Thursday, 4 April 2013

Review: Double Rainboom fan-made episode (by FlamingoRich)

Double Rainboom has been keenly awaited by our fandom for many months now — and, at last, it's here. It was long advertised as the first fan-made episode, but there's a fair case for saying that in that it's been pipped to the post by last month's Snowdrop. Another option is to call Double Rainboom the first full-length fan-made episode... but even that is doubtful, as you'll see if you click past the jump. However, what's unarguable is that this is the first officially sanctioned fan-made episode: creator Zachary Rich has the go-ahead from Hasbro to do this. Was it worth it? Let's see...

The storyline of Double Rainboom is fairly simple (though I think it takes a little too long to be told): Twilight mixes up a new potion that enhances a pony's existing abilities. The visiting Rainbow Dash, learning that it would therefore allow her to fly incredibly fast, can't resist – and, inevitably, things don't go entirely to plan. Not that there's anything wrong with a simple plot — a certain TV show of our acquaintance does some amazing things with simple plots on a regular basis. It's a slight shame that the actual double rainboom idea was used by IDW (in the Rainbow Dash micro) before this cartoon came out, but never mind.

The big surprise to most viewers who watched this was that it's actually something of a crossover with The Powerpuff Girls. This move has caused a good deal of controversy in the discussions I've seen about Double Rainboom, and I'm not surprised. Despite the connections between that show and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, plenty of bronies — including medon't know a lot about the PPG universe and so can't really judge how well that (substantial) segment was done. It certainly alienated me a little, which is a shame as the 2D animation looked good; I liked how Rainbow was rendered.

Rainbow and Twilight in the latter's lab
"My wings! What happened to my wings? No, I'm not talking to you, Dash"
Actually, I thought the animation as a whole was fine, and the presence of that name "JanAnimations" deep in the (excellent!) end credits wasn't a surprise. Double Rainboom wasn't quite up to show standard here, but it was certainly nicely done, with the "A Canterlot Wedding" style bit being a nice bonus. Similarly, the voice acting was very good without quite being great: the ponies' voices were fairly easy to get used to, though Dashie's was probably the one that took the longest. Again, I can't fairly judge the PPG voices, as I don't know the originals. Mandopony's music was generally well done, though maybe slightly too loud at times and I'd have loved a song.

Double Rainboom was absolutely stuffed with references, some of them being to popular fandom memes (such as Scootaloo being a chicken) and some being extra nods to elsewhere (like the whale falling from the sky). This was maybe another point where the IDW comic team showed the way: issue #1 of that was filled with references, but avoided seeming obsessed by them. Double Rainboom, I'm afraid, did go a little overboard at times. In particular, the pairing of Doctor (W)Hooves and Derpy was practically smashed over our heads, in case we hadn't noticed the first billion times they were included.

The Powerpuff Girls meet Rainbow Dash
"I can't imagine why you think 'Bubbles' and pegasi go together..."
I did have one major problem with the way the story itself was toldthough as it was in the PPG segment, I accept that I may be missing something. The monster destroying Townsville had been calmed and persuaded to stop by Rainbow Dash, in true pegasus fashion. (See "Dragonshy"!) This was true to the spirit of the show and perfectly satisfying. But then in storm the Powerpuff Girls and really brutally attack said monster, to the extent that they appear, at least, to have killed it off. That left a rather sour taste in my mouth, since this is at heart an episode of MLP:FiM, and that sort of thing is quite wrong for our show.

Overall, Double Rainboom was an enjoyable cartoon that I think can reasonably be recommended to bronies, though its near-obsession with sticking in more and more fandom memes, as well as the aforementioned monster scene, does prevent it from actually feeling like a show episode. Although shorter, I think Snowdrop does that particular job better. Nevertheless, this a genuine achievement, and getting both Hasbro and Time Warner to sanction it may be an even larger one! Double Rainboom didn't quite give me the slack-jawed amazement I got when I saw Picture Perfect Pony for the first time, but it's certainly worth seeing.


  1. Regarding the PPG enemy...

    In the PPG, the villains like that didn't often talk, (hence the "You can talk!?" line from RD) and would always have the crap beaten out of them. They rarely take the path RD did, nor do the villains often surrender. So, they were represented in a canon fashion. They don't kill things, though.

    Their voice-acting was pretty much spot-on.

    1. Thanks! That's very good to know. I won't change my score, since I'm not personally keen enough on PPG for it to make a difference, but it at least clears up that point.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Doh! Spelt something wrong and I couldn't find a way to edit it, so I deleted the comment and posted the edited version as a *new* comment. Just in case you wondered. :)

  3. Right, I've finally got round to watching the cheeky little cartoon! And... well, to be honest it's a bit of a shame to say it but I wasn't all that keen on it as a whole. I will stress, very much so, that I think it's an incredible achievement for a piece of work from fans. I don't underestimate that fact at all. But it just didn't really do anything much for me. I suspect the best way is to make a few points for and against:-

    Bad points
    A little too long. If it had kept to the standard 20 minutes or so, it would have probably worked better.

    The pacing seemed to be quite off at times. I'm probably just being extra fussy, but there were so many scenes where I'd be thinking "you're dragging it out far too long." Scenes like when Twilight teleported to the forest, looking for RD. We got a nice shot of the forest that seemed to last for ages, before Twilight finally appeared.

    The pacing also meant that some of the expressions from the characters, or some of the visual jokes, (like RD drinking the last drop of the potion) stretched out longer than they needed. Again, not really the crime of the century, but pacing is vital in a cartoon, to keep the interest levels going.

    I didn't much like the crossover. Not so much because I don't know the Powerpuff Girls cartoon (which I don't) but because it just felt very forced. (As did the constant flow of nods to the MLP fandom - nothing wrong with a few, but sometimes they felt as if they'd been forced in unnecessarily.) And I actually ended up fast forwarding through it in the end, to the bit where Pinkie appears and saves RD.

    The attack on the red monster did indeed seem very out of place for an MLP cartoon, though of course for the crossover it may well have been appropriate. But it didn't really do it any extra favours for me.

    Good points
    Outstanding from the animation side of things, and from a technical point of view. Especially things like the double rainboom effect, and the details throughout much of the cartoon. No wonder it took so long!

    The voices were well done, I thought. Okay, they weren't likely to be exact, but they felt well acted and sounded pretty close to the originals. Especially Twilight, who certainly sounded convincingly like the Official Tara Strong Voice(tm). And the laugh from Pinkie near the end was pretty much perfect.

    The little cartoons, when showing the examples of each pony getting enhanced abilities, were very nicely done. I'd love to see a whole 20 minute show done in that style, to be honest.

    The music - while a bit loud at times (mixing audio for video is apparently extremely difficult to do) - seemed authentic enough and nicely done.

    Derpy! Muffin! :D

    A nod to Tara Strong at one point, around 11:02 - there's a Harley Quinn head on a stick, and Tara Strong did the voice for Harley in the Arkham City game last year.

    And of course a) it was done by fans, for free, and available for free - something that shouldn't be forgotten, plus b) there is no way in a million years I could have done better myself. So I'm still *very* glad they created it. I'm just hoping it'll be a learning process for them and they'll improve as they try new cartoons out. :)

    1. A very fair review, I think. I'm surprised I didn't mention more in my own review about the dodgy pacing, since that was actually quite a big point. And yes, 22 minutes (ie standard episode length) would probably have been ideal. I'm still of the opinion that Snowdrop is slightly better, but I'm glad both of these exist.