There are two topics that I am immensely surprised that I have not talked about on this blog yet (two of which should be very apparent if you follow the official Adventures of a Lost Boy Tumblr, and while I’m in a schilling mood, like us on Facebook). Those topics are Pokemon and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
If this were any time before October of 2010, I would have been disgusted by the idea of even liking My Little Pony. The original show was terrible, as were a large number of the animated shows from the 1980’s that were made to sell toys. Only a few actually tried to tell some sort of meaningful story or provide content outside of constantly introducing new characters in order to keep selling toys. Luckily for fans of animation, the 1990’s ended up being what is referred to the “creator-driven era” of animation where the creators of the shows had almost complete control over the design, writing, and creation of their shows. It was a period of unbridled creativity in the animation industry when creations such as Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, Animaniacs, and Tiny Toons were created to much critical acclaim and success. The two worlds have now collided with the creation of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by combining a number of the tennants of the creator-driven era of animation (including one of the big names of the era, Lauren Faust) with the sheer merchandising power of the 1980’s shows.
Friendship is Magic follows the adventures of Twilight Sparkle, a unicorn and magical prodigy, who moves to the town of Ponyville from Canterlot because her teacher, Princess Celestia, wants her to learn about the magic of friendship. There she meets the fun-loving Pinky Pie, the speed demon Rainbow Dash, the loyal and hardworking Applejack, the creative Rarity, and the kind but incredibly shy Fluttershy and they all embark on adventures that always seem to end with a message.
Yeah. That’s it. That’s the show.
This is the point where you ask: Ryan, why are you watching My Little Pony?
And this is the point where I tell you.
To put it succinctly, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is one of the most brilliant animated shows to come out in years. The story for the show as a whole is kind of silly and incredibly simple, but the actual stories for the episodes are pretty awesome. To give some examples, here are some plot synopsis for a few of my personal favourite episodes from season 1:
- Applebuck Season (episode 4): “With her big brother hurt, Applejack volunteers to harvest the apple crop in her family’s orchard all by herself. However, she is too prideful and stubborn to accept any help from the other ponies. She gradually works herself to the point of exhaustion, causing problems when she promises to help the others around town.”
- Dragonshy (episode 7): A sleeping dragon’s smoke is disrupting the skies of Equestria and Twilight Sparkle is tasked with getting it to leave. All of her friends are set to head to the dragon’s lair, with the exception of the fearful Fluttershy, who is not used to the rocky terrain, much less a giant dragon. The timid Pegasus must find the resolve necessary when her friends are in danger.
- Winter Wrap-Up (episode 11): Winter comes to an end, and Ponyville prepares for an annual cleanup to make way for spring. Twilight wants to take part as well, and is willing to do so without the use of her magic in the name of tradition. Everything she tries ends in disaster, but an argument among the disorganized teams inspires her to find her own way to help.
- Sonic Rainboom (episode 16): Rainbow Dash is preparing herself for an upcoming contest, with a day with the famous Wonderbolts as the grand prize, and is sure that an old move she claimed to have pulled off long ago will guarantee her a win. However, she becomes increasingly nervous that she won’t succeed. Rarity, who has gained beautiful wings by Twilight’s magic to join in cheering her on, is recommended to enter the same event. Can Dash gather the confidence to win, or will she be overshadowed by her friend’s elegance?
- Stare Master (episode 17): Fluttershy has great experience with all kinds of animals, but it is an entirely different story when she offers to take care of Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle for the night. Will she be able to keep them out of trouble, and what exactly is “The Stare”?
