Disney’s new screening of The Little Mermaid encourages using iPads in theaters

second screen

A couple of days ago Disney announced that they would be bringing the Little Mermaid back to theaters, but this time as part of something called “Second Screen Live.”  They are billing it as an interactive showing of the movie.  The way that they are achieving that “interaction” is through an iPad app.  They say that with the app you “can interact with the film, play games, find hidden treasure, sing along, and compete with the audience for the chance to win great prizes.”


I am not pleased with this idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I love technology.  It can do many great things for us, and make a lot of tasks easier.  But I believe the extent to which we use technology and are encouraged to work in this multitasking world can be harmful as well.  I work with children and while kids are notorious for not having great attention spans to begin with, it’s only getting worse.  They can’t focus on one task for an extended period of time.

But it’s not just them.  It’s me, too.  I know it’s happening because I see it in myself.  How many times while writing this blog post did a flip to another tab on my browser?  More than once, that’s for sure.  How often are we out and feel the need to compulsively check our phones?  Any time you have a moment of downtime it’s out on the phone.  People are texting or facebooking at red lights because they can’t stand sitting still for 30 seconds.  Sorry for this rather un-Disney related rant, but I do think it’s a problem – or at least a major change in our society that we need to learn to cope with.

"Thanks for buying me a movie ticket, Dad, but I'll just play on my iPad instead of watching the movie."

“Thanks for buying me a movie ticket, Dad, but I’ll just play on my iPad instead of watching the movie.”

But back to the Little Mermaid.  Why do you need to teach kids that they can’t just sit and watch a very entertaining, fun movie?  They need to be playing games.  Can you imagine a theater full of kids with their heads down at the iPads rather than watching the movie?  I mean, what’s the point?  And one other thing to note – the app is available for Apple devices only.  So if you’re an android owner you’re out of luck anyway.

When they first made the announcement, I was intrigued by the idea of an “interactive” movie.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, but when I heard it was with iPads I was bummed.  I could see this idea being okay for home viewing.  Perhaps you’ve seen the movie multiple times and you want to add another layer or entertainment.  But if kids are seeing it in theaters for the first time, they shouldn’t be buried in games.  Even if they’ve seen it multiple times before, I think we need to teach children to be respectful with electronics in public places, not encourage them to use their bright screens in a dark theater.  Adults are already guilty of this annoying habit, why sanction it?

I don't know about you, but this isn't what I want to see when I go to the movies.

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t what I want to see when I go to the movies.

I would actually be interested in trying the app at home, with friends, in my own environment (though it sounds like it’s for kids, it still might be fun to try).  Not that I’ll be able to – I have android devices rather than an IPad.  But encouraging it in theaters just seems like too much.  What do you think?


11 thoughts on “Disney’s new screening of The Little Mermaid encourages using iPads in theaters

  1. I do not like this at all. I do own an iPad and I’m an admitted iJunkie. I’m ALWAYS on my phone (even, as you mentioned, at red lights). I am not proud of that, but it’s the truth. I do, however, put my phone away in the movie theater, because I know it annoys others. While the premise of an interactive app seems cool in theory, the picture of the screen blocked by a bunch of iPads made it clear that this would actually be quite obnoxious in a public theater. Save it for home, after you’ve enjoyed the movie several (hundred) times on its own.

  2. I was thinking the same thing that you wrote in this article — that having an interactive app would be a nice thing when you’re watching the film at home but would be obnoxious in a theater with other people. Not everyone has a tablet and not having the app available for Android tablets is definitely a negative.

    • I don’t know the “official” answers to your questions but I can give you my speculation! I would think that would would still be able to watch the movie without the iPad, though you’d have to be okay with the other iPads and the distractions from that. I would guess that if they’re doing this with re-release movies they wouldn’t bother to have a non-iPad viewing, though it’s not impossible that they could choose to do that.

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