As a kid, I had a My Little Pony toy or two. I’m not sure how they made their way into a toy collection that mostly consisted of action figures, cars and weapons, but there they were. And, while I didn’t exactly tell everyone I knew about them, I still played with them with some consistency. So, a few years ago when I started hearing all this hubbub about Bronies — usually described as adult male fans of the new series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic — it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. It’s great that a bunch of dudes are into MLP. I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of thing I’d be into, but that’s never made me want to stop other people from enjoying something. The whole, “I don’t like it! It must die!” internet mentality needs a good flush down the toilet.
For a while that was the end of my experience with the property that launched back in 201o, but then I started hearing more and more about it and my interest was piqued. First, I heard Princess Twilight Sparkle herself, Tara Strong on Kevin Smith’s Caped Crusader-based podcast Fat Man on Batman. From there I eventually discovered Talkin’ Toons With Rob Paulsen where longtime voice actor Paulsen interviews his friends and fellow people in the biz. I’m still way behind on episodes, but I noticed a solid pattern of people being really excited about working on MLP: FIM. When creative people get together and enjoy what they’re doing so much, that’s a very good sign.
So, when the ridiculously great people over at Shout Factory asked if I’d be interested in reviewing My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Princess Twilight Sparkle, I was very interested. The disc contains five episodes — “Games Ponies Play,” “Magical Mystery Cure,” “Mmmystery On The Friendship Express,” “Magic Duel” and “Lesson Zero” — which kind of acts like one of those chocolate sampler boxes.
In addition to being curious about a cultural phenomenon, I was also interested to see how my two year old daughter would react to the show. She seemed to dig it. The super bright colors and a talking horses definitely seem to hit buttons in children of a certain age. However, she’s the type of kid who likes to watch the same thing over and over again, so it can be hard to get her eyes on something new. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put on a brand new DVD or Netflix Instant show only to hear how much she wants to watch Mickey Mousse Clubhouse Road Rally for the umpteenth time. Still, on a few occasions, I was able to get her to watch a few episodes of MLP and she seemed to like it, but it hasn’t quite made its way into the regular rotation yet, but I think its earning a spot.
As far as I go, I can see why people get a kick out of this show. It’s big and bright and colorful and filled with mostly upbeat, likable characters who you wouldn’t mind spending time with. But, more than that, it’s actually really well put together and thought out. “Games Ponies Play” features Princes Twilight Sparkle and her crew of ponies getting on a train. I was curious how non-anthropomorphized horses were going to get around and do things and was pleasantly surprised to see that not only do they wear fashionable saddle bags, but also have unicorn horns that allow them to move things around telekinetically.
They’re also clearly having fun with some older cartoon elements that you don’t see as much these days. In the episode “Mmmystery On The Friendship Express,” there are several silent movie references (a moustache-twirling villain trying someone to the train tracks) but also a horse ninja. It’s pretty cool seeing a mix of what used to be cool and what will always be cool in the same thing. It reminded me of watching old Looney Tunes cartoons where they’d have caricatures of Humphrey Bogart and I’d kind of vaguely understand who they were, but was also interested in learning more.
I liked what I saw, but it’s just not the kind of thing that’s for me. But, that should in no way reflect negatively on the show. It’s like listening to a band that you know is good, but just doesn’t hit your internal sonic buttons. I know MLP: FIM is a great show with fun plots that work both for adults and kids, but it’s just not my thing. So, while I guess I’m not a Bronie, I could be in a Friends of Bronies group. Is that a thing? Even though it’s not for me, I recommend giving it a shot either for yourself or your kids because it is a really well made show.
I should also note that while this Princess Twilight Sparkle disc is a good sampler, it might not be the best introduction to the property. These episodes come from the second, third and fourth seasons and don’t spend a lot of time explaining what’s going on. Just pushing play on this disc and jumping in left me a little bit confused here and there, but I caught up pretty well as things went on. However, if you want to start from the beginning, it might make sense to start off with the Friendship Express DVD which features the series opening two-parter.