My Little Pony: The Movie Review

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On October 10, 2010, the world of pop culture was forever changed when a show called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic premiered on The Hub/Discovery Family. This show began the fourth generation of the My Little Pony franchise. It was different than previous incarnations. The character designs were unique and it attracted a fan-base of both men and women of all ages. Seven years later, and that fan-base has grown to amazing proportions. The series has aired over a hundred episodes and shows no signs of finishing anytime soon. Essays can be written on why the show is appealing, but I’ll sum it up in one sentence: In a time when animated shows are devoid of substance, My Little Pony offers genuinely good writing, developed characters, and moral-filled messages. The show must obviously be doing something right, because this year marks its first wide release theatrical film.

Granted, the series had a couple of spin-off films (Equestria Girls) appear in the theater, but those were limited releases. The Movie is the first “true” theatrical experience. Director Jayson Thiessen has been with the series for awhile. He does the show justice with the film. It’s an exciting adventure for both longtime fans and those looking to see for the first time why Pony is a pop culture phenomenon. Though it’s not perfect (a weak climax for one thing), The Movie is well worth the price of admission.

The opening scene features a beautiful overview of Canterlot. The show has been known for its sharp animation, and the movie multiplies its unique look: the animation is gorgeous. Soon we’re shown our main character: Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship. In typical Twilight fashion, we’re shown a character whom easily becomes a nervous wreck when it comes to planning something big. The Friendship Festival is a solid way to start the film, as it introduces viewers to each of the main ponies. Rarity’s attention to detail when designing the ribbons for the stage, and Rainbow Dash’s brashness in decorating the place in the blink of an eye (with no attention to detail) much to Rarity’s dismay was classic. Right before the festival can kick off with a song from Songbird Serenade, the conflict makes itself known.

The arrival of the Storm King’s ship was handled brilliantly. The sky grows dark and the music changes as the ship draws closer to the ground. We’re not introduced to the eponymous villain yet however. Instead, a little creature named Grubber announces they’re here by order of the Storm King and proceeds to introduce Commander Tempest. Voiced by Emily Blunt, Tempest makes herself known by requesting the immediate surrender of all four princesses. Blunt does a fantastic job here and the rest of the film as Tempest. There’s a genuine menace to her voice, and also gives the impression that Tempest genuinely hates friendship. Back to the raid, naturally the princesses don’t surrender and this leads to an exciting sequence as Tempest turns Princess Celestia, Luna, and Cadance all to stone. It’s mayhem as the Storm King’s troops attack as the pony civilians run in fear. There is however something that needs to be noted about the entire sequence.

Viewers of the show know that Twilight Sparkle is one of the most powerful magic users in Equestria. However, she’s useless during the raid. She doesn’t teleport away as the orb approaches her. She almost doesn’t fight back at all when really she could easily beat Tempest. That’s a problem for almost the rest of the movie: Twilight seems to be genuinely scared of Tempest, despite the fact that she (Twilight) battled a demonic overlord all by herself in the past. That’s why the raid sequence was a little hard to believe. If someone however has never seen the show, this wouldn’t be a big deal.

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Next, the core part of the movie begins: Twilight and her friends’ journey to finding the Queen of the “Hippos.” It’s an adventure story at its finest; the ponies travel to a shady western-like town, a pirate airship, a mermaid-like place, and finally back to the castle. The new settings have memorable characters. Capper is a charismatic cat brilliantly voiced by Taye Diggs. Captain Celaeno is a great pirate character. This is one case though where the film could have benefited from being a bit longer. We’re shown that she and her band of pirates are forced to do the Storm King’s bidding. Rainbow Dash gives her a speech on being awesome again: she doesn’t have to follow the Storm King. Dash’s speech is well done, but some additional minutes would have been useful in developing Celaeno’s character progression. In the mermaid, or rather seapony place, Princess Skystar is another great character. We’re shown her genuine longing for friends, especially with not having interacted with the outside world for awhile.

Before we move on to the climax, let’s discuss the main ponies themselves. Each of their diverse personalities are nicely displayed. It’s fun seeing their different reactions, from Rarity saying how her mane is worth more than a character was willing to pay for it, to Pinkie’s bubbly reaction to a certain character’s real name. Now, unfortunately some of the ponies don’t technically get to do much. Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rarity have few notable scenes. At least Fluttershy had one memorable scene when she “battled” a Storm King trooper – I can’t say the same for Applejack or Rarity. Other than Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie seem to be the show’s most popular characters. That’s probably the reason why those two were given more prominence in the film.

Pinkie Pie was one of the highlights. The show can have a hard time balancing her comedic relief persona and being an engaging character. The film balances that perfectly, and even goes further toward the climax when she and Twilight discuss a controversial matter. It was one of the most emotional scenes in the entire franchise. It’s amazing how much emotion can be shown in the characters’ eyes. This was also helped by the superb voices of Tara Strong and Andrea Libman. Spike is given a good role as well. His fire-breathing is put to excellent use.

