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Review: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls

Review: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls


It’s safe to assume that you’re probably at least aware of Brony culture by now. The surprise fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic have practically taken over as the shows primary fanbase, catapulting it into nerd-dom so aggressively that it now enjoys its own annual panel at San Diego Comic Con, not to mention a strong, sometimes imposing, presence at just about every other convention the world over. These days I have no problem shouting my Brony status from the rooftops, but less than a few years ago it’s not a part of myself I was even aware of, let alone proud to share with the world. 

Despite protestations from just about every twenty-something girl I know, I was convinced that FiM held nothing of interest for me. Less than 3 episodes into its first season, the genius of Lauren Faust and her team had brought out my inner child and 3 seasons later I’m showing no signs of growing up. With the announcement of Equestria Girls, FiM’s first foray in the world of the feature-length, and the reveal that the mane 6 would be *GASP* humanized, came the outrage that so often accompanies decisions nerd-dom disagrees with. 

Suddenly the Bronys, ready to dismiss an entire project based on character designs and a general concept, didn’t seem so open minded and accepting after all. Maybe it’s because I was so late to the game, but it seemed a little strange to me that the very people who would have clamored against my ignorance a few years earlier were now acting it out. With Jayson Thiessen at the helm and Meghan McCarthy on writing duties, not to mention Daniel Ingram and the entire voice cast on board, I couldn’t imagine any world in which this film wouldn’t be as brilliant as the show which spawned it. Having seen Equestria Girls myself recently, I couldn’t help but watch it through the lens of many of its premature criticisms. Was it really a step backwards thematically for the show? Were the redesigns a warning that FiM was turning into Bratz? Try as I might I couldn’t shake these questions. So for better or worse, I decided to try answer them. 

Equestria Girls picks up where Season 3 left off, with Twilight Sparkle adjusting to life as an Alicorn Princess. Twilight and the mane 6 are summoned to a royal summit at the Crystal Empire where Twilights crown is stolen in the night by the mysterious Sunset Shimmer, a former student of Celestia gone rogue. Now armed with the crown, and the element of magic embedded within it, Sunset Shimmer flees through a magical mirror into another dimension and Twilight must follow her to retrieve it and thwart her plans, whatever they may be. While the others can’t accompany her, Spike does manage to scramble through, and upon their arrival in this strange new world things start to get…well, strange. 

Twilight and Spike find themselves in a typical, at least to us, american high-school setting but that’s the least of their worries. Spike is now a dog and Twilight is now a human, not that either of them know what a ‘human’ is. Watching them come to grips with the rules of the school, and their new selves, is genuinely funny with the fish-out-of-water humor somehow holding its own all the way through. A lot of the fun in the films first act comes from recognizing all the various nods to the show, like the (criminally underused) cutie mark crusaders skipping merrily down the hallway or spotting background ponies like Lyra or Dj-Pon3 in the cafeteria. It’s clear from the outset that the team had a lot of fun with this, and that they wanted us to as well. 

Watching Twilight re-introduce herself to the human versions of her friends is a hugely effective narrative device. Whether or not you’re invested in Sunset Shimmers plan (it’s kind of easy to forget she’s even around in the first act), you’ll want to stick around for the mane 6 to each make their appearance and its mid-way through the second act before they’re all present and accounted for. By that time, Sunset has pretty much taken centre stage and her plan is slightly more interesting than it had been. By taking their time with Dash and the gang, Thiessen and McCarthy essentially trap you into caring about their plot. Thankfully, it works. 

The mane 6 are important here. Many were worried that the redesigns were somehow indicative of a regression on the shows part toward a barbie mentality, less gender progressive and intellectual than FiM had been in the past. Visually, the humane6, certainly share a few similarities with their less honorable toy brethren, but that is where the similarity ends. In narrative terms, the film plays out much in the same way as the first two episodes of season 1, with Twilight bringing the group together almost through sheer obliviousness. Any critics who claim that Equestria Girls is contrary to FiMs core tenets have either missed the point or not seen the film. The importance of generosity, kindness, loyalty, honesty, optimism and friendship are all here in spades, as are the varying character types. Rainbow Dash is still sporty, Applejack is still strong and Twilight is still bookish. Sure, there’s a glitzy, winx-esque make-over montage, but it’s ok, because it’s all Raritys fault, and that makes sense too. The characters you know and love are all here and are all in one piece. 

The animation is pretty standard, which I suppose would be one of the very few criticisms I have for the film. You usually expect studios to up their game a little on the animation for a feature length film, even if in the case of FiM it wasn’t really necessary. For better or worse, the animation in Equestria Girls is pretty much exactly what we’re used to. Thankfully so is the music with Daniel Ingram proving once again that no one knows how to hit you in the inner-child quite the way he does. Even the High-School-Musical inspired cafeteria song had me grinning like a moron and tapping my foot. It’s no coincidence that Ingrams been kept on the show this long, the mans writing style is so inexorably linked to FiM that it’s impossible to imagine it without him and by channeling the same kind of pure-pop brilliance that Pokemon: The First Movies soundtrack brought to an entire generation, he’s once again proved why. 

After watching Equestria Girls, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I enjoyed it. Not because I was biased or because I was a Brony, but because they pulled it off. They took a concept few believed in and somehow weaved it into their own storybook world in a way that just worked. The cast fired on all cylinders, McCarthy and her writing team knocked it out of the park and Thiessen proved he has definitely got another season in him. Any worries you may have had about this film, put them to bed. Equestria Girls is a success and has left this Brony chomping at the bit for Season 4. 

Rating: 9/10