Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Episode Twelve

This episode puts the focus squarely on Apple Bloom and ponies around her age, pretty much doubling the population of Ponyville as we've seen it so far.
Call of the Cutie
This one starts at Ponyville Elementary where Cheerilee, the teacher, calls her class to order.  Today's lesson is on cutie marks, a great boon for the audience at home, but probably not as informative for the class, since most of the students already have one.  She illustrates her lesson with photos of herself, first as a baby with no mark, and then as a preteen with a mark.  The 80's style gets a laugh from the class, but she pushes on, telling the young ponies about how her cutie mark appeared when she decided to become a teacher.  Cutie marks, it seems, are not just decorative, but represent a pony's hopes and dreams, and they appear only when a pony is certain of their life ambition.  Apple Bloom takes copious notes, but not everypony is as interested, as the pony next to her tries to get her to pass a note.  This was actually a ruse, as the note was blank.  "Remind you of anypony?" the note giver, Diamond Tiara, snickers as the camera zooms in on Apple Bloom's cutie mark-less rear.
After school, Apple Bloom is still bummed out by her lack of a cutie mark as she walks home with her friend, the stereotypical nerd pony Twist.  Diamond Tiara and her friend Silver Spoon tease the two mark-less ponies, and invite them to Diamond Tiara's Cuteceanera (a play on quinceanera, a mexican coming of age party), and call them "blank flanks" to boot.  Back at Sweet Apple Acres, Apple Bloom rages at the injustices of not having a cutie mark, but Applejack just tells her to be patient.  She points out that she was the last in her class to get a cutie mark, but since her mark symbolizes her dedication to running Sweet Apple Acres, it was worth it.  Hearing that Granny Smith and Big Macintosh were also the last in their class to get their cutie marks doesn't make Apple Bloom feel any better, until she realizes that all their cutie marks have to do with apples, so it's likely hers will, too.
So she tags along as Applejack goes into town to sell the farm's wares.  Hoping for some instant gratification, Apple Bloom goes whole hog selling apples, from pointing out their various uses, to hounding random ponies on the street, to planting apples on unsuspecting ponies.  That last trick costs Applejack the last of her wares to appease an angry customer, and she declares Apple Bloom's selling days are over and sends her sister home. Apple Bloom pouts, and so Applejack reminds her that you can't force a cutie mark, and suggests that going to the party with another mark-less pony will make her feel better.  Apple Bloom agrees and goes off to see Twist to suggest they go together.  However, it turns out that Twist just got her cutie mark (her calling is making sweets), but she insists they can still go together.  Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon just happen to be walking by in time to comment on this, making Apple Bloom's spirits sink.
Sometime later, Rainbow Dash finds Apple Bloom with a dark cloud hanging over her quite literally.  Being on the weather team, she makes short work of the cloud and asks Apple Bloom what's up.  Apple Bloom brings her up to speed on her dilemma (mostly that she wants to go to the party, but doesn't want to be the only one without a cutie mark), and Rainbow Dash offers to get her a cutie mark.  She tells Apple Bloom about how she was the first in her class to get her cutie mark, which appeared after her first race in school made her realize her "need for speed."  So Apple Bloom takes her up on her offer, and Rainbow Dash goes into coach mode.  Her method is to have Apple Bloom try as many things as possible, one right after another, and eventually she'll find her special talent and cutie mark.  Thus Apple Bloom tries all manner of things, from juggling to karate to roller derby, with little success at any of them.
As Rainbow Dash searches for an activity they haven't tried, Apple Bloom hides just in time to avoid Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, unable to face them without a cutie mark.  Once the two ponies are gone, she bewails her inability to find something she's good at, prompting Pinkie Pie to arrive and tell her she'd be good at eating cupcakes.  Inspired, she bids Rainbow Dash adieu and follows Pinkie Pie back to Sugarcube Corner.
It turns out this was all a ploy to get Apple Bloom to help Pinkie Pie bake a bunch of cupcakes, but a baking cutie mark works, too, as far as Apple Bloom's concerned.  And so with a little song, they mix up batch after batch of cupcakes.  But baking is not Apple Bloom's forte, though Pinkie doesn't seem to mind.  Apple Bloom starts to despair of ever getting a cutie mark, until Pinkie points out something on her flank.  Apple Bloom rushes to the nearest reflective surface, but can't get a good view.  As she guesses what her cutie mark could be, Pinkie just blows it off.  It was just flour after all.  Only the arrival of Twilight Sparkle keeps Apple Bloom from despairing some more, and she demands that Twilight use her magic to procure a cutie mark.  Twilight refuses at first, telling her that you can't make a mark appear like that, but Apple Bloom's desperate pleas get her to give in.  And so, with a little magic, Apple Bloom's cutie mark appears!  Only to fade away almost immediately.  Apple Bloom asks her to try again, but each attempt disappears just as quickly.
With no cutie mark and no hope of getting one in the near future, Apple Bloom resolves to just skip the party entirely.  However, as she goes to leave, she finds she's already at the party.  Seems she'd forgotten Diamond Tiara decided to hold her cuteceanera at Sugarcube Corner.  As she tries to leave without being seen, her hiding spots are uncovered one after another, though she manages to stay out of sight.  After commandeering a table, she nearly makes it out scot-free, but runs into Applejack at the last moment.  Her sister inadvertently drags her back into the party, right over to Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon.  In a moment of desperation, she creates a makeshift skirt out of a tablecloth to hide her mark-less rear, and when Diamond Tiara starts digging into her for not having a cutie mark, she claims to have one, but tells them she doesn't want to show up Diamond Tiara at her own party.  So Diamond Tiara lets her off the hook this time, and Apple Bloom walks off, triumphant.  But as she walks off, she trips on her "skirt," not only knocking over the record player, but exposing her blank flank for all to see.
As Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon crow at her "amazing" cutie mark, a voice from under a table comes to Apple Bloom's defense.  The owner of the voice, a pegasus, comes out and with her unicorn friend, reminds everyone at the party that a mark-less pony is a pony with unlimited potential.  Without her life's goal stamped out for all the world to see, she could be absolutely anything, and at the very least, she isn't marked as a stuck-up libby.  Diamond Tiara demands to know why they're defending Apple Bloom at her party, and they show off their own blank flanks.  It turns out all three had thought they were the only ones without marks, but now they have solidarity.  Finally some adults show up to counter the bullying, with Twilight pointing out how lucky they are to still be able to discover theirselves, and Applejack adding that they have all the time in the world to do it.  The other young ponies flock to the three mark-less ones, impressed by the thought of boundless potential, much to Diamond Tiara's annoyance.  Apple Bloom's defenders finally introduce themselves, though we already knew that they were Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, thanks to the end credits displaying their names week after week.
Having bonded over their lack of cutie marks and generally dislike of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo decide to form their own club to help them figure out what their calling in life is, and plan to call it The Cutie Mark Crusaders.  As they join the rest of the party, Twilight Sparkle writes her report to Princess Celestia on what Apple Bloom learned, which is ostensibly that the thing you think will make you an outcast may very well be the thing that gets you friends.  Princess Celestia manages to divine that the "thing" is a cutie mark, so cutie mark angst may well be a common dilemma in Equestria.
This episode has been a bit "love it or hate it," depending on your feelings for Apple Bloom.  Personally, I think that this episode has enough fun background stuff (the 80's Cheerilee was classic), plus all the new little ponies had me squeeing all the way through.  Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were kind of annoying as bullies, and the fact that none of the adults intervened during the bullying at the party until after Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle's spiel kinda bugged me.  But overall, it was good to finally have those two show why they deserve to be in the credits.  And at last there's an explanation for why Pinkie Pie's cutie mark is balloons.

