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Featured TV on DVD Review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: The Friendship Express

February 26th, 2012

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: The Friendship Express - Buy from Amazon

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the latest incarnation of the long running franchise. I've reviewed several of the previous incarnations, including a live action stage show. However, none of the previous shows were able to do what this show has done, become a hit outside of the target demographic. Friendship is Magic is the latest cartoon aimed at kids to become a hit with college students, following in the footsteps of cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants. I've heard hype about this show for months, but The Friendship Express is the first time I've been able to see it. Does it live up to the hype? Will the target audience enjoy the show? Is it a show that can attract a wider audience? Or are these Bronies a little on the weird side?

The Show

  1. Friendship is Magic
    The DVD starts with a two part series premiere, which is where the series gets its name. The premiere begins with Twilight Sparkle reading about the history of Equestria, the land where the Ponies live. At the beginning, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna ruled the land together, with the former raising the sun in the morning and latter raising the moon. They worked in balance for years, but Princess Luna became jealous because the Ponies played and celebrated in the day, but slept during the night. Her jealousy turned her from Princess Luna to Night Mare Moon. Princess Celestia used the most powerful magic in all of the land to banish Night Mare Moon on the Moon for 1000 years. However, as Twilight Sparkle learns, this is the 1000th year since that happened and Night Mare Moon is about to be freed. She must warn Princess Celestia right away. However, Princess Celestia is less than concerned and tells Twilight Spark to stop reading fairytales and go out and meet some people. So reluctantly, she and Spike (her young Dragon assistant) are sent to Ponyville to help prepare for the Summer Sun Celebration, and make some friends.

    The first pony she meets is Pinkie Pie, who runs off screaming... so we will get back to her later. Twilight then meets Applejack, who is in charge of the food. Applejack introduces Twilight to a huge family and they insist Twilight Sparkle stay to try all of the food. Next she runs into Rainbow Dash, literally. Rainbow Dash a speedy Pegasus who is supposed to clear the sky of clouds for the celebration. Rainbow proves she is speedy, but leaves Twilight Sparkle in shambles. Fortunately, the next Pony they meet is Rarity, who is in charge of the decorations. She is also a fashion expert and takes care of Twilight's hair problem. Finally they check in on the music. Fluttershy is in charge of music, and like her name implies, she's very, very shy. That is until she sees Spike. She really loves dragons, especially baby dragons, and she can't stop talking.

    At last her work is done and Twilight Sparkle can get back to the serious work of researching Night Mare Moon. Or not. When she gets home, she finds Pinkie Pie, and every other Pony from Ponyville, in her library. When Pinkie saw someone new in town, she decided to throw a housewarming party. Now she won't have time to do more research. Hopefully Princess Celestia was right and it was just a fairytale.

    Nope. She was wrong.

    The first part of the series premiere ends with the arrival of Night Mare Moon, who has kidnapped Princess Celestia. And when part two begins, Twilight Sparkle and the rest of Ponies, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy, have to travel to the ancient castle that was the home of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna and find the Elements of Harmony. It's the only was to rescue Princess Celestia and end Night Mare Moon's reign.

    The series premiere does an excellent job introducing viewers to the world of Equestria and the Ponies that call the place home. The characters are well-defined and should appeal to just about every member of the target audience. The writing is fantastic with a mixture of humor and adventure. The artwork is bright and colorful, while the animation adds a lot to the overall quality. For a cartoon aimed at girls, there's a lot more action than most, and it feels more like a spiritual descendent of The Powerpuff Girls rather than earlier My Little Pony shows. And yes, that is a compliment.

  2. Over a Barrel
    On the second episode on the DVD, the Ponies are traveling to Appleloosa so Applejack can give a tree, Rupert, to her family who live there. Before they arrive, the train is attacked by a roaming band of Buffalos, who tree-nap Rupert. (And in the process, they get Spike as well.) When Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie go to rescue Spike, they learn why the Buffalos attacked the train in the first place. It seems the Settler Ponies of Appleloosa planted their orchard on the sacred stampeding ground of the Buffalos. Will the the Ponies and the Buffalos be able to work things out?
  3. Hearth's Warming Eve
    The Ponies are off to Canterlot, which is where Princess Celestia and Princess Luna live. They are there to put on a play for Hearth's Warming Day Pageant. This winter celebration tells the story of how the three Pony Tribes, the Pegasi, the Unicorns, and the Earth Ponies, became united after years of mistrust.
  4. The Last Roundup
    Applejack is preparing for a rodeo and hoping to win enough money to repair the-- Oh my god! It's Derpy Hooves! ... Anywhoo... Town Hall has been damaged and Applejack pledges her winnings to repair it. But after the rodeo, she sends a letter telling everyone in Ponyville that she's not coming back. The rest of the Ponies can't imagine what would keep her from returning, so they go after her, but when they find her, she's working at a new ranch. But why? Why would she leave Ponyville and all of her friends?
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is an excellent show and I can see why a lot of little girls, and more than a few older guys, have become such dedicated fans. Personally, I see nothing wrong with Bronies and I think they are merely part of a very, very long tradition. Cartoons that are aimed at kids but are popular with adults are as old as cartoons are. I'll bring up three examples:
  1. Rocky and Bullwinkle had a storyline where the pair were hunting for a gem-encrusted toy boat, which was important to find a piece of treasure, or something. I don't remember exactly what, nor does it matter. When they finally found it, it was a yacht covered in rubies that belonged to Omar Khayyám, making it the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyám. Get it? No? Neither did I when I saw the cartoon as a child. It wasn't until I was an adult that I looked it up and learned about Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a collection of poems by a famous Persian philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. What kid is going to get that joke? This was obviously written for adults.
  2. The Powerpuff Girls began their existence under a different name and slightly different origin story. Instead of being created from sugar and spice and everything nice, plus a bit of Chemical X, they were made from sugar and spice and everything nice, plus a can of Whoopass. They were originally called The Whoopass Girls and their first short, Whoopass Stew! The Whoopass Girls in: A Sticky Situation, was shown at Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. This wasn't even a kids show with some jokes aimed at adults, it was originally made for adults and was only later turned into a kids show, because some studio executive thought it would be more profitable that way.
  3. In the Chowder episode called Chowder and Mr. Fugu, the main character... you know what? No. I won't explain what happens. I will say the punchline is, "Tell that to my wife." and I'll let your imagination fill in the blanks. (Cracked.com had an article on it that episode and other adult content in some kids cartoons. Check it out to see if your imagination is worse than the real thing.)
I could give you dozens more examples. Practically every episode of Phineas and Ferb has pop culture references from movies, TV shows, and music that came out before the target audience was even born. So if you think Bronies are some kind of freaks for liking a kids show, you either never watched cartoons as a kid, or have forgotten what was in the cartoons of your youth.

The Extras

There is a sing-along version of the theme song, plus four minutes of character introductions, and some printable color pages. There is also a bonus episode from Pound Puppies.

The Verdict

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is one of the best cartoons out there at the moment and The Friendship Express has five excellent episodes, all of which have high replay value. The price-per-minute is about 20% better than the average DVD aimed at the same target demographic. I'm joking. That's a reference to Rainbow Dash. The price-per-minute is actually about 50% cheaper ($3 an episode vs. $2 an episode). I would have loved a little more extras, but it is still worth picking. In fact, it is a contender for Pick of the Week.


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