Saturday 25 September 2021

My Little Pony: A New Generation Is Galloping Your Way to Netflix!

Written by Pony Princess.

My Little Pony: The New Generation 
Source: Netflix

Get ready for a galloping good time with the latest incarnation of the world famous My Little Pony franchise! 

After months of gloomy lockdowns, it feels like the sun is shining again with the announcement of My Little Pony: The New Generation Movie by Netflix. The movie was originally set for a theatrical release by Paramount in February. However, due to the pandemic, My Little Pony: The New Generation was one of many high-profile movies from Paramount that was sold and offloaded onto Netflix. A brilliant move considering that most parts are the world are battling Covid. And it's just the movie we need to add some colour to a dull stay-at-home routine.

Set to stream on September 24th on Netflix worldwide, a new generation of colourful ponies are here to cheer you up with plenty of laughs, daring adventure and lots of glitter. 

If you are not a pony fan or unfamiliar with the franchise, then this write-up will definitely help equip you with tidbits about the movie and the history highlights of this beloved franchise that has made it into global phenomenon.

Watch the trailer to get a sneak peak of the magical adventure that awaits.

The movie is set many, many years after the events of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic where Twilight Sparkle's teachings on friendship and harmony has been forgotten and replaced with mistrust and enmity. In the trailer we get glimpses of "modern" Equestria that is more technologically advanced and the sense of paranoia from the three different pony species. Underneath all the colour and glitter lies a rather heavy handed theme that hits an all too familiar chord close with our own world's reality; racism and discrimination.

Featuring an all new cast of ponies voiced by acclaimed talents including former Disney star Vanessa Hudgens (Bad Boys for Life, High School Musical) as Sunny and Kimiko Glenn (Orange is the New Black) as Izzy, plus James Marsden (Westworld, X-Men, Sonic the Hedgehog), Sofia Carson (Descendants), Liza Kosby (Work It), and Jane Krakowski (Schimigadoon, Ally McBeal). The movie is directed by Robert Cullen, Jose Ucha and Mark Fattibene.

Meet the cast of My Little Pony: The New Generation

The Movie at a Glance

The truly unimaginable has happened...Equestria has lost its friendship, harmony and magic! Earth Ponies, Unicorns and Pegasi are no longer friends and now live separated by species.  But an idealistic Earth Pony Sunny Starscout (Vanessa Hudgens) is determined to find a way to bring enchantment, unity and friendship back to their world. Team up with open-hearted and crafty Unicorn Izzy, (Kimiko Glen), the pair travel to faraway lands where they encounter the likes of charismatic and brave Pegasi Pipp (Sofia Carson) and Zipp (Liza Koshy) and the ever-responsible fellow Earth Pony Hitch (James Marsden). Journey with the ponies on a mission full of misadventures but these new best friends each possess their own unique and special gifts that may be just what Equestria needs to restore what it was before.
(Source: Flickering Myth)

Initial release: September 23, 2021
Director: Robert Cullen and Jose Luis Ucha
Produced by: Cecil Kramer; Peter Lewis
Production companies: Entertainment One and Boulder Media
Music composed by: Heitor Pereira, Alan Schmuckler, Michael Mahler
Story by: Robert Cullen, Jose Ucha and Tim Sullivan
(Source: IMDB)

Meet the New Generation of Ponies
Source: Netflix

Sunny Starscout
The protagonist of the story whose personality is just like her name. 
She is curious, adventurous and determined to make the world a better place for all ponies.

Izzy Moonbow
Izzy is an energetic unicorn from Bridlewood Forest who loves crafting and glitter.

Zipp Storm
Zipp is the rebellious and daredevil sister of Pipp from Zephyr Heights. 
She is athletic and love science.

Hitch Trailblazer
Hitch is the caring and responsible sheriff of Maretime Bay who looks after everypony.

Pipp Petals
The stylish pop-star princess of Zephyr Heights and sister to Zipp. 
She is a pop star icon who loves entertaining ponies.

Queen Haven
A pegasus who is also the mother of Pipp and Zipp. 
She the ruler of Zephyr Heights.