Now we come to the climax and the Storm King. Storm King steals the show in the few scenes he’s in. Liev Schreiber does a fantastic job voicing the villain with comedic flare. Storm King is a character whom likes to have fun as he’s ruling over the masses, and it shows. Unfortunately, the climax doesn’t do him full justice. Now, him mainly appearing in the climax as build-up can be a good thing  – if the film delivers something exciting. We do get some good dialogue from the King, and the obligatory ponies-uniting scene to put an end to his reign. But there’s no real battle. There’s virtually no showdown with the antagonist. The show has had better climaxes. In “Twilight’s Kingdom – Part 2,” Twilight battles Tirek; magical beams are shot and Twilight is thrown into a mountain. Keep in mind, that “Twilight’s Kingdom” was aired as TV-Y. The Movie has a film budget and a PG rating, and yet has a mediocre climax in comparison. It’s not terrible, but with how little the Storm King appears, more was needed. (I recommend reading the prequel graphic novel; it shows more of Storm King’s character and motivation which you won’t really find in the film.)

One of the greatest aspects of the show is its emphasis on quality music. You’ll find many amazingly written tunes in the film as well. As an example, part of the lyrics of the song, “We Got This Together” is: “I am the princess of friendship – But that is more than just a crown.” This speaks volumes on the type of character Twilight is, and the responsibly she carries. Daniel Ingram has been composing heartfelt songs for the show for years. He continues that quality work in the film, along with every other artist who worked on the soundtrack. Tempest also has a song as she explains her emotional backstory on how her horn became broken. The background themes are also great. The soundtrack overall is an A+.

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Overall, My Little Pony: The Movie does the show justice. It features all the great characters longtime fans have come to love throughout the years. The story is a classic adventure filled with memorable new characters. Tempest is a highlight, and no one will soon be forgetting the laughs they had while watching Capper. Like the show, the film  deals with different themes. It deals with the power of friendship, losing faith in friendship, broken friendships, and of course the fight against evil. Quality writing is abound. There are a few gripes. Twilight is portrayed as severely weak throughout the film. The climax was more on the mediocre side, and the Storm King, though a great character, was given too little screen time and not enough payoff. These things shouldn’t wreck your enjoyment of the film however. My Little Pony has become a brand associated with quality. The Movie is a story filled with the quality message of friendship.

8.5/10

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “The Fault in Our Cutie Marks” Review

Another week brings in another My Little Pony episode. Like “28 Pranks Later,” this one’s title is a reference to another piece of media. This time The Fault in Our Stars is parodied, though the actual plot of the episode has nothing to do with it. The Cutie Mark Crusaders haven’t had much luck in terms of quality adventures this season. Both “On Your Marks” and “The Cart Before the Ponies” were on the mediocre side. Thankfully, this streak ends with their best installment in a long while.

An enthusiastic young griffon asks the Crusaders to help her get her very own Cutie Mark; the Crusaders encounter a seemingly impossible problem.

This episode is sort of the antithesis to the Crusaders’ general plots. The fillies’ mission is to help others find out their purpose in life and result in a Cutie Mark springing to life. This time however, the question is posed: “What if it’s basically impossible for someone to get a Cutie Mark?” In this case, a griffon by the name of Gabriella has shown immense interest in getting a Cutie Mark of her own. As viewers and the Crusaders themselves suspect, it’s incredibly unlikely for that to be possible since it seems like only ponies can have Marks. The Fillies are thrown in for a loop because for the first time they think a situation for them to solve is helpless. The viewers can feel their genuine sadness as Scootaloo proclaims to Gabby that the Crusaders “can’t help you.”

Gabby is a very fun character to have around, and in many ways the griffon version of Pinkie Pie. Depending on the viewer’s tolerance for the latter, one will either find Gabby cute or annoying. Personally, I thought her dialogue was good and once again the viewer can feel her genuine sadness when she learns that she won’t be getting a Cutie Mark. One of my favorite scenes was the early flashback, which recalled the events of “The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone.” It was a neat callback, but the greatest aspect of it was the fact that one’s actions (in this case Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash’s) can have unseen positive effects. Because of Gabby witnessing the heroic actions of the two ponies, she was inspired and that inspiration eventually led to her realizing her purpose.

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Overall, “The Fault in Our Cutie Marks” starts a little choppy but ended up being a great episode. The Crusaders face a problem that seemingly doesn’t have a solution, and the viewer can hear the despair in their voices when things seemingly take a turn for the worst. Writer Ed Valentine makes great use of Gabby as a fun character looking to bring light into her rather mean-spirited city. Twilight appears, though it would have been nice to see her offer some advice. She just explains the impossibility of a griffon getting a Cutie Mark, and that’s it. The song was very good, and all the voice work was especially great in this episode.

9/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “The Cart Before the Ponies” Review

It’s a nice thing to have My Little Pony back on the air. It’s perhaps one of the best ways to start the weekend. Last week’s episode put the spotlight on Rainbow Dash and brought back the Indiana Jones-inspired pony, Daring Do. It was also slightly meta, introducing a brand new character that represented a rather stubborn critic. Even though the writing wasn’t particularly great at some points, “Stranger than Fan Fiction” was still memorable. Today’s installment is also memorable, though for the wrong reason. It’s not the worst episode (though I’m having trouble thinking of a worse one) but it’s definitely on the lower spectrum of the show.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders are excited for the chance to race in the annual Applewood Derby – until their teammates Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash take over the competition.

