littlemermaid-secondscreenlive littlemermaid-secondscreenlive
Bad IdeasDisney

Here’s A New Version of “The Little Mermaid” For People Who Don’t Want to See The Film

Disney is re-releasing The Little Mermaid into theaters on Friday, September 20th, in a new version that is apparently designed for people who think the original film doesn’t hold up on its own merits.

In this new release, called The Little Mermaid: Second Screen Live, attendees have to download an iPad app and bring their iPads to the theater to distract them from what’s happening on the screen. Audiences are encouarged to ignore the careful plotting of the story, the nuances of the character animation, and the development of the characters’ personalities, and instead play games, answer trivia, solve puzzles, perform sing-a-longs, and compete with other audience members. In fact, they’re asked to pretty much do anything but actually watch The Little Mermaid.

The announcer in the promo says, “Bring your Apple iPad and see The Little Mermaid on the big screen like you never have before.” That part is true because I’m pretty sure nobody has ever seen The Little Mermaid by purposely holding a hunk of metal in front of them to obscure the film:

Disney promises that, “Moviegoing has never been so much fun.” So far, the Internet disagrees, and Disney has disabled comments on its YouTube promo. To experience the future of moviegoing and see bits and pieces of The Little Mermaid in a theater filled with moviegoers tapping away on their iPads, visit the Second Screen Live website.

  • Grant Beaudette

    It’s like being in a giant, sticky-floored living room full of strangers.

  • Jason Cezar Duncan

    They probably don’t want people to spot any more visual innuendos.

    • Toonio

      Agree like when on the screen you see this huge…. Johnson, turn off that ipad or I’ll smack it on your head!

  • William Bradford


  • sterfish

    Many of us use electronics while watching TV or movies at home (especially when it’s a movie you’ve seen multiple times) but it seems like a bad idea to bring that type of experience to a movie theater.

    • SarahJesness

      Most movie theaters ban the use of electronic devices while the film is playing, not (just) because of noise but because the lights and moving images can distract other audience members from the film.

    • DarylT

      Youve kinda answered the question. It is a movie youve seen multiple times. How do you get people to go to the cinema to see it again.

      • optimist

        You tell them that it was originally a movie, not a TV show, and that it plays differently on a great, big screen? Because it does.
        But this is about creating something else-a sort of Chuck E Cheese, strictly for the littlest kids, type of “experience”. Unfortunately the thinking-using movie theaters this way-is spine-chilling for those of us who gladly pay for a theatrical experience without cel phones/texting and disruptions. Once upon a time even Disney animated films had showings that were expected to include adults, and where kids learned to stay relatively quiet and pay full attention to the screen. Or is that too old fashioned?

  • droosan

    Alternatively, the El Capitan Theater — in Hollywood, California — will be screening THE LITTLE MERMAID in ‘3-D’ from September 20th – October 13th (there’s no mention of this ‘second screen’ nonsense in their mail-out brochures, anyway; only the ‘3-D’ nonsense) ..

  • Daniel Brown

    This looks like it should’ve been a straight to DVD type project rather than drag everyone into the cinemas with their kids and tablets.

  • Actually I’d love to sing along to The Little Mermaid in a crowded theatre! But the rest is nonsense obviously.

    Perhaps it’s just a try-out for future film experiences? Like “We don’t know if this idea will work, but let’s try it on an old film before we make a new one especially meant for this iPad experience.” In Holland/Europe at least there really is the need to think about ‘the cinema experience’ now the only difference with the ‘at home experience’ is watching it with other people and on a bigger screen. For me that’s enough, but for the general audience? Not so sure. So I guess Disney’s try-out is interesting, it’s just a pity that they’re more or less ripping off The Little Mermaid for it.