Argyle Starshine
Sunny Starscout's father who tells Sunny stories about Twilight Sparkle 
(main protagonist from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic).

Phyllis Cloverleaf
A pink Earth pony who owns a company called Canterlogic that manufactures product to keep Earth ponies safe and stylish.

For non pony fans, you are probably thinking, civilised, colourful talking little ponies with symbols on their flanks that live in towns and cities??  Where did all these came from and has it always been this way? This is where knowing the humble origins of this beloved franchise comes in.

Trotting Down Memory Lane  

Forty years ago during the dark internet-less ages where there was (gasp) no WiFi, smart phones and online games, children played with analogue toys and watched analogue television with commercials and no skip function. This was an era where Saturday morning cartoons were a staple for boys and girls and not to mention, the ultimate advertising platform for toy companies. The famous American toy company Hasbro, known for toys like Transformers & GI Joe, decided to come up with a brand new toy line aimed at girls.

In 1981, the world was introduced to the very first version of a toy pony called, "My Pretty Pony" created by Bonnie Zacherle, Charles Muenchinger and Steve D' Aguanno. It looks nothing like the ponies we know of today since it was brown, made of hard plastic and stands at ten-inches tall.

Bonnie Zacherle is the creator of the ponies. She lived in Japan with her family where her father cared for all quarantined animals entering and leaving the country. Zacherle may have been inspired by a Korean pony called Knicker whom she adored but have to leave behind when she left Japan. 

However, due to mediocre sales of "My Pretty Pony", the line was discontinued in favour of a redesigned version under a trademark name, "My Little Pony." The redesigned ponies are smaller, multicoloured and feature the hallmark symbol on their flanks known today as cutie marks. 

Source: Hasbro

The six original My Little Ponies released in 1983 were Minty, Blue Belle, Snuzzle, Cotton Candy, Butterscotch and Blossom; names not arranged in any order.

A remake version of the 6 original ponies was released in 2018 to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the franchise.

With the launch of the My Little Pony line, this was followed by other variety of ponies including winged-ponies, unicorns and flutter ponies (a smaller, thinner version with iridescent plastic wings) and sea ponies (chubby sea horses with manes). Little girls of the eighties could not get enough of them resulting in an explosion of ponies in an assortment of colours, patterns and accessories to collect. There were baby ponies with diapers and cots, ponies covered in flock, ponies with rhinestone eyes, bendable ballerina ponies with tutus, ponies who can change colour of their hair and even ponies with costumes to wear! It was literally a collector's paradise and truly the golden age of My Little Pony.

The super rare Japanese version of My Little Pony from Takara (now Takara Tomy) released in 1985 are nothing like the originals. Known as Osharena Pony (or stylish pony), the ponies are anthropomorphic, stands upright on their hooves, have tiny beady eyes and a bulbous nose. 

My Little Pony ran from 1982 to 1992 in the United States and went global in 1995. The expansion continues to include a wide assortment of merchandises ranging from comic books, stationeries, 2 animated specials, an animated feature-length film and two animated television series that ran for 2 seasons. At its peak, as many as one hundred and fifty million ponies were sold during the eighties alone!

The magic begins to fade 

The franchise has undergone many reiterations since the eighties with each new look updated to appeal the current market. Each new look are called a generation by fans. 

But alas, the franchise started to decline in the late nineties due to stiff competition from other entertainment alternatives. Eventually, My Little Pony was discontinued due to poor sales until in the early 2000, Hasbro decided to revive the brand. There came the 4th generation of My Little Pony that sparked the renaissance age of the franchise. 

