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The Other Side of Animation 103: My Little Pony the Movie (2017) Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

You know what? It seems like a lot of times, movies are not surprising anymore. You usually know or can predict how a movie is going to turn out if you look at the overall picture. Of course, seeing it in person and predicting how it is going to turn out are two different things, and if you want to have a solid base for your opinion on a film, you should watch it. Sometimes, you get a nice little surprise, but most of the time; you kind of know what to expect. It makes it all the more important when something you were expecting to not be all that great, turns out to be a solid fun time. This is where My Little Pony the Movie comes into play. For the record, I have not watched this show in years. I lost interest, and from what I remember, while I think the show itself was actually pretty good, I was not looking forward to this. On the other hand, this is the first 2D American-animated film we have had in almost a decade. It’s a good idea to support it if you are tired of CGI animated films. It’s a gamble, since I can understand how some filmgoers who are probably older teen-young adults would be hesitant to purchase a ticket by yourself, unless you have a young niece or nephew who wants to see it. Then again, I don’t think you need to be 100% a kid to enjoy this, but I should probably just start talking about the movie.

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The story follows our lead character Twilight Sparkle, voiced by Tara Strong. She is having trouble setting up a Festival of Friendship, due to personal self-esteem issues of being a good princess and wanting everything to go as planned. Unfortunately, as we see the arrival of the big guest at the festival, Songbird Serenade, voiced by Sia, the kingdom is under attack. The individual in charge is a unicorn with a broken horn named Tempest Shadow, voiced by Emily Blunt. Tempest Shadow works for a powerful individual known as the Storm King, voiced by Liev Schreiber. Twilight and her friends, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Applejack flee the kingdom and must go on a magical adventure to find a solution to save the kingdom, and take down the evil Storm King.

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A lot of animated films this year have been underwhelming for many reasons, but a major point of interest for me, was the fact that most animated films this year didn’t really know what they wanted to be. Despicable Me 3 wanted to be a big laugh-out-loud comedy, but clumsily tried to have a story arc between the lead and his brother that went nowhere. Cars 3 was meant to be this hugely emotional experience, but it couldn’t focus or stay committed to its more mature ideas, and played its trump card too early. Batman and Harley Quinn couldn’t balance out dark comedy with the heavy amounts of violence. It’s like some of these films had an idea of what they wanted to do, but either quit halfway through, or the writers didn’t know what to do, or maybe execs stepped in. I don’t know what happened, but do you know what is the most refreshing aspect about My Little Pony the Movie? It’s the fact that it knows what it wants to be. It wants to be a fantasy adventure film, and that’s perfectly okay. It wants to have the leads go through exotic and dangerous lands, and meet new characters. It wants to have a few solid action sequences, and it does so. It’s not a complicated movie, and I like that. I admire that, while simple, it’s a film that knows what it is.

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What I like a lot about this film is the fact that it is the first mainstream 2D animated film released in theaters. We haven’t had this happen since 2011. Sure, 2D is slowly making a comeback, but it wasn’t just a side gimmick, or a neat fact. Now, in terms of the 2D animation, it’s really nice. The movements are fluid, and everything is way more expressive than the TV show. It wasn’t something like previous movies based on TV shows in theaters, where it was just a slightly higher budgeted episode of the show. Now, technically, it’s not fully 2D, since they use CGI models for buildings and certain things, and I do have some comments about that, but overall, the animation in My Little Pony the Movie is high quality. I was concerned with how much of the advertising was showing off the big named celebrities, and that the main characters of the show were going to get sidelined, but thankfully, the main six characters do take up a majority of the film. You follow them throughout most of the film, while sometimes cutting back to the villains. A lot of the writing and jokes are pretty good, and I found myself laughing and chuckling throughout the entire film. I remember the show being charming with its writing and characters, and that carries over into the movie. I like the chemistry all the characters have, and I found it engaging. I think it helps that the voice cast from the show came back to voice their characters. Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea LIbman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Cathy Weseluck hold their own against the celebrities like Emily Blunt, Michael Peña, Taye Diggs, Zoe Saldana, Kristin Chenoweth, Uzo Aduba, and Sia. Even the original songs by song writer Daniel Ingram are actually pretty good. They are catchy and well-composed. I found myself humming the villain’s song after watching the film.

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Sadly, one of my concerns about the film, the huge celebrity names attached to it, partly came true. A lot of the celebrities don’t have a lot of screen-time, and some of them don’t have a lot to do. Sia pretty much appears at the beginning and the end of the film for the big dance party. Uzo has a fantastic voice, but her character doesn’t do much, and that goes for Kristin Chenoweth as well. The only celebrities that have something to do are Michael Peña, Emily Blunt, Taye Diggs, and Zoe Saldana. That’s a huge shame, because in the movie, you will rarely see Liev Schreiber, who is the lead villain. He has some of the best lines in the movie, but he doesn’t feel as big of a threat as he should. Emily Blunt’s character is more imposing than Storm King.  It leads the final fight to be well-animated, but it rings hollow when they defeat him, since he was played up for more comedic moments than anything else. The story also hits some familiar story elements that will probably annoy older viewers. The kids probably won’t mind it, but it does lead to some of the film’s few pacing problems. The only other major complaint I could come up with is that the CGI and the 2D animation do not mix well. There are many times where you see the fluid 2D animation interact with the CGI buildings or backgrounds, but do not gel, and it’s very obvious. It makes me wonder what kind of budget they had, to not be able to do full 2D animation.

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It’s by no means a grand or super amazing film. It’s not one of the best fantasy adventure films like Castle in the Sky or April and the Extraordinary World, but it’s a solid and harmless movie. I see no harm in going to see it. You would think they would simply bank on the popularity of the show, but they didn’t. Yes, they could have expanded on some elements better, I wish the characters with big celebrities behind them had more to do, and yeah, I could see some arguments about how it probably shouldn’t have been in theaters, but it’s a solid film. Go see it if you have a niece, or go enjoy it yourself. I can think of much worse animated films that are in theaters or on Netflix than My Little Pony the Movie. Well, we are almost ready to review some spooky films, but I need to get through some animated films first before doing so. Next time, we are going to check out Napping Princess. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions: My Little Pony: The Movie

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

While 2017 may be an underwhelming year for animated films, I would hardly call it forgettable or lacking in curious oddities. One of those cases that I have been the most curious about is the upcoming My Little Pony the Movie. It’s hard not to know about the megaton hit that is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. And if you are curious, yes, I have seen some seasons of the show and found it admirable. It’s not my cup of tea, but I totally respect and understand why this show is such a hit, and why so many people like it. I was a tad concerned when they announced a movie was in production. I mean, I am not surprised, but at the same time, there was a span of films from the early to mid-2000s that were based on animated TV shows, and while some made bank, they weren’t always of the highest quality. Of course, some of the films had some development troubles, and we ended up with inferior products, but still. When they recently released the poster and the first main trailer for the film, I had a lot to think and talk about with the overall trailer, and my first impressions from it. This won’t be long since I don’t have much to say, and who knows if I’ll honestly go see it day one, unless I’m with my niece or something.

The Animation

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I’ll start us off with some technical stuff and talk about the animation. At first, I thought the film looked great. It might be flash animation, but it’s not like the show looked terrible. It still had pretty good expressions and movements. This looks like it had a lot of money put into it, with very smooth movements and more robust colors. It’s honestly nice to see some 2D animation for a majority of the running time. Due to how every film these days has CGI animation with maybe some 2D thrown into the mix, it’s refreshing to see 2D animation come back into theaters that’s not an indie or foreign film. However, I started seeing people talk about how the animation was off-putting. I decided to rewatch the trailer a couple of times, and that is when I started to spot some problems. First off, it looks like it’s going to be 2D on either certain CGI backgrounds/sets, or only certain elements are CGI. It definitely looks a tad distracting when you watch it and spot the CGI. It might be done in the same art style as the show, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be noticeable. There were some scenes where it was completely obvious that it was CGI, like the windmill sequence. Even then, at the very least, I admire that it stays true to how the show looks, and does look theatrical quality, something I’m surprised Lionsgate knows the definition of in terms of animation.

The Cast/Story

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This is where my biggest gripe with the film comes into play. It’s more or less the marketing of the film, but this film has a real fetish with not giving the actual leads of the film top billing. If you look at the poster and the trailer, they get none of the billing. All the big names you see on there are either side characters or the villains. Granted, I don’t hate the casting choices. I mean, you can’t go wrong with some of these choices. Emily Blunt, Michael Peña, Uzo Aduba, Zoe Saldana, Sia, Taye Diggs, and Kristin Chenoweth have proven that they can be entertaining actors, and some even downright amazing actors. However, the problem comes with them being the only ones who get top billing in the trailer and the poster. You don’t see any of the voice actresses in the trailer or on the overly glowly and bright poster. Actually, you do see them, but they are stuck in the small print at the bottom of the poster where no one, unless you want to know who did what major role in the film, is going to care or read that part.
I just find that so backhandish, since Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Cathy Weseluck are the characters you will be following the most in the entire film. I get that you need to get as many people to see this, whether they are fans of the show or not, but we are at a period in time where voice actors need to get better respect and treatment, due to how hard they work to bring hugely memorable characters to life. It makes the whole situation worse when Ratchet & Clank, the biggest bomb of animation in 2016, was willing and happy to show off James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, and Jim Ward along with the other actors on the poster. Granted, they did the same thing with the trailer for that film, with showing off the celebrities first and foremost, but still. Plus, it’s not like celebrities these days are big reasons to watch a movie, especially an animated movie. If the movie is terrible, then the actors aren’t going to fully save the experience.

It’s problematic, since it comes off that Lionsgate is desperate for people to come see this movie, and to be frank, the movie looks fine. It looks like a fun magical action adventure film set in a universe that has been popular since 2010 with characters people love.  I think the story seems adequate, with an evil force wanting to take over the kingdom. It seems like the actors and voice actors are having fun with their roles, and while I do think they don’t need that many celebrities for the film, they are at least trying since, I didn’t pick up on Michael Peña at first.

Any Lingering Concerns/Last Minute Comments?

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I rolled my eyes a little when I saw that Sia was going to be in the movie. Not that I think she is terrible or anything like that, but with how most animated films are made these days, I won’t be surprised if you don’t see her for about 90% of the film, and only appears at the beginning and the ending where it’s going to have that popular film trope, dance party ending. I’m also wondering if it’s too late to be making this movie. Like, they needed to make this movie a few years back to cash in on the fan base when it was at its biggest.

Prediction: Adequate

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I can see the success of this film going either way. It could be an unexpected hit, it could be a flaming dumpster fire waiting to happen, or it can be just a fun romp that’s not great, but not terrible. I never want a film to bomb, even if I’m not looking forward to it. I want to be surprised and when I do see this film, I want to be entertained. Nothing is worse than a film that wastes your time. I hope the film by MLP:FiM director and screenwriter Jayson Thiessen and Meghan McCarthy turns out to be a blast for anyone who does go see it. I just wish they gave the voice actresses some of the top billing. We will have to see in October and when more trailers come up to see if this will be good or bad.