Thursday, 30 November 2017

More on the Soundtrack CD flaw

Audacity output comparing the CD and MP3 versions of "Off to See the World"
Maybe RCA's quality control unit is a guy with a phone
I was curious as to why some people could hear the flaw in "Off to See the World" in the movie's official soundtrack CD and some couldn't. I ran a quick poll on Twitter and found that my respondents split almost down the middle. However, the skip annoyed me so much that I actually went and bought the MP3 from Google with a little spare credit I had. This version does not have the flaw, which allowed me to compare directly. As soon as I did, the answer became obvious.

What you see above is a screenshot from Audacity (an excellent free program, by the way). The top two lines are the stereo track as ripped from my own CD, and the lower two lines are from the MP3. The skip is very obvious here, but crucially it's only on the left channel. This explains a lot, as anyone listening on a mono device (probably a phone speaker) would most likely not hear the problem. Those listening on even fairly cheap headphones, like me, tended to spot it instantly.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 181: Most Efficacious in Every Case

Read it Later story count: 386 (-4)

I managed to get a little bit more time for reading ponyfic this week than I did last week, so here's a slightly longer list of stories than last time. Look, four is more than three, 'kay? These fics include one of those fics that created controversy in its Fimfiction comments, a story with a title that isn't even in the Latin alphabet, and... other stuff. I have a couple of rather wordy reviews to start off with.

The Point of No Return by ObabScribbler
Ἐλπίς by Bad Horse
Ocean by Church
Pinkie Pi by Blu_Ray

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 0  | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

And the movie's UK run comes close to its end

I managed to see My Little Pony: The Movie in cinemas four times in the end. And yes, I paid my own money each time. That should tell you which side of the debate I'm on as to whether it's an enjoyable watch. (If you don't mind spoilers, my film review will do that anyway.) I've now seen all the G4 movies in the cinema, except of course Legend of Everfree which never got a big-screen release in the first place. (Someone out there hire a cinema room and give a private screening to fix this!)

Last week was the final one during which the film could really be considered to be on wide release. This coming week is rather different: here in the west Midlands, only one major cinema (Vue at Star City in south Birmingham) is showing it at all. A few small venues are still putting it on for one-night-only showings, such as Gloucester's Sherborne Cinema, but even those are becoming rarer. Paddington 2 and the re-release of Frozen are taking over the screens. (We don't get Coco in the UK until late January.)

It's been fun. Despite almost non-existent promotion (if you don't count branded merch) and often rather empty auditoriums, the movie has made $4.6 million over here, easily its best box office outside North America. I'm hoping that if we do get a sequel down the line, that will encourage the big UK cinema chains to show it widely again. It's been a great experience watching ponies on the big screen, and I'd love to do it again sometime. But now it's time for me to say goodbye to this flawed but greatly entertaining production.

Well, until the Blu-ray comes out.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

And, yes, the third PMV ever made!

It's not the first G4 PMV. It's not the second, either. But while those two currently have about 160,000 views between them, "Trouble Is a Friend - My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic AMV" has over 2.5 million on its own. As such, it often gets discussed as though it was the first. While that's not the case, it nevertheless has a good claim to be the earliest G4 PMV to truly make it big – and perhaps the first truly modern example of this particular art form.

At 3'35", it's considerably longer than either of its predecessors. It's also noticeably more carefully edited, with the lyrics generally quite well fitted to the clips we see on screen. Again, all of them are from the S1 premiere – as it debuted on 30th October 2010, this PMV appeared only a day after "The Ticket Master" aired, too late for that episode's content to be used. I think it holds up fairly well and, unlike the two PMVs that came before it, is worth watching for more than just its historical value.

But it still isn't the first.

Friday, 24 November 2017

The second G4 PMV ever made!

And no, this one isn't "Trouble is a Friend" either. Back in September, I posted about what is to the best of my knowledge the first G4 PMV, "Your Love Is My Drug". That was made from trailer footage before Friendship is Magic even started its run, but "Good Company" was not. It came out on 28th October 2010 and used the less fandom-specific term "AMV" in its title. (Though I suppose as it's Fluttershy-themed, that could be said to stand for "Adorable Music Video"!)