Hasbro approached Lauren Faust, an animator, storyboard artist and writer, who worked on popular cartoon series like the Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends among them, to give the dying franchise a much needed makeover. Source: Wikipedia

Original concept sketches of Twilight Sparkle by Faust 

Faust is no stranger with ponies and grew up with them during the eighties. The cast were based on personalities that she invented for her own pony toys, calling them her "inner eight year old". This resulted in the creation of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic which became the fourth incarnation of the franchise that catapulted My Little Pony to global pop culture status. Faust's ingenuity and appealing designs was instrumental to the revival of the franchise in 2010 which ushered the new golden age for the franchise.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a modern take on the previous Generation 1 (G1) television series from the 80s that critics panned as sickeningly sweet and cute. Faust infused elements of fantasy, magic, modern humour and a theme that revolves around friendship. The story revolves around Twilight Sparkle and her daring adventures with her 5 pony friends, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Apple Jack. Thus, making them the Mane 6. The core theme of the entire series is about friendship and harmony with the catchphrase, "Friendship is Magic"

From 2010 to 2019, the series ran for an impressive 9 seasons with a total of 221 episodes and at least one animated movie. By far it is the most successful My Little Pony series with a rich fantasy world, an engaging plot and memorable characters. 

The success of this G4 series garnered a massive following worldwide not only in little girls but in an unintended market; the young adult male audience. These fans are known in the geek circles as "bronies" and its female equivalent, "pegasisters".  The success of G4 brought in over $1 billion retail sales in 2014 and 2015. 
You know your franchise has arrived when there's an exclusive convention called Bronycon for it. Unfortunately, with the conclusion of the G4 series, the last Bronycon was held in 2019.

And now that leads us to the upcoming movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation which will kickstart a new beginning or the fifth generation of the franchise. In that same vein as most current animated films, the 2021 movie will spot a refreshing new look in 3D.

The movie will be set in the same universe as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, albeit in the very distant future.

A Peek Behind The Scenes

The movie is co-written and co-directed by Robert Cullen (left) and Jose Luis Ucha. Cullen is a veteran in the industry who has worked on animated series like Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, The Amazing World of Gumball, Transformers: Cyberverse, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera and DC Superhero Girls.

At the peak of the movie production, there were about 48 animators located in five different time zones who worked on the film. Production went underway during the Covid lockdowns with the crew from 20 different countries working remotely. According to Cullen, the movie took about four years from start to finish.

Bringing the ponies into a fully CGI world was no easy feat. As much as the fans loved Faust's iconic G4 design, the animation style in 2D simply cannot be copied straight into 3D. Graham Gallagher, the animation supervisor referred to the TV series as a starting point for designing the ponies in a new world but quickly realised that some adjustments needed to be made. Source: Animation Magazine

"We found that the bodies were way too small (referring to the G4 version) and they couldn't sit down and we wanted to be able to help them sit down and be able to talk and interact like a human. We had to elongate their bodies," said Gallagher.

Despite the challenges, Cullen expressed that it was important to make the changes in order to capture the range of emotions and expressions of the ponies. Keeping the DNA of "Friendship is Magic" in the new characters is definitely a priority not just for the loyal fans but to new audiences who are not familiar with My Little Pony.

Knowing how songs has always played a significant role in all pony episodes, the directors brought in an impressive cast of vocal talents to perform a variety of songs in an eclectic mix of genres from edgy rock tunes to broadway musicals. Two songwriters, Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler are onboard to compose the music in the movie. Some fans will be a little disappointed to know that Daniel Ingram (the composer behind all the music and songs in the G4 series) is not involve in the production.

Here is a non-spoiler sample of songs that you can expect:

Performed by none other than former Disney star Vanessa Hudgens who played Gabriella Montez from the High School Musical series. She is also the voice of Sunny Starscout. 

Toys, toys, TOYS!

Not forgetting its roots! 
The new line of pony toys are officially out from Hasbro. 
Of course you will want to have one of these as a keepsake if you enjoyed the movie. 
The My Little Pony toy line has come a long, long way since the eighties and will continue to evolve in each generation.

Reigning it All In

Fans of My Little Pony from G4 are truly excited about the upcoming movie and are generally feeling optimistic. Understanding that it is the 5th incarnation of the franchise and the producers intends to reach out to new audiences that have not seen or heard of My Little Pony. However, of course there will be fans who are skeptical if the new movie and subsequently a follow-up series can live up to the success of the previous generation, G4 My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.   

With the trailers and few leaks circling online, fans are vague of what to expect. This of course opens up to some delicious speculations and high hopes for this newer generation of mature ponies.   

