Tag Archive | Echo Creek Academy

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 2, Episode 20) – Collateral Damage / Just Friends

Here it comes. Every day, it draws nearer. Pretty soon, it will be upon us, and then, everything will go black.

I speak of course, of the ending of the second season, of Star vs the Force of Evil. Sure, the crew headed by creator Daron Nefcy is hard at work on the show’s third season, but we still don’t know when that’ll start!

Well, we got a few more episodes left until ‘the dark times.’ So, let’s review episode 20!

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-Collateral Damage-

While cleaning up trash around the school, Star accidentally destroys Otis, the school’s possum statue/mascot. At first, she doesn’t see what the big deal is, but soon finds that the destruction of Otis, has sent the entire school into a depressive funk!

Watching this segment, I suddenly found myself thinking: “when was the last time we actually had a full-on story take place inside Echo Creek Academy?

For the die-hard fans of the show, there are some callbacks/shout-outs to some characters we haven’t seen in awhile (even the snarky Brittney Wong has a few lines!), and a few more background characters are given a little screen-time.

Interspersed through the story, are remembrances of Otis the possum, as well as some humorous, historical flashback bits, narrated by Marco with a southern drawl.

This style of ‘reminiscence humor,’ feels strangely like some instances I’ve seen in episodes of The Simpsons and South Park. Even the over-the-top reaction by the entire school, seems to resemble the dynamics from the citizen of both Springfield, and South Park.

In a turnabout way, just as Marco became a ‘voice of reason’ to the students at St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, Star has her moments here, inside the walls of Echo Creek  Academy.

The overall theme of the story is about overcoming grief and loss, and we see Star has been trying to work through some of that as well (given her feelings about losing her family’s spellbook, as well as Glossaryck of Terms). However, just like in the story Brittney’s Party, we see how she is willing to set aside her own issues, and try and do what she does best: perk up those around her, who are having a not-so-good time.

The story feels almost like a reversal of the segment, The Banagic Incident, only instead of Star going off-the-wall, the entire school is, making her the only sane person left to talk some sense into everyone. That kind of storytelling can get pretty annoying, though unlike Banagic, this segment has enough momentum to keep it’s silly premise chugging along.

That pretty much becomes the story’s crutch: it’s a passably-okay segment that gives us a bit more history regarding Echo Creek Academy, but it feels a bit too off-the-wall at times.

Final Grade: B-

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): Ferguson! Alfonso! I haven’t talked to you guys all year, but you are always there in the background, doin’ your thing!”

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-Just Friends-

Star and Marco are eager to attend an upcoming concert, featuring their favorite band, Love Sentence! However, Star shocks Marco, when she tells him that she has invited Jackie Lynn Thomas to come along with them as well!

Even though Marco is getting along well with Jackie, he still feels nervous that he’ll find some way to mess up the evening. However, Star keeps trying to break him out of his funk, and make Jackie feel included in their activities.

It’s been awhile since we last encountered Jackie, and aside from a minor cameo in the story Mathmagic, this is her first full-on interaction with Star and Marco, since the Bon Bon the Birthday Clown episode.

The trip to get to the concert feels like it meanders, in trying to give us some decent entertainment value. The writers seem a bit too preoccupied in trying to make Marco uncomfortable, and throw all sorts of little things in his way.

A positive is that even after how we saw Star look at Marco and Jackie interacting in the Bon Bon episode, she still makes an effort to not alienate Jackie, and supports Marco’s attempts to be with her. I really love that aspect of the writers showing what an awesome friend Star can be. It was that same kind of characterization, that I felt made the segment Naysaya so good.

Though in essence, maybe the whole inviting Jackie to the concert, was Star’s way of seeing if she could handle seeing Jackie and Marco together? It should be noted that Star acts pretty excited about the whole thing, but maybe she’s trying to gauge her feelings about the two of them.

Of course, where most of the fans who watch the story will probably be most transfixed, is at the concert portion at the end.

Brian H Kim helps give us a new song by the group Love Sentence (with lead vocals by Nick Lachey, formerly part of the boy band, 98 Degrees), as well as a small reprise of one of their songs we’ve heard before.

Of course, it all leads to some moments that, if you’re an emotional person, may leave you unsure just how to feel.

Of the segments that have hit in the last few weeks, this was the one I was most interested in seeing. Sadly, it is punctuated with a fun opening, a meandering middle, and gut-punching ending. However, the beginning and ending bits, manage to override the middle, and pushed my final grade up a bit.

Final Grade: B

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): “Oh, don’t be silly! I just wanted to be down here by the stage so I could feel their sweat spraying on my face!”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Marco Diaz, in Collateral Damage): “Others just stare and wonder, ‘what’s a possum?'”

Well, that was a pretty okay episode.

Collateral Damage gave us a humorous take on school spirit, and working through grief. More kooky than dramatic, but somehow, it’s one of the few off-the-wall storylines that just clicked with me.

Just Friends looked to be laying on the drama regarding emotions surrounding Star, Marco, and Jackie. It elevated itself slightly above Collateral, but mainly on the strength of what happens in the third act.

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And with episode 20, we are officially out of 2-segment episodes for Season 2! Next week, we’ll get two 22-minute episodes back-to-back. There are still plenty of questions still unanswered so far this season, and we’ll have to wait and see if we get any answers.

The next episode I’ll be reviewing, is titled Face the Music, and it looks like Brian H Kim will be giving us some more of the good stuff, as Star will have a Princess Song made, and sung in her honor.

Of course, after the way Bon Bon the Birthday Clown was structured, I think we’re all expecting to find some surprises beyond just the song. See you all back here real soon!

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An Animated Dissection: Easter Eggs and References within Star vs the Forces of Evil

Why do you do this to me, Disney? Just when I had signed myself over to being a full-time fan of your new series, you go and leave me and thousands more hanging for a month!

And so, I’ve had no choice but to come up with odd postings and topics such as this one…then again, the series is so new, that this might be one of the first rundowns regarding some of these things. I may be on the ground floor of a new animation phenomenon (doot-doo-do-do-doo!).

*Warning: the following post contains spoilers and episodic story information from the series. If you are wanting to view the show without knowing some of what is coming up, you might want to turn back now.*

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When we first encounter Star Butterfly, we see that she has blush-marks on her cheeks, in the form of hearts. While I and many assumed they were some form of make-up, it seems they are moreso an emotional extension of her character. We’ve seen them turn into hourglasses when she gets bored, and in worrying over her wand dying, they fracture, and turn to skulls.

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When I first watched the show, I didn’t realize an interesting artistic touch regarding the dimensional portals: each one is themed around its destination! For example, The Bounce Lounge dimension’s portal, has a blobby light ring, very similar to the cloud-like atmosphere. Regarding the Quest Buy store’s light ring, it looks like a shield, which is similar to the shield-like logo on one of their shopping carts.

My favorite though, is the one that goes to The Amethyst Arcade, with its phasing, cube light ring.

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We seem to be living in an era where there are all sorts of hidden secrets in some of the shows we watch. 5 episodes into SvtFoE, I have grown curious regarding a certain, little blue creature. We first see him hovering near Star’s parents as they see how she “can’t handle” her wand responsibilities on Mewni.


The next time we see him is in Monster Arm, when he quickly appears from between some pages of the wand’s instruction manual.


Just who he is, I haven’t the faintest clue…but he also figures into the pause screen (below) for the DisneyXD app’s game, Star vs The Dungeon of Evil. However, even here, there’s no name or ID.

Is he Star’s guardian angel, a magically-transformed Grandfather, or maybe like Aladdin’s Genie is to his lamp, this guy is tied to the wand in some way? I did pose this question to Daron Nefcy on Twitter, and got the following response:

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So as it stands, I’m hoping as the season gets further along, we’ll learn more.

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A fun-yet-crazy moment came in the segment titled Brittney’s Party. One girl at school is such a fan of Star, that she wallpapered her locker with pictures of her (including one of Star in her nightgown!).


It seems weird…until it’s revealed that Star has done the same for her fangirl (who happens to be voiced by Star’s creator, Daron Nefcy).


Take note of the little unicorn-monster doll in that locker. Does it look familiar? Well, it’s the same one we saw in Star’s flashback to her youth, in the School Spirit episode.


Though by the looks of it, the stuffed toy had some repair work after its neck was ‘snapped’ by this lug of a royal guard.

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It seems the Echo Creek area is most likely being plagued by a few more missing persons reports than they’ve had in awhile. So far, Star’s presence has caused the disappearance of one student at Echo Creek Academy, 3+ football players from Silver Hill Prep, and a car load of persons (number: unknown) getting sent to another dimension, courtesy of Ludo’s goons.

Where did they go? Was the one student horribly savaged by the butterfly-monster-thingy Star created? In truth…we may never know.

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Being an ‘old person’ (well, considering I was born in 1980, I’m considered ‘old’ by the target demographic of the show), I was somewhat surprised that not many people got the references when Star accidentally turned their teacher Ms Skullnick into a troll. Some questioned the wild hair, let alone the gem in her belly-button.

 

Unknown to some, this is a direct nod to one of the big marketing trends in the last 50 years: The Troll Doll! There was a time when these things were everywhere (even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ‘mutated’ into them in one iteration of their action-figure line!). Word is, Dreamworks is currently working on a film based around the toys. And if you think I’m old…some sleuthing around the internet, tells that the Troll Doll craze first started in 1959!

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Watching cartoons growing up, it was sometimes fun to see extra little things the animators or artists did to push character emotions. On the US Acres segment of the Garfield and Friends cartoon, Wade Duck wore an inner-tube, with a little duck-head on it. The funny thing was, the head’s eye expressions almost always copied Wade’s! One assumes this was a fun little gag added by the series creator, Jim Davis. Even the comic strip versions of Wade had this feature.

A similar series of “attire expressions” happens in Cheer Up, Star. Star wears one of her standard outfits, an aquamarine dress, with a little “squid ghost” on the front. However, instead of the neutral look on the squid’s face as always, the animators have some fun with it, mimicking Star’s reactions. When Oskar Greeson finally calls her, it reflects her happiness… StarRefs23

…but, when Ludo’s Bearicorn minion interrupts her call, her anger comes out…and the little guy also gets a little cross.

These are some fun blink-or-you’ll miss them expressions, and a few more of them pop up during the episode.

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To someone who’s a little obsessed with California, some of the strange names in the show can be deciphered into their real-world meanings from The Golden State.

 

Take this sign. These are obviously nods to three known Boulevards around the more famous parts of Los Angeles: Cahooga is a reference to Caheunga (pronounced kah-wang-ah) Blvd, Holliwood to the famous Hollywood Blvd, and Setsun,to Sunset Blvd.

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Cities often put signs in certain areas for a reason. Star really should have read this one to the right.

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In the episode Cheer Up, Star, Marco attempts to do a crazy stunt to cheer her up…but largely just causes a giant mess…which included the sound of breaking glass, and a small waterfall of water pooling down around Star’s bed.

Some might find this a little strange, and maybe seem odd that water would be pouring down into the main floor of Star’s room…but it actually does make sense!

Here’s a screen-shot from part of the interior shot of Star’s 3-story room, from the first episode, Star Comes to Earth:

As we can see, she actually has a large aquarium! Which would explain the water…though what happened to the puffer-fish and other creatures?…I have no clue.

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In Match Maker, we get to see Star’s test-taking results…which shows that she doesn’t quite understand human mathematics. Her F- paper just largely consists of scribblings.

Along with a happy dragon, it looks like she attempted to try and solve two problems…though it looks like “Love+Hugs=Bandaids.”

This isn’t the last time we see this paper, as it shows up in Star’s room in the episode Cheer Up, Star (see screencap below).

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Speaking of test-taking, Match Maker also gives us another bit of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it information about Marco Diaz. When he shows Star his A+ (with a smiley-face) test paper, we get to see that he has a middle name: Ubaldo!

So his full name is Marco Ubaldo Diaz…or, M.U.D. if you want to talk acronyms.

One thing that’s noted is when Ms Skullnick hands back the tests, Marco’s is the only one in the front row to get a positive grade…so I assume he’s at the top of his class.

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In Cheer Up, Star, Marco Diaz recounted one of his worst days ever. When someone makes fun of his Karate-Con shirt (“You kissed a ninja!”), Marco angrily grabs a newspaper to cover himself with.

Thanks to the magic of frame-by-frame viewing, I was able to see a little more of what was on that paper. Most interesting, is the name of it: Las Cebollas Times, which translates into, “The Onion Times.” Which makes one wonder…is this a little inside-joke towards the humor newspaper, The Onion?

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More fun with words! Guess the “mew” in Mewni, is a lot like the use of the word “Smurf” in The Smurfs. Given her age, I guess it’s a no-brainer that Star would have a book like this.

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Unlike standard license plates, the one on Brittney Wong’s party bus just has an emoticon smiley face. I guess we can assume her rich parents paid enough to make the thing possible.

However, the license plate does change to actual words for a few seconds.

When Brittney gets the driver to pull over and kick Star and Marco off, one can see the words “WOOHOO!” on the front plate.

 

For the majority of the segment, the smiley face hangs on through thick-and-thin during the night…until the bus meets a crumpled end.

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When it comes to Ludo and his army of monsters, he seems to gain and lose them every other episode.

Case in point:

– Green pig guy: last seen picked up by a purple bull-thingy in Quest Buy.

– Lobster guy: last seen falling into a black hole, in Quest Buy.

– Two-headed red guy: last seen in the passenger seat of this elderly man’s convertible, in Brittney’s Party.

The two-headed red guy has been a major part of Ludo’s gang since the start of the show, so it does make one wonder, if after the Brittney’s Party episode, he made it back to Ludo’s castle or not.

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And that’s all I have for now. Maybe in a few months (when the show starts giving us more episodes), I’ll have some more things to point out…and maybe, some of the questions posed in this post will be answered.

In the meantime, kudos to the staff and persons who have worked on this series. Word is that Season 2 is currently in production, and we can hope that the continued adventures of Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz, will yield further weird and wacky fun (both up-front, and hidden within).

Episode Review: Star vs The Forces of Evil (Season 1, Episode 2 ) – Match Maker / School Spirit

After the Premiere episode of Star vs The Forces of Evil, I like many, was eager to see where the second episode would take its viewers. After all, given that large cast image during the opening scenes, we were sure to start getting to know more regarding the other characters that populated this strange new world. Well, episode 2’s segments give us quite a few, and then some.

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- Matchmaker -

– Match Maker –

Seeing how Marco gets tongue-tied when his crush Jackie Lynn Thomas skateboards by, Star gets the idea that she’d be the perfect person to play match maker around Echo Creek Academy.

Star offers to play match maker for their recently-dumped teacher Ms Skullnick, but her wand ends up turning Skullnick into a troll. During Star’s attempts to resolve the problem, Ludo drops by, in another attempt to get Star’s wand.

Match Maker starts out feeling like an open door to learning some more about the supporting teen cast. This is the first time we’ve had characters addressed by name like Jackie, and we also meet Marco’s friends, Alfonzo, and Ferguson. However, the story points revolving around Skullnick and Ludo’s minions quickly thrusts the story into a new (if somewhat erratic) direction. The segment even manages to squeeze in a brief cameo of Star’s ex-boyfriend Tom, as well as her Mom.

A positive regarding the segment, is that we get a little more insight into two areas of the overall world of the series. In less than 30 seconds, we do get a little more explanation regarding just why Ludo wants Star’s wand, and just what will (supposedly) happen once he gets his claws on it. We also get a little more (imaginative?) insight into Star’s fear of St Olga’s School for Wayward Princesses.

The plot veering from school to a backyard battle just makes this episode feel like the weakest one so far. The pacing of the segment reminded me of the hodge-podge nature of some episodes of My Life as a Teenage Robot, and The Fairly OddParents. It’s far from terrible, but it could have had a little more TLC applied to it, staving off the somewhat erratic ping-pong’ing of the story in multiple directions.

Final Segment Grade: C+

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “I got an 'F' for Fan-tas-tic!

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “I got an ‘F’ for Fan-tastic!”

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- School Spirit -

– School Spirit –

Star attends her first pep rally for the school’s football team, the Awesome Opossums. However, her enthusiasm turns to concern, when Marco tells how their arch-rivals “The Warriors,” are going to “slaughter” their team. Full of school spirit, and knowing a thing-or-two about combat, Star is willing to help in her own “special” way.

Meanwhile, Marco finds out that his friend Ferguson has taken on the role of the school’s mascot, and goes on the defensive, sure that the Warriors intend to steal Ferguson as part of a school prank.

The concept of Star misunderstanding Earth terms is something I figured would come about sooner or later. It happened in some anime series I watched (and in Teen Titans with the character, Starfire), and it’s fun to see it here. It doesn’t help that Star is so eager to help, but unable to fully grasp what Marco truly means (such as his use of the term, “kitty-cat offense”).

A notable scene is where Star attempts to join the Spirit Committee, but is denied by their head-cheerleader, Brittney Wong. One would assume Star would flaunt her Princess status upon being criticized, but the writers bypass this easy way out. Instead, Star simply figures she’ll need to take matters into her own hands regarding the upcoming game.

Unlike Match Maker, this episode actually does some good, in giving us more character-building regarding Alfonzo and Ferguson. Plus, much of the episode is split with both Star and Marco doing their own things to get ready, until their plans collide before the big game. Both storylines show fun examples of each character’s fanaticism getting out of hand, but in different ways.

Like the previous episode, this one also seems to suffer from story-overload, scrunched into an 11-minute window. Luckily, there’s enough structure to keep it entertaining. Plus, I’m sure many will love to see “Star Butterfly: Warrior Princess.”

Final Segment Grade: B

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Do you know nothing of combat!? No warrior is gonna be distracted by Chandelle's booty!

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Do you know nothing of combat!? No warrior is gonna be distracted by Chandelle’s booty!”

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In conclusion, Episode 2’s segments feel a little weaker than the first episode’s. Match Maker ends up derailing half-way in, while School Spirit has some nice moments, but needed some tightening up. Continuity-wise, Spirit shows that Ms Skullnick is still a troll since her transformation in Match Maker, which most likely is going to be her appearance for the rest of the show (she also shows up in the show-opener as a troll as well).

Best honorable mention line from episode: “You're alive! THIS IS WHY, YOU ONLY HAVE TWO FRIENDS!!!

Best honorable mention line from episode: “You’re alive! THIS IS WHY, YOU ONLY HAVE TWO FRIENDS!!!”

*Coming up in my review of Episode 3, Star’s attempt to heal Marco’s broken arm gives him a slimy tentacle, and a former exchange student the Diaz’s housed previously, shows up for a visit.*

Season 1, Episode 3 – *Monster Arm / The Other Exchange Student*

Episode Review: Star vs The Forces of Evil (Season 1, Episode 1 ) – Star Comes To Earth / Party With A Pony

In the last few years, one of the most surprising names to be seen associated with television animation, is Walt Disney Studios. In the 80’s and 90’s, their television division hit it big with The Disney Afternoon lineup of after-school animated shows. Since then, there’s been almost nothing like it…until now.

The company launched an additional cable channel in 2009, called DisneyXD. Along with some live-action series, the channel is home to some popular animated series, embraced by many different age groups. These include shows such as Gravity Falls, Star Wars Rebels, and in the last month, Star vs The Forces of Evil.

The story of a Princess who comes to Earth from another dimension, officially premiered in late March, and garnered the highest ratings for a DisneyXD program debut, since the release of Star Wars Rebels. I didn’t discover it until around episode 3…and it quickly hooked me. In fact, so much so, that I decided to review each and every episode of Season 1.

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- Star Comes to Earth -

– Star Comes to Earth –

On her 14th Birthday, Star Butterfly, Princess of the Kingdom of Mewni, obtains her family’s ancestral wand…and within a matter of seconds, plunges the kingdom into chaos. Her parents then send her to Earth to “train,” enrolling her at Echo Creek Academy, and setting her up to live with the Diaz family. The Diaz’s also have a son at the school named Marco, who serves as Star’s “guide.”

