Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy... whatever ponies have instead of Easter!

All right, this isn't the most thrilling post you'll ever see on Louder Yay. (Okay, none of my posts are thrilling, but bear with me.) But I really do hope that everyone reading this has a nice Easter, whether you celebrate it or not! My next post should be slightly (note that word) more interesting.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic issue 5

IDW MLP:FiM comic Cover A by Amy Mebberson
Does Pinkie really need magic to do that sort of thing?
Easter approaches, and we find ourselves on the precipice threshold brink of a new story arc in IDW's massively successful My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic. The creative team is of the "something old, something new" variety: Heather Nuhfer takes over writing duties and Amy Mebberson is now handling the artwork, but the colourist (Heather Breckel), letterererer (Neil Uyetake) and editor (Bobby Curnow) remain the same as they were in the last issue. Another £3.15 spent; follow me past the jump to see whether issue #5 is a winner!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

BUCK it and see

This post is outdated. Please see this newer post for details of how BUCK ticket sales are now being processed.

BUCK ticket
Yes, you are going to have to put up with lots more puns like that one
Yes, that's right. I thought, "Oh, to Tartarus with it" and took the plunge. We've been told by one of the PR people that a schedule will hopefully be available in a few days' time, but with Easter coming up I felt it was time to make a decision. Of course, I could have waited for the second wave of tickets to appear... but let's face it: I really want to do this. I may end up hating it, but at least I'll be able to say that I gave it a go. Now all I have to do is to save up another £1 million to be able to afford actually to buy anything!

Monday, 25 March 2013

BUCKing the trend?

Spike holding Grand Galloping Gala tickets
This is why dragons hoard all that gold
The road to BUCK 2013 has taken another step, with tickets now on sale from the official site. This is obviously a very welcome development, although reaction from bronies has been rather mixed. Part of the problem has been the way in which the start of ticket sales came very suddenly, in the middle of the night UK time, rather than anyone having said, "Right; tickets are going on sale at X o'clock on Y March", which would perhaps have been a rather better idea. After all, it was late April before they appeared last year.

The other big concern from a lot of people has been the cost of tickets. No-one needs to be told that economic times are hard right now, and it's fair to say that prices for the premium-level packages in particular have been much higher than many people had expected. Standard admission this year is £55, which compares reasonably well to the €69 you'd pay for a basic weekend pass at GalaCon. That said, because of the lack of an "Early-Pegasus" discount this year, it's effectively £20 — or 57% — more than in 2012 if you're on board from the start.

The really startling prices appear when you look at the premium packages. The "20% Cooler" ticket, for example, was £75 last year but is £135 this time around; that's not far off a doubling of the 2012 figure. For this, you get a priority queue to get in, an exclusive T-shirt and a buffet lunch with community guests. There are some big names there, such as The Living Tombstone and LaserPon3, but it's worth noting that "community guests" does not include any show staff BUCK may or may not have managed to attract to the con.

Is that worth an £80 premium over Standard admission? Frankly, I'm having trouble seeing how it can be, especially as you still have to pay another £35 if you want entry to both the "Summer Sun Celebration" on the Friday and the after-party at FAB. Even more eye-watering is the Celestia-tier ticket, which does include those things, as well as a mysterious "VIP dinner" on Friday. I'd guess that one might include some official show guests... but at £250 a pop, very few of us are going to be finding out!

It's not really fair to compare BUCK to BronyCon, which benefits from lower American costs and from an attendance figure in the thousands. Instead, look at ConFuzzled, the UK's most important furry convention. A standard non-residential ticket to go there is £80, though the con lasts for more days than BUCK. However, the top "Sponsor" level of ticket is only another £50, and for your £130 you get considerably more freebies than "20% Cooler" customers will — and you don't have another layer on top of you.

"So, what are you going to do, Logan?" I hear my three readers ask plaintively. The answer is that I don't really know. I like the idea of going to BUCK, since I'd like to meet some new bronies but the only nearby meetup group (Birmingham's) is really not my cup of tea. And although there's the smaller, simpler and cheaper UK PonyCon this autumn, its venue has not been announced yet. So I may well still go. All I can really say at this point is that I wish more than ever that I'd been to BUCK last year!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review: Snowdrop fan-made episode (Silly Filly Studios)

We've all been waiting eagerly for Double Rainboom for a very long time now, but delays to that project mean that the title of "first fan-made episode" of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (well, apart from Dusk's Dawn) should probably now go to something else. That something is Snowdrop, a 14-minute film by Silly Filly Studios — directed by Meredith Sims and Marshal "Zedrin" Watson — that you can watch by clicking the preview above. Follow me past the jump to see (with spoilers!) what I thought about it.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Review: MLP:FiM Micro-Series issue #2: Rainbow Dash

MLP:FiM Micro-Series #2 Cover A
It's a sonic rainboom! How not cool could it possibly not be?!
After the launch issue of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Micro-Series left me a little underwhelmed, I was hoping that issue #2 (written by Ryan Lindsay and drawn by Tony Fleecs) could provide something a bit meatier. The fact that it stars Rainbow Dash gave cause for both optimism and anxiety: she's a very strong character, but also one who can easily be mishandled. I bought via Comixology again, though I have a paper copy (with Amy Mebberson's cover, as above) on order. I should mention that their customer service in sorting out a hiccup with my order was exemplary. But was my £2.73 worth it? You'll find out after the jump...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

State of the Herd 2013 — how many British bronies are there?

The 2013 State of the Herd Report is now available to download, and as usual the "herd census" throws up some interesting results. (AJ fans, look away now.) However, I do have to take issue with the report on one thing: what might be called the brony count. The conclusion drawn is that between 7 million and 12.4 million USians "strongly identify" as bronies, using the criteria set out in that link. That figure does seem remarkable, but I'm not American so can't really say from experience whether it feels right.

However, here's why I find that figure somewhat hard to accept. Elsewhere in the report, there's a "country of residence" section, which states that 64.3% of respondents said they lived in the US and 6.1% in the UK. In other words, there are nearly a tenth as many bronies here as there are there. Applying that to the figures I mentioned in the previous paragraph, that would suggest that the British brony count is somewhere between 664,000 and 1,174,000 bronies over here.

I don't know anyone over here who thinks that there are anything close to a million "strongly identifying" bronies in Britain. While it's true that I haven't conducted a survey of my own, one thing is certainly true: many people here have never come across another brony in public, other than at arranged meets. Ever. I know I haven't. If there really were a million of us here, I really would have expected to have met someone (for example) wearing some MLP:FiM clothing from time to time.

So, although I can't prove it for certain, I tend to feel that State of the Herd's figures regarding the total brony population are a big overestimate, at least in their implications for the British fandom. If I had to bet on it. I'd say that the relevant UK figure was in five figures rather than seven (or even high sixes). Tens of thousands I can easily believe. Hundreds of thousands, much less so, and a million certainly not. We British bronies are a dedicated and quite active group, but I just don't think we're a huge one.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Ponies in the press

Dictionary, Meet Newspaper by Flizzick, August 2012. CC by 3.0
Since My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has not been a mainstream hit in the UK — partly on account of its near-invisibility on TV — it's perhaps unsurprising that the show and its fandom have largely been ignored by the British press. There have been a few exceptions, though, and in this post I'll round up those which I've come across. There's only one criterion, really: the piece must have been in an established mainstream UK publication. (Games blogs and so on don't count.)

The Guardian has published two pieces on bronies, though (perhaps surprisingly) neither of them are brilliant. On 1 October 2012, we were confronted with the cumbersomely-titled Adult male My Little Pony fans? Bronies are true rebels by Rebecca Angel. It starts off badly, with the first thing we see being a photo... of a G3 pony. After that, though, it's okay. Superficial to say the least, but you could see a lot worse. On the same page, in fact: look down to the comments. "Bronies are mainly probably idiots" is nothing like the most unpleasant.

Just four days later, the same paper followed this up with Men in tiaras join UK's biggest My Little Pony fans, in which Zoe Williams reported from UK PonyCon 2012. Now, I generally like Williams, and find her an entertaining writer. This article, however, was not one of her finest. Defining a plushy [sic] as "a blanket with a pony's head" will have left most of us scratching our own, human(ish) heads. And to read this, you'd think that most of us bronies went round in tiaras the whole time. Williams has the talent to write a better piece than this if she wants to.

As it happens, though, another national newspaper was reporting on the same convention, and Tamara Hardingham-Gill is responsible for (wait for it) 'Our friends think we're crazy!' Hundreds of grown-up My Little Pony fans flock to special convention in honour of animated series. Yes, it's in that home of absurdly long headlines, the Daily Mail. Run away! Run away! ...or rather, don't. Because, quite against most bronies' expectations, this is actually quite a good read, and there's clearly been some actual (*gasp*) research done. Some of the readers' comments are predictable, but well done the Mail. And that's not something I often say!

Since October, things have gone rather quiet, and all we've seen have been occasional mentions in diary pieces. For example, this one in The Yorker (yes, as in old York!) that seems to be the product of a reader's email and, somewhat bizarrely, this one in the Daily Telegraph by thoroughly right-wing blogger Damian Thompson. I'm not quite sure whether Thompson's comment about there being a "senior Anglican bishop" in our fandom is meant as a joke; I assume so, but it's so hard to tell. Anyway, that does seem to be our lot for the moment. Whether that's good or bad I'm not really sure.

Edit: Nicky Rowe, in the comments to this post, points out that Thompson has hinted at this bishop before. That said, dressing one's toy animals in academic dress does not one a brony make. Unless there's a specific link to FiM itself, I shall remain sceptical about this.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A really great review of the IDW comic

And no, it's not mine. Though that is great. ;) The review I'm giving a plug to here is this one, from Adventures in Poor Taste site. It covers the entire first arc of the main comic series (ie issues #1 to #4 inclusive) and is basically the sort of thing I'd do if I were a better writer. The reviewer (who seems to go unnamed) self-identifies as a fan but not a brony, which is fairly unusual, since usually the comic is reviewed either by out-and-out bronies or by general comics people who haven't previously seen much of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in any form.

The mysterious reviewer assesses the comics very fairly, I think: there's some criticism of what's summarised as "fanbase baggage", and the point is made that the comics are much more fun to existing fans of the show. On the plus side, Reviewer X is a big fan of Katie Cook's approach to telling the story and calls Andy Price's artwork "amazing". I don't think many of us would disagree that the Cook/Price team has proved to be an outstanding one for MLP:FiM. The review scores the arc as a whole at 8.5/10 — but it's well worth reading for yourself.

Monday, 11 March 2013

IDW does it again

MLP:FiM comic #3 Cover B
Winter wrap up, winter wrap up...
Thanks to the vagaries of the way the comic business works, it's been a while since we've had some monthly sales figures, but here at last (courtesy of Comichron) are the Top Comic Books for February. And, you ask, does Pony feature anywhere in that list? Silly question, of course. First, the big headline figure for main series issue #3. Its estimated North American sales total to comic shops was:
This puts it in the top 50 (no. 45, to be precise) and is good. Very, very good. In fact, it's up more than 9% on the figure for issue #2, and is by a long way IDW's best-selling comic book of the month. Nothing else gets close — with one exception. And what would that be? You're way ahead of me, I know: it's issue #1 of the Micro-series. I wasn't overwhelmed with it, but it was a good story. The market seemed to agree that Twilight's tale was worth reading, since it hit 62nd place, selling:
In case you're wondering, IDW's best-selling comic that didn't star pastel ponies was the debut of G.I. Joe, which made no. 116 and shifted 17,553. A very respectable figure in itself, but it's nevertheless barely half the numbers the Twilight Micro sold, let alone the main comic. Incidentally, there's one more MLP entry in the top 300: the Hot Topic pack of the first two main issues sold 8,988 copies and squeaked into the top 200 at no. 196.

A belated comment on Fighting is Magic

There's a simple reason why I haven't said anything before about Mane6 and their ceased-and-desisted Fighting is Magic game, and that's that I'm one of the (minority of?) fans who was never all that interested it in the first place. Don't get me wrong: what I saw of it in videos and so on was very impressive, and it's a great shame that Hasbro's actions came so very close to the end of the development process. But I didn't bother playing the leaked alpha. I just don't find fighting games very interesting, and never have. Driving games, yes. Fighting games, no.

Lauren Faust is, of course, a fantastic person for offering to work with the Mane6 team to turn the game into an original-IP product with some of her own characters. I hope that whatever's eventually released will be a success, assuming it plays as well as Fighting is Magic looked. But will I play it? Frankly, no I won't. If I were a fighting-game fan, I probably would, especially given Faust's involvement. But I'm not, and the MLP angle was the only reason I'd have been interested in playing Fighting is Magic.

All right, so what about Hasbro? Well, they had the right to do this; nobody with a brain can question that. It's their IP. Whether they had to do it is another matter. I'm not sufficiently familiar with these things to say, but if common sense had anything to do with the law (I know, ha ha) they'd have left it alone. This was bad PR for Hasbro, no question. There's actually a case for saying that their worst offence was not doing something about it earlier, since I simply don't believe nobody at the company knew about Fighting is Magic until just recently.

We all know, Hasbro included, that the brony fandom would not exist in anything like its current form and size had Hasbro cracked right down on YouTube, in particular, from the start. They have the legal right to do so; MLP:FiM is their intellectual property. They also calculate, I think correctly, that only a small minority of bronies will do the dreaded "leaving the fandom" thing over this. So it's probably a business decision as much as anything else... and Hasbro is, undoubtedly, a business.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Price is right

MLP:FiM comic #4, Andy Price RI cover
Trust Rarity to be more horrified by the goo than by Chrysalis
This is a little indulgence on my part: Andy Price's RI cover for issue #4 of the MLP:FiM comic. I couldn't find this in the shops — probably it went very quickly — so I splashed out £5.99 buying it on eBay. I used a place called Ace Toys and Comics, and I'm very happy with their service. In spite of their stating that they used Economy Delivery, I got the comic only three days after ordering it, which is good going. It's a fantastic cover, and I'm delighted to have got hold of it.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic issue 4

MLP:FiM comic issue #4 (Amanda Conner cover)
Cover A by Amanda Conner (colours by Paul Mounts)
So, here we are at the end of the first arc of IDW's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic. On the evidence of the first three issues, the combination of Katie Cook and Andy Price has been a winner. I wandered off into central Birmingham this afternoon to pick up issue #4, and as usual took my £3.15 to Nostalgia & Comics. They only had two copies in stock, which surprised me a bit, but I had the choice of both main covers. I went for Conner's over Stephanie Buscema's as it seemed more fun. What about the story inside, though? Hit the jump to find out!

It's About Rhyme

I went to Birmingham today
To buy the latest comic:
Despite the fact that going there
By train's uneconomic.
Still, there is something rather nice
In bricks and mortar shopping,
And seeing Pony on the shelves
Does get this fan a-hopping.

As usual, 'twas N&C,
The place where I was going:
I'd hoped to get the RI one
With Chrysalis a-glowing.
But Andy Price's variant
Was out, so my excursion
Resulted in just Cover A:
Amanda Conner's version.

Of course, there soon will be a post
In which I'll be reviewing
This issue, number four: I hope
It will be worth pursuing.
Don't worry, please, it won't be long:
That's really no baloney.
I know how hard it is to wait
For new My Little Pony!

(And no, I'm not going to do the entire review in rhyme. Probably...)

Sunday, 3 March 2013

There must be something in the water

Equestria Girls promo pic
Equestria Girls, they're kind of tragical
...but I doubt it's very palatable. What you see above is an official promotional picture for Equestria Girls, the spin-off of MLP:FiM that Hasbro will be launching some time this year. It's fair to say that in my earlier post about this, I was less than whelmed, and if anything I've become even more uncertain after seeing this picture. What it looks like on this evidence is pseudo-anime, and I am not an anime fan at the best of times.

Specific problems, you ask? Well, the cutie-mark facial tattoos look borderline gruesome, while the characters seem more cookie-cutter than their associated ponies, despite the latter being depicted with those vectors we've all seen a billion times by now. Also, how come Twilight gets to keep her wings but neither she nor Rarity gets a horn? I've warmed towards Rarity a bit recently, and this seems rather unfair on her!

Of course, the Equestria Girls, er, girls do vary in their level of awfulness. Fluttershy isn't appalling, and Pinkie Pie looks relatively normal (something not right there, surely), but Rarity has definitely drawn the short straw. She looks distinctly unhealthy. To say the least. Actually, let's not mince any words here: she looks like a feminised ghoul from a Fighting Fantasy gamebook. A pony that colour looks okay. A human(ish) girl that colour doesn't.

Now, I know very well that if you went back three years, many of us would have said similar things about what became Friendship is Magic. I will concede that it's possible that the perfect mix of writing, voice acting and animation will come together again to produce another piece of cartoon brilliance. If that happens, then doubtless I'll make a post saying so. Let's face it, though: it's not looking very likely at the moment, is it?

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Daniel Ingram discusses writing music with

Daniel Ingram has been talking to about what it's like to write music for kids' cartoons. (There's a mistake in the title: he was only nominated for Emmys.) The interview doesn't bring any stunning revelations, but it's certainly worth a look. The highlight for me was Ingram's comment that "catchy doesn't necessarily mean its good", using Disney's infamous "It's A Small World After All" as his example. He also says that he doesn't really consider the brony audience (or even the core demographic's parents) when composing, just whether he likes what he's created.