"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic | Fluttershy - Good Company G4 AMV", to give the video its rather wordy full title, is set to the tune of the song from the 1988 Disney animated feature Oliver & Company. At 2'28" it's more than twice as long as "Your Love Is My Drug", but it's still very simple compared to what we see today, using exclusively footage from the S1 premiere as that was all there was at the time.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 180: On the Oche

Read it Later story count: 390 (-5)

I'll be glad when (if?) I return to the point when I'm able to return to reading five or more stories just about every week. I'm not there yet, as another three-fic week demonstrates. Here's the little collection I've been able to consider:

Loss by Kaylee
Head-first to Equestria! by Simon_oSullivan
It's Just a Game by HashMark111

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The importance of having fun

    "Uh, one teensy thing to remember – have fun!"—Cherry Jubilee, "The Last Roundup"

From time to time, I get (usually at least semi-unwillingly) caught up in a discussion/argument about whether the standards of writing for Friendship is Magic have fallen since the early days. The more I think about this, the more I think that my answer would be that they probably have – but that this isn't actually the be-all and end-all, and that it hasn't made me like the show less.

There's certainly less attention paid now to keeping continuity perfect, and sometimes we get stuff that just doesn't seem to have been thought out at all and bears no real connection with the rest of Equestria: the Bunyip in "P. P. O. V." is a particularly egregious example. In that episode's case, I felt that part was actively harmful to the entertainment factor, but it certainly isn't always so.

Compare the works of Tolkien with Doctor Who. There's no doubt at all that Tolkien's writing is better – but for the most part, I would rather sit down with Doctor Who. It may play fast and loose with its continuity to an almost ridiculous degree, but to me it's generally a good deal more entertaining. The only Tolkien book I've truly loved is The Hobbit, and I don't think that's entirely an accident.

I watch My Little Pony for 22 minutes of entertainment, and I am more interested in the question "Did I have fun?" than in the question "Was it beautifully constructed?" My guess would be that there's a significant negative correlation between those who share my feelings and those who feel the show is a shadow of its former self. (I think S7 has been great, on the whole.)

Now, I am, to a very minor extent, a writer. And there have been times when I've felt that even I could do better than the show staff. (This isn't new, though: "Somepony to Watch Over Me", anyone?) The thing is, this doesn't ruin my enthusiasm for the show as a whole. As long as they keep churning out stuff that makes me happy to watch, that is good enough for me.

Maybe I should be more demanding. I would be with fanfic. But you know what? I don't care. I like Starlight, in spite of the obvious problems with her characterisation, notably the non-explanation of her extraordinary power level. I like the movie, in spite of its undoubted flaws. And why? Because in both cases, they contribute to my being entertained. And to me, that matters most of all.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

UK of Equestria's overall S7 ranking list

As we've done for the last couple of years (for S5 and for S6), we've been asking people to rank all this season's Friendship is Magic episodes. Because of having no double-episode premiere this year, members were asked to rank the episodes from 1 to 25, with the finale counting as one. We had 15 respondents, a little down on S6's 18 but still enough to get a good idea. S7 has been pretty well received overall, but what you see here is based on the overall means.

The tier boundaries were decided very simply: any episode with a mean position of five or below got a five star rating. Then any ep with an average of worse than 5th but equal to or better than 10th got four. And so on down the line, with episodes with a mean score below 20 getting a one-star rating. This year, we have eps in all five tiers, which makes my job a bit easier! It's also the first time we've had more than six episodes in the top two categories. Here's the list:

1. A Royal Problem
2. Shadow Play

3. The Perfect Pear
4. Once Upon a Zeppelin
5. Parental Glideance
6. Rock Solid Friendship
7. It Isn't the Mane Thing About You
8. All Bottled Up

9. Fame and Misfortune
10. Discordant Harmony
11. A Health of Information
12. Celestial Harmony
13. Campfire Tales
14. Uncommon Bond
15. Secrets and Pies

