Liking ponies before it was cool isn’t hipster? Friendship is Magic Review: Seasons 1 & 2

When I was a child, my two favorite things were cartoons and horses. Therefore, the My Little Pony franchise was a magical godsend that absorbed nearly all of my free time. When I was eight, my manic-encyclopedic knowledge of pony-marking conventions even helped me win a My Little Pony colouring contest – landing me in an additional $200 worth of merchandise (not that I didn’t already have hundreds of dollars of merchandise).

When I was a child, it was anything thing I could do to trick somebody, ANYBODY, into watching My Little Pony with me. And now I find out adults everywhere are watching it bribe-free?

Sign me up.

I think that My Little Pony might be the only thing that it not hipster to have liked before it was cool. Telling my friends that I had watched it years before it was this popular offered me no additional street cred. No surprise there.

I was a little hesitant to get back into it though-since it got it’s cult start on 4chan, it has seemed like a pretty elaborate ruse. There has been hundreds of animations that secretly cater to a more adult audience, but none that are aimed at such a young crowd, and none with such overwhelmingly stereotypical feminine themes.  A bedridden week with a violent stomach bug put these fears to rest though, as I resorted to turn on, what I hypothesized might be, the only show with plot lines comprehensible to me in my nauseated state.

These are my findings:

Animation

The animation is a masterpiece! simplistic and adorable, with proportions just exaggerated enough to make for good stylization. They even animate their manes as one little blob, pulling and tweaking it to give it movement when the characters run. This is a stark contrast to the horrible stubbly cow-ponies of yore, with their gaping bovine-lashed eyes and their horrible mixture of too much realism and too much fantasy all rolled into one.

rainbow dash

Wow- could this be any more of an improvement?
I love flash-style animation

old ponies

Ew look at these stumply little buggers-DATED

Using a Barbie comb I used to brush their stringly strands of plastic hair and wonder why the figurines legs were so short, color combinations so jarring, and cutie-mark symbols so indecipherable. ( I would often receive ponies with shit that looked like bowtie pasta stamped on their rump- the boxes offering me no explanation).

Here's one I actually had. The blossoms indicate skill in....gardening maybe?

Here’s one I actually had. The blossoms indicate skill in….gardening maybe?

Yeah- there's the brush. Pretty hideous right?

Yeah- there’s the brush. Pretty hideous right?

These characters are an 10000% improvement. My only animation complaint is that the boy-ponies seem to suffer from Winx Club Syndrome. An animation symptom that results from when a severely girly franchise attempts to include boy characters and severely botches the attempt to translate masculine features into their animation template.

Here have a look.

The Winx Girls- Note the excessive levels of girly-ness

The Winx Girls- Note the excessive levels of girly-ness

These guys look terrible- what a mess. (except Timmy, the nerd, who is moderately ok)

These guys look terrible- what a mess. (except Timmy, the nerd, who is moderately ok)

Now take a look at some of the terrible looking boy characters in My Little Pony. WARNING: Searching ANY of the pony boy characters will immediately result in TONS OF FAN PORN

This thing is named Fancy Pants – really? Fan porn involving this guy? Yes. If this thing had a sound assigned to it, it would be *nyahem,*

 

Big Macintosh- Apple Jack's older brother

Big Macintosh- Apple Jack’s older brother- apparently a stud.

Episodes and Characters

I had originally assumed that this show was so popular with adult audiences because of its humor (because this is usually the case for similar shows). But this show isn’t very funny overall. It does however have an extremely watchable quality. It’s definitely not grippingly suspenseful or action packed, but it has a structure that allows you to put on ten or so episodes in succession while you hammer out some mindless work. And it leaves you positive feelings.

The episodes follow the growing friendship of a handful of girl-ponies, all of which are actually pretty well-developed characters and cover a broad range of relatable personality traits. Also the voice work is hardly grating at all for a children’s show, Ashleigh Ball and Tara Strong had a hand in this one

Here I have boiled them down to their essence

Rainbow Dash – Pegasus Athlete, arrogant and competitive. Interests include: speed.
Pinkie Pie – Party-loving ditz
Twilight Sparkle – Bookish, Type- A unicorn
Apple Jack – Tomboy farmgirl pony with apple- related skills
Rarity – Snobby, fake English accented unicorn. (Also a talented designer, and business owner)
Fluttershy – Shy-ass, kindly Pegasus who caters to the every whim of random animals
Spike: Twilight Sparkle’s dragon-slave.

my little pony cast

Usually they learn something about friendship, and report back to Twilight Sparkle’s mentor Princess Celestia, neatly packaging the episodes into didactic bows.

Occasionally you will be exposed to an episode where uncannily irritating younger-type ponies, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo (even the name is annoying) and Sweetie Bell (have you noticed that compound names are really common in the series?) try to find their one special skill and transform their embarrassing “blank flanks” into flanks plagued by vague markings indicating a highly specific and often menial skill.

For example, Pinkie Pie’s one true skill is “parties”, outside of which she is largely unskilled. Party skill allows Pinkie Pie to throw an irritating amount of social gatherings for no reason, where the festivities 100% percent of the time include cupcakes and a conga line. As far as I know, her parties don’t bring her any income, and other than Twilight Sparkle, who is still a student, she seems to be the only unemployed pony in PonyVille.

I can see how this “one true skill” idea could be really inspiring to kids though. I mean, I wish every that every time I wondered if I was really meant to make cartoons, I could look down at my ass and see a mystical tattoo of a Wacom Tablet.

However these three pony childrens’ skills are made impossibly obvious in the first episode they appear in, and from then on we watch them flounder about, actively destroying the town while managing to do everything other than the ONE THING THEY ARE EACH COMPETENT AT.

scootaloo and sweetie bell

Scootaloo and Sweetie Bell: Looks like they done f****d up again

Other Considerations

I really appreciate the care given to developing the pony universe this time around. The ponies are all properly employed (although I use the term employed loosely- the town seems to have some sort of communist setup, where most of the ponies are employed performing basic nature functions like making rain and feeding animals.) , PonyVille is just one of many other pony related cities scattered around the world and there’s a number of other magical creatures that have their own societies. They have also established the universe’s magic rules fairly comprehensively. Everybody has some sort of traceable family, and hasn’t just come out of thin air. Very well done for a children’s show. Way to go executive producer Lauren Faust!

Also, good on them for insisting on using the plural conjugation “Pegasi” for Pegasus, instead of adopting/inventing some new horrible child-friendly term, like Winglies or Flybellas or some shit.
Speaking of which- the way they animate their little wings folded against their bodies is adorable enough to warrant watching the show on its own.

Verdict

Will I watch the third season. I don’t know why, but definitely yes. I liked it then and I like it now. I will also watch the recently confirmed fourth season, coming this winterLong live ponies.

Also did I mention that Build-a-Bear Workshop has a new pony constructing line?

Here it is. It seems a little limited though- very Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie heavy- either way- I’ll be right back…I have some cotton stuffing related business to take care of.

 

 

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