One speculation is attributed to Pipp Petals who is the latest pony princess for the new generation. Unlike the previous generation series, she is not an alicorn but a pegasus with feathery wings; for non-fans, an alicorn is a unicorn with wings and always of royal descent. So are alicorns going to exist at all in this new generation? 

The Equestria in G4 is also home to all sorts of creatures besides ponies including gryphons, yaks and other mythical creatures from the Everfree Forest.  Will we see other species of creatures other than ponies in G5 Equestria?

What about the fan favourite characters? Will they make a cameo or at least have a presence in the movie and series? The movie directors promises that there will be plenty of easter eggs to keep fans happy and as a tribute to the previous generation. Other than toys on Sunny's shelf, there are no confirmation if the G4 Mane 6 ponies will make an appearance.

Since the upcoming G5 series is targeted an an "older" audience (the age isn't specified yet) there's a chance that the series will explore more mature themes about identity, or relationships that aren't just between male and female ponies. This definitely opens up opportunities to include themes on diversity, inclusion and other modern trends that proliferates culture and society today. 

So fans can definitely look forward to what looks to be a bold new venture trail blazed by the G5 ponies. It  looks to be different, unique and possibly original from its predecessor with a greater chance of introducing a wider variety of ideas that are more reality-bound than fantasy.

Afterall the movie is already tackling the topic of racism, so they might as well keep it going. Who knows, we can expect episodes where friendship does not always solve everything, and facing challenges like dealing with trauma or the loss of a loved one and even depression & anxiety. 

The way forward for G5 seems to be in the right direction. Fans are genuinely excited  and welcome My Little Pony: The New Generation with open arms, so why not you?  Grab a bucket of popcorn and snuggle down on your favourite couch and get ready for some fun, musical action. 

For first time audiences, prepare to have your senses bombarded with colour and glitter as it always has been in the My Little Pony universe. But don't let its initial appearance fool you, like it did for me with the Gen 4 series.  Let the story and adventure unfold and unravel for itself! 

Available on Netflix, 24th September 2021

2 Sen Review From the Pony Princess

The movie opens up with a bang and it certainly does not disappoint! Fans from the series can cast away their worries concerning connections to its G4 roots because it is definitely there in plain sight. The pony vibe and sense of familiarity is felt in new Equestria although being a new generation, there is still plenty of world building to do. I suppose that's why the series will be a follow up to this exciting new world.
I admit that the fully CGI rendered ponies can take a little adjusting with the camera's tendency to focus on the 3/4 view or frontal angle of the pony's head. The body is noticeably elongated which was explained earlier by animation director Gallagher. Overall, the ponies translates beautifully into 3D with plenty of nods to the G4 designs. Sunny and friends even come across as extra adorable with the realistic fur and tiny details, i.e. the fur on the hooves and ombre effect on the fur. Even the cutie mark looks as realistic as it gets on a furry flank.

In terms of story, a group of ponies shows courage to go against mainstream thinking and demonstrates that judging others without knowledge is a mistake that breeds fear and mistrust. It does a good job at addressing the issue of disparate group of ponies and is neither too dark nor lighthearted. 

Much like the beloved toys themselves, the shows have change so much over the years with each new generation. Still, the movie has stayed true to the essence of My Little Pony where the positive message about unity, inclusion and friendship has been always been a focal point to the pony universe. 

It's a great way to continue the story of Equestria's residents while attracting new fans young and not-so-young to the series. I am definitely excited and curious to know more about this new generation of ponies. The movie has definitely opened up a world of possibilities and more room to expand on the My Little Pony universe.

So this Pony Princess had a galloping good time watching the movie. It's colourful, entertaining and the animation is what you can expect from a high quality 3D animated film originally aimed for the silver screen.

The characters are memorable enough and I found myself curious to know more about the back story of each one. Oh, and just a fair warning, "Gonna Be My Day" and "Glowin Up" are songs that might as well get stuck in your head. 

Disclaimer: My Little Pony, and associated characters are registered trademarks to Hasbro, referenced here for fan service only without intent to infringe.