An Animated Dissection: Thoughts on Season 1 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
With Season 5 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic about to be unleashed on the world, I thought I’d throw out this little post on the series.
Like many, I was dragged kicking and screaming into a show that seemed opposite to what I generally look for: emotional storylines, interesting characters, and situations I could find relations to. Hey, as a guy who has been obsessed with animation (and studied it in college), I’ve never strayed far from my ‘rule of 3.’
Being introduced to the series as Season 2 was underway, gave me more than enough material to catch up on, as well as “merge” into the fandom as that season began to head toward its season finale.
Since that time, a lot has happened, and we’ve seen the world originally conceived of by Lauren Faust, go in a lot of different places and directions that she probably never would have thought (or wanted to).
That then brought a question to my mind: as the series goes on, it seems that some have started to look back on that introductory season, and started to pick it apart and cringe: the kind of reaction one sees when looking at old baby pictures.
Given that this topic seems to have been slowly circulating into some fan-review videos, I thought I’d offer my two cents, on why this Season should not be pounded into the ground as THE! WORST! POSSIBLE! THING!!
Seriously, think back to other series you’ve most likely watched over the course of your lifespan. That first season? It probably was not the greatest thing ever, but admit it: most of what you watched had to start somewhere. We’ve seen it with many animated productions. First season jitters, that include:
– not-so-perfect animation –
– voice actors finding their way –
– story points that oftentimes don’t carry over into later seasons –
I’m sure we can all pick out little vocal things here and there, that have changed over the course of the series, not counting the maturity of the young voice actresses playing the Cutie Mark Crusaders, of course.
Speaking of the CMC, I know a lot of people grew to dislike them in Season 1, given that all they talked about was getting their Cutie Marks. However, as we soon saw, they pretty quickly wore out that plot thread, and such things soon became less of a focal point as the series went on. It’s possible they could have stretched this out by having them do just one task-per-episode, but one could see how that could get a little old.
As well, it seems the series loved to dig in and treat the girls almost like filly versions of Disney’s Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Mischievous little kids who oftentimes caused a little trouble, like in the Stare Master episode. As a Disney fan, everything from them being called “Sweet little angels,” to opening their eyes one after the other, just hit all the buttons in my Disney references information.
I know some people want straight-on continuity, but it’s often not going to happen. Most of the time, a series is just trying to get enough episodes to fill the schedule block they’ve been given.
Every series has at least a few things that they change or mess around with as the series goes on. One example is on Cheers, where Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar), often talked about how his father was a scientist, and deceased…but in Frasier, that continuity was changed so that his father Martin Crane (John Mahoney) was a retired Seattle Police Officer.
With FiM, we’ve seen plenty of continuity from that first season seem to get thrown off the canonical track. A prime example: The Everfree Forest. A wild and dangerous place…that as we’ve seen in the last few seasons, seems only to be that way if the plot calls for it. Other times, Applebloom can easily walk to Zecora’s, or the ponies to The Castle of the Two Sisters.
And we’ll continue to see such ‘did you know that’ moments as the series goes on. Historical characters that come out of nowhere (Tirek), newly-mentioned relations (Shining Armor), characters that are back-tracked into continuity (Maud Pie), and much more.
This line has grown pretty cliche since Harvey Dent uttered it in The Dark Knight, but it does bring up a good point. Ever since Lauren Faust left the series, there have been some fans that have decried her absence, claiming that her stories and final-word would have launched the series into realms that would have been incredible.
It’s nothing new. We’ve seen it happen with other series (James Cameron only went as far as Terminator 2, for example). Almost every series has that group of people that keeps clamoring for more, but want the creator to be there until the end of time, eager for them to keep churning out their wondrous world, despite those creative persons wishing to pursue other projects.
But still, there are other series where key players stuck around…and in the end, their ‘heroic’ efforts to the fans, turned to ‘bitter betrayal’ in the wake of what happened.
A key example is George Lucas. A man who is both praised and vilified by the Star Wars and Indiana Jones fandoms. many were excited when “The Maker” announced he would write and direct the prequels. Of course, over the last 15 years, Lucas has gone from a super-genius, to an out-of-touch madman who doesn’t understand his fandom.