    • Draško Ivezić

      It is a good point to try something new to attract general audience but this seems pretty obviously horrible. I would see this as a part of amusement park where a big screen is an asset to a small one, not other way around. And speaking morally it is just an other way to support consumerism (you should have your own iPad) starting with children which has nothing to do with expanding cinema experience but simply ruthless good old money making on our little ones without giving any extra value since you are just exploiting the old property.

  • It says a lot that Disney had to disable YouTube comments on this video. What a joke. I predict a complete bomb – audiences won’t want to play games in the middle of a movie that’s half-way decent, and Little Mermaid is much more than that.

    • JB

      In general, it says a lot that Disney would pull such a dumb marketing move, rather than giving the film a regular reissue like Lion King and Beauty and the Beast had a couple years ago. They obviously weren’t betting big money on this.

      • Thomas Paul Jennings

        So… 3D WASN’T a dumb marketing move?

        • Gaardus

          That particular gimmick still involves watching a film.

  • Simon

    While the gimmick of going to the theater with an iPad is a little stupid, the second Screens for Disney movies have been around for a while at the app store. The Lady and the tramp, bambi and the Lion King have one. They are full of Concept art, storyboards, production photos and cool stuff to see independently from the movie. Also free.

  • DarylT

    Still a great film though.

  • The idea of sitting in a theater filled with a bunch of lit screens to watch a movie seems like wanting to go to Las Vegas to go star gazing.

  • kadecando

    I’m excited about this. Between the original run, re-release & dvd, I know the whole thing by heart but I will pay to see something new. A sing along alone would make be buy tickets.

  • Ness

    Why can’t they just try showing the film in theaters, no gimmicks? Isn’t the novelty of seeing a great animated film on the big screen once again enough?

  • Steve Henderson

    This would have made a brilliant April fools joke, what a shame it is actually happening.

  • Toonio

    I just want to see people arguing with the ushers about the glare from other people’s ipads in total ignorance of this marketing ploy.

    I’ll pull out my ipad just to capture such arguments and put them on YouTube.

    So does anyone else need more proof that somebody at Disney went mad with power?

  • Tres Swygert

    I really don’t understand for them doing this other than the fact they can’t rely on the movie alone to get people to come. What I also don’t understand is why not make this a Blu-Ray DVD exclusive feature and have people interact at home!

    I can’t imagine a parent bringing their child(ren) to the theaters again and again to experience this on their iPad. At home on Blu-Ray DVD though, I can definitely see that. I’m sure this is a new way to get audiences to come for future film showing; however, I just don’t see it working for animation classics like the Little Mermaid. Save it for the new films.

  • greg manwaring

    We should all just go and sit scattered amongst the audience and skype each other, or play a loud pinball video app… …I mean, this truly seems ridiculous to me. If this becomes the norm, you’ll be watching a normal film and the kids will just break out their ipads and fire them up as they please.

    • SarahJesness

      I’ll assist by playing “Shantae” on my 3DS and putting it as loud as I can.

  • George Comerci

    Movies, in my opinion, are for absorbing whole, and giving your undivided attention to the finished product. I don’t think that this is a good idea. It’ll be an interesting experience, but I don’t think it would work otherwise.

  • SamK

    So, how many dropped and broken iPads will this silly little experiment cause?

  • Alê Camargo

    What a terrible idea! It’ll be a success.

  • Dana B

    Turn off your cell phones in the theater! Oh, you have an iPad? That’s ok, then.
    This is such a dimwit of an idea that it doesn’t even surprise me. No wonder this event is coming to where i live. This is basically like playing your 3DS at your pal’s wedding. All those iPads are gonna light up the theater like the freakin moon!

  • otterhead

    I think kids and parents will go nuts for this. Kids watch Disney movies on endless repeat — most kids this age have every song memorized. They can already use the “Second Screen” app at home — I’ve used it for several Disney films, and it can be cute and clever — so this is just the same idea, but with kids and parents getting to sing together along with dozens (?) of other families.

    Sorry, but I don’t see how this is a bad thing at all.

