Today’s Animated Anarchy is brought to you by the letter “I” for Integrity!
So guys…did you hear that Hasbro was in talks to buy Dreamworks Animation? If this is the first you’ve heard of it, don’t fret, because the buyout fell through. Negotiations suddenly deteriorated all within the span of about 2 days, likely because several Hasbro toys appear in certain Disney/Pixar films. So some of us will be sad to know we won’t get our crossovers of G.I. Joe fighting the forces of Megamind.
There are several financial questions to why the multimedia company would be buying one of the biggest animation studios, most of which are better covered in this article by Business Insider. But on the creative side of things, what would have this entailed? Would we finally have gotten those reboots of “Jem” or “Dungeons and Dragons” for a new generation? Would less financially successful movies like Rise of the Guardians or Peabody and Sherman get another chance or reincarnate into a new show? The series that brings all these questions up that has been recently announced for a 2017 Future Length Movie is the runaway success My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Okay, let’s address the pink pony in the room. I’m a Brony. The only one you’ll see on OneOfUs aside from Kaiju Correspondent Matt Frank. I genuinely love the show as it started and mostly where it is now for having great characters, great design, and a very expansive world that opens up so many possibilities for fun stories and new adventures. When Hasbro got Lauren Faust and several of the writers of The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, many animation buffs were willing to give the reboot a shot. And hey, when you actually have quality work behind it you can actually get a really good show.
But something I will note, it wasn’t in my list for the Best Shows Currently Airing. Even when the show was at it’s best, it would have maybe been in the Top 10. Hasbro produces cartoons from a more delicate point of view as gigantic corporation, meaning the show has suffered by falling into several children’s programming pitfalls. Most episodes have morals shoved in, there are lots of familiar episodes that play out like sitcom tropes, and new ideas and characters are introduced mostly to sell new toys. Now say what you will if you love the show or hate the show, you have to admit; it’s damned good re-imagining of the franchise.
I remember when the show was first starting to gain attention, there were a couple of older people decrying “those aren’t the ponies I remember” from Generation 1. For clarification…the ponies everyone knows and loves are from Generation 4. There’s a very clear reason why no one is fond of Gen 2 and Gen 3 from the 90s and 00s. They followed the stereotypes we feared: overly cute, mind-numbingly stupid, plot-less, drama-free drivel for babies.
This is incredibly relevant to our pop culture right now because reboots are so common these days. Hell, the fact this show intended for girls has such a fervent male fan base and is referenced constantly in pop culture is proof that they are doing something right. A reboot is a way to innovate or reinvigorate an old idea. The worst thing to happen to a franchise is if the well gets so diluted, it makes people question if the original series was good in the first place. (I’m looking at you Transformers/Sonic The Hedgehog)
Although I’m willing to advocate for the show and what it brings to the table, I understand all the ire the show has generated. My Little Pony is at a stage I’d like to call “Fandom Critical Mass” where if you were to ask any hardcore fan their opinion of the show, you’ll get some pretty wild, differentiating opinions. This same level of division is pretty popular in series like “Doctor Who,” “American Horror Story,” and “The Walking Dead.” I love some characters more than others and I dislike episodes some fans absolutely adore. But what’s sad about warning/moderate recommendation of Friendship is Magic is that it has been the single best original show on Hasbro’s TV Network, Discovery Family. (Formerly The Hub)
If you were to look at the TV Listings for this channel, you’ll several 80s properties like The Littlest Pet Shop, Strawberry Shortcake, and Care Bears. All these old shows made for girls? They are awful. Every bad stereotype you heard about My Little Pony so applies more to those shows. They don’t get any attention or fans because there’s no care or quality put into them. These are all incredibly weak reboots for bringing nothing to the table and being made so bland to not offend the target demographic. The only other show to have any redeemable qualities on the network is surprisingly Pound Puppies because it has pretty loveable gang of problem-solving dogs.
So now is the point where I let my cynicism take the wheel. When the Friendship is Magic spin-off “Equestria Girls” was announced, it spelt nothing but disaster and a way to torpedo the goodwill to several new fans franchise and the brony-curious. It was so blatant that Hasbro was trying to take one of their biggest hits and morph it to fight against competitor Mattel’s own strange re-interpretation using teenaged girls with Monster High. (Imagine turning all universal monsters and the Phantom of the Opera into high school girls with gothic uniforms)
Originally, I wanted to do a blog taking about My Little Pony, Brony Culture and the Equestria Girls spin-offs, but I felt that I couldn’t do a full review. The reason is horribly simple in that the Equestria Girls movie and its sequel Rainbow Rocks are the exact same terrible movie.
I apologize for all the terminology ahead of time, but here’s the best way I can summarize the plot. In the normal world of Equestria, many of the evil villains of the past are banished through a magic mirror to an alternate reality where all the characters in the show are placed in a human world with everything being centralized around a high school. (A fitting hell, quite honestly) The pony version of the main character, Twilight Sparkle, has to go between the two worlds to keep the villains from rising to power while adjusting to the norms of having a human body and keep up relationships with the human versions of all her friends. They fight bad guys using love and magic that comes out of nowhere and then the story ends.
To start off, these films only meant for hardcore fans or undiscerning girls in mind. But I sincerely doubt any critical fan of this show worth his salt lick would enjoy these movies in any way. There’s no character development because Twilight is interacting with fake versions of her friends and new characters with no sense of personality at all. They’re even forcing a sudden, bland boyfriend onto the main character with no bearing on the plot whatsoever.
As for the plot…whoa nelly…the plot is lame. I don’t even mean that it’s simple or straightforward; it’s just incredibly boring. The first movie is all about prom queen clichés with small spatters about the confusion of cyber-bullying. And second film is the exact same script, but with “Fall Formal” found + replaced with “Battle of the Bands.” So instead of having any magic or really cool developments, you get an incredibly lame mishmash of High School Musical, Bratz, and Winx Club. (Points to the four of you who got that references, you can see the rip-off clearly in the poster)
The biggest shame, which makes the second movie even worse than the first, is that the music is painfully generic. Everything is samey-sounding Power Pop with the simplest beats and harmonies. And as someone who recently watched massive musical turkeys like The Apple and this year’s The Identical, I can say that those movies had more memorable and unique songs.
It isn’t just that every song is about tedious friendship cliché in the book, but it’s also conveniently played at the most obvious time. The three evil sirens sing about putting people under a spell and the good ponies counter this…by singing about how great being in a band is. Look, I know the TV series sings about these kinds of themes as well, but there was always a sense of genuine craftsmanship by covering different kinds of genres or borrowing elements from classic musicals. Listen to these songs below to get a real idea of how the show is talented, especially if you love Monorails.
The spin-off also makes notable plunders with the animation quality. The overuse of the pastel colors and thick lines works with the magical, pony-universe of Equestria because of its incredibly vibrant landscapes and mythical creatures. It’s the exact same team using the same quality of Flash to create this world filled with radioactive-skinned human characters similar to Doug. Despite the fact the human character require more features to stand out, you’ll be looking at the same twenty or so character models in every public scene. It might seem harsh to assault this straight-to-DVD quality movie, but it actually had a limited release in several cities. (That’ll be a topic for another blog)
If I were to give the film any praise, it would be for the genuinely charming callbacks. Sometimes you’ll see a background pony from the original series finally have a speaking line or will be doing something cool in the background. Many bronies I know said the best scene in the entire movie is when a character that appeared in one episode came out of nowhere and had a 10 second gag. And the climax of Rainbow Rocks is incredibly reminiscent of the rock battle from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. But it the end, what does that say about your movie when the best thing is does is fanservice?
I wasn’t asking for a lot, but I was hoping it would at least be decent. How can I defend the quality of the show when people are going to go “Isn’t it that the same thing of those crappy movies?” I already have to convince people how not every adult fan of the show is a clopper.
The success of Friendship is Magic and Equestria Girls perfectly sums up what good and bad can come from rebooting or remaking a franchise. There’s always a great idea to be found, even in the stinkiest pile of manure. No one wants to watch a show that started off so great end up decaying from poisonous, seasonal rot. The show is not going to be running out of horsepower any time soon, but I don’t want it to turn into a chore to watch the show. Thankfully to my benefit, My Little Pony, can still creatively flourishing thanks to the IDW comics series. I would actually recommend that anyone who doesn’t want to go through the four seasons of the television show should read those for their incredible art style, the clever writing, and a more mature, all-ages approach.
There’s a lot of unique possibilities that could have spawned from the buyout of Dreamworks. But thinking about it, the company has enough already on it’s plate taking four of its film series and turning them into TV shows. (For the record, the only one worth watching is Riders of Berk) Lucky for Hasbro, they can still rely on the success of their live-action versions of Transformers and G.I Joe. If the studio is not going to stop making merchandise, then I hope they can try more daring chances to revisit our nostalgia. After all, A Jem and the Holograms movie is currently being produced by Blumhouse Productions and is slated for an October 2015 release.
Who knows where Hasbro will be going in the next few years. I only have one request to the company directly. If you want to sell me that “Friendship is Magic” again, don’t tell me using high school students. Take a lesson from The D and find a more creative muse…
Thanks for reading this article on Animated Anarchy. What are your thoughts on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? If you’d like more blogs on the subject or put in your two cents over the Dreamworks buyout, leave a comment below!