My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: The Friendship Express

| August 14, 2012

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic The Friendship Express is a rollicking extravaganza full of bright colors, incredibly layered writings with a surprising feminist take, and some of the most delightful storylines in recent animation.

First off, throw away every misconception you have of My Little Pony. Yes, this is a candy colored show about talking ponies. Yes, it is cutesy and immensely sweet. But it is incredibly well written and dynamic in ways a simple synopsis on the back of the DVD set can’t even begin to explain. There are a host of amazing things in the series that airs on The Hub but, let’s start with the protagonists first.

The show offers an impressive range of female characters. There’s the antisocial bookworm Twilight Sparkle and her adorable assistant baby dragon Spike who are the first to be introduced in the show. The others are the hyperactive and wonderfully nonsensical Pinkie Pie, the bashful Fluttershy, the hardworking farmhand Applejack, the brash yet loyal Rainbow Dash and finally, the glamorous Rarity.

All these brilliantly voiced (with standout Tara Strong as Twilight Sparkle) and characterized individuals live in the cleverly-named kingdom of Equestria; whose supreme yet benevolent ruler, Princess Celestia, has sent Twilight to the small town of Ponyville in order for her to make some friends. Twilight Sparkle is the ultimate bookworm substituting the words on the page for interaction with the ponies around her. How she looks at her life and others changes for the better in the first two episodes. The ideal of friendship and its power is an important theme that runs throughout the series in a way that bolsters the importance of interpersonal relationships that children should be aware of.

Sound cheesy and like candy colored ridiculousness? It sure is. But watching the series, one finds it hard to believe that this cartoon even bears the My Little Pony name. It is an incredibly layered take on female friendship in a cotton candy shell. While cuteness’ definitely important to the character designs (especially with the soft-spoken Fluttershy), it is not sickeningly saccharine like the cartoons that preceded it; it’s more focused on its characters and storylines than on the purely commercial driven endeavor of selling toys.

This set contains five episodes. After the two part episode, Friendship is Magic,which establishes the land of Equastria, the various characters, and the overall premise the show moves into a more adventure-of-the-week format. It is important to note that the three episodes are from season 1 and two episodes are from season 2 of the show. But that in no way impedes on the watch ability of this brief, but exciting collection of episodes even if it is an odd way to release the show on DVD.

Beyond that what really matters is how the show presents little girls with different types of femininity in a way that is cute, honest, and open minded without falling into the trap of being an afterschool special. Maybe some wouldn’t deem the show feminist. But with such a clever look at different types of girls with very different interests the case can be made that it is.  Furthermore, the normative position of power is female. These female characters are active not passive. Each pony has her own set of quirks and interests so that anyone watching can find at least one character they can connect with. There aren’t too many plot lines focusing on romance; the center of the story is really the friendship between the ponies.

The show has created an interesting fan dynamic full of men and women of different age groups and backgrounds that can be explained by the sheer, unironic joy the series brings to its audience. Why would such a large audience containing a considerable amount of adults be interested in this show? Like, The Powerpuff Girls, Animaniacs and Samurai Jack it may be marketed towards kids but its breadth of storytelling, character dynamics, and design elevate it beyond mere child’s play.

Writer and animator Lauren Faust, known for her work on such great cartoons as The Powerpuff Girls and the recent DC Comics series of short animation called Super Best Friends Forever, treats the stories as important without any hamfisted morality. Instead she crafts a world that is bubbling with so much sass and joy you can’t help but smile. This is a show not belabored with blatant commercialism which is a welcome change from what appears in many cartoons.

All in all, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is one of the most enchanting and inventive animated series to come around in ages. There is a reason the show has acquired such a massive and diverse fandom on the Internet; it’s a genuinely enjoyable and well-made series that perfectly subverts yet doesn’t downplay its girly origins. If you like cartoons and are looking for a bit of bright colored joy in your life you owe it to yourself to pick up this DVD.


About the Author:

Angelica Jade Bastien is a freelance writer specializing in screenwriting and feminist pop culture criticism. When not writing she can be found reading comics or discussing why Elizabeth Taylor is her cinematic spirit sister. She lives in Chicago with her lovely cat, Professor Butch Cassidy. You can follow her on Twitter @viperslut.

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