Monday, December 14, 2015

Thoughts on MLP season 5, part 2

Canterlot Boutique
I think this episode kind of tells artists "forget marketing, just keep working the way you like". Well, it works if you've got time and don't need money. Otherwise, I'd say you need to suffer a bit until people are aware of you, and then you can do what you want. The boutique will survive in the world of plot convenience, but I doubt the rules of Rarity would help a new creative business take off in actual life.

Let's not forget - ponies flooded the shop for the closing down sale.

Rarity Investigates!
At last, a film noir episode. It's about time! The mystery wasn't too difficult to solve, but that didn't matter - the jokes were good.

Solving crimes has never looked so fabulous.

Made in Manehattan
Well... if you're into all things Broadway and love Coco Pommel, it's the best episode ever. Otherwise, it's a decent enough filler.

"W-what? You haven't watched it?"

Brotherhooves Social
Well, that was definitely unexpected. Cousin Orchard Blossom sure is something. I thought this episode was funny and sweet.

Enchanting, is she not?

Crusaders of the Lost Mark
This probably is the best thing one could have done with the crusaders - give them their marks, but keep their story going. As for Diamond Tiara, that was an awful lot of character development shoved into one episode.

Mrs Rich really needs a hobby.

The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows
I guess Princess Skyla merch was out there for a reason after all. I thought Pinkie was very well-written and really enjoyed the bit with Shining freaking out over a burnt comic book.

That unicorn needs more screen time.

I liked it. Meeting Pinkie's family was fun. I really enjoyed learning their customs.


Scare Master
Angel is one evil bunny. That maze he thought of was downright freaky. Somewhat disappointed by Fluttershy's decision not to bother with Nightmare Night. To me, that came across as a forced friendship lesson. But there will be people, who really needed to hear it, so I'm not gonna argue. A good episode overall.

Surely, the scariest scene of the episode.

What About Discord?

Once again, to me this came across as "I know we no longer have friendship letters, but let's teach the viewers something". I didn't like it much - made me feel like I was lectured. But the jokes were alright.

You won't get it, you just had to be there!

The Hooffields and McColts
It was a matter of time before we had a Hillbilly feud episode. It's an alright filler.

I think that's the most character diversity we've ever seen on MLP.

The Mane Attraction
I had mixed feelings on this one. I guess the idea was - Rara was a very talented filly, pure of heart, then she had to change to become famous - her stage persona was arrogant and her talent was hidden by all the glitz and glam, choreography and vocal effects. Then she came back to who she was - just a pony, pure of heart and very talented. 

Charity event or not, I bet this sudden change left some fans confused.

Weeeelll..... I'm sorry to be "that person", but young Rara's song was gleeful and patriotic enough to be a communist anthem. I'm not a fan. I also thought that despite how basic and shallow her lyrics were as the Countess, the heartfelt piano number was forgettable in comparison. I mean, there's only one Countess in Equestria, but I bet there are scores of ponies doing sentimental piano numbers. 

She is the countess. No question about it.

I found it disappointing that Rara couldn't just re-create her gimmick with Rarity's help, perhaps putting a twist on it. She said "the show must go on", but did it really?

Seriously, who, apart from AJ, is gonna get the triangle thing?
Perhaps she wants to be Rara's next pushy manager.
I guess I'm disappointed because the Countess looked like a glam rock star. I feel a certain loss from seeing her convert to "normal". I'd like to see the opposite happen for a change. If I had my way, she'd lose the glitz and glam, the giant apples on the stage along with half of the effects and would play some good old gothic rock.

One can have an arrogant stage persona, but be their own lovely self with the fans.
Just sayin'...

The Cutie Re-Mark
Best episode ever! The ending's cheesy and predictable, but who cares! So many post apocalyptic futures to draw inspiration from! Awesome! Josh Haber is quickly moving up in my list of favourite writers.

"Too great a price to pay for equality? ...Let me think about it"

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thoughts on MLP season 5, part 1

The Cutie Map
A pretty cool opening story. Though it probably should have been a three-parter. It's a bit rushed.
Starlight Glimmer created a neat little dystopia. I don't think it's communist or directly related to 1984, as I've heard many bronies claim. Perhaps it was inspired by 1984, or perhaps a writer just wondered "what happens if ponies lose their cutie marks?"

Communists make sure everyone's equally poor and busy with either work or various community projects, while believing they live in the best country in the world. They love having talented people on board - great athletes, scientists, artists - as long as whatever they create fits the ideology. All their achievements are attributed to the communist regime, of course. So no, Starlight Glimmer is not a communist.