The stories for the episodes are usually very entertaining, but what makes the show so genuinely good are the characters. The characters are all incredibly well defined as so that you can usually sum them up in one word, but each of the mane six (yes, that is actually what they are referred to on the internet) goes through some major amount of character development over the season as they learn lessons that allow them to grow as ponies. While the descriptions of the mane six can be summed up in a few words, their characters are much deeper than many people would expect. Rarity is obsessed with fashion, but she is not someone who acts like a bimbo and just goes to the mall and talks about shoes. She is incredibly creative and is obsessed with fashion as so that she can use ideas that she sees in the clothes in order to inspire her to push forward her own designs as to make her boutique more prevalent. She’s a business woman, as is her friend Applejack. Applejack, at first glance, is (for lack of a better term) a hick. In reality, she is a hard-working and determined pony who wants to keep her family’s apple farm open and will always stand by her friends. Each of the characters have layers upon layers to them that allows for deeper story lines to be written about them. The show also involves each of the mane 6 having a complete mental breakdown at some point in the show, which leads to both hilarity (or in Pinky Pie’s case, horror) and some major grounding for the character.
The show is very much akin to the Cartoon Cartoon shows that ran on the Cartoon Network in the 90’s and early 2000’s, and a lot of that is because of the involvement of Lauren Faust. The show is very funny and exceptionally well designed as so that they can constantly add characters and locations and not have it feel bloated or unnecessary. Most of this comes from it’s writing and the fact that it draws surprisingly heavily from various mythologies and general fantasy lore. A large amount of the comedy comes from Pinky Pie, who genuinely seems to not only understand that she lives in a cartoon world, but genuinely relishes the idea of it. It also helps that she is completely crazy. This all really comes from the involvement of Lauren Faust.
For those of you not in the know, Lauren Faust worked on shows like the Powerpuff Girls, Codename: Kids Next Door, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and movies like the Iron Giant and Cats Don’t Dance. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends was partially her creation and if you loved that show, then you will definitely love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, as they are incredibly similar in tone and style.
Friendship is Magic is easily one of the best looking shows I have ever seen to be made using Adobe Flash. Everything is crisp and fluid and the style of the show works really well with both the strengths and limitations of Flash. The character designs don’t look like the old creepy vaguely pony looking designs of the old My Little Pony, and now have taken on a much more angular and stylistic design (much to the show’s benefit). Every character is super distinctive from each other, with no pony design looking the same, or usually even close, to another. The great animation is complemented with some great music (well, except for the theme song. The theme song can die in a fire). The show even has musical numbers in a number of episodes, but they always work within the confines of the show and never feel obtrusive. It doesn’t help that they are super catchy, though (“Winter Wrap-Up” is almost constantly stuck in my head).
This show is huge on the internet. Practically every single episode has numerous memes that have sprung from them and there are almost constant flamewars between fans of the show and people who hate it. 4Chan, that den of internet villainy, actually banned people from talking about Ponies because the Bronies (male fans of the show) were starting to take over the image board. People are constantly creating fanart of characters, or making pony-fied versions of themselves, or making super awesome cosplay of the characters. The internet created names for background characters that have been adopted by the entire community. Characters like Doctor Whooves (who actually is a Doctor Who reference), DJ P0N-3, Lyra, Octavia, and the internet favourite Derpy Hooves. What is surprising about all of this, though, is that Lauren Faust follows all of this and not only acknowledges that it’s there, but actually plays to the fans. As of season 2, Derpy Hooves is actually canon. She appeared in an episode with a talking role and was actually named Derpy Hooves! Friendship is Magic has become this oddity in that while it was made to appeal to young girls, the largest demographic who watches it is actually males in their 20’s (and not in a creepy way). The creators of the show even put in a number of references for adults, such as putting pony-fied versions of the Dude, Walter, and Donny from the Big Lebowski in an episode that partially takes place in a bowling alley.
I can honestly say that most people will enjoy My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic if they can get past the idea that it is My Little Pony. The show is immaculately designed and genuinely hilarious with a strong continuity and some genuinely useful (and sometimes surprisingly adult) lessons that can benefit everyone, not just little girls. If you take my advice to watch the show, I would suggest starting with one of the episodes I listed above in order to see if you like the show. Use one of those episodes as a litmus test: if you like it, go back and watch the show from the beginning. If you don’t, then just don’t watch the rest of the show. Chances are pretty high that you’ll enjoy it, though.
Before anyone asks who my favourite pony is: Big Macintosh is best pony.