Bronies. If you follow cartoons and aren’t already a brony yourself, you’re probably sick of hearing about them, but let me indulge everyone else.
A brony is obsessed, ironically or not, with a show that from all outer appearances seems scientifically designed to stimulate the pleasure centers of little girls’ brains. Bronies are nerds that you would expect to be simultaneously playing Modern Warfare, looking at porn and drinking Mountain Dew who instead embrace a show that’s swimming in grand balls, frilly dresses, cute animals, general pinkness, overt moral lessons, and best friends forever.
Most of this activity takes the form of making and posting pony image macros; making and watching YouTube fan videos; participating in enormous internet flame wars; elevating obscure background characters like Derpy Hooves, a pony who started as a background mistake, to the forefront; pony roleplaying; toy collecting; disturbing pony fanfiction; and organizing pony fan projects like games and conventions. And, oh yeah, I guess there’s the show.
Fortunately for bronies, the show is really good, and series creator Lauren Faust has provided something that has a lot more to offer than generic little girl show fluff. The episodes on the latest DVD collection Royal Pony Wedding are a good case in point.
Royal Pony Wedding features five episodes from the show’s two seasons: the second-season-ending two-parter “A Canterlot Wedding”; the fittingly Valentines Day-themed “Hearts and Hooves Day”; and for some reason the random episodes “Sweet and Elite” and “Best Night Ever.”
Because this is a show about ponies for little girls, Shining Armor lives up to his name and is the coolest big brother ever, and Cadance is the sweetest and kindest pony that he could ever marry. Or she should be.
After working through some feelings of abandonment caused by her brother’s wedding, Twilight Sparkle notices Cadance has actually become something of a witch. Yes, even more than you’d expect from a woman planning a big wedding.
Will the ponies root out the imposter? Will love conquer all? Will there be cake? Of course: it’s a show for little girls. The fun part is seeing what happens along the way. I especially liked seeing the main cast members in a big pony fight against the villain’s army of monsters. I was expecting some convenient plot twist to save the day but, nope, the ponies just beat them all up.
To say this episode is a bit toyetic would be an understatement. The possibilities of a pony wedding castle must have made Hasbro salivate, and they’ve helpfully included a flyer in the DVD showing that toy and several others you can buy.
“Hearts and Hooves Day” is a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode. The Cutie Mark Crusaders are Sweetie Belle, Apple Blossom, and Scootaloo, the smaller, even cuter relatives of the main ponies. Hearts and Hooves Day is basically pony Valentines Day, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders can’t stand to see their teacher not have a boyfriend for that day, so they try to set her up with schemes that eventually involve a love potion and slapstick disassociation from reality.
And “Best Night Ever” is about the ponies being invited to the Grand Galloping Gala and absolutely wrecking it. Again, power of friendship, saves the day, yadda yadda yadda.
The animation is in a stylized, obviously computer-animated style that should look stiff but, thanks to the appealing designs and talents of the animators, brings you into a fluid, vibrantly colored world. Scenes are set creatively, ponies have appealing facial expressions and movements, and there are some inspired flights of fancy, like a scene where Twilight Sparkle imagines herself and her brother in the form of clouds.
Sound and voice acting are top notch. All of the ponies have distinct sounding voices that fit their personalities, I especially love Pinkie Pie’s over-the-top screech. Each episode on this disc has at least one catchy song sequence, too.
But my favorite thing is the smart, funny writing. It’s pretty rare for a show for children to make me laugh out loud, but this disc did several times. And it did it using charming absurdity instead of cynical snark, which is a feat worth lauding in itself. The show also does a great job of making the ponies’ emotions feel real. Would you think less of me if I said I shed one manly tear at the plight of a cartoon pony?
Oh. Then I, uh, I didn’t.
Bonuses on this disc are very thin. There are a couple of sing-a-long music videos and a page you can print out from your computer to color. I think the page is there to remind bronies of who the show is really aimed at, but I’m right now picturing some neckbearded guy in his 20s sitting down with some crayons and filling that sucker in.
Bottom line on this disc and this show: Whether you love or hate the brony culture that has surrounded it is irrelevant. You don’t have to be a little girl, either. You just have to believe in the power of friend …
Nah, I can’t do it. You just have to like shows that are smart, funny, and fun, so pick this one up, even if you have to tell the disapproving clerk it’s for your imaginary niece.