Right off the bat, the show quickly reveals how Star is a little quirky (though a Princess, she likes to fight monsters, and even tame wild unicorns). While she does seem easily distracted and rather excitable, she isn’t completely crazy. When she accidentally opens a black hole in Marco’s room, she shows remorse for her spell-casting ability to not be perfect. That ability for her to not just be a brainless magical girl, helped make me want to see more of where her character would go.

Of course, it’s not like Star doesn’t have some fears regarding what her actions can entail. One of the most fun gags is Star’s fear of being sent to St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses. The sequence is brief, but it cracks me up every time I see it.

Marco Diaz serves as a great friend to Star as well. Though considered “the safe kid” by several in school, it is quickly established that Marco knows karate, and seeing him in action, made me excited for the fact that both he and Star can fight their own battles. The dynamic reminds me of Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable, and I mean that in the best way.

The episode also helps establish who Star’s main adversary is: a little bird-creature named Ludo, and his army of thuggish minions. His main goal is to obtain Star’s magic wand, though just what he intends to do with it, is left to our imagination.

Unlike some series that spend an entire (full) first episode laying out all the rules, this first segment only clocks in at 11 minutes, and serves moreso to give us a taste of what we can possibly expect to come down the pike. The segment is a little more talk-than-show at times, but as long as the talking leads to us understanding a little more, I’m all for it.

In conclusion, Star Comes To Earth is definitely an intriguing way to start off a new series.

Final Segment Grade: B+

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “I had no idea these were your parents! I just assumed everyone on Earth had the last name Diaz!”

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “I had no idea these were your parents! I just assumed everyone on Earth had the last name Diaz!”

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- Party With A Pony -

– Party With A Pony –

What Marco thinks is going to be a simple night of eating nachos with Star, turns into a royal pain, when Star’s best friend from Mewni, Princess Pony Head, stops by wanting to party with Star…and, she doesn’t seem at all happy to have met Marco. Star proposes that Marco come along on the proposed dimensional romp, certain that her two “besties” will become “besties” with each other.

Pony Head re-introduces us to the concept of ‘dimensional scissors’ from the first episode, which allows one to cut open dimensional portals. Here we get our first glimpse of other dimensions besides Mewni, though moreso the kind of hangouts for young, inter-dimensional beings.

Continuing on from the fast friendship in the first episode, it is nice to see Marco and Star communicating on a person-to-person basis, with Star seeming to find almost no problems with wanting to have a larger circle of friends within friends.

Sadly, for those who watch cartoons, one can easily start gleaning where the story is going as soon as Pony Head narrows her eyes at Marco. We’ve all seen that episode where the best friends of the main friend, don’t quite see eye-to-eye.

Jenny Slate voices the unrefined Pony Head, with a sassy whine that seemed familiar. Looking on IMDB, I soon realized she was also the annoying mother of Ted in the animated Lorax film. I will give this to Jenny: she can annoy like the dickens with that voice of hers!

There is an attempt to end the episode on a resolved angle, but it feels like it just becomes a little too by-the-book regarding problem and resolution.

One bright spot is Brian H Kim’s music throughout the segments, with Princess Pony Head’s theme seeming similar to the electronic sounds of Giorgio Moroder. He also works to give each dimension its own unique musical sound.

Personally, this segment might have seemed more proper to being included in the second episode. Maybe this second segment of the first episode, could have been better used to show Star interacting more on Earth, and establishing more of the supporting characters she and Marco encounter at school, and on a daily basis.

Final Segment Grade: B-

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “He's the best turd I've ever known.”

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “He’s the best turd I’ve ever known.”

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The first episode of Star vs The Forces of Evil, gives a pretty decent introduction with its first segment, Star Comes to Earth. Unfortunately, Party with a Pony takes a familiar story trope, and wraps it up in a story that plays a little too close to the chest. Even so, the episode does provide key story elements for future episodes.

*Coming up in my review of Episode 2, Star decides to play match maker, and gives her all to help Echo Creek Academy against their rivals in an upcoming football game.*

Season 1, Episode 2 – *Match Maker / School Spirit*