Animation Break: My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic Season 1 Review (Spoilers!)

In an age full of reboots, retellings and remakes, it is not surprising that even beloved and classic cartoons also get the same treatment. Of course, as is the case, some fail and some become surprisingly successful. And one of these unexpected surprises was “My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic”.

The show, which premiered in 2010 on the Hub Network, was developed by Cartoon Network’s Lauren Faust for Hasbro. While working on its development, Faust decided not to limit herself to what is expected of a traditional female centered show by allowing the main characters to be diverse and relatable enough, and by exploring the main characters’ relationships with each other as friends through events that happen in daily life and through the adventures that they go through together. It also retains elements of being a fantasy series by incorporating magic, prophecies, and legendary creatures that are both beautiful and scary, but are not too scary for younger demographic.

Other things that makes this series so popular with the young and old alike is the fact that there is no cynicism whatsoever in this show; that the lessons can be applied to both children and adults alike; and as the seasons go by, the writers give the characters and stories more depth than you’d expect in a children’s show. Based on this, it is no wonder that the show has become so popular, to the point of creating a loyal and dedicated group of fans who call themselves “Bronies”.

To be honest, I myself was pretty skeptical at first of the show, but after a few episodes into Season 1, I knew that I liked the show and that I was here to stay.

Season 1 of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” sets up the entire series by introducing us to the main and secondary characters of the show, allowing us to explore those characters, and by showing us the world that they live in.

The show focuses on a group of six friends (known as the Mane Six), comprised of Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong), Rainbow Dash (Ashleigh Ball), Applejack (Ball), Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman), and Fluttershy (Libman), who discover that they have a special connection with each other after banding together to defeat Nightmare Moon, an evil Alicorn bent on shrouding the world in eternal night. Afterwards, Twilight’s mentor, Princess Celestia (Nicole Oliver), allows the studious and bookish Twilight to remain in Ponyville with her newfound friends in order to learn more about the magic of friendship. Along the way, the girls’ friendships are tested, and there are moments in which each characters’ flaws and strengths are explored, providing the audience with lessons in friendship, which are explained in letters that Twilight sends to Princess Celestia.

Aside from the Mane Six, Spike (Cathy Weisluck), Twilight’s baby dragon, is also focused upon; as well as three fillies named Sweetie Bell (Clarie Corlett), Scootaloo (Madeleine Peters) and Apple Bloom (Michelle Creber).

The great characters, subverted expectations, great music and songs, and interesting stories peppered with great character moments make Season 1 quite memorable. Aside from this, it is shown as early as Season 1 that they are not afraid to tackle both simple and deeper lessons, ranging from discussing and tackling prejudice, compromising, and colonialism, all the way to having honest communication with your friends and learning to ask for help from others.

This season features iconic moments, episodes and songs. “Sonic Rainboom” and “Party of One” are two episodes that are often shown to newcomers to the series first, and there are great songs such as “Winter Wrap Up” and “At the Gala”.

Also, before I forget, the show does have great animation, and it’s especially fun to see the many different facial expressions that the animators give to the characters on this show, especially during their mental breaks and freak outs.

As for me, I never thought I would become such a fan. I started out with the first two episodes, and I was enjoying the episodes I was watching, but it wasn’t until “Winter Wrap Up” that I decided that I was in it for the long haul. Now, watching Season 1 again, I appreciate how much the characters of this show, from the Mane Six, to Spike and others, have grown during the course of the series.

So if you are willing to open your mind a little bit, in order to banish your skepticism away, I suggest you watch “Sonic Rainboom” and “Party of One” first, and then maybe followed by the Season 2 premiere “Return of Harmony Pts I & II”, then go back and watch Season 1, and just enjoy the ride. Because, I assure you, watching this show is an experience you wouldn’t have expected, and it is such a great ride to be on.

Alright, you know the drill! From here on out, there will be spoilers!

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As I mentioned earlier, Season 1 did a great job of setting up the world of Equestria, and the main characters of the show. Aside from having interesting episodes that focused on each of the Mane Six, the first season also did some world building in introducing several locations- Canterlot, Manehattan, Cloudsdale, Appleloosa, and Ponyville. Aside from the Mane Six and Spike, the first season also established the fact that the Cutie Mark Crusaders (Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom), would also be another main focus of the show.

With regards to story writing, I usually give first seasons a pass, as the writers are still figuring things out. For the most part, they really did a good job with balancing great stories, great character moments, and incorporating friendship lessons that apply to both young and old audiences alike, without leveling up the cheesiness level. They also did a great job in subverting our expectations when it came to how some stories were going to go, and especially with some character moments, like in the episode “A Dog and Pony Show”.

The two part premiere had a simple story, but it did a good job of setting up who exactly the Mane Six are based on their particular Element of Harmony. Meanwhile, the season finale managed to showcase great animation, music,writing and great character moments for each of the Mane Six.

The music was well done, and the songs were great too. However, Daniel Ingram’s best work this season include “Winter Wrap Up”, “Art of the Dress”, and of course, the Sondheim-esque “At the Gala”.

With regards to stories and episodes, my favorites include “Sonic Rainboom”, “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”, “Fall Weather Friends”, “Best Night Ever”, “Bridle Gossip”, “Party of One”, “Over a Barrel”, “Winter Wrap Up”, “The Call of the Cutie”, and “Applebuck Season”.

As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised that they were also able to delve into complex issues such as racism and prejudice in “Bridle Gossip”; and the touchy subject of colonialism in “Over a Barrel”. The writers definitely came up with creative ways so that it wouldn’t be too dark and too complex, but was simple enough for youngsters to grasp the lesson, while not being too simple for the older audience.

“Sonic Rainboom” is definitely a fan favorite and a favorite of mine as it showed a very vulnerable Rainbow Dash and how she put aside her desire to want to join the Wonderbolts to save Rarity, who was at her lowest in this particular episode.

“Party of One” is another great episodes as it delves into the psyche of Pinkie Pie when she undergoes a complete mental breakdown after her friends were avoiding her so that they could throw her a surprise birthday party.

“A Dog and Pony Show” definitely subverted stereotypes as the ladylike Rarity ended up getting up kidnapped, and instead of being a damsel in distress, managed to turn the tables around by manipulating her kidnappers to give her the gems she needed for the dresses she was going to make and by making them want to let her go.

“The Cutie Mark Chronicles”, on the other hand, delves a little bit more into the background of the Mane Six, and shows us how they have all been connected to each other, thanks to Rainbow Dash’s iconic sonic rainboom.

Right off the bat, I knew that among all the characters, I relate to Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie the most, but after watching these episodes again, I realized that in some way, there are things that I can identify with in all of the characters such as Fluttershy’s avoidance of conflict, Rarity’s histrionics, and Rainbow Dash’s and Applejack’s pride.

Looking back at these characters after having already watched seven seasons of them, I truly appreciate the foundations that were laid for each character, and how they have grown over the course of the seasons.

In this season, Twilight still needs to learn how to balance studies with friendship and still has a lot to learn in terms of leadership, and not being right and in control all of the time; Fluttershy is painfully shy and needs that extra push to assert herself; Rarity is still concerned a lot about her image and sometimes is insensitive; Pinkie Pie, although she does put a smile on everyone’s faces, isn’t sensitive about when it is appropriate to do so Rainbow Dash’s ego was big, and was very self-absorbed at times; Applejack’s pride and stubborness got in the way a lot; and Spike was still quite immature indeed. Also, the girls may have had a special connection with each other due to the Elements of Harmony, but this is still the start of them growing and developing true friendships with each other.

However, despite all of their flaws, the writers also allowed them to shine in their own special way, in quite unexpected ways. These include moments such as Rainbow Dash putting everything aside to help Rarity in “Sonic Rainboom”; Pinkie Pie saving the day in “Swarm of the Century”, Fluttershy standing up and being more assertive in “Dragonshy” and “Stare Master”, among others.

Also, I noticed that Twilight, although great at doing magic spells, still exerts a little bit more effort in casting them as compared to the later seasons.

Aside from all of this, it also showed the motivations, hopes and dreams of each of the Mane Six were.

All of the voice actresses were amazing in their own right, and special kudos definitely has to go to Ball and Libman for voicing two characters each. For Ball, I noticed that Applejack had some episodes in Season 1 that were a little bit high pitched in tone and sounded more like Rainbow Dash than the lower pitch and tone we are used to with Applejack. However, I chalk this up to Ball still figuring things out. Kudos, however, to those Applejack and Rainbow Dash episodes as she plays both of them. I particularly love the fact that Libman was able to showcase her talents in “Party of One”, with her having to voice different inanimate objects and Pinkie at the same time. St. Germain’s histrionics for Rarity were great, Strong was amazing as she usually is, and Weisluck pulled off Spike effortlessly.

Interestingly enough, aside from the great animation and attention to detail put into this series, it also has a level of humor that caters to both the young and adult demographics. There are a lot of horse puns, but at the same time, they also manage to insert references that adults watching the show would get.

All in all, Season 1 offers great moments, songs, and iconic episodes, and is definitely a great start to the magical ride that is “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”.

What do you think about “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and its first season? What did you or did you not like about it? What were your favorite moments and episodes in this season? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

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