Misc. Screenshots:
Tennis Pony
Hang gliding
Pinkie Pie offers Twilight Sparkle cupcakes
Tasting Apple Bloom's cupcakes
Don't forget the party hats
Apple Bloom's defenders
Drinking punch
Don't eat the cupcakes

Bonus video:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Friendship is Magic and Musical, Too

I mentioned in my last MLPFiM post that I would elaborate a little more on the Winter Wrap Up musical number.  What I really meant is that I was thinking more about the fan reaction.
From the very beginning of the animated MLP canon, songs have been a very heavy part.  The original specials both had a number of songs, as did the movie, and the animated series had one song per 11 minute segment.  My Little Pony Tales had at least one song per episode, and when the G3 cartoons started being released on retail DVDs, they were also mostly musicals.  So why should the new series be any different?
Only, the first episode came and went without any songs, barring the opening theme.  I don't think anyone really noticed, or thought about it, really.  Even I only gave it a passing thought almost two weeks later, shortly before the second episode aired.  I guess that most people assumed that since the new series was so different from the other series, both in story and looks, songs were not a guarantee, nor were they really to be expected.  So when the second episode aired, and Pinkie Pie sang her "Giggle at the Ghosties" song, everyone was pleasantly surprised (and amused that the song was lampshaded).  The next few episodes came and went, and we found that there would be a Pinkie song more often than not, but always diegetic (that is, acknowledged as being sung in-universe).
And then, the Winter Wrap Up song was leaked.  And the fans went wild!  It seems like everyone who had a chance to see it loved it, and couldn't wait for the episode it was from to come out.  There was speculation that it might be an entirely musical episode, and no one saw this as a bad thing.  But would there have been this reaction if MLPFiM had been a song-an-episode show from the very start?  I don't think so.
It's like the story that Stephen Schwartz told about when he went to see A Chorus Line, and how at the start of the grand finale, he cynically thought to himself, "Oh, of course they're going to do a kick line."  But then they didn't.  And the song went on, and they still didn't.  And then, at the curtain call, they finally lined up and did a kick line, by which time, he was ready to cheer for it.  The lesson he took from this was, "If something is obligatory, it's good to make the audience wait for it."  And that is exactly what MLPFiM has done.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mystery Crochet-Along Clues Seven and Eight

