Archive | May 2014

Toy Review: Applejack, and Big McIntosh vinyl figures

Outside of Hasbro’s many plastic ponies on store shelves, it has been Funko that has helped lead the charge for most fans who want figures a little closer to the look of the cartoon show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

For the last two years, Funko has churned out everything from blind-bagged figures, and big-headed Funko Pop figures of many of the pony characters. Though the specialty for Funko, has been their standard vinyl figures, which have so far given us several noted background ponies, as well as the majority of the “Mane 6” ponies of the cast. The majority of these new releases have been exclusive to the store Hot Topic, though a few have been exclusively released through other retailers, such as Toys R Us.

As of late May 2014, they have added two more horses to the ever-growing stable of figures: Applejack, and her brother, Big McIntosh (who is the second stallion to be released, after the fan-favorite Dr Whooves back in 2013).

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Applejack

Applejack

After a long wait, the down-to-earth, honest Earth Pony finally gets her chance to shine…and shine she does!

With each new figure release, Funko keeps improving on their techniques, most notable in the cases of quality control. Some of the issues I had with previous pony releases have been pretty much eliminated on Applejack. There are fewer dings or lines in the vinyl molding, and there’s very few issues regarding sloppy paint on her figure.

Almost all the little touches that make the character are here, including her white freckles, and the red bands around her mane and tail. Earlier this year, Funko finally started releasing their vinyl ponies with Cutie Marks on both flanks of the figures, and it’s nice to see this trend continued here. The cuteness factor has also been upped, by making the eyes about 25% larger than original pony releases almost 2 years ago.

Though Applejack has had numerous toy iterations over the last few years, many fans have thought them inferior, because they were all missing AJ’s trademark hat. Luckily, Funko proves their mettle for detail, by making AJ’s hat part of her ensemble! Much like the magic hat on their release of (The Great and Powerful) Trixie, this one is non-removable. But then again, it’s incredibly rare to ever see Applejack without her hat in the show.

Several reviews back, I was incredibly-impressed by the quality Funko had put into making Fluttershy, but Applejack trumps Fluttershy in numerous ways. As of today, AJ is the zenith by which all future vinyl ponies will be measured (at least by me).

FINAL GRADE: A

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Big Mac

Big McIntosh (aka Big Mac)

Applejack’s brother Big Mac is one of those strong stallions of few words. Aside from the casual ‘Eyup,’ or ‘Nope,’ he rarely ever gives long soliloquys. While it was a given that we would have gotten Applejack sooner or later, I don’t think many of us were quite prepared for Funko to give us two members of the Apple Family at the same time!

Ever since his introduction on Friendship is Magic, Big Mac’s body style is unique among the show’s few stallions. With his wide hooves, he moreso resembles a Clydesdale horse, but he’s also one of the bigger horses on the show as well, towering over much of the cast.

Big Mac utilizes a brand-new mold from Funko, and they do a great job transferring his build into three-dimensions. Unlike the other bodies, the yoke around his neck serves as the dividing point where the body mold meets the neck/head portion of the figure. The yoke definitely serves as a great way to hide the connecting seam between these two points.

I have also included a comparison picture of Big Mac and 2013’s Dr Whooves, just to show the differences between the two stallions Funko has released so far:

I had noted in my review regarding Dr Whooves, that his eyes had been painted on too large for his character. It appears this has not been the case with Big Mac, who has some pretty large eyes on the show, and also here.

Paint-wise, there’s some minor sloppiness on the lower tan portion of his hooves, but other than that, he’s a pretty solid figure just like his sister. And just like AJ, Mac also comes with a cutie mark on each of his flanks, as well as some freckles on his cheeks.

It is interesting to note that they have given Big Mac’s full name on the box, instead of his standard nickname, but we’re here moreso for the figure rather than the packaging (which still is nicely done!). Just like Applejack, Big McIntosh is definitely a figure that ups the level of quality regarding these vinyl figures! As it stands now, there aren’t any other male stallions on the show that stand out as much as Big Mac or Dr Whooves, though he will definitely stand out among your vinly figures, as he’s almost a half-inch taller than the average pony figure from Funko.

FINAL GRADE: A

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These figures should be going on sale any day now in Hot Topic stores at your local mall. I received mine early due to pre-ordering ahead of time through the store’s website, and I’m sure many are receiving theirs as you read this. Each figure retails for $18.50, though if you check Hot Topic’s site every-so-often, they will often have special sales discounts from time to time.

Like the previous releases, Applejack and Big Mac are also being released as clear-vinyl variants as well, retailing for the same amount as the standard figures. Even so, both of these figures are solid, and great releases that many of the show’s fans should definitely rush out and get as soon as possible.

The amount of information coming out of Funko has often been sketchy regarding future vinyl figure releases, but I think it’s safe to say that the final “Mane 6” member Rarity, should probably be with us come the Fall releases…though who the secondary pony that will be released alongside her, remains a current mystery.

Still, I do hold out hope that one day, maybe Funko will release the one fan-favorite character that Hasbro will probably never make: The Draconequus, named Discord.

5 of the show’s “Mane 6” cast (from left to right: Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy). It’s a safe bet that Rarity should be coming soon.

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Toy Review: The Simpsons, LEGO Minifigures

When I was growing up, there was definitely a wealth of toys I’m sure my Dad wished he could have had. I recall that he was just as enthralled by Transformers as I was, as well as Hot Wheels cars, and LEGOs.

Growing up in the 80’s, this was the decade when it seemed LEGO really began to take off. Back then, you had City, Castle, and Space sets. Since then, not only have their prices skyrocketed, but so have the number of other themed LEGO sets.

I remember 15 years ago being incredibly excited when LEGO announced one of their first partnerships with an outside entity: Lucasfilm, which enabled them to create the first official Star Wars LEGO sets, both from the original trilogy, and the upcoming Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Since then, they have done figures and playsets for Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Indiana JonesNinja Turtles, Marvel, & DC Comics! Hard to believe that in the 21st Century, LEGO has all the pieces you need to create one of the greatest pop-culture showdowns ever (as somewhat hinted at in this year’s The LEGO Movie).

In the last few months, many were blown away when it was revealed that the company had partnered with Twentieth Century Fox to bring us The Simpsons’ house, complete with car, and hinged-side so you could even play inside its walls! However,though impressive, this set will set you back $200.

Luckily, LEGO found another way to tap into our nostalgic memories.

In recent years, the company has also had great success with its blind-bagged mini-figures. These offerings featured various specially-made figures in costumes. While some were just apt to buy-and-open, others can often be seen furiously feeling up numerous blindbags, trying to figure out which figure is inside. It can be understood, given that they normally sell at $3 a bag.

2014 is the first year that the company branched out with more theme-specific blind bags. First with The LEGO Movie, and now with The Simpsons.

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Throughout the years, we’ve seen various companies take on the task of making three-dimensional representations of the show’s characters: from statues, to at least 3 toy companies creating several of the show’s main cast (and guest stars) in yellow plastic. Funny that with the color yellow, it took LEGO this long to make them.

I was first unsure about collecting this series. The heyday of my LEGO collecting was during the days when I used to live in Iowa. Since then, I have had a few sets from Toy Story, and several LEGO keychains that have made their way into my possession.

My original intent was to just collect the Simpsons family, but before I knew it, my 5-figure plan snowballed into collecting all 16 of the figures. And given what LEGO has done, I feel they’ve hit a homerun!

Though the figures utilize the standard LEGO figure body and legs, the heads have been sculpted into three dimensions of the show’s characters, and they all are amazing! As well, these are some of the first LEGO bodies I’ve seen that have painted ‘sleeves.’ Since so many of the characters on the show are wearing short-sleeve shirts, it’s nice to see this little addition to the characters. As well, clothing detail also includes little additions, such as Bart’s slingshot in his back pocket, as seen in the picture above-right. Cloth pieces have also been included for Lisa and Marge’s skirts, too.

What’s most interesting is that the heads for Mr Burns, Itchy, and Scratchy, are made of a more rubbery plastic than the others. I assume given the more ‘fine’ points on the character’s features, it was thought that making them less-stiff would keep kids from possibly poking themselves with Mr Burns’ nose, or Scratchy’s ears.

Though figures of the Simpson family and Ned Flanders are included in the Simpsons House playset, the figures in this set are different in clothing and expression. Though if you want a wide-eyed Maggie Simpson, your best bet is to buy the house set…or find her on eBay.

The one thing I really enjoy about the figures is their size. I don’t have a lot of room to display or collect things, so the compactness of these figures works better than say, if I were to collect the Playmates action figures of the characters from over a decade ago.

Added accessories have been a high-point of the other blind-bag figures, and it’s so much fun to see numerous props from past Simpsons cartoons in the mix, from inanimate carbon rods, to a copy of the Springfield Shopper. I’ve included a few close-ups in little squares throughout my review here, as you’ve seen above, and below.

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For the last few years, those looking through LEGO blind bag figures, have claimed that to find specific figures, there are specific little dots on the lower portion of the package backs.

However, of the 16 figures I opened regarding The Simpsons (yes, I found all of them with no repeats!), the codes did not match at all. It is known that as a series goes on, these little dots are subject to change (and some packages didn’t have any at all!).

When looking for my figures, I was able to figure out some specific shapes/forms that were able to help me find the proper figures. I’ve decided to include some hints here (along with imagery of them de-constructed, so you may see the parts each figure’s package includes):

Homer Simpson –Feel for his one-pegged donut (with flat surface), or the 2-peg flat piece that is his remote control.

Marge Simpson –Marge’s head with its raised, “pebbly” hair will help you pick her out in no time! You can also feel for her purse, but her head is a dead giveaway.

Bart Simpson –Bart has the most stuff of any character. Try to feel for his skateboard, and the loose wheels.

Lisa Simpson –It can be easy to confuse Lisa with Maggie, but feel for her saxophone, and small leg piece.

Maggie Simpson –Maggie’s uni-body is the key, with a plastic ‘fold’ of cloth in the back. Or, you can also feel for Bobo, the teddy bear.

Grandpa Simpson –Grandpa also has a flat 4-pegged piece like Marge, Milhouse, and Ralph. However, he can be found based on his 2-pegged lower legs (whereas Milhouse and Ralph only have one).

Ned Flanders –Flanders’ four-pegged tool box is all you need to feel to find him. He also has the only cup accessory with a handle on it in the series.

Mr Burns – The inanimate carbon rod is the key to finding Burns, as well as the fishbowl shaped like a LEGO head.

Chief Wiggum –The flat-top of Wiggum’s Police hat is a dead giveaway. His nightstick and megaphone can also help you find him.

Ralph Wiggum – Feel out for Ralph’s head. Unlike Milhouse, the top of his head is smooth. The hole for the neck is also larger in size.

Milhous Van Houten –Milhouse’s head is the key to differentiate him from Ralph – his head will seem a little ‘spikier.’

Nelson Muntz –Nelson’s bat is the accessory that will identify him. Just remember that it’s got a knob on the end.

Apu Nahasapeemapetalan –The Squishee cup Apu comes with is the key (remember, Ned’s cup has a handle, Apu’s doesn’t).

Krusty the Clown –Krusty’s head and pie accessory will help you find him.

Itchy the Mouse –Feel for the Mickey Mouse-style ears, or the spiked club, to bag this rodent.

Scratchy the Cat –Scratch’s axe, and his tail accessory, will help you catch that cat.

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At the time I purchased my figures, they were priced at $3.99 at my nearest LEGO Store, though the LEGO Store website lists them currently at $4.99.

To me, this series holds so much promise for LEGO, not to mention the show’s fans. It’s no surprise that the show has amassed one of the largest casts ever in its 25+ years on television. I’m sure many of us are hoping for a Series 2 that could include the likes of Mr Smithers, Ms Krabappel, and possibly the Halloween Special aliens, Kang & Kodos! In fact, if Series 2 were to come out around Halloween time, it would be neat to see a blind-bag set based around various characters from the show’s Treehouse of Horror specials.

Movie Review: Mood Indigo

I still remember 2004, being the first time that the name Michel Gondry reached my ears.

Early previews for the film Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind had me intrigued, as a company called Lacuna claimed in film trailers, that they could help erase bad memories from one’s psyche. And that became the theme of the film starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Of course, it was one of the first times I was introduced to the whimsical and non-linear way that Gondry’s visuals took flight. And after almost a decade, it’s still one of my favorite films of 2004.

The last time I saw Gondry’s work was in 2006, with The Science of Sleep, which proved to be a little different. While there was a love story in place, this film took on a much “thicker,” non-linear feel than Sunshine, and left me feeling it was more style-over-substance.

Since then, Gondry’s filmography has ping-ponged through numerous projects, from documentaries to more feature films. Though in terms of fanciful projects, his 2013 release Mood Indigo is probably the first film since The Science of Sleep that deals with emotions and creativity within Gondry’s mind.

The film opens with a young man named Colin (Romain Duris). He lives in a very eccentrically-made apartment, and has plenty of money to live comfortably (aka ‘he doesn’t need to work’). His care-free life is so perfect, that he has invented the pianocktail (a piano that will make a cocktail as you play a piece on it).

However, Colin feels that his life is missing something, and when his friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) claims he’s found a girl to date, Colin declares that he wants to fall in love too! He soon gets that chance, in the form of Chloe (Audrey Toutou), whom he meets at a party. Chloe seems the perfect match for Colin’s eccentricities, and even his personal cook/lawyer/friend Nicolas (Omar Sy) takes a shine to her.

Chloe (Audrey Toutou) and Colin (Romain Duris) share an intimate moment in The Underground Forest

Things appear to be going well for Colin and Chloe, until the day it’s found that a flower is growing within one of her lungs…which begins to unsettle their perfect little world.

As soon as the film starts, you are immediately swallowed up in the visually-maddening world created by Gondry. When one first lays eyes on Colin’s apartment, it’s a visual whirlwind that will most likely cause many to flashback to the likes of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The chef on the TV speaks directly to Nicolas, a little mouse (or a person in a mouse-suit) skitters around the abode (and whom Colin and Nicolas talk to), and the doorbell device crawls around like a bug on a wall when there’s someone at the door.

Mood Indigo could almost be likened to a fever dream in its execution, and the audience has the choice of either being carried along on its whimsical impossibilities, or just running for the door. Much like some of his more creative music videos, Gondry uses an entire arsenal of effects trickery. Legs extend during a dance lesson, a bird-headed woman is seen presiding over an ice rink, and Nicolas’ wacky dishes come to life through the magic of stop-motion animation. While some are easily figured out, others made me eager to see the curtain rise on some of these tricks.

The film is based on the book Foam of the Daze, by Boris Vian (who also wrote the story, I Spit On Your Graves). Gondry has claimed that the book stuck with him through much of his life, and that he was always thinking of how to make the written words come to life on-screen. As well, Vian also knew Duke Ellington, a big-band jazz musician, whose works and song titles fit within the film (the film’s title and even Chloe’s name are derived from two of his songs).

Cast-wise, Gondry has rounded up a number of good persons to play in his sandbox. Duris brings an airy laissez-faire quality to Colin, to the point that I almost got sick of him within 5 minutes…but as his life begins to change due to his responsibilities, one can see him struggling to “grow up” in a sense. One can hear the audible ennui when at one point he tells Chloe, “I have to get a job.”

Toutou almost channels Amelie Poulain once again in the cutesy character of Chloe, a somewhat free spirit who tries to stay positive in the face of the many things that are befalling her.

Nicolas (Omar Sy) checks his schedule as Chick (Gad Elmaleh) and Colin (Romain Duris) look on.

Gondry’s strength in Eternal Sunshine was in visualizing the story of romance and how even the rosiest of things may not turn out to be so perfect. Here, Mood Indigo seems to channel that vibe we see in films by say, Edgar Wright: the carefree man-child who wants the girl, but finds that to have her, means you have to grow up. As well, their relationship seems to intersect and criss-cross with numerous people they know.

This same mood is typified in Colin’s friend Chick, and his girlfriend, Alise (Aissa Maiga). Much of the film, it seems Alise is eager for Chick to pop the big question, but he seems moreso ensconced and fascinated by a famous writer, named Jean Sol-Partre (Phillippe Torrenton). This subplot I felt could have been a little better illustrated, as we see Chick’s fascination with the writer grow into a dangerous obsession.

One of the characters that I think will stick with many, is the incredibly faithful and overly-reliant Nicolas. Omar Sy imbues this gentle giant with a demeanor that almost makes you wish you could be friends with him as well. He gives so selflessly of himself to those he deems worthy of his friendship, and in one scene, promises to stick with Colin even though it is ‘aging’ him terribly (because of a promise he makes to Chloe). In a way, he was amazingly similar to a co-worker at a former job, so maybe that’s why I felt Nicolas was so comfortable a co-character.

Chloe (Audrey Toutou) and Colin (Romain Duris) take an afternoon ride in a cloud car.

Where the film falters to me, is that it feels that Gondry goes a little too far into his flights of fancy. This feels like one of those pet-projects some directors are eager to finally get out of their system, and when they do, it ends up almost projectile-vomiting across the screen with its visuals. The film in a way, reminded me of Barry Levinson’s 1992 film, Toys. That film also intended to convey a message or a deeper story, but its visuals got in the way of its message one too many times.

One of the most intriguing scenes in the film, is what appears to be a secretarial office with typewriters moving past multiple people. Each one gets 10-20 seconds to type something on one typewriter, before it moves on down the line to the next person. It is seen several times over the course of the film, but we are never given proper context on just where this place is (is it a room where the film is being randomly written by multiple people? Is it within Colin’s head?).

Some of Gondry’s stylings did put me in mind of another artist whose visions have exploded across the screen several times: Terry Gilliam. In a sense, some of the world does feel as irreverent as the things Gilliams visualized in his films like Brazil, which was also a love story set in a strange world (albeit one of the future). Strange that in many flights of fantasy, they are either set in dystopian futures, or with people in love.

I was lucky to see Indigo as one of the offerings by The Chicago Critics’ Film Festival, which was playing at The Music Box Theater. Current plans (as of this writing), are for a release on July 18, 2014, by way of Drafthouse Films’ distribution arm. However, two cuts of the film are said to exist, with Gondry trimming the film for international release. After double-checking the information, it appears that what I witnessed last night was the trimmed version. One figures that maybe in the future, a DVD release may warrant the longer, 2-hour cut (though it does make me wonder if a lot of what I questioned in the version I saw, will make more sense).

For those who are willing to keep their minds turned on and dive into the murky waters of Michel Gondry’s imagination, Mood Indigo may be just the thing you’ve been looking for. However, if one is able to come out of the film and know exactly what was going on, you’re a far better person than I am. Then again, I have just started reading Boris Vain’s original story, so maybe some of those hotpoles in the film’s plot will be filled in.

My Top 5 episodes for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Season 4)

 

*Note: This list does contain spoilers regarding various episodes from Season 4. If you have not seen all of the Season’s episodes, you might wish to turn back for now*

After Season 3 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ended February 13, 2013, the fandom seemed a little shaky. Season 3 only had half the amount of episodes that Seasons 1 and 2 had (13 instead of 26), as DHX Media had put their talent to work producing the animation on My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. As well, the rumors and teeth-knashing were amplified in some corners of the fandom, when Twilight Sparkle was made both a Princess, and an alicorn!

But as Season 4 carried on from the Fall of 2013 to Spring of 2014, much of the rumblings seemed to die away.  Twilight’s alicorn status was soon accepted by many of the fans. As well, new and older characters were brought to light, giving many creative persons out there more fodder to add to the pile of fan-created paraphernalia. A sub-story also wove its way through the season, not unlike the Grand Galloping Gala substory in Season 1…though with a little more at stake. And, for those decrying that Rarity seemed to have been sidelined in Season 3, she was practically all over the place in Season 4!

Unlike Season 3, there was a greater variety of episodes to choose from for this season’s Top 5 list. Some may wonder why I go for only 5 episodes, and not 10. To me, I find it better to whittle down a finite number of episodes. And the further I’d get down the list of episodes, I’d start nitpicking deeper and deeper, something I have no interest in doing at this time.

It should also be noted that my lists also do not take into account 2-part episodes, such as Princess Twilight Sparkle, and Twilight’s Kingdom. My reasoning for this is that with 2-parters, those storylines get more time to tell a bigger story, whereas the single-episode storylines have the thankless task of balancing their storylines in a small amount of time. It’s that tightrope-walk that makes me think more about how and why an episode works.

And so, without further ado, here are my Top 5 favorite episodes from Season 4.

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#5 - Filli Vanilli

#5 – Filli Vanilli

Almost every season has had a Fluttershy-based episode that seems to work pretty well for me. This one continues on with that streak, and much like my previous list, Fluttershy has taken the #5 slot .

Fluttershy loves to sing, but is scared to do so in public. Even so, she is excited to have the Ponytones quartet sing at an upcoming charity to help animals. But, when Big Mac loses his singing voice, Fluttershy is enlisted in a rather creative way, to make the group shine through (those who know what the title is referencing, will probably figure out what will go on).

There has been some teeth-knashing that when it comes to most Fluttershy episodes, she seems to learn something, but then her character growth does not carry over to the rest of the episodes. I’m personally not as concerned with this, as it’s a given in regards to many cartoons and television sitcoms: most of the time, what a character will learn in one episode, does not necessarily change the rest of their character arc immediatey. As well, there is the school of thought that us learning something, does not mean it is immediately going to be quickly affixed to our character.

One upside to the episode that was really great was how Rarity was handled. She got a little upset at times, but she seemed to have a certain control to her, that reminded me of her role in Putting Your Hoof Down. This was a nice change-of-pace from the more whiny Rarity we got in the previous week’s episode, Simple Ways.

The episode even has some nice, smaller roles for Big Mac, Applejack, and Zecora. As well, it is one of several episodes this season that references previous ones, in this case, the Season 1 episode, Bridle Gossip. As well, the harmony of the Ponytones in regards to their music is a catchy piece that Daniel Ingram has put together…though one does wish the Ponytones would have had maybe another song or two to sing.

The area where the episode loses points for me, is in how it portrays Pinkie Pie. We’ve seen in other episodes that Pinkie can sometimes do things that may seem okay to her, but not right to others. This was portrayed a bit in the Season 2 episode, A Friend in Deed. Here, it seems 98% of all the stuff coming out of Pinkie’s mouth did nothing but just upset Fluttershy even more. Pinkie can be childish sometimes, but unlike the balancing act in Pinkie Pride, their attempts to ramp up her attitude in this one just doesn’t help. Then again, we could just say “Pinkie had an off-day,” and leave it at that.

As one last little aside, did anyone think the Father of the filly Zipporwhill, resembled a ponified version of Kevin Smith?

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#4- Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Of all the Mane 6, it is Rainbow Dash who I have a hard time really liking. I think it’s her stand-offish nature that does it much of the time. Though it seems once in a blue moon, she appears in an episode that I think is pretty great. And amazingly enough, this is one of two with her in the Top 5!

Rainbow Dash has a test soon, to see if she can make it into the Wonderbolt Reserves, an offshoot of The Wonderbolt Flying Team, whom Dash has dreamed of flying with for a very long time. However, when Twilight notices her friend hasn’t studied for the impending exam, she volunteers to help Rainbow…but her methods don’t quite work on somepony like Rainbow Dash. This soon leads to the rest of their friends attempting to help, with creative, disastrous, and even wondrous results.

Much of what Rainbow does to procrastinate made me feel like she was disrespecting Twilight at times, but as her friends banded together to help her, the episode began to come alive. As well, I soon was surprised that Rainbow’s way of absorbing information reminded me a little of how I do it as well. I am not one to really get deep into studying, but I am also a quiet observer, who will often notice little things that others don’t (a side-effect from being an artist).

Twilight also shines in this episode as well. Not only does it seem she has gotten better at flying, but her concerned feelings about helping and teaching a friend give her a determined tone one doesn’t normally hear her take, making it one of the stronger performances Tara Strong gives her character.

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#3 – Flight to the Finish

If you’ve read my Top 5 list from Season 3, you know that a Scootaloo-related episode blew away all others that Season. With Season 4, the little filly returns to the Top 5, though doesn’t fly as high as last time. But still, that doesn’t mean her episode should be written off.

The kids in Ms Cheerilee’s class have the chance to be on the flag-waving team at the upcoming Equestria Games. Naturally, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo decide to work out a routine of their own. However, this doesn’t sit well with Diamond Tiara, who works with Silver Spoon to mock Scootaloo about the fact that she can’t fly.

The fandom has been requesting some acknowledgement of this, and it manages to be worked in in a way that doesn’t cause too much of a major world problem. As well, Scootaloo’s friends do what good friends do: they don’t dwell on their friend’s limitations, and request that Scootaloo keep pushing on.

A highlight of this episode for me, was Rainbow Dash. Not many episodes with her in a main role impress me, but I loved how enthusiastic she was to be supervising this part of the games, making her both funny and energizing. As well, it’s one of the few episodes where her “Element of Loyalty” really worked into the plot, notably at the end when she sends Applebloom and Sweetie Belle back to Ponyville to retrieve their friend.

There is a fairly memorable song called “Hearts as Strong as Horses,” but it just doesn’t stick in the mind as well as it should. However, the final use of it in the episode is well put together, and also acts as a great callback to a previous scene in a few other episodes, leading to a great crowd-pleasing end scene!

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#2 – *Tie* Maud Pie, & For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils

These two episodes I agonized over for weeks. I thought I could maybe put one as #2 and one as #3,  but in the end, my indecision deadlocked, resulting in this tie.

Several of FIM‘s episodes dealing with sisterly relationships have been some that have been quite entertaining (Sisterhooves Social, for an older example), and these two stood out to many during this season. However, they deal with sisters in different ways.

Maud Pie is an episode that deals with siblings who get along well, but who may not quite be on the same level as your friends. They could have easily spun Maud off into stereotypical “bored goth” territory, but it’s just that she has her own personality and viewpoints outside the norm. Maud is a different kind of character than we’ve seen be tackled, and a great example of how the show can have ponies or creatures with a different viewpoint, and not turn them into  imbeciles or smarmy bad guys.

The emotions from Maud stems largely from what is interpreted, and those episodes that cause one to think moreso than fight their way through exposition (I’m looking at you, Three’s a Crowd!) are some of my favorites. It was also an episode that I could see a little of myself in. Like Maud, I’m a little ‘off’ from most people, but am not completely without emotion: I just see the world a little differently.

There’s also a great deeper meaning regarding the rock candy necklaces that Pinkie and Maud make, that helped cement the episode as one of my favorites this season.

Sweetie Belle Toils once again gives more information regarding the sisterly relationship between Rarity and Sweetie Belle. Unlike Sisterhooves Social, the roles in this one are reversed, as it is Sweetie Belle who is greatly peeved this time. Some have claimed that this made Sweetie Belle less-cute, but it’s much like Pinkie Pie in Party of One, or Twilight in Lesson Zero. We get to see another side of this character, and it helps develop Sweetie more into her own personality, something that episodes like this one and Twilight Time have been instrumental at doing.

Sweetie shows that she harbors some jealous feelings towards her sister, and they come out in a major way: emotions that I think many out there can relate to. While some claim that they wish to see more of Princess Luna, I love the use of her in small doses like here, in which she comes into Sweetie’s dream to help her see the error of her ways. There are even allusions to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in how the dreams are structured, but it still all works out.

The music for this episode has some of my favorite pieces, notably in the rather mystical, medieval way Daniel Ingram heralds Luna’s arrival, and the rather placid sound of the dream world that Luna and Sweetie Belle navigate through. At times, it almost sounded like he was channeling composer, James Newton Howard.

The dreams are also a great place for the artists on the show to have fun, allowing them to really play within a world where the absurd can be made interesting.

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#1 – Pinkie Pride

I think I feel about this episode, the way some felt when they found out Discord was coming back in Season 3. I had hope that even with the inclusion of Weird Al Yankovic, the writers would give us a pretty entertaining episode…and they surely did!

Pinkie Pie is eager to help plan the Birthiversary of Rainbow Dash, but the entire town rallies around a newcomer named Cheese Sandwich, whose party-planning ideas seem even more impressive than Pinkie’s. At first upset at her thunder being stolen, Pinkie vows to win back her title as a “Super-Duper Party Pony.”

Pinkie can sometimes be the enigma of the Mane 6, in that she seems to largely be so preoccupied by fun, that the audience can sometimes be questioning just how she thinks. Because of this, I find her one of the more intriguing characters when some episodes slow down, in order for us to learn a little more about her. My two favorite episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 (Party of One, and Putting Your Hoof Down), have her in roles that are both fun, and a little challenging to her characterization…and that’s where my love of Pinkie Pride comes from. As well, it speaks to many of us who are creative, and trying to keep that energy and drive going when it seems there are others who may be able to do much more than we can.

This episode was both emotional and fun, and the balance managed to work pretty well. It does feel a little like a diversion episode like Power Ponies, but manages to work better in many ways, made largely due to the songs included. As I said in my review of the episode, this one utilized multiple songs in a way that seemed superior to the much-loved Magical Mystery Cure finale from Season 3.

I still say one downside at times, is how ‘mindlessly-enamored’ the townsponies seem to be once Cheese Sandwich arrives, but then again, the episode seems largely focused on Pinkie Pie, and Cheese Sandwich. It even comes dangerously close to acting like a “Mary Sue/Gary Stu” MLP fanfic, but manages to be fun and entertaining enough to make me think twice. And in the end, the Birthiversary scene, though short, always brings a smile to my face!

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And those were my Top 5 favorite episodes from Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. As Stated in the beginning, these are just my opinions, as I’m sure there are other episodes during this season that some would have put in their own Top 5.

Word has already come about that Season 5 is coming down the pike, and that like this one, 26 episodes have been ordered, which will bring Season 1-5 to total 117 episodes.

As well, word is sometime between seasons, Hasbro has a continuation of the Equestria Girls offshoot, with a film titled Rainbow Rocks (though whether it will be direct-to-video or also given a limited release like Equestria Girls, remains to be heard).

There is even word that currently, toy offerings from the company’s “girls toys” have been outpacing their “boys toys,” though Hasbro still has not given into repeated pleas for more fanbased offerings.

One thing to consider, is that we could be entering a plateau period for the series: these might be The Glory Days, as most shows usually seem to hit their stride within the 3-6 seasons period. To me, the show probably could sustain 6-7 seasons and still be considered great, but moving beyond that could be problematic.

I’ve seen it happen with other shows: they could probably introduce a ‘Mane 7’ cast member, or the group would find themselves in a new place, or alternate dimension.

There’s plenty of things to consider on what the future can hold, but for now, I think it’s safe to say that Season 4 of the series was a big win for many of the fans, as well as a good way for newcomers to enter into the herd.