    • SarahJesness

      It’s a bad thing because it messes with the experience for the other moviegoers. If a ton of people in the audience have iPads with glowing screens, it would kind of pull a lot of other viewers out of it. This kind of thing would work perfectly fine as a DVD feature.

  • MRKid

    Great film. Horrible idea.

  • Ant G

    Disney is thinking up creative ways to keep the movie going experience alive as more and more people would rather watch movies privately at home. The movie theatre is no longer a movie watching experience (if it was ever just that), it’s a going out in public experience, where you interact with the audience in which you’re a part of; now with more than just sharing similar reactions at a funny or scary part in a film.

    I think this is a better idea than the 3D gimmick, but it’s at its infancy. More video games are becoming cinematic, and having movies become interactive seems to me like there might be a merger between the two mediums in the near future. Playing a video game (/interactive phone app) with peers and strangers alike in a room with a giant screen; along with having the “movie-esque” cut scenes here and there so our hands can rest, to me, sounds very exciting. So I get the point of your article Amid, but I am excited for the potential of where this might go.

    • optimist

      “If it was ever just that?” It’s always, always been just that. And that’s enough. That’s plenty. Movies aren’t planned for commerical breaks, for distractions from the screen, or even really for one single person to watch alone, but for a group viewing experience. For better or worse, that’s what a movie is. And it’s still a good concept.

    • otterhead

      Completely agree. The entire point of these screenings is to go with your iPad and your kids and play with the Second Screen app in a crowd setting, which has existed for years for home use. And from the sound of it, the app in this case is specifically made for crowds to sing along and have fun.

      I think this is a clever way to get short-attention-span kids to have a fun, unique experience in a theater.

      • optimist

        And I think this is a great way to get short-attention-span kids to learn terrible behaviour in a darkened movie theater, to put off or never learn proper etiquette and never learn that a group experience in a movie theater means you try your best to sit quietly and focus your attention on the action on screen.
        it’s just a bad idea. No one would stop families from having such an “interactive” experience at home, where it’s their domain and they can invite as many friends and other kids as they please and do this. They can already. This is about Disney seeing how much more $$$ they can get by charging admission.

    • Funkybat

      It seems like it would be a better plan for movie theaters to improve the traditional “moviegoing experience” rather than depend in distributors to come up with gimmicks to try to drive new traffic.

      People like going out to the movies. The decline in theater attendance is mostly due to the following:

      1: Movies have become incredibly expensive compared to buying a Blu Ray, to say nothing of buying a DVD or renting either from Netflix. The cost difference per film when multiple viewers are involved is something like 900%.

      2: The movie theater no longer feels like a “special place.” I know the old-style movie palaces are not really cost-competitive on a large scale, but go to any well-maintained or well-restored old school theater on a weekend night and the place is usually packed. Now that they are few and far between, they represent a kind of retro luxury experience. While multiplexes will never have quite the charm of those older theaters, they CAN offer a more luxurious experience than they currently do. The old General Cinema chain had a few theaters that had select screens with extra-wide seats, mini-tables between every other seat (for all your snacks, drinks etc.) and for some showtimes, reserved numbered seats. They were pretty damn nice. The ArcLight theaters are another good example. Make going to the movies a special experience to justify those ticket prices, and to get people to think “this is more fun than sitting on my couch at home.”

      3: The movies being offered to customers are largely middling to poor. Hollywood has GOT to start thinking long-term and take some creative chances. The idea of a media conglomerate as a steady, endless growth-delivering stock akin to Proctor and Gamble or GE is just plain wrongheaded. I understand it is a business, but it’s going to be a moribund business suffering from various cancers if it doesn’t take more chances with its entertainment offerings. These days, cable TV is far more interesting than most films. People are talking about Mad Men and Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, It’s been a while since movies have had a lot of buzz.

      • SarahJesness

        I love going to the movie theater, and you’re right. I don’t go to the movies very often because of the price. When I do decide to go to the movies, I only see films that got very good reviews and that I expect to like.