So, what puts this episode as a lower tier one? Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash all are written very terribly for the sake of the lesson. Simultaneously these are their worst portrayals in the show. As stated in the description, the story’s main setting is a race, and the fillies are each allowed to ask for assistance from an older pony. The Cutie Mark Crusaders naturally ask their big sisters (well, sister in spirit for Scootaloo) which is of course welcome, and should make for a fun story. But, the three older ponies are written as unreasonable and stubborn. Almost from the start they take the race for themselves, thinking they’re the ones competing, not the fillies. To justify this, the writing throws in some backstory. The two biggest examples are Rarity’s, where she wants to win after dealing with a second place prize a long time ago, and Applejack’s, whom wants to keep with tradition. The episode really starts to falter here.

Throughout the middle act it seemed like the three Mane 6 members lost touch with reality and became downright mean. Every time the Crusaders would apply features (such as cardboard wings for example) to the cart, their older member would rudely remove them. Perhaps the worst scene was when Applejack threatened Apple Bloom with, “So are you an Apple, or are you an Apple?” when the latter wanted to make a more modern cart as opposed to a traditional one. Just about all the lines from the Mane 6 members were very jarring and forced for the story. It’s simple to see what the message was going for: saying that older people aren’t 100% always right and should listen to the opinions of their siblings/younger people. A message however should never be at the cost of quality characters.

This is not to say there weren’t some things to like. Writer Ed Valentine has a great handle of the Crusaders. The viewer sympathizes with them the entire time. The actual race was also fun. (It reminded me of Wacky Races.) The ending sadly is anticlimactic since we don’t see the actual ending to the race…which was the main part of the plot!

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Overall, Cart is definitely more of a mediocre episode. The message isn’t necessarily negative, but it’s at the cost of our favorite characters. At the very least, Crusader fans will be pleased with their portrayal.

5/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Stranger than Fan Fiction” Review

After a few months hiatus, My Little Pony returns for its second half of Season 6. By now there’s no need to discuss things generally speaking. If you’ve been following my reviews, then you know I consider Season 6 to be the weakest season so far. This doesn’t equate to bad of course, because the show is still leagues ahead of what is currently on television. It’s just when compared to the early seasons the episodes here have been of lesser quality. Today’s episode isn’t an immensely notable one. It is by no means terrible, or even a bad watch, just more on the average side.

Rainbow Dash attends the Daring Do Convention in Manehattan and meets a pony who hates Daring Do as much as she loves it.

Written by Josh Haber and Michael Vogel

This episode has two main parts, the first being at the convention and the next being the Daring Do adventure. First, the convention scenes were very well done. It’s accurate to how a real life pony, or any kind of pop culture event would be. We can see the genuine excitement on Rainbow Dash’s face throughout these parts. Perhaps the best scene is when she runs into another hardcore fan like herself, by the name of Quibble Pants. Again, this is accurate to a real life convention. When you meet someone whom has a heavy interest in a specific area, whether it be pony, Trek, or Japanese monsters there’s a cool little connection as two discuss things only true fans can talk about. These early scenes were fun. Sadly, the writing takes a dip in quality during the second act.

I applaud the show for talking about a great lesson, and that’s on the subject of opinions. Rainbow Dash thinks all the Daring Do books are excellent, especially the latter entries. Quibble on the the other hand can’t stand the latter ones, and refuses to acknowledge them. This leads to some heated discussion between the two characters. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because often a lesson is learned after a hardship. The problem is that Quibble starting from the opening argument becomes a very jarring character to listen to. The ironically annoying part is that he proves to be seemingly smarter than Daring Do herself, showing her how to do her job in the climax.

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The overall message is that it’s okay for fans to have differing opinions on their favorite subject. For example, many Star Trek fans seem to agree that Nemesis is one of the worst films in the series, but what if a person says it actually isn’t that bad? Another example might be a Godzilla fan claiming Final Wars to be actually pretty good when many consider it to be one of the worst in the series. Instead of fans attacking one another, they should discuss things in a happy manner. So, it’s definitely a good lesson. A lot of the dialogue in the second half from Quibble, which is the constant mocking of the situation before realizing he’s in real danger was cliche and fell flat. As for Rainbow Dash herself, she wasn’t bad. The only hard-to-believe scene is that she would go out of her way and talk to Daring Do to get the latter to convince Quibble that all the books are good.

Overall, “Stranger than Fan Fiction” isn’t a 5 star episode, but still an okay watch. The message is something any fan of pop culture can understand and appreciate. The dynamic between Rainbow Dash and Quibble was good in the beginning, & in the final few minutes. In-between is where most of the negatives are. The viewers have to deal with the annoying dialogue from Quibble when they want to see more of Daring Do since she has been absent from the show for quite awhile.

6.5/10