Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Second Look at Disney Second Screen

Earlier this year, I wrote about Disney Second Screen, the digital add-on to select Disney home video releases. At the time, I enjoyed the technology, but wasn't really comfortable with the experience of watching a movie and its bonus features at the same time.

After viewing Second Screen's most recent entries, however, I think I'm getting the hang of it, It really is a fun experience if you want to totally immerse yourself in the back-stories and minutiae of Disney film making.

Second Screen is available to view online at or as a free iPad app. I prefer the iPad version for its portability and ease of use. If you have a wireless network, you can sync Second Screen with your Blu-ray disc through BD Live. There's also an audio sync feature, where your iPad "listens" to the movie audio, but I found that to be a bit wonky and not as easy to sync as BD Live.

Of course, you can always skip the movie and just flip through Second Screen manually, but you do lose the context the film provides.

The Lion King

Animation seems best suited to the Second Screen format and Disney takes full advantage of it with its 1994 classic. The Lion King Second Screen app is chock-full of concept art and pencil tests that illustrate how the film developed. So, while you're watching Simba and Mufasa experience the great circle of life, you can also see how the characters evolved from early concepts to final realizations on screen. There are interesting video clips of animators at work--both in-studio and on location with live animals--and the occasional "Fun Fact" telling behind the scenes stories about the film. Sadly lacking from Second Screen, however, are any photos or video of the voice cast, which makes the experience feel somewhat incomplete. Still, it's a great compilation chronicling The Lion King's artistic development.

iPad screen shots:

"Hakuna Matata" concept art.

A Jeremy Irons and Andreas Deja "Fun Fact."

"Morning Report" concept art.

Rafiki leaves his mark.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

On Facebook, my friend Becky recently observed that in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, "Almost all pirates are stupid."

I replied with, "Yeah, but British soldiers are even stupider."

Of course, in On Stranger Tides, the Spanish are smarter than the whole lot.

But, I digress.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is by far the weakest of the four Pirates films. Despite spirited performances by the cast, the film is done in by a boring story and some pretty lazy direction by Rob Marshall. With the exception of the exciting "Mermaids Attack!" scene (a terrific mix of live action and CG effects), the action sequences fall flat, making POTC 4 a long slog across the ocean and through the jungle to an anticlimactic encounter with the Fountain of Youth.

At least Second Screen offers some diversions. It has plenty of concept art, behind-the-scenes photos and trivia to keep you entertained.

More screen shots:

Pirate adventures in London.

(l. to r.) Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Rob Marshall.

My, what big teeth you have. Mermaid concept art.

Concept of Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.

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