Monday, October 11, 2010

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Episode One

Going into this first episode of the new MLP series, I was worried that I had hyped myself up and it wouldn't be nearly as good as I was hoping.  But I have to say, it was even better.  Storywise, this is a definite step up from the G3 cartoons, and may even surpass G1, though only time will tell.
A storybook opens and begins to tell the legend of the two regal sisters, one who raised the sun and the other who raised the moon, keeping the land of Equestria in order.  However, the younger sister grew jealous of the love and attention the ponies paid to the day, while shunning and sleeping through the night, and her bitterness transformed her into the evil Night Mare Moon.  The elder sister used the Elements of Harmony to send her sister to moon, and took on the responsibilities of day and night.  As the legend draws to a close, the voiceover narration switches, revealing Twilight Sparkle reading a book.  She's certain she's heard of the Elements of Harmony somewhere, but she just can't remember where... cue the theme song, where Rarity and Applejack's lines are sung by different people than the video posted on Hasbro's website, for some reason.  As Twilight heads to the library to do some research, she runs into a handful of other unicorns who invite her to a shindig at Moondancer's, but she blows them off.  Her determination is such that she stops for nothing, accidentally creaming Spike when she plows through the door, ruining his present for Moondancer.  She reminds him that they "don't have time for that sort of thing," and sets him to searching for a specific book.  Which is good, because she's having no luck finding it herself.
Looking up Elements of Harmony in "Predictions and Prophesies" directs her to The Mare in the Moon, a myth about an evil pony imprisoned in the moon.  According to legend, "on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape and she will bring about night time eternal."  Twilight immediately connects this to the story she was reading earlier, and dictates a letter to Princess Celestia, though her vocabulary gives Spike some trouble.  With the letter ready, she tells Spike to send it, but he's hesitant, as the Summer Sun Festival is coming up, which is keeping the princess pretty busy.  But since the day of the Summer Sun Festival is the longest day of the thousandth year, Twilight implores him to send it anyway, and so he shoots a flame to send it, and belches a flame almost immediately with the princess' reply.  Her response is not at all what Twilight expected: in order to get Twilight's muzzle out of her books, she's sent to supervise the preparations for the Summer Sun Festival in Ponyville, and more importantly, make some friends.
Thus Spike and a reluctant Twilight Sparkle fly in a pegasi-pulled chariot, with Spike trying to get Twilight to look on the bright side.  After all, she does get to stay in the library.  Hearing this, Twilight cheers up considerably; she can breeze through the supervision and then use the resources in the library to pull up some proof of Night Mare Moon's return.  Spike's concerned this won't leave any time for making friends, prompting Twilight to utter the phrase, "the fate of Equestria does not rest on me making friends."  Considering the title of the show (and this episode), it very well may.  But still, Spike urges her to at least give it a try, and so she says "hello" to the first pony she meets.  This happens to be Pinkie Pie, who reacts like this and runs off.  Back to breezing through the preparations it is!
Their first stop is Sweet Apple Acres, where Applejack introduces them not only to the food for the celebration, but the entire Apple clan, including Big Macintosh and Granny Smith.  Twilight starts to leave, and it seems that not even little Apple Bloom's puppy dog eyes attack can get her to stay.  But the collective disappointment of the entire Apple family does her in and she agrees to stay for brunch.
En route to checking the weather, Twilight is accidentally pushed into the mud by Rainbow Dash, who coincidentally is in charge of keeping the sky clear.  To make up for it, she pushes an errant rain cloud over Twilight and jumps on it, discharging all the water.  A bit too much, but no matter, she just adds a "rain-blow dry" (her rainbow twister) to the mix.  This does get Twilight dry, but sends both Rainbow Dash and Spike into paroxysms of laughter at her fluffed up hair.  Ignoring them, Twilight gets down to business, and Rainbow Dash insists she'll clear the sky when she's done practicing for the Wonderbolts (Equestria's greatest flying team).  Twilight tells her they'll never accept her if she can't even keep the sky clear, so Rainbow Dash takes her dare and gets rid of the clouds in ten seconds flat.  The look on Twilight and Spike's faces is priceless.  Rainbow Dash expresses interest in hanging out again (to Twilight's horror), and then dashes off.
Next up, the decorations in the main hall, courtesy of Rarity.  Twilight is pleased to see everything looks beautiful, though to Spike, the most beautiful thing in the room is Rarity herself.  Rarity is so shocked by Twilight's fluffy 'do that she rushes the other unicorn straight to her salon for a costume montage.  As she finishes lacing up a fancy saddle, Twilight tells her how she was sent from Canterlot, which sets Rarity off, as she's always wanted to live there.  She vows eternal friendship with Twilight, then goes to get some more accessories.  Twilight takes advantage of this to get out of there -- quick!
The last stop of the day is checking on the music, and they soon hear a lively birdsong from a bird choir lead by Fluttershy.  Twilight's introduction scares off the birds, and doesn't do much for Fluttershy, either, as the two stand in awkward silence for a time.  Twilight attempts to get Fluttershy's name, but each time the pegasus says it is quieter than the time before, so eventually Twilight gives up.  However, once Fluttershy spots Spike, she comes to life, bonking Twilight out of the way so she can coo over this baby dragon.  Although Twilight tries to get out of there, Fluttershy follows them all the way home, with Spike, relishing the attention, telling his entire life story along the way.  She barely gets Fluttershy to leave when she gets to the library, but her troubles have not yet ended.  For no sooner does she announce her intent to study without any crazy ponies around, the lights turn on revealing a surprise party!
That's right, for when Pinkie Pie ran off earlier, it was to set up this very party to welcome Twilight.  While she rambles on about her reasons for throwing the party, Twilight pours herself a drink and casually sips, only to suddenly turn red and run from the room.  Spike examines the bottle she poured from: hot sauce, of course.  But why was it there?  Apparently, Pinkie Pie likes it on her cup cakes.  Though the guest of honor has fled, the party rages on into the night, keeping Twilight from both studying and sleep.  Sometime around 5 am, Spike, wearing a lampshade, comes to invite her to play "pin the tail on the pony," but she rebuffs him, pointing out the early hour.  But staying up late is the point of this party, as it ensures they'll all be awake when Princess Celestia raises the sun.  Spike tells her to lighten up and goes back to the party.  But Twilight cannot, not with the worry of Night Mare Moon on her mind.
All too soon it is time for the beginning of the Summer Sun Festival, and all the ponies flock to the main hall, where the mayor with an androgynous haircut welcomes everyone and prepares for the celebration of the longest day of the year.  As the mayor introduces the princess, Twilight Sparkle notices the mare profile on the moon disappearing before her eyes.  And when the curtain is raised for the princess' big entrance, she's nowhere to be seen!  But in her place rises a starry mist that parts to reveal a black alicorn, Night Mare Moon.  She addresses the crowd as everyone cowers, and Rainbow Dash takes off to confront her, with only Applejack holding her back (who also stuffs an apple in Pinkie Pie's mouth when she starts actually guessing when Night Mare Moon says, "Don't you know who I am?").  Twilight Sparkle calls out Night Mare Moon, but cannot bring herself to actually state the evil pony's purpose.  Which is fine, as Night Mare Moon puts it much more eloquently, and with 87% more evil laughter and lightning bolts.   To be continued....
You know, it's refreshing to see a villain in a kid's show who is a credible threat.  So often they get made a little too goofy to keep them from being too scary, and while that's amusing in and of itself, it's a nice change to see someone who isn't.
As far as voice acting goes, I have very few quibbles.  Tara Strong as Twilight Sparkle kept giving me Maguro flashbacks, especially since both characters are purple, leaders, and can use telekinesis.  And Rarity's voice....I don't know there's just something about it that I don't like.  I don't know if it's because I was expecting something more like her line in the opening theme posted on Hasbro's website, or if it's because she seems to be channeling Venus Terzo as G3 Rainbow Dash.  Well, we'll see how she sounds in the episodes to come.  Other than that, the voice acting was pretty good across the board.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to buy Spike as a boy, but Cathy Weseluck came through.
The animation must also be lauded.  Though this is animated in Flash, it is very smooth and imaginative.  Kudos to you, animators!  So as you can tell, I definitely enjoyed this first episode, but it's a little annoying that we won't get to see part two until October 22nd (new episodes debut on Fridays, but Sunday was a sneak peek, so this Friday is the official debut of the first episode).

Misc. Screenshots:
Dash's weird laughing face
Spike gloats to a headbutted Twilight
Apple Fritter
Apple Dumpling
Red Gala
Red Delicious
Golden Delicious
Caramel Apple
Apple Bloom

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