Gadgets and gizmos aplenty at re-release of Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid’ with Second Screen Live app

My son sang with Ariel, defeated the evil eels and scored more than 27,000 points on his iPad game -- all while watching The Little Mermaid on the big screen. Did I mention he’s 3?

Disney’s hoping to capitalize on the multi-tasking, tech-savvy generation by re-releasing the 1989 animated film in theaters with an interactive element.

Beginning September 20, movie-goers will be able to bring iPads to the theatrical re-release of The Little Mermaid. By downloading the “Second Screen Live: The Little Mermaid” app, audience members will be able to interact with the film, play games, sing along, and compete with the audience for the chance to win prizes.

The interactive experience is being tested during a limited engagement in 16 select theaters nationwide including Cinemark West Plano. The theater run comes before the Oct. 1 Blu-ray release of the film.

At Thursday’s screening of the film in Plano, audience members were introduced to the new app by the voice of Ariel herself, Jodi Benson, who explained to the audience how to set up the app before the film began.

After the easy set-up, users picked their teams (Flounder vs. Sebastian) and followed the movie along through interactive games such as “What Comes Next?” in which you had to guess from a list of choices what comes next in the film. Little Mermaid fanatics will also love the trivia portions, which were challenging. The Pop the Bubble and Scuttle Scope games were easy ways for the youngest audience members to contribute to the team score. In the scope game, users moved the telescope to find items that didn’t belong in a scene.

The sing-along portions gave the audience a chance to sing off-key with all of their favorite songs including Under the Sea and Part of Your World.

Sometimes, the interaction with the audience was a bit confusing. For example, Flounder and Sebastian (remember, you’re on one of their teams) have a running dialogue between scenes and it was difficult to understand sometimes. Also, by constantly having to look at your iPad and then up at the screen, there were many times when games or scenes were missed. One young attendee said, “My head started to hurt.”

Overall, the experience was captivating and engaging for all ages. A normal movie outing with a 3-year-old can be quite tasking for a mom. You never know when attention spans will quit. My son was focused on the film and the iPad app for the entire one hour and 29 minutes. The only struggle was when the games ended. “More games Mommy, we have to win,” he said.

While only one person in the audience won the grand prize, a limited-edition Little Mermaid lithograph, everyone got posters and stickers for participating.

Film buffs may balk at this new form of movie entertainment. For families, this may be a perfect way to enjoy a night out in which the children can sing, talk out loud and be thoroughly engaged.