As for 1984, that could have been the inspiration, but that's about it. I have actually read it and I think the difference in scale is too great to claim any real resemblance - Oceania from 1984 is a massive world power that takes up a third of the planet and has an infinitely complex and utterly insane government system. The Equalist village is a village with one Starlight Glimmer at work. Also, in 1984 not much was said about limiting people's talents - the state played rather subtle mind games with them. The party members were technically free to do what they wanted, but at the same time knew they'd be chased down by the thought police for walking the wrong streets or talking to the wrong people.

Though is probably as close to the Ministry of Love as the show can get away with.

Castle Sweet Castle
Definitely a filler, but it was sweet that the old library wasn't forgotten. I quite liked the root chandelier. I was actually afraid the castle would get a permanent and tacky makeover, but everything worked out just fine. There was a couple of good jokes, Twilight's alternative hairstyle made many people happy. I had just one problem with this episode - one of the spa ponies spoke without the accent.

Compare it to a rotting corpse if you wish, but you have to admit, it really ties the room together.

Bloom & Gloom
I like both Luna and the CMC, so I really enjoyed this one. Excellent humour, fun new creatures - the Twittermites. I wish Babs had a different cutie mark though - the scissors look kind of odd.

Image result for bloom & gloom
I don't know where the derpy dolphin came from, but I approve.

Tanks for the Memories
It was just a matter of time before we had a "dealing with death" episode. The only thing is, Tank will wake up... Either way, wasn't too psyched about the story, but the jokes were fun.

Image result for tanks for the memories
Is it strange that I mostly feel sorry for the damaged factory and its workers?

Appleoosa's Most Wanted
I liked the detective story vibe here. Trouble Shoes himself was interesting - it isn't often that you see a pony resembling a realistic horse. But the moral of the story was kind of... unrealistic? "You know how your life is nothing but torture, suffering and embarrassment? Well, that's okay. This is your special talent! People love laughing at you! Doesn't that make you happy?" Yeah... that somehow doesn't work for me.

Can't you tell? He's really loving his life right now.

Make New Friends but Keep Discord
It's a fun little episode. How they got away with using Tree Hugger I'll never know. Jealous Discord is pretty funny. This is worth watching just for Smoze the slime monster attending a high society party.

As you can see, the Grand Galloping Gala is an exclusive formal event.

The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone
Episodes about new lands are always exciting. Didn't expect Griffonstone to be a dump. Was kind of hoping the treasure would be returned and the city would magically transform into something inspiring. But oh well. It was a metaphor. And if not, we'll never know. Either way, the visuals that came with the legend were cool. New monsters are always a welcome addition. The monster's skeleton looked cool. Seeing Gilda again was nice, though I wasn't convinced by how completely she reformed by the very end.

At least Pinkie enjoyed her stay.

Slice of Life
Awesome. The only problem I have with it is that I'm tempted to show it to non-brony friends and I have no idea where to begin explaining all these fanon things. Also, I'd really love to see children reacting to this one. I wonder if they liked it or just found it confusing.

I also liked the way they portrayed a certain grey pegasus.

Princess Spike
An alright filler. The jokes were pretty funny.

Sure, leave Spike in charge. What could go wrong?

Party Pooped
I enjoy seeing new creatures from different lands and the yaks were no exception. I like that they were absolutely crazy. And I enjoyed seeing Pinkie's secret party planning room.

"Remind me again why we're trying to befriend these guys..."

Amending Fences
I really liked that Moondancer's party, which Twilight missed in the very first episode of the series, was brought up again. It's an fun episode. But I'm not sure how I feel about Moondancer being a re-coloured Twilight.

Now there's a though - what if Moondancer was Twilight's science project. Either cloning or mirror magic.

Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?
Perfect! Action-packed and well-paced. This episode felt like a two-parter, though didn't feel rushed. If you haven't seen it, just go watch it.

I don't know about you, but I love surreal dream scenes like this one.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On Curious Fashion Dolls and Music Videos

So, first of all, prepare for a long list of short videos.

Will we be talking about Equestria Girls? Mostly.

 As I've mentioned in an earlier post, I quite liked "Rainbow Rocks". But here's something else I really enjoyed - the web-exclusive animated shorts that came with it. Some of these are less about doll sales and more about us fans. For example, here's a fan-favourite - Vinyl Scratch.

Awesome, right?
Or, if background characters aren't quite your thing, here's Sunset Shimmer.

We wanted to see Sunset shine, we got it!
(Though I really hope she keeps that awesome leather jacket). 
Best of all, it's pretty much an advert for a Time to Shine doll, and you can't even tell.
Now this is the kind of marketing I like. Here's another example:

And yes, this was made to advertise the Rockin' Hairstyle dolls (a rather well-made set, by the way. And that Rainbow Dash looks awesome). Sure, there's more traditional adverts made for TV, but fun little clips like these are exactly what the web needs.