        A movie theater chain in my area is pretty nice. For some showings, they do have reserved seating and I LOVE that. If you know the theater is going to be crowded, well, your seat is reserved so you don’t have to go in half an hour early. And if you’re with other people, you get to make sure that you’ll get enough seats next to each other. The theater also has a bar, a lovely eating area, and VIP showings. I don’t do those cause I’m broke, (not to mention still 20) but it’s pretty cool.

        Near my parent’s place, there’s another theater in the mall. Not luxurious, but a matinee ticket is only $2.75. (and they show movies as they come out, it’s not really a dollar theater) Before I went to college I went to that theater all the time (even though some of the rooms smelled like feet, ha ha) because of the price. I went to movies I didn’t expect to like very much, I frequently paid for groups, and I even bought the overpriced snacks.

  • Jeremy Shuback

    I’m imagining the vast, vast majority of people in the audience will be
    A) Unaware there is an app
    B) Too lazy to remember to download it.
    C) Not want to download it.
    D) Want to download, but the moment they get to the theater, realize they’re the only one who did it, and out of politeness put it away
    E)A douchebag.
    or maybe…
    F) Possibly part of a large crowd of parents of children who actually do want to try something new like this.

    F scares me. Makes me feel like a curmudgeon against new things.

    Can’t we just be happy it’s back in theaters?

  • tom bancroft

    So Stupid!

  • Matt

    So Disney thinks people will want to pay $11 plus to watch a movie and be distracted by a crowd who oohs and aahs while they hold up their flickering iPads. Complete failure. Talk about whoring out one of their animated classics.

  • d. harry

    Can’t wait until people start showing up in other theaters and film the new releases with their ipads in tote. Can of worms!

  • kranma

    Wow that’s a really bad idea. It’s distracting from the film and the lights from the iPads are distracting. If you want to do that, do it at home and not in the theater.

  • Ryan S

    Horrible. Ridiculous.

  • CG Animator

    This is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard of.

    • Uso Ewin

      It’s like the “spiritual successor” to the Oogieloves

  • Barrett

    Will there be some showings of the film that are JUST the film playing on screen? I’d pay to go see a restored re-release on the big screen, but no interested in the iPad-enabled bits.

    I’ve been seeing this whole “second-screen” thing promoted elsewhere, such as before airings of new episodes of “Breaking Bad.” I guess some people like texting/tweeting/whatever during the show with other people watching it. I personally prefer watching the show with undivided attention, especially something as intricate and subtle ad “Breaking Bad.” The internet can wait an hour or a day or a week for my opinions and observations. I definitely wouldn’t want to promote doing this in *theaters*.

  • Gerard de Souza

    How about this as a gimmick? Show it as projected film on a big screen, the way it was meant to be seen.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Digital screens and Ipad apps? I have that at home.

  • Paul N

    Went to a performance of “Sweeney Todd” recently where there was a “social media” seating area. If you wanted to tweet, facebook, or whatever else on your phone or tablet, you sat in that section so as not to distract others.

    If they were doing something like this, then it’d be O.K. But you know these iPads will be scattered throughout the theater, ruining the movie for everyone who isn’t “connected.” Lame.

    • otterhead

      If you’re at this screening without an iPad, you’re in the wrong place, because it’s SPECIFICALLY for people with iPads who want to sing and play along while they watch.

  • Reel Thinkers


    Come on, they ASKED you to bring a recording device.

  • Caitlin Cadieux

    I think it’s important to make the distinction that this is run as a special event, not an open invitation to freely use your iPad in whatever movie you choose.

    This is exactly the same as summer kids’ movie specials where specific theaters show old kids’ movies again in limited runs to give parents events to take their kids to over the summer. It’s not really different from a special theater event with encouraged audience participation; it’s a Disney-fied, kid-friendly version of Rocky Horror, essentially. I’m reminded of special showings some local theaters do for autistic children where the lights are on and the noise level isn’t controlled, so sensitive kids can have a movie-going experience without the worry of bothering anyone.