16. Hard to Say Anything
17. To Change a Changeling
18. A Flurry of Emotions
19. Marks and Recreation
20. Daring Done?
21. Triple Threat
22. Honest Apple
23. Forever Filly

24. Not Asking for Trouble
25. Fluttershy Leans In

Number of times each episode placed first
5: A Royal Problem
3: The Perfect Pear
3: Shadow Play
1: All Bottled Up
1: Fame and Misfortune
1: Once Upon a Zeppelin
1: Parental Glideance

Number of times each episode placed last
6: Fluttershy Leans In
4: Not Asking for Trouble
1: Fame and Misfortune
1: A Flurry of Emotions
1: Forever Filly
1: Honest Apple
1: Secrets and Pies

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. Fame and Misfortune
2. Secrets and Pies
3. Hard to Say Anything

Least controversial
1. A Royal Problem
2. Fluttershy Leans In
3. To Change a Changeling

"A Royal Problem" was universally liked and widely adored: everyone placed the episode in their top nine, and 12 voters had it in the top four. In fact, it (just) displaces "Amending Fences" as the most popular episode of the past three seasons. At the other end of the table, the bottom two were widely unpopular, being more than three points adrift of the rest, and "Fluttershy Leans In" had a highest position from anyone of 17th. That wasn't even from me!

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the most controversial episode was "Fame and Misfortune", and I suspect that argument will run and run. We all know that M. A. Larson doesn't like the fact that his name is attached to it, but that doesn't stop many people (including me) from enjoying what we ended up with. "To Change a Changeling" was an unusual episode where there was near-unanimity on its middling status: out of 15 people, 13 placed it between 10th and 17th in their lists.

The general feeling among those people discussing the most recent season has been that S7 was for the most part a very good run, and certainly a step up from S6. This means that a three-star ep this time around might in fact be more popular in absolute terms than a three-star ep last year. But the rules of the poll don't allow you to make your rankings on that basis, instead requiring only relative positions to be taken into account, so bear that factor in mind.

Friday, 17 November 2017

The movie's performance in the UK

Yesterday, I went to the Showcase cinema in Dudley to see My Little Pony: The Movie for the third time. I'm not a big film-goer, and in fact this is the first one I have ever seen three times on the big screen. It's almost at the end of its run now, and on a midweek afternoon there were only five people in the auditorium – including someone with a UK PonyCon T-shirt! (Actually, two, as I was wearing mine as well.) But I still enjoyed it a lot and even noticed some things I hadn't picked up on before. (No spoilers here!)

Back at the start of October, I wondered whether the film might actually do better (relatively speaking) over here than in North America. At that point, we weren't even sure how widely it would be carried in UK cinemas. The answer: very. While it didn't generally sprawl across multiple screens per cinema in the way Blade Runner 2049 was, the movie was shown in the vast majority of cinemas. According to Box Office Mojo, the total for the UK, Ireland and Malta (which are lumped together) peaked at 555 cinemas in its third week.

BOM tells me that its UK (etc) weekend rankings for the first four weeks of general release were 6th, 7th, 7th and 11th. Compare that with North America, where it started higher (4th) but then fell more quickly (9th, 15th, 19th). The NA box office after four weeks was a smidgen over $20 million. Over here, the same figure is roughly $4.5m, so 22.5% of the NA total. That seems to me to be a respectable performance: The Lego Ninjago Movie made 20.9% as much here as in NA, for example.

What I don't know is how well (comparably) movie-branded toys have done on each side of the Atlantic, or whether the availability of Pony on free-to-air TV in the UK has helped. I do know that few cinemas here are now showing the film in midweek, and that Paddington 2, which went straight in at no. 1 last week, will eat up a great deal of the family-film market from now until Christmas. So... I might have been overly optimistic to hope MLP:TM would do better over here, but it does seem at least to have held its own.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 179: Starlight Glimmer Edition

Read it Later story count: 395 (-1)

For the first time in I don't know how long (because I'm too lazy to look it up), I'm doing a character-focused PR today, and it's the turn of a certain overpowered unicorn. Five stories, and there's certainly some interesting stuff within them. Here's the list:

I Have Many Forms, but This One is Mine by Raugos
Waiting by Silver Moon
Solving for Death by Majin Syeekoh
Same Apples, New Tricks by Bookish Delight
The Alicorn Curse by chillbook1

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 13 November 2017

CD review: My Little Pony: The Movie Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Front cover of the MLP Movie soundtrack CD
"The Mane 6", apparently...
Whew, that title is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? Luckily, that subject line will be the only place I write it out in full. In line with my policy of avoiding movie spoilers until the New Year, I will be placing most of the review of this CD (for which I paid £10 in Tesco) under a cut. Spoilers ahoy! However, I will say up here that there is a manufacturing flaw in one track of the disc that should not have got to retail copies. Anyway...

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Pony Music Library 48: "Loyalty"

As it's well over a month since the last PML post, I think it's time to do change that. For what it's worth, no movie song will be eligible until next year, partly to avoid any spoilers and partly to give the songs time to settle in my head. Today's inductee is one you've probably all been waiting for almost since the start. Well, wait no longer!

What? "Loyalty"

Who? Acoustic Brony & Mandobrony

Which? Original song

When? January 2012

Why? Well, here it is. I don't think this ode to Rainbow Dash's general awesomeness is the best song these musicians have come up with, and they're no longer even really involved with our fandom at all – but "Loyalty" is just too significant to leave out. It's also, undeniably, damn catchy, and it has one of my favourite guitar solos in all of pony music. I heard Acoustic Brony play this (not acoustically :P ) at BUCK 2014, and it had as much energy then as it does in this recording. It may be more nostalgic than ground-breaking now, and Dash herself may have progressed a lot since 2012 – but whether you love it or loathe it, "Loyalty" is one of those songs that everyone in the fandom recognises. As such, it's something that binds us together, and it demands its place in the PML.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Shadow Play"

I may be late, but I have at least finished with S7 now as far as TRR is concerned! This finale brought a generally positive reaction, but as usual that reception wasn't quite universal. Pony Press News Journal has been removed: it seems to have ceased publication as there's still no review past the near-month-old "Secrets and Pies". A shame, that.

ArthurCrane – extremely positive ("Lots of fun, lots of story, lots of character. It’s a near-perfect.")

Batbrony Reviews – "My full review of this finale ... won't be out for some time"

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded B-; "a little contrived [though] ending on an epic note is appreciated")

Derpy News – extremely positive (graded A; "Every single character was in top form ... a top class finale")

Louder Yay – extremely positive (5/5; "sheer epicness is what pushes this episode into the highest star bracket")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (10/10; "brought the Legends Of Magic series to a close in the best way possible")

Rainbine – mixed (7/10; " I did like the finale. I thought it was pretty good [but] Stygian/Pony of Shadows is the worst villain in the entire series")

The Super Mario Brony Blog – very positive (5/5; "undoubtedly one of the best two-parters since [The Return of] Harmony and [Twilight's] Kingdom")

TheDragonWarlock – generally positive (graded B+; "The characters are written well for the most parts, sans Twilight being way too reckless ... It's a very solid finale")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – negative (48%; "When world is emphasized over character, you must have a good enough world to hold it up, and this show simply does not anymore.")

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 178: Fisherman's Friend

Read it Later story count: 396 (nc)

I'm up to five fics today! It's been some time since that happened, and I wouldn't go assuming it's going to be the norm, but I'll take the chance while I can. As with last week's PR, all the stories under review are very short; I hope to get a little more time to read slightly longer fics in the near future. We have:

Grind by Cola_Bubble_Gum
I'm Not Small, I'm Aerodynamic! by PonyThunder
Somno Captis by Flint-Lock
Another Chance by Jay David
Chrysalis Visits Minion Mart by Dunsparce

★: 1 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Film review: My Little Pony: The Movie

The Mane Six looking angry, with a startled Spike
I like the way each character's expression is fitted to them
You'll already know from my spoiler-free review of My Little Pony: The Movie that I enjoyed the film. At that time, I'd only seen it once, but I've since been to the cinema again (this time with the Worcester meet mob). And on that occasion, since I knew more or less what was coming, I could relax a bit and watch out for certain things. So, under the cut is a spoiler-filled review of the movie.