The Vinyl video's been there for a while, the latter two were recent. I liked these a lot and went through a couple more. Some shorts were really good, some just contained brief character bios or bits from the movie, but that's to be expected. There were some makeshift music videos for songs from Rainbow Rocks. That's all well and good.

Suddenly, I came across this.

I didn't get the need for an irrelevant live-action video. I mean, these are just random kids and very little has been done to make them resemble the characters. The only believable Equestria Girl is Vinyl. Adagio at a push, and that's a considerable push.
And yeah, there's an earlier one. Didn't feel like embedding it since it makes just as little sense. Funnily enough, has different kids as the mane 6.

This is what Equestria Girls could have looked like. Just sayin'.

Original posted by Shelbeanie

I get that Hasbro wouldn't use bronies, and that they'd want to tone down the characters' wild technicolour looks, so the parents wouldn't start a fuss. Still, plenty of children go to pony cons. If there was a community contest for kids that granted its winners a place an Equestria Girls music video, with a full-length song as well, we'd get a better-looking piece that would actually mean something.

I really doubt the mighty Hasbro overlords would find my suggestion valid. So I started wondering what they were actually after.
Usually, when a company like this makes a move that makes no sense whatsoever, it's done to please the supposedly all-knowing marketology department. And what's the main goal of Equestria Girls marketing? At an educated guess - to give Monster High a run for its money.

So here's the next logical question - did Monster High ever make a random live-action video?
And the answer is yes!

Except, this one actually makes sense - Monster High needed a theme song. May as well make a video for it. I think they've done really well with what they had. It's a fun little clip and that's all it's trying to be. They even made a separate Hindi version.

There's also a more recent song featuring Madison Beer.

The zombie bit is cool, the rest just doesn't work for me.
Effectively, the song is about having the courage to be different, to be a monster. What we see is a huge crowd of school kids frolicking in the sun, all wearing uniforms and looking the same.
Okay, so there's a couple of bright wigs in the crowd, but they're just that.

The sunshine doesn't just add its own theme, it also means the makeup artist can't get away with as much as they could in the previous clip. The werewolf kid's the most convincing monster. Seeing a reptile girl hide obviously painted-on scales was a bit odd. 

So yes, like the Equestria Girls clip, this has very little to do with the series it's meant to represent. Unlike EG, this is a complete song. And, again, the zombie bit was cool.

But that's not all Monster High's got. Here's their latest live action upload - Digital Monsters.

They're digital monsters and they're proud! They may as well be - when it comes to looks, these guys have easily topped the other two videos. Also, all these "ghouls" are youtubers. So Mattel actually got the community involved. I hope Hasbro's taking notes!

So I got curious if Ever After High bothered with live action stuff.

They did. Again, it's the theme song. Doesn't have much to do with what goes on in the series, though the location is nice. This video is cute, even if it's an obvious advert. And it definitely calls for poofier dresses. 
Still better than Hasbro's? Well, the production value's definitely higher, otherwise they both were pretty much made for the sake of being made.

So what other unusual fashion dolls have we got? There's Bratzillaz. MH's semiliterate and slightly tacky competitors. Of course, they had to make a live action thing of their own.

I actually like this. I see a combination of a retro approach and a limited budget, which looks very weird by today's standards, but works. I like the horror movie vibe. Bratzillaz are having fun and aren't afraid to look stupid or scare parents. And the skull makeup looks pretty good.

And the last, but not least - Novi Stars!

Lady Gaga's family dropped by for a visit! (Couldn't resist)
It's silly, it's weird, "What on Earth is going on?" sounds like a punchline to all of this madness.
I approve.

So pretty much every toy line Equestria Girls would want to compete with has at least one live action music video. I guess Hasbro wanted to hop on the bandwagon.

But here's the odd bit - from what I've noticed, all these other brands have mini web series going, which don't have songs, but need a theme. So that means having to commission the song. I guess the practical thing to do is to pay a bit extra and get a music video done as well, for future advertising. Especially if you're working with a celebrity - may as well make the most of it.
Another aspect of this - you probably won't be able to make any of your characters "sing" the theme since whoever performs it might sound very different from your voice actors.

Now Hasbro's got a proper TV show for My Little Pony and staff who make songs for it routinely. Equestria Girls is a spin-off, but they've got the same staff working on it. So instead of buying songs externally, Hasbro can just get their own people to make some at any point. Which, as we can see from the first 3 videos, is working out beautifully.

So.. what exactly was the point of getting some random kids together and having them pretend they're a band? We may never know.... which would be for the best, 'cause I really hope this EG live-action business isn't going anywhere. Not in its current form. An animated web series, however, would be pretty cool.

We started this post with Equestria Girls videos, so let's put one at the end as well.
Meanwhile in Russia: