Monday, May 21, 2012

Lesson 5: My Little Pony G1 Animated Features, part 3: My Little Pony 'n' Friends

Previous Lesson: My Little Pony G1 Animated Features, part 2: The Movie.

"Come to where the magic is...where the rainbow ends
Follow, follow My Little Pony...My Little Pony 'n' Friends
Through the clouds and past the stars...where the river bends
Follow, follow My Little Pony...My Little Pony 'n' Friends
Where you find heart's desire...where, that all depends
Follow, follow My Little Pony...My Little Pony 'n' Friends
My Little Pony 'n' Friends"

-The opening theme for the series

My Little Pony and Friends is an animated TV series that was released by Claster Television, inc. and producted by Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions, in the 1986 and ran until 1987. This came out a few months after The Movie. This series ran for two seasons. The series was an Animated Anthology, featuring quarter hour shorts. The first half of the show would have an episode of ponies, and then the second half would feature an episode of their Friends: "Glo Friends", "Moondreamers", and "The Potato Head Kids". Yes, the series was very Merchandise Driven. As the result, the pony episodes often ran as television serials, as did the other shorts.

This early incarnation of My Little Pony was set in a world called Ponyland. Though its continuity was...kinda lax, all of the stories take place within it. The basic framing structure of the show was that the ponies are magical creatures living idyllically in Dream Valley, part of Ponyland (or Ponyland, part of Dream Valley - no two writers agreed on this point. Continuity?! What's that?!). Originally, the ponies resided in Dream Castle during the Half-Hour TV Specials, but after The Movie (and the creation of that playset) they moved into Paradise Estate. In fact, Dream Castle is never seem at all during the course of the series.

Ponyland is a Magical Land "on the other side of the rainbow". The rainbow is basically hinted to be a doorway between the human dimension and theirs'. Ponyland is populated by Bushwoolies, Sea and Flutter ponies, Grundles, bee-people, talking pigs, giant terriers, bird-dog hybrids, zebra-people, evil storm clouds, elves, bigfoot-like people who build forests, and monster weeds, among other, weirder things. The ponies are assisted in their adventures by a teen named Megan; her siblings Molly and Danny; Spike the Baby Dragon; and the Moochic, a scatter-brained gnome wizard with mushroom motif, and his Beleaguered Assistant, Habit the Rabbit.

Being a fantasy-esque weekday afternoon cartoon, the episode plots were adventures, normally focused on a Victim of the Week requiring the ponies' help to defeat some Big Bad. The weirdness — and the overt scariness of some of the villains — kept the show from being as dangerously cute as one might naturally assume. Some episodes did not evolve sugar apocalypses, though, and rather focused on more mundane plots (relatively speaking), such as using one's imagination to have fun, scavenger hunts, taking care of a giant dog, dealing with bullies, and mending friendships after a feud once escalated ice cream warfare.

The episodes focused on My Little Pony ran for 65 episodes in total. There were 16 multipart serials, each 2-4 parts long with the sole exception of the Ten part pilot, and 9 stand alone episodes.

In all, the overall quality and tone of the series tended to vary from episode to episode, largely relying on which writer was in charge at the moment. One episode might have been so diabetes-inducing that it'd leave the viewers begging for the overt strangeness of the Smooze, while the next might give them nightmares for the next several weeks. If nothing else, the fact that The World Is Always doomed with some malevolent figure trying to harm the ponies (and often succeeding), tended to be quite frightening to the youngsters.

Speaking of the writers, aside from George Arthur Bloom, who was the usual go-to writer starting as early as Midnight Castle, Gerry Conway, the creator of The Punisher (yes, really), and Michael Reeves, who would later become instrumental in the creation of both Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles as a producer, story editor, and one of the head writers, also wrote several episodes of this show. Yes, really.

The series had several notable villains that are still looked on fondly by the MLP fans old, and sometimes, new. Including, Grogar, a dimensional conqueror that nearly brought Ponyland/Dream Valley to it's knees. Aribus, an evil storm cloud that'd suck people's souls/shadows out, leaving behind a miserable halflife husk. Squirk, a giant octopus monster that wanted to reinact Noah's Flood. The Flurries, four angel-faced flower beasts that would absolutely destroy any ecosystem they come across by absording all the water. Lavan, who sent Dream Valley into it's darkest near apocylapse yet by upsetting the natural order in his mad search for more power. And lastly, the Penguin King, who tried to create a second Ice Age.

Reoccurring Characters And Themes:

From Grogar to Discord:
As some have noted, there's some resemblance between these two. They're both very powerful otherworldy monsters that drive Ponyland and Equestria to their brink, respectively. Now, how much of Discord is inspired by Grogar and which one is the better villain, I can't really say, but please don't flood my comments with an argument over it.

Spike's Search and Dragon Quest: And then there's the fact that both MLP'n'Friends and FIM have an episode wherein Spike decides to spend some time with his own kind, and they inevitably turn out to be total jackasses. The formula and outcome is identical with Spike rejecting their lifestyle to go back and live with the ponies. This one, I have to agree with. Someone working on FIM saw "Spike's Search" and thought it would make a good FIM episode.

Surprise would become Pinkie Pie for MLPFIM.

If anyone else notices any other similarities, please point them out. I'll look into it and add is here if that's the case. But until then, ado.

Next Lesson: My Little Pony G1.5's Animated Feature: My Little Pony Tales

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