Note: all screenshots are from official trailers

Monday, 6 November 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 6: Final reflections

I don't need any extra encouragement to ramble, but here goes anyway. This sixth and last part of my UK PonyCon thoughts is a general look back at a few aspects of the con that I perhaps didn't give much space to in my previous report posts. Some of this is stuff that I included in my official feedback form – I hope you returned that if you were at the convention – but some is new. Page break time!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Episode review: S7E25&26: "Shadow Play"

Meadowbrook and Fluttershy using their Element
Okay, I can stop the review here, really. Five stars!
Well, here we are at the end of S7, and what an interesting season it's been. A satisfyingly good one too, if you ask me. I'll probably do some sort of overall retrospective of the season on LY eventually, but for now let's concentrate on the season finale. The end of "Uncommon Bond" looked very much like a set-up for this finale, and so it proved. But did I actually like it? After the break, you'll get your answer.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Text Review Roundup: My Little Pony: The Movie (part 2: Britain and Ireland edition)

I hope to get the S7 finale review up very soon (sneak peek: I loved it) and then my film review a little after that. Speaking of the movie, though...

Here we go with the second part of the My Little Pony: The Movie megaTRR, or whatever you'd like to call it. As with the much longer first instalment, I'll put the actual review extracts under a cut in case anyone finds them a little too spoilery – one review blatantly gives away something we only discover close to the end of the movie. I've included The Times review even though it's paywalled, since what you can see free is actually everything but the BBFC rating and the running time!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 5: Merch haul (ish)

Table holding things I got at UK PonyCon 2017
Relatively restrained on the Fluttershy front, I feel :P
Above is the more-or-less compulsory photo of the things I brought home from UK PonyCon 2017. That "ish" in the subject line is because two were actually presents before the event began, but I'm including those specific items here as I took them both to the convention. As usual, click it to enlarge. Going roughly across rows from the top left, you can see:
  • G1 Posey from Chrissytree – my very first G1 pony
  • Legend of Everfree DVD – a con exclusive for a full two days :P
  • The con book. Duh
  • 4DE Fluttershy plushie – a gift from Rorschfox
  • The con poster, designed by Sparkler
  • Applejack Hearth's Warming card from Limelight Press
  • Two original Fluttershy A6 pieces by StormBlaze
  • Derpy print by Dori-to
  • Mailmare Derpy postcard by PoneBooth
  • Fluttershy "Best Pony" badge, also by PoneBooth
  • The all-important con badge (with themed lanyard)
  • Supporter-tier enamel badge
  • Celestia "Best Princess" badge – PoneBooth again
  • Mystery Mini Scootaloo – a gift from Snowkitten
  • Fluttershy print – another one from Dori-to
  • Con T-shirt, designed by Sparkler
I'm not sure exactly how much this little lot cost me, but it wasn't especially out of line with what I've spent on merch at previous conventions. The only time I splashed out was for the pair of StormBlaze originals, but I didn't really have a choice with those. Not pictured: cider and muffins. :P

Next time: some final thoughts on my UK PonyCon 2017 experience

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 177: Puck will make amends!

Yes, PR is back! Whether or not this is a good thing is for you to decide, but I'm hopeful that there won't be another gap in the series this side of Hearth's Warming. I may even get a review of The Skyla Pseudonym out by year's end, though don't put your last penny (or indeed any penny) on that one.

Read it Later story count: 396 (-3)

Four stories this time. All very short, but that's partly because my time is also very short at the moment. They were chosen by skimming a list of highly-rated fics of less than 2,000 words. They all feature Rainbow Dash in one way or another, but that wasn't a deliberate thing. For newcomers, please remember that a story I consider average gets two stars, not three. This week's fics are:

Buckball Abstract by Pineta
Em Dash by Cloud Hop
Dragon Bucking by deleteme29358
Rainbow Unicorns by Hopeful_Ink_Hoof

★: 0 | ★★: 3 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0