Remember when I started posting about Bernat's Mystery Crochet-Along?  I took a break for Christmas, but here's the last of the clues.
Since most of us were still working on the squares for Clue Five, it was a bit of a relief to see that we only had to make one square for Clue Seven, but it was a big one.  A big granny square to be exact:
I have to admit, I was more than half-way done with this square before I realized that there was only going to be one.  There was a lot of speculation that this would form the center of the afghan, a prediction that turned out to be right.

Clue Eight, the last square, was a bit controversial.  The flower part was a little tricky, but a lot of people just plain didn't like the way it looked and made their own square.  Personally, I thought it was nice, though I'm not really sure I'm sold on the colors.  But I picked my colors at the start, and I'm sticking with them.
 So that's all the square clues.  The next post will be coming sometime in the future, though I don't know when exactly, since I still have to sew most of the squares together first.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Episode Eleven

At last, the long-awaited Winter Wrap Up episode.  Early in the month of December, the big musical number from this episode was accidentally leaked, which made the fans very happy, but apparently got the composer (who posted the video, intending for it to be private) into some trouble.  Which is why I didn't post about it here, though I was sorely tempted.  And it turned out that the episode it was from would air on Christmas Eve (a strange time to air an episode about winter coming to an end, but there it is), only a few weeks later.
Winter Wrap Up
Twilight Sparkle wakes up early (very early) on the day before spring, full of excitement for Ponyville's annual Winter Wrap Up.  You see, while the seasons may be changed using unicorn magic in places like Canterlot, Ponyville, founded by earth ponies, uses good old-fashioned hard work to clear away the remnants of winter. To get in the spirit, Twilight manages to put on her winter gear without using even her telekinesis magic. Spike, however, would rather go back to sleep, which Twilight accounted for and even included on her checklist.  She did forget to put "a decent hour" on it, as no one else is even close to being awake.
Later on, Twilight heads for the town square (with a still sleeping Spike in tow) and notes the three teams in their team vests: blue for Weather, green for Plants, and tan for Animals.  As she arrives, the mayor gives a motivational speech, points out the team leaders, and officially declares the start of the Wrap Up.  Twilight wonders which team to join, unsure of each team's jobs.  Cue a musical number!