    The only thing I care to point out is that I’d rather they just do a rerelease of Little Mermaid in theaters, and then have these optional, once-a-day or weekend screenings of this for parents that might be interested in that kind of thing. Either way it’s probably not going to be very popular from the look of things, but I don’t blame them at all for trying. If the iPad content was more along the lines of behind the scenes information or running trivia/commentary I wouldn’t mind in the least. As it is, this is obviously targeted to parents with kids.

    • otterhead

      Thank you. Exactly.

  • tedzey71

    And to think I get pissed when people text in the movies! Yo… movie’s on the screen up there! Why do we need to make going to the movies less a visual experience and more like a theme park attraction?

    • optimist

      Maybe the people who thought this up have themselves never paid full attention to a film screened in a theater. I’d hazard a bet they’ve never seen any Disney animated feature films that way.

  • Ben

    It’s something designed for little kids to go and have fun at the movies with a bunch of other kids also having fun at the movies. I don’t think they’re really appealing to the hardcore animation fan or the people interested in seeing the subtle and nuanced character animation. Their appealing to 5 year olds.

    Not everything is made for you.

  • Pedro Nakama

    I understand the concept behind this promotion. With children not paying attention to the movie they’ll miss certain parts of the story. If they are okay with an incomplete story then Disney will hire hack screen writers to pen their next big films like “Alice in Wonderland 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean 5,” and “Star Wars Episode 7.”

  • Kyle_Maloney

    This can be easily ignored. At least they didn’t screw up the movie itself. Oh wait….

  • Carina

    I can see Disney eventually doing something like this that works… except that right now it seems to me they are
    getting it exactly backwards. Instead of
    “enhancing”(yeah, right) a movie by adding mini games, they should probably be
    coming up with a GAME that can only be played in theaters. For example, a Star Wars themed “game/movie”
    with a short film on the big screen that sets up a background story of some
    sort of interstellar conflict, then has
    the viewers “fly off” in their individual i-pads (which are ships) to shoot a
    bunch of baddies. During the games, the
    big screen could only show stars whizzing by and have battle music playing while
    the audience competed for the high score on their i-pads. For added incentive to score high, the winner
    would get to choose what happens next from a menu that appeared on their
    screen, and the film would continue based on this decision. Physical prizes
    could be handed out at the end, based on score and how many people they had
    competed against (audience turn out).
    There could be “Clue”-style mystery movies where the audience competes
    to figure out whodunnit and stops occasionally to play mini games that reveal
    clues, court dramas where the audience votes on the verdict and it’s announced
    at the end. ANYTHING EXCEPT this silly
    idea where you pretty much end up NOT WATCHING THE MOVIE!!!!!!!

  • khan8282

    I don’t think they’re trying to enhance the film appreciation experience adults so much as use theaters as mass babysitter collection nodes for people that need to pass time with kids who won’t sit still for an hour and a half to look at one screen. Disney probably isn’t trying to appeal to adults like you and I in the first place.

    Don’t get me wrong. I find the wisdom of this endeavor questionable because of the damage it could do to the kids.

  • stillwaters2121

    I should bring my iPad to the theater so that I drop it on the floor in the dark, spill my soda on it, get my sticky buttered popcorn fingers on it, or get it stolen in the ladies’ room. I should pay for a high-priced ticket for a movie that I will not be watching, instead I will be looking at my iPad and get distracted by everyone else’s, and get bored with this new concept halfway through anyway.

  • If they absolutely HAD to do this…they should have at least made the app for home releases of the movie instead of a an actual theater attended by crowds of people. They couldn’t even get THAT right.

  • Marbles471

    Well, I’D go see it. I never saw it in theaters as a kid, and I’d sure like the chance to now, even though I’ve seen it so many times.