Sometimes, one has to let go. I tell many that I have let go of my anger…which I wasn’t really about much with the prequels. Sure, I was disappointed at times, but in the end, what is it going to accomplish? I can’t redo the prequels. You can always speculate about ‘what you would have done different,’ but it’s never going to happen.
Faust’s leaving to pursue other avenues I can wholeheartedly accept. Though she has been unable to get her Galaxy Girls
concept off the ground, I will admit I am eager for more word on her upcoming film from Sony Pictures Animation, about the mythological Gorgon named Medusa.
Ok, if Season 1 of FiM is far from perfect, I would like to point out one thing: if anything, it made you eager to see just where the series could go from there. After all, if it hadn’t done some things well, would you have even wanted to see where it went when Season 2 started?
From the beginning, I didn’t have a clue as to where it was all going to go beyond the Grand Galloping Gala. If Season 1 caught my attention as I walked into a room, Season 2 was what made me sit down and watch. I find Season 1 works as a great portal as to what would come. Yes, a lot of episodes are not perfect, but they showed us that there was “something there” within the stories.
Personalities were still being developed, and as we saw, Twilight Sparkle was still getting used to her new home, as well as trying to learn more about Friendship. Season 1 is just as much a blank slate for us as it was for Twilight Sparkle. She didn’t know all the answers, and as such, we were able to be guided along with her as she kept on going.
There have been many keystones and signposts that the writers and the showstaff have tried to stick to regarding Faust (such as little nods to Greek Mythology, something she loves a lot), but there are times when one can’t always stay on the straight and narrow.
Having seen a lot of animated series over my lifetime (I was there during the Saturday Morning Cartoon blitzkrieg of the 1980’s, and The Disney Afternoon‘s rise to popularity), it oftentimes seemed that in the beginning, the plan for Season 1, was, “there is no plan.”
In a way, Season 1 for most shows is like playing in the sandbox: you throw around ideas. Some may stick, and others will fall by the wayside. We saw some side characters come to prominence, and others that have just become part of the gaggle of stock background extras.
FiM’s Season 1 stories also seem a little more hodge-podge than in later seasons. Much like the others series like Powerpuff Girls or Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, the singular episodes of Season 1 often delved into standard story topics we’ve seen in other series (such as “babysitting isn’t easy,” “wanting to make your friends happy,” and even “not everything different is bad”).
While I do think there was meant to be some seriousness to Faust’s story regarding Celestia and Luna’s Alicorn-like prime status, it eventually ended up getting stretched out and built out on as the series continued.
Season 1 I feel, was not meant to take itself too seriously, but just like with 1977’s Star Wars, a fandom was unleashed upon it, and the littlest details and such were thrown open to a world that its creators could not have foreseen. As such, when the show hasn’t moved as fast as the fans would, fan-couplings, fanon, and fan-fiction have reared their heads.
I know i haven’t made this season out to be the greatest one ever. That was not my point, but to remind people that oftentimes, what introduces us to certain things, may help us find the good that can lead us onward…and in the case of this series, there was enough good to keep us willing to venture forward with the series. Season 1 was like wandering into a new store or restaurant, and pretty soon, the experience made us eager to see what we could get on return visits.
Who knows? maybe one day, some who look down their noses at the first season, may find their peace with its simplicity. If the show grows too complex or beyond what others are willing to accept (Rainbow Power, anyone?), Season 1 could be like returning to your childhood home after a bustling and noisy life in the city: a chance to reclaim a sense of normalcy.
I will admit that sometimes, my mind does turn to the day when eventually, G4 (aka ‘Generation 4’) of the My Little Pony series will end, and Hasbro will revamp the series. You can deny it all you want, but it will happen. As someone whose seen the Transformers series go through multiple iterations over its 30 year history, things definitely do not stay the same for long, as a toy company has to entice children and parents to buy new product.
Will they go in a whole new direction with G5, or take pieces of G4 and embellish it?…well, that’s a discussion for another time, (far) in the future.