How far are you willing to go in the name of friendship? Twilight Sparkle will have to go out of her way as the Princess of Friendship to find a way to save Equestria. The Storm King and his army are poised to conquer all four corners of the world. Now it’s up to this little pony and the rest of her friends to save it. Yes, you heard me right: ponies. If you thought we were describing a fantasy story, you’re right. If you thought we’re describing a boring children’s film, you’re Pinkie-Pie-throws-a-pie-on-your-face wrong.
My Little Pony: The Movie marks the first animated film in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic franchise to feature the Mane 6 outside their series. This means fans and newcomers will see Twilight (Tara Strong, Rebecca Shoichet) and the rest of the fourth generation (G4) ponies in their, well, pony forms. Like in any My Little Pony episode, it’s not all fun and sunshine and parties in Canterlot. The arrival of the Storm King will force Twilight and her friends in an adventure of a lifetime. Or, unlike any episode, of an adventure that spans a feature-length film.
The movie features an impeccable cast and an impressive slate of songs quite unlike a typical episode. The film acts more of an introductory crash course to the wonderful world of the franchise, and viewers will be questioning how they value their friendships along the way.
Watch the trailer below before you continue with What’s-A-Geek! and our review.
My Little Pony: The Movie is Not Difficult to Love
Fans and casual viewers alike will find no difficulty at all acquainting themselves with the franchise’s mythos. The film seamlessly introduces viewers to a world of ponies, pegasii, unicorns, and alicorns (magic unicorns with wings).
Like with most children’s shows, My Little Pony: The Movie doesn’t shy away to make sure moviegoers are watching, in essence, a children’s show. Viewers shouldn’t expect an outstanding story with remarkable storytelling and an impeccable narrative.
Viewers can expect the story, however, to question friendship.
Simple is Still Magical
“Predictable” is not a wrong adjective for the film. The movie doesn’t depend on the “surprising twist” modern films have to wow audiences. Instead, they bank on My Little Pony‘s signature “on the nose” approach.
One would be mistaken to expect My Little Pony would perform the way Pixar and Disney films do, much more become Hayao Miyazaki masterpieces. However, for a film based on a children’s show, My Little Pony adorably bridges the gap between being too on the nose and still entertain the way typical family films do.
My Little Pony: The Movie is a break some people need in a decade where films are becoming too dark. The film doesn’t go out of its way to indoctrinate newcomers and retain a sense of “uniqueness” for bronies and hardcore fans of the show. There are a ton of Easter Eggs that would have fans go, “Wait, that’s (insert name)!” or “Whoa, this is from (event)!”
It’s as if the film is tempting other viewers to binge watch seven seasons’ worth of episodes, and it doesn’t fail to disappoint. I’ve just finished my backlog of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episodes, and I almost forgot how invested I was in the series.
The film was a hundred times more hilarious (and touching) given a background of much of the series’ mythos. However, background or no background, the film remains to be a simple yet amazing way to introduce viewers to a children’s series that will make you ask:
Is this really a children’s series?
Ponies, Friendship, Resilience
The question will ring a few hundred times should one actually decide to watch My Little Pony: The Movie and the series it pioneers. Even as you watch the film, you might have to remind yourself that you’re watching a children’s movie. This is because it does touch points on issues you wouldn’t think it can tackle.
If you think the moral lesson of the film is “friendship is magic,” you wouldn’t be exactly wrong. The film, however, highlights not optimism in itself, but an angle portrayed differently in “edgy” shows: resiliency. Raymond Lemay highlights how trials and experiences can help shape the overall worldview of those who experience them, especially children.
This quality, called resilience, reflects on how a person perceives any given experience, especially potentially-traumatic ones. Three major qualities of resilience are: a sense of belonging, their self-worth and self-esteem, and a sense of self-control.
Edgier media don’t differ in My Little Pony in the way they highlight characters that rise to challenges. The common trope is how you can defeat enemies by: discovering you belong in this world (belonging). No matter how harsh it is or how much insignificant we think we are (self-esteem), you cannot change the world if you doesn’t act (self-control).
My Little Pony shows the same qualities as well, but with a twist. In Equestria, you can rise up to challenges by: discovering you belong in a wonderful place (belonging). No matter how hard a challenge gets, we should believe in ourselves (self-esteem) and do our best (self-control) to resolve the situation.
You might think an analysis like this is getting too “serious” for a children’s film. However, this is the kind of depth the movie forces viewers to ask despite the hilarious dialogue and the songs. “Friendship” does save the world from evil warlords and epic threats. “Childish” or no, it does seem to propose an important question: is edgy really the way to go?
Hollywood Meets Ponies
Joining Twilight and her friends are a myriad of new faces. Zoe Saldana won’t be with the Guardians this time, as the Gamora actress will lend her voice to bird pirate Captain Celaeno. Meanwhile, Kristin Chenoweth will be Princess Skystar, a hippogriff princess turned mermaid pony… princess. Music icon Sia will be music pegasus icon Songbird Serenade, also with the signature Sia look.
Uzo Aduba (Queen Novo), Taye Diggs (Capper), and Michael Peña (Grubber) will also offer voices to supporting characters in the film.
Amidst all the thrill is Tempest Shadow, a hornless unicorn who serves as the herald of the Storm King. If Emily Blunt’s performance is any indication, Tempest Shadow is having none of this “friendship” nonsense.
Friendship is Magic
Some would think it’s hard to make animated shows appeal to audiences without the modern “edge” mechanic. Other shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Rick & Morty have found themselves unique followings of their own due to their mature (and sometimes outright dark) nature.
My Little Pony: The Movie introduces audiences to how delightfully complex “children’s shows” are without being too “childish.” Gone are the days of being strictly “for kids” the way Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer are, and the mature “humor” of Rick & Morty. It’s not to say the two categories are bad but My Little Pony proves there’s a middle ground.
(Standby for What’s-A-Geek! and its in-depth review of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)