the rules changed, so our teams combining to gang up on Ursula was okay under the new rules.  Maybe.  You decide how to explain that one to your kids.  When Ursula fell behind at the end, she sent us the cheating maze seen above, but, in the end, Ariel’s team, aka the entire audience, pulled ahead and beat Ursula.

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She was not happy about losing on both screens and took over the app, causing havoc.

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

Our teams split again so we could see how each team had done.

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

For our screening, there was a special prize for the individual winner (and a little controversy over who had actually won), but I don’t know if that’ll be offered at every screening of the movie.  I was happy with placing fourth overall, even though my team lost.

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

This was a very fun evening.  The kids all around were having a great time and every adult I saw was smiling and enjoying themselves.  There were moments when the app distracted from the movie, but you’re not required to play all of the games, though the film was stopped at several points for cheering and the game had a second audio track that played over the film at times, so Flounder, Sebastian, Ursula and Ariel could keep the app going.

THE LITTLE MERMAID Second Screen Live

This app is clearly designed for movies that have been previously released and will bring people back into the theater a second time to experience the movies in a new way.  It’s also a great way for families with children of varying ages to be able to enjoy a movie together.  Some kids just don’t have the attention span for a feature-length film and Second Screen Live will enable them to either play along with the film or play anything they want on their second screens, because all screens are welcome here.  This will be a great addition to the “baby-friendly” movie screenings which have popped up around the country, giving parents yet another option for bringing small children to the movie and enabling older siblings the opportunity to see movies they couldn’t otherwise see because the little ones couldn’t handle it.

While I had a lot of fun watching LITTLE MERMAID SECOND SCREEN LIVE, I would not want to do this with a movie I hadn’t seen.  Not just because I wouldn’t know the answers to the Trivia and What’s Next questions, but, mostly, because it is distracting from the movie and if I hadn’t seen it, I’d want to watch it all the way through without stopping and losing the connection and momentum of the film.  If they come out with more Second Screen Live options, I’m going to grab my Disney-loving friends (and their iPads) and challenge them.  Loser buys dessert!

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So what do you think?  If you’ve seen The Little Mermaid Second Screen Live, what did you think?  If not, do you think this is something you and your family would enjoy?  Leave a comment below and continue the conversation.  For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.