October 06, 2017

REVIEW: MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE



Director: Jayson Thiessen


            My Little Pony: The Movie comes at an interesting time in the franchise. When Lauren Faust was tasked with brining the 80s toy franchise to the fledgling The Hub network, neither she nor the people involved realized the phenomenon they were creating. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was not only a hit with both boys and girls, but it found an unexpected fanbase amongst adult men, now known as Bronies.

The Mane 6 (Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy) and Spike.

            Friendship is Magic followed magic student Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and her pet dragon, Spike (Cathy Weseluck), as they were sent to the small town of Ponyville in Equestria by her mentor, Princess Celestia (Nicole Oliver). There, she was tasked to learn about friendship and did so by becoming friends with fashionista Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), apple farmer Applejack (Ashleigh Ball), extreme flyer Rainbow Dash (also Ball), high-energy party planner Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman), and animal lover Fluttershy (also Libman). Their friendship was the key to saving Equestria numerous times, eventually leading to Twilight becoming a princess herself. The show is in the middle of its seventh season, and some of the bloom has fallen off the rose as is expected with an aging franchise. Friendship is still popular, but not as much as it once was.

You know it's big budget because there's shading and light effects.

            The Movie was announced back in 2014 and became the second feature to be produced through Hasbro’s AllSpark Pictures (after the abysmal Jem and the Holograms) alongside DHX Media, with Lionsgate releasing. Series director Jayson Thiessen left the show to focus on directing the film, and showrunner Meghan McCarthy wrote the screenplay with Rita Hsiao and Michael Vogel. The forces of the Storm King (Liev Schreiber) invade Canterlot during Twilight’s first Friendship Festival, sending the Mane 6 and Spike to new parts of Equestria to find help and rescue Princesses Celestia, Luna (St. Germain) and Cadence (Britt McKillip) from capture. Series composer Daniel Ingram also provided the music. Although other Friendship-related productions have seen theatrical releases before airing on TV, this is the first to be made exclusively for theaters.

An image depicting a new undersea kingdom.

            The production took great pains to ensure that the movie wasn’t just viewed as an extended episode of the show (something that sunk the box office of many other show-to-film efforts, particularly from DiC Entertainment). As such, the movie features slightly tweaked character and set models to add a sense of roundness and weight. At times, they almost resemble a cross between the models from the show and the artwork of Jay Fogsit, one of the contributing artists to IDW Publications’ ongoing My Little Pony comics. For longtime fans of the show, this adjustment could be a bit jarring, but as the movie goes on you become more accustomed to the new look. That’s helped by the overall familiarity of the production which left it feeling close enough to the show, from everything that transpired on screen to the opening notes of Ingram’s enjoyable score. And there’s plenty of eye candy as many residents and visitors to Ponyville make cameos throughout the opening sequence.

The Storm King and Tempest.

            The movie continues the ongoing themes of season seven of introducing new locations and characters. Unfortunately, this is where it stumbles a bit. Not much screen time is given to these new characters to adequately develop them or their relationships. The most developed is Tempest (Emily Blunt), who receives a flashback to explain her lack of a horn and why she’s helping Storm King conquer the ponies. The Storm King himself, however, only appears twice and is far less imposing a threat than any that have come before him on the show.

New friends, including a con artist, pirates and an undersea pony.

The ponies’ quest has them encountering and befriending a variety of new species and characters, but these friendships all form awfully fast and get no time to develop organically. We get a brief glimpse into their world and a little backstory through exposition, but not much else. Even the instances of allegiance changing can’t be explained adequately beyond “because the script said so”. Perhaps there were just too many to juggle in the movie’s short running time, or maybe they dedicated too much time to ensure there was a song number in every new scene. These characters do get a bit of fleshing out, but that’s only assuming you’ve read the IDW prequel comics. Some of that material would have been beneficial here.

Celebrity cameo: Sia as Songbird Serenade.

            Overall, the movie felt like an extension of the show, which was thanks to a lot of the same people working behind and “in front” of the camera. Fans of Friendship is Magic will enjoy the movie on that basis alone. There were also quite a few jokes and sight gags that will get a laugh (oh that Pinkie Pie…). The story was fine, even though it wasn’t anything remarkably new or wildly different, and the music was varied and fun. The new characters were really shortchanged in the long run. They served little purpose beyond advancing the Mane 6 to the next part of their journey and weren’t thoroughly developed. Friendship is Magic has done many instances of friendship building and credible threats to Equestria that far surpass what was presented in the movie. These things just weren’t given enough time to gestate on screen so that they’d feel real.




RATING: 3 out of 5 hooves. A nice, if flawed, addition to the My Little Pony canon. Fans of the show and kids will most likely like it, although newcomers and general audiences may fail to find what made the show so magical in the first place.

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