Well over a decade ago, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic burst onto the scene and quickly became a media sensation. The series served as a revival for the franchise, which waded for about a decade into irrelevancy, launched the then-new Hub Network into the popular consciousness, and also gave us bronies. Yes, probably the most significant development that came from that series was the wave of adult men who turned in weekly to see the adventures of a group of animated ponies. It catapulted the MLP fandom into the stratosphere, but I also get the feeling after watching My Little Pony: A New Generation that Hasbro is trying to distance itself from that fandom.
My Little Pony: A New Generation serves as a fresh start for the franchise, separating itself from everything that Friendship is Magic did. I understand that all good things must come to an end and Hasbro was probably right to essentially reboot the franchise now that the children who watched that series growing up are now teenagers, but to start completely fresh runs a huge risk. Will the bronies stay and watch a new series with new characters knowing that all of Friendship is Magic’s characters are gone? For that matter, will they even know that this movie exists, since Netflix did barely any marketing for this and it was just dropped unceremoniously onto its streaming service?
It’s too soon to tell the answer to those questions, but for what it’s worth, My Little Pony: A New Generation is at least a pretty alright family movie that manages to plant the seeds for a new series that, if it’s as good as this movie, may indeed be worth watching.
My Little Pony: A New Generation
Director: Robert Cullen/ Jose Ucha
Release Date: September 24, 2021 (Netflix)
Many years have passed since the previous My Little Pony series and the world of Equestria has changed pretty radically. Previously, unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies lived together in harmony, but now they live apart and severely distrust one another. Sunny Starscout (Vanessa Hudgens), an earth pony who lives in Maretime Bay, wants to break this fear and have all ponies get along, but the other earth ponies are against this idea, including her childhood friend Hitch Trailblazer (James Marsden). That all changes when a pegasus pony named Izzy Moonbow (Kimiko Glenn) comes to Maretime Bay, throwing everyone except Sunny into a panic. As Sunny learns more about unicorns and learns how the unicorns lost their magic, putting Sunny and Izzy on a quest to restore magic to all of the ponies in Equestria and hopefully have everyone get along.
Almost immediately, I like the premise. From what I can gather from previous entries in the franchise, most of them have the ponies already living in peace and being super duper kind to one another, gee golly! But the film starts off with each of the three species hating one another. Each species is prejudiced against the others and has negative stereotypes about them, like how pegasi believe earth ponies are stupid yet earth ponies think pegasi are monsters that will fly by and eat children. It sets up a status quo that offers some unique opportunities for the film to explore not just in theme, but also in the setting. Plus I’m all for these wholesome ponies just absolutely loathing and despising each other. It warms the void that is my heart to see them hate. Does that make me a bad person?
Anyway, since each of the species live far removed from the others, whenever we visit the capital of each civilization it’s a treat for the eyes as well as my curiosity. There’s something inherently interesting about seeing the pegasi live in a city in the clouds with advanced technology and social media, compared to the unicorns who live in the woods whose tech mostly amounts to mice running on wheels to power a makeshift Dance Dance Revolution cabinet.
When the inevitable TV series launches, I think there are going to be a lot of avenues to explore this world and see how the inhabitants of this world live, breathe, and interact with each other. One of those elements that I think could be fleshed out a lot more is where the mistrust against each species came from since while it is a major focus of the movie, it never gets explained. We don’t even get some made-up fairytale handwaving away why, which feels like a missed opportunity to further flesh out the world. But then again, this movie is a trailer for the TV series, so I get the rationale for not going all in yet.
Probably the biggest failing of the film is that while the world feels fleshed out and well developed, the characters are lacking. They all blend in together of having similar personalities that don’t differentiate themselves too much. Sunny is friendly, Izzy is friendly, the two pegasi they meet are friendly, they’re all just so peppy and smiley and too pleasant to each other. The only character that really stood out from the rest is Hitch, not only because he’s the only guy in the group, but he goes from actively trying to stop Sunny from uniting the ponies to becoming a valuable member of her team. The rest of the cast don’t even have definable personalities, with the exception of Sprout Cloverleaf (Ken Jeong), who is such a megalomaniacal mama’s boy that it’s delightfully pathetic.
As is the case with movies like this, you better believe that this is a musical! With seven songs over the course of 90 minutes, none of them really have any impact to them. They’re bright and peppy and offer up some decent beats, but none of the songs here are gonna stay stuck in your head. I don’t know if this was intended to be a musical in any meaningful way, but a musical that doesn’t have any noteworthy songs will always be a failure in my books. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to put songs in your movie, the least you can do is make them more than just generic upbeat pop songs.
I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that no matter how this review turns out, I’m going to be labeled as a bronie for giving this movie any positive feedback. Okay? I don’t really know what to tell you. I like what My Little Pony A New Generation does as far as reboots go. It does enough to actually make me curious about where it would take the series. I don’t think I’m gonna watch the show any time soon, but it’s harmless fun for kids that parents can be equally entertained by.
The key difference between a movie like this and a movie like Paw Patrol: The Movie is the fact that this has something to say. Paw Patrol: The Movie says nothing and is purely about squeezing every last drop of cash from parents into its Lovecraftian maw of nothingness. Hasbro is guilty of the same crimes for other franchises, but at least what they’re putting out has effort and the decency to have morals worth learning. Prejudice is bad. Differences should be celebrated and not reviled. Communication and understanding are important. Simple messages, but they’re still positive messages that both kids and adults can learn from.
No, My Little Pony: A New Generation isn’t probably going to light the world on fire the same way that Friendship is Magic did. But frankly, I don’t think that really matters much in the grand scheme of things. My Little Pony: A New Generation is a perfectly fine movie. It’s not revolutionary but it’s simple and pleasant. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and while I’m sure that I’m not going to remember anything about the movie come Monday, it served as a reminder that the franchise is still in good and capable hands.