In song, the ponies describe the various tasks that the Wrap Up entails (guiding the migratory birds, clearing out clouds to let the sun melt the snow, waking up hibernating animals, clearing the ground and planting seeds, etc.), and Twilight Sparkle sings about her uncertainty about how to help without using magic.
Since all the other ponies are already in teams, Twilight goes to figure out which one could use her help.  She finds Rainbow Dash, team leader of the Weather team, but since she's sending a group of pegasi to find the southern birds, there isn't much for Twilight to do there.  Which is just as well, as far as Spike's concerned, since he found a nearby bush for napping in.  But Twilight is determined to help out somehow.  She comes upon Rarity making nests for the returning birds, who offers to show Twilight how to make one, as well.  The nest Twilight makes is...not quite as good as Rarity's, though Spike is less tactful in his description of it (an outhouse).  As Rarity "fixes" it, Twilight hangs her head and moves on.
Down at the lake, Pinkie Pie is skating away, doing her part to help the Weather team.  She's scoring the lake, making it more easy to break and melt.  Twilight is impressed by the cleverness of this concept, so Pinkie asks her to help out.  However, it turns out this is Twilight's first time on the ice, so she's less than sure on her feet (much to Spike's amusement), which leads to her crashing into Pinkie, and the two of them crashing into Spike, making a snowman.  Pinkie is encouraging, though, assuring Twilight that her first time was just as bad, though when she thinks about it, she remembers that no, it really wasn't.  She suggests Twilight try helping Fluttershy with the animals and so Twilight skates off, unsteadily.
She and Spike find Fluttershy waking up a pair of hedgehogs.  Fluttershy tells them that waking up the hibernating animals is her favorite task of the season, but Spike is unclear on the concept of hibernation, so she explains.  Hearing that it's a long sleep, Spike is down with it, of course.  Seeing how many warrens and dens there still are to visit, Twilight offers to help, convinced she'll get to spend time with all the cute animals.  Which of course means that the first animals she wakes up are snakes.  She backs away from the snakes, right into a cave full of bats.  In fleeing the bats, she accidentally knocks a beehive on her head and runs into a skunk's dwelling.  While recovering at home, Twilight bemoans how difficult things have been.  Spike tells her to use magic to make it easier, but Twilight is adamant: if Ponyville hasn't needed to use magic to wrap up winter before, she's not going to be the one to break tradition.  "I'm gonna find some other way that I can help out if it kills me!" she says, and judging from what she's been through already, it very well might.
Over at Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack leads the Plant team in clearing the snow from the fields.  She confides to Twilight that it's been a bit of a slow start, but balks when Twilight offers to help.  Still, she lets Twilight at least try, and so Twilight hops into an unused plow.  Despite putting all her strength into it, she can't move it an inch.  Remembering what Spike said earlier, she puts aside her misgivings and uses a "come to life" spell on the plow to get it moving.  Following the plow, she speeds ahead of all the others, causing Applejack to get suspicious.  Spike notices the magic glow around Twilight's horn and can't help crowing about her actually listening to him for a change.  Which is exactly when the plow starts to go faster than Twilight can handle it, pushing a giant ball of snow straight at Applejack and Spike, picking them up until all three of them finally crash.  Unfortunately, this creates an avalanche of the already-plowed snow, re-covering the cleared area.  Applejack chews out Twilight for using magic, and Twilight runs off in tears.
Winter Wrap Up activities are continuing apace all over town, but Twilight has given up trying to help out and is now spending her time hiding in the bushes.  Spike tries to get her to come out, but his attempts to make her feel better just make her feel worse.  Meanwhile, Applejack arrives to tell Rainbow Dash it's time to melt the snow on the ground and the trees, but Fluttershy insists it's too early; all the animal dens will be flooded if the snow melts now.  She and Applejack argue, which brings the mayor over.  She reprimands them, reminding everyone that "this kind of silliness" is why they've been late bringing in spring for the past few years.  This gets Twilight's attention.  The mayor continues to point out the problems of this year's Wrap Up: Pinkie Pie made the ice pieces too big to melt in a timely manner, Rarity's been too occupied trying to fix Twilight's terrible nest to make any more, not to mention all the snow and ice still on the trees.  On top of that, Caramel (part of the Plant team) lost the grass seeds, and Ditsy Doo (a pegasus) went north to find the southern birds.  The mayor laments the town's general lack of organization, a word that finally brings Twilight out of the bushes.  She sends Spike to get her clipboard and checklist, and makes herself heard over the arguing throng by utilizing a nearby bird.  She tells them that what they need is the kind of organization that she can provide, and proceeds to implement a montage.
With Twilight's vision and each team helping the others, the nests are made and distributed, the lake is scored according to a chart, and the fields are plowed and seeded near simultaneously.  Using a pulley and some bells, the hibernating animals are woken up, and Fluttershy signals the waiting Weather team to finally clear out the clouds.  They create some kind of wind funnel that not only sucks up the clouds but removes most of the snow.  It takes working all night, and a little bit into the next day, but they manage to finish all the tasks on the first day of spring.  The mayor thanks Twilight for her super organization skills, and gives her an official vest with the title "All Teams Organizer."  A little late, but I guess it's preemptive for next year.  Twilight is touched, and so the mayor official declares winter over and everyone cheers.  But winter isn't quite gone, as there's one piece of ice still in the lake, which Spike happens to be snoozing on.  Sure, someone could go wake him up, but it's more fun to just laugh at the cold he will eventually catch.
A bit later, Twilight has her report on the Winter Wrap Up and her lesson on friendship (we all have our talents, if we take the time to discover them, plus with friendship anything is possible) by a sick Spike, who falls asleep before she's finished dictating.  That's what you get for taking a nap on an ice flow, Spike.
Man, I took a lot of screenshots for this one.  I really don't have too much to say about this one, storywise, but I guess I liked it if I took that many screenshots (the most for any episode so far).  It was great to see all the background ponies getting something to do, and it was also great to see more guy ponies.  And of course having an actual musical number in the show was awesome, but I'll be posting more about that later.

Misc. Screenshots:
Twilight blushes w/ Rarity
Pinkie skating
Blues gets snowed
Caramel is sorry

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Late Night Video - My MLPFiM AMV

Today I rang in the new year by putting together an impromptu music video (seriously, I have a couple of ideas for AMVs I want to make, and this one was not one of them until this morning).  It's another mix of My Little Pony and Lazy Town, this time using the opening theme set to footage from Friendship is Magic:

And now you know what happens when I actually have a day off.

What I'm Looking Forward to in 2011

It feels like there isn't as much here as there has been in previous years, but here's what I'm looking forward to in the upcoming months:

  • This week's MLPFiM episode, which is Apple Bloom-centric, "Call of the Cutie"
  • And all upcoming MLPFiM episodes, of course
  • Kung Fu Panda 2