When I think of My Little Pony, I don’t think of alicorns, I don’t think of magic, magicians, redesigned changelings, manipulating ponies or swapping cutie marks. That might sound strange to some of you, but what I do think are vulnerable ponies who are determined to learn about friendship, appreciate what they have learned and face dangerous conflicts. That to me is My Little Pony. Maybe it’s because I love the Mane 6 and the 2017 movie, but the franchise at its core is about well written characters that are up against nearly impossible odds, facing a conflict and learning something from that experience. Millions of people love the Mane 6 because they had an unbreakeable emotional connection with them. They root for these little ponies.
I’ve been a fan of My Little Pony since November of 2011, but I am an even bigger fan of the art of storytelling in films and TV shows. I already had a positive impression of the film A New Generation and I like Tell your Tale for what it is (with very short episodes, it’s hard to say “this was a waste of my time”), but if all the upcoming material of G5 (Make your Mark and the specials) is fun and exciting, I will be excited for the future.
So, what do I personally wanna see in G5?
First of all, the cutie marks need to go back to be established as a symbol that represents your unique talent, maturity and individual identity. It’s impossible to avoid the Starlight argument since she was the only unicorn in Friendhip is Magic who swaps and extracts cutie marks like nothing. In Call of the Cutie it was established that the cutie marks are something that a little pony obtains once they discover their talent. It was a beautiful idea that added some layers of humanity in the characters. I could understand that someone like Tirek would absorb the talent of other ponies and make the cutie marks disappear since it’s a dramatic element that shows there were stakes in the season 4 finale. Unfortunately, with Cutie Map, I think it completely rewrote the established rules and lore about cutie marks. It severely invalidates the personal aspect and the point of having a cutie mark. When you have a talent, you perfected it and you make a living with your own talent and effort, that doesn’t matter anyway because Starlight is gonna take that away from you whenever she wants and however she wants. And I think it shouldn’t have been this way. It’s like watching a human with magical powers playing God. It feels wrong, especially for someone who ended up being a main character.
Now that I mention it, there should be less emphasis on magic. And, sure, everyone loves magic, but when it’s overused, it becomes boring. When you depend too much on magic instead of the characterization of your characters, it makes the show less special. That’s kinda what happened in some episodes of the last seasons of Friendship is Magic. I think it should be used with restraint in the show. The characters we’ve seen in A New Generation are well written and I want the writers to take this oportunity to make character driven stories. I’m one of the fans who were happy for the decision of unicorns and pegasus depending on magical minerals because that will prevent overpowered characters as we saw in certain characters from Friendship is Magic. And the fact that there was some self-awareness in the film shows a commitment from the writers I admire.
As for plot, I think a story focused on exploring different parts of the world could be put to good use. I’d love to see Sunny Starscout being determined to see new cities, new towns, new creatures and new conflicts that will test her patience, determination and personal goals. After all, according to her, unity makes strength. And since she has a book about how friendship was in the past, it means they are some stakes. I honestly don’t see this not being in G5 these days, it should be at least a small portion of the future.
I like antagonists, but we need a certain type of antagonist who doesn’t believe in friendship and will do his or her best to divide a pony society that is slowly amending and starting new friendships after having so much mutual predujices in A New Generation. A villain who divides everyone has to have a bad experience that leads him or her to think friendship is not worth it. It has to be a relatable experience. And if they want a villain that is eventually reformed, then I’d buy it to treat themes of redemption. But it has to be well done. A well written reformed villain, not a character that goes back to manipulate everyone after being reformed, not a character that apologizes to everyone at the end of the episode and pretends to learn something that she will forget in the next episode, not a character that gets a pass regardless of what she does because the story is not self-aware. You know what I’m refering to: Starlight. She was horrible. She was manipulative, she doesn’t want to learn from her mistakes, she’s a hypocrite, she didn’t earn her constant apologies, she’s self righteous and she didn’t earn the place in the show in comparison to Twilight and her friends. The writers don’t even need to depend on other good references within the show to talk about redemption (like Babs Seed, Luna and Tempest Shadow), they could be inspired by some films that touched these themes, like the first Iron Man film and Prince of Egypt.
So, we know that Sunny has some alicorn powers. Yes, this has me worried. I don’t want her to solve everything with magic (because we got too many episodes about that in G4), I think most people will agree, if she needs to achieve something, it has to come from her guts, her desire to face some struggles or conflicts. What makes Sunny so memorable is her determination, because she believes in a good cause. The decision of making her an alicorn for a second in the last two minutes of A New Generation is the only thing in G5 that has me skeptical, but I think the team behind the tablets understands the concern and hopefully they implement this idea sparingly and tastefully. I like the idea of saving this for a small yet crucial scene that sets the story emotion. And as much as I like the Mane 6, I don’t want to see them in G5 because it’s essentially fan apeasement, and I despise fan apeasement because a creative decision based on “hey, remember this?” lacks creativity and artistic freedom. If they need to be shown, it should be in old pictures from the past, like old photos, stained glass windows, something visual that will work as a storytelling element. I think the references of G4 we saw in A new generation were well made (like the Wonderbolts room and the little toys) because, especially with the little toys of Sunny (which are the Mane 6), it represented a beautiful idea of what friendship meant, just as we saw Friendship is Magic for what it represented a beautiful idea in the past. Kinda meta. And I love it. And now that we’re gonna get two different shows of G5, I want Tell your Tale to get all the goofy stuff and Make your Mark to get all the adventure elements to avoid inconsistency.
So, before I wrap up with what I think of Friendship is Magic and its disjointed canon, I’ll give a quick recap:
-G5 needs to focus on a small group of characters in a small story that is part of a larger picture (something that A new generation achieved and I’m thankful for that).
-Less emphasis on magic, more empashis on the characters.
-More emphasis on the consequences of the character’s actions to give their struggles more meaning, kinda like Putting your hoof down or Nausicaä of the valley of the Wind.
-The alicorn form of Sunny should be used sparingly, maybe one time in Make your mark.
-The cutie mark needs to go back as a mark that reflects your talent, uniqueness and individual aspect that makes the ponies more relatable.
-The villains should have the complete opposite intentions of what Sunny wants from a dramatic point of view: Dividing a society because of bad experiences they had with friendship.
-Actual commitment and complete compromise with reformed villains if they have one (it doesn’t even need to be Sprout, it can be someone else)
-Tell your tale should be focused on comedy and silliness and Make your mark should be focused on adventures, that way you don’t compromise too much of both things.
Most importantly, the G5 has to be fun, simple as that. It has to make me close the laptop with a genuine smile that makes me appreciate even more the new characters.
Ok, the G4 stuff happened many many many moons ago, even Izzy said that. I know people are not happy with the fact that this is gonna be a sequel and this is pretty far from the events that happened in Friendship is Magic. I know many of you dedicated your time with the show, Equestria Girls, Pony Life and the shorts and the fanwork that extends the G4 vision further than the official content. That’s fantastic and beautiful. That’s completely understandable. Heck, I love a lot of the fanwork too, like Lullaby for a Princess. Friendship is Magic has been treated like a sandbox and it’s great.
But I would be lying, and so would you, if we said the TV show was perfect. Cozy Glow’s character development was dumb and Trixie’s return in season 6 was nothing more than fan apeasement. Not everything that slaps the Friendship is Magic name on it is gold. “More Friendship is Magic” does not always mean “good Friendship is Magic”. Nine seasons is too much for a TV show. Starlight manipulating everyone over and over again, including her best friend, invalidates her redemption arc. The redesign of the changelings were disappointing for the Chrysalis fans who were waiting 4 years until the writers decided to do something about it. Twilight being a teacher is neat, but characters such as Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were never written to be teachers. And, for some of out there, the decision to make a sequel that happens many many moons ago after tthe events of G4 was disappointing.
For me, I’d rather watch Make your Mark without any prior knowledgement of story, character or struggle. As a fan of films and shows, I want the show to speak for itself, to be its own thing.
Let’s face it, If G5 ended up being too dependent on G4’s “legacy” and references, it would split the MLP fandom into even more factions that don’t see eye to eye. I can imagine the complaints:
“They should have covered this”
“They should have used that”
“This character wasn’t in G4”
“There are retcons”
“That G4 pony wasn’t as good as this G4 pony”
“This character should have returned”
“This G4 episode wasn’t as good as this other episode”
The list of complaints would be looonger than what we already have complained about G4’s shenanigans (and that’s a lot). It would be an incredible mess, to the point where it would be difficult to logically discuss it.
Look, I don’t hate Friendship is Magic, I don’t hate Equestria Girls. I don’t hate Josh Haber. I don’t hate Hasbro. I don’t hate anything. I’m an optimist, I understand the fan rage. But in my opinion, if G5 has to be relevant, the story needs to be smaller focused and completely re-engineered, something that A New Generation achieved. It’s not like Hasbro is coming to your house and decides to burn your hard-disc driver filled with the nine seasons of Friendship is Magic, the G4 isn’t going anywhere. You already have that show, four Equestria Girls movies, a couple of FiM shorts, a couple of EG shorts, the EG show, Pony Life, a huge MLP film. You have tons of content based on G4.
If you choose to be a jerk, hey, no one is stopping you. When MLP fans complained how Hasbro produced two TV shows for G5 “for money”, all I can do is roll my eyes. I mean, I get the point, but by that logic, wouldn’t you say the same thing about Equestria Girls, Pony Life and the last four seasons of MLP:FiM filled with filler episodes, not to mention the many toys they made about it?
Speaking about them, I find hilarious that they dismiss some criticisms about G4 as much as possible until G5 arrived back in september of last year. I remember back in 2013 I was complaining about how “Pinkie Pie was louder and stupidier in season 3” and someone told me “it’s a comic relief, give her a break”. In season 4 I wish Twilight got more episodes about her being a princess and someone told me “the tree is important, she can’t stay in Canterlot, don’t be nitpicker”. In season 6 it was Starlight’s shenanigans in Every little thing she does and everyone was like “redemption is a slow process, give her a break”. But as soon as A New Generation arrived in Netflix, those people who were dismissing these criticisms for years now are unleashing their inner beasts like a monster from Dark Souls, like “this is not like G4”, “where are the Mane 6?” or other complaints. Kinda funny the double standard.
You could say “but they have to listen to the fans”. I don’t buy the “give to the fans what they want” argument, because I asked for the return of Chrysalis for four years and they bring her back in the worst possible way in the season 6 finale to the point where I didn’t watch the rest of the show for 3 years and a half. The “listen to the fans” line is a nonsense phrase, it makes no sense, it has no starting point and no benchmark, it doesn’t matter. What fans want isn’t as important as unshackled creative freedom. After all, that’s how some of the best MLP:FiM episodes were made.
I don’t know if that’s because the Internet made us very negative over the years (which is a completely separated discussion). Then again, nowadays the Internet seems more willing to back something up. Kids nowadays have been born into this digital era. The kids of this generation are way more empathetic and understanding than my generation back when I was a kid. Kids nowadays give me so much hope in comparison to what I’ve been dealing with decades ago. I think these people will be the first ones to connect with Sunny and her friends. After all, that’s how many people found Twilight Sparkle relatable back in 2010. And A New Generation received good reviews and nice comments written by the people who liked it.
As a fan of shows who has the stance of needing new content that is not a rehash, but something new, different, inventive and unique, I believe in Sunny Starscout. I believe in Izzy, Zipp, Pipp, Hitch, I believe in her quest of friendship, I believe in her determination.
I believe in G5.