Thursday, 28 February 2019

Season 9 trailer and start date revealed

Yesterday, at long last, a teaser trailer for the final (sniff) season of Friendship is Magic was released by Discovery Family. Thankfully the thumbnail is not spoilery, so I can embed it up here. However, the video itself does reveal a major plot point, so I would strongly advise you not to play it if you're trying to avoid knowing anything about what's coming up.

I'll put a few thoughts about the video's content after a cut, but the non-spoilery fact is that S9 will be released some time in April. The hot money surely has to be on an Easter Saturday premiere – that would be the 20th – but really I wouldn't be that surprised by any other time. I just hope we don't have any leaks this season, as those were by far the most unwelcome feature of S8.

If you want, come with me past the cut for a little discussion of what's in the trailer. Spoilers lurk beyond this point!

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 239: Spotlight on Allegrezza

Apologies for the late appearance of this PR. Being my brilliant self, I'd forgotten to press "Publish" so this article was sitting there in draft form when it was supposed to go out!

Something a bit different today: my first Spotlight edition in quite a while, and we're going back, back to the early days of the fandom. In particular, to the early days of one of its most popular (and now sort of semi-canonised but not) ships: Vinyl and Otavia.

Read it Later story count: 270 (+1)

Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Allegrezza by Gravekeeper
Vinyl Scratch, Octavia, Lyra, Bon Bon, OC, Celestia and and Nightmare Moon
Romance/Comedy/Slice of Life; 48k words; Nov 2011–Feb 2012; Everyone
Vinyl and Octavia have some adventures.
Vinyl thinks Octavia is a stuck-up snob. Octavia thinks Vinyl is an uncouth slob. You can see where this is going, can't you? And indeed, there's very little startling about the way the two rapidly come together. In all honesty, there's little to detain the reader there, which is a problem in a story that exists to make them a couple. On the plus side, the author (once known as Avensis Astari, it seems) does make the characters fairly interesting. Lyra's appearance as an antagonist makes a change, there are some nice bits of humour, and for such an old story there's only a tiny "Lyra likes humans!" reference. Still, too many things just conveniently happen, and (as the author acknowledges in a preface) the fic really shows its age today. This is interesting from a historical point of view, but there are plenty of better ScratchTavia stories. Oh, and Scotch is whisky. No E. Ever. ★★

For those who don't mind spoilers, follow me past the break for some more detailed thoughts on aspects of this story.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

My thank you letter to the MLP staff

Equestria Daily has been running a "Write a letter to the MLP staff" event, and in the end they had around 230 submissions, which I don't think is bad. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.) You can argue they might have waited until the end of S9, but having thought about it I think this way is better. Many of the show staffers have now wrapped up their work on FiM, so it's good to have these written now, while their experience is still fresh in their memories. (I don't really expect them to read these letters, though. They're simply too busy.)

Anyway, for those who don't read EqD but for some strange reason do want to read what I put in my own letter, here's my sappy effort:
To you all,

And that really does mean *all*. To the writers, the voice actors, the animators, the storyboard artists, the musicians, the unsung heroes behind the scenes and all the others who would make this letter so much longer if I listed them in full. All of you who have worked so hard for so long on a show which has truly earned its place in animation history.

To Lauren Faust, without whom we wouldn't have Friendship is Magic. To Bonnie Zacherle, without whom we wouldn't have My Little Pony at all. To DHX, for the hugely appealing show your talented crew produce for us time after time. To Hasbro, for supporting the series for all these years. To everyone.

The show all of you helped to make happen changed my life. That is not an exaggeration. It changed it very much for the better. I am happier now than I would have been without FiM. I am more creative. The show helped me through some very dark times and gave me a place where, no matter how bad things might look, light and hope always won out in the end.

Most of all, the greatest gift this show has given me is friendship. Because of FiM and the people who've shared my appreciation of it, I have gained many wonderful friends. That's something I wouldn't have imagined a cartoon aimed at young children could give me. But it has.

Of course, there's still one more season to come before our favourite little ponies gallop off into the sunset for the very last time. The show has evolved over the years, but I still enjoy it enormously, and I look forward enormously to seeing what Season 9 has in store. I'm sure the final season will be truly enchanting. Because, after all... Friendship *is* Magic.

Fluttershy said it best, as she so often does:

"You rock. Woo-hoo."

Thank you. Thank you more than I can put into words,

Monday, 25 February 2019

This will doubtless jinx it, but...

...I'm delighted none of FiM Season 9 has leaked. Yes, I know the information that was in the leaks last year had some stuff about S9, but we really, really don't want another situation like S8 when half the fandom had seen half the episodes (albeit in unfinished form) before S1 E1 even officially aired. At least, I really, really don't want that. Here's hoping it stays that way. Hooves crossed!

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Sounds of 2011: Nos. 19 to 15

It's getting quite exciting now, isn't it? The answer is "Yes!" by the way. Anyway, in this instalment of our long journey through Everfree Radio's Top 100 brony tracks of 2011, we've got a couple of very, very famous songs. And those which are a little less so. Here we go.

Here's a remix of the CMCs' song from the (in my view, which is right) underrated "The Show Stoppers" from S1. Alex S. has an official archive channel, so this dubstep version is still around. It's pleasant enough if you like the genre, but it doesn't do anything that will make your eyes snap open. I find it a little bizarre that this charted higher than the far bett/er remembered and frankly better remix of the show theme (no. 28), but oh well. There's a Mediafire download link for a 320kbps MP3 in the video description.

I'm skipping no. 18 for not meeting my inclusion criteria.

Serendipity: the artist formerly known as PinkiePieSwear, and now known as Matt R, keeps changing the status of his YouTube songs. Sometimes they're public, sometimes they're unlisted, sometimes they're entirely unavailable. Why I have no idea – but the happy fact is that, as I write, this glorious choptune based on Applejack's lines in "Winter Wrap Up" is once more available to all. All these years on, it remains one of the best AJ tracks the fandom has produced. Note that nearly all versions I've heard, including this one, feature several seconds of silence at the beginning. Get it in full HQ for $1 on PPS's Bandcamp.

Another Vinyl/Tavi piece, and another chart entry by Chain Algorithm. It's pretty much what you'd expect, with some intricate string work overlaid with plenty of energetic drumming. Perhaps a tiny bit too long at 4:17, but that's hardly the worst fault a track can have if it's otherwise well made. You could almost imagine this song being used as the tune for a fairly hectic stage of a platform game. For a 320k MP3, check the Mediafire link in the video description.

It's remarkable how many people believe to this day that WoodenToaster's classic was inspired by AuroraDawn's infamous fanfic. Not a bit of it: the song came first. For such an old song (August 2011) it's remarkable how well this tune grabs you and just doesn't let go, even if you've somehow managed to avoid ever knowing the grim story behind the fic. There's a real sense of menace in the lyrics, and despite the occasional mis-step ("with its alluring decor" really doesn't fit the rhythm) it's a deserved classic. No HQ version that I could find, though!

Next time, we'll be reaching the fringes of the fabled Top Ten!

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 238: Big Yellow Taxi

If all goes as I hope, my Newcomers' Edition of PR will appear in a fortnight's time on 6th March. I'm still busy in the real world, but things have settled down into a little more of a rhythm now, which helps. Let's get going for this week.

Read it Later story count: 269 (+1)

Another three-fic week. Gah, and I thought I'd left those days behind me! Oh well, I've still got something to share with you, at least. As usual, they're all short stories; you'll have to wait until next week (see the bottom of the post) for a fic that will take more than a few minutes to read.

Fluttershy's Secret Kissing Story by Ara
Friendship = Evil by PaulAsaran
Golden Prize by Admiral Biