The Final Word
By Jeff Girod
Not content to control our movies, TV, music, books, magazines, radio, billboards, fashion, toys, home furnishings, snack packs, Halloween costumes, giftwrap and party favors, Disney has set its sites on revolutionizing the way we go to the theater to watch movies…
And they’re targeting children!
Marketed as “Second Screen Live,” Disney re-released The Little Mermaid on Sept. 13. What’s more, they’re encouraging kids to bring their iPad or iPad Mini to play games while the movie is showing. (Sorry Android users. Apparently Disney is as big an Apple snob as most everyone else.)
Kids have to download a specific Disney Second Screen Live app, which then leads sing-alongs to the film’s soundtrack, lets kids play games against other audience members and provides behind-the-scenes trivia while the movie is playing. Bonus piece of trivia: That talking crab isn’t really Jamaican!
Sixteen theaters nationwide are participating in the Second Screen Live experience, including five locally in Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, Burbank, Anaheim and Huntington Beach.
Now normally when I watch a film, I like to sit quietly with all of my attention quietly focused on the giant screen at the front of the theater. I figure since I’ve paid $10 for my ticket, the room is dark and all the seats are facing forward, it seems like a good idea to silence myself, and all of my electronic devices, and let the actors do the talking.
But Disney seems to have different ideas. (They do usually do.)
And I think it’s wonderful that they’re targeting 4-year-olds. Because if anyone needs to be trained that it’s OK to whip out a glowing 14-inch beeping screen and sing along with a soundtrack, it’s someone who will be attending movies next to the rest of us for the next 80-100 years.
Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks the Second Screen Experience is a horrendous idea. Slashfilm.com described it as an “indoctrination tool for young children.” Ben Kuchera of the Penny Arcade Report even takes it further:
“Imagine a theater full of children, with everyone looking down at a bright screen instead of watching the movie,” Kuchera writes. “Let’s hope that the app is silent or you’ll be dealing with hundreds of speakers all playing music with different timing, or at different volumes. Hellish.”
Stop for a moment to consider where our culture is. Every other car on the freeway is drifting out of its lane, with drivers texting instead of steering. Go to a restaurant, bar or coffee shop and you’ll see a room full of people not talking or even looking at each other, all staring off at their smartphones.
We are a nation of preoccupied data addicts, waiting to be impressed by the next thing.
The Little Mermaid isn’t so great of a film that is has to be experienced by all five senses. If everyone is singing and playing and downloading instead of watching, how is anyone going to know if the underwater princess kisses the something, slays the whomever and lives happily ever after on a seahorse? (I’m wingin’ it here. I haven’t seen the movie since 1989.)
Instead of re-releasing a worn-out, 20 year-old movie, Disney should try to dazzle us with something new. Innovate. Create. Come up with a movie no kid would dare miss for even one second to waste time on an iPad.
Teaching future generations should be about re-establishing one meaningful connection, not cramming our children’s heads full of as many channels as possible. There is value in kids (and adults) learning how to sit quietly — whether it’s in a theater, a waiting room, or just inside your house or apartment.
Sometimes the best way — the only way — to experience something is to do just that. Lean back, eyes straight ahead and take it all in. Maybe it’s a movie. Maybe it’s a lover. Maybe it’s just a bacon cheeseburger.
If you do it right, there’s always some small measure of enjoyment to be gained. Let us not become so tethered to technology that we forget where the “off” button is.
Use your smartphone as a tool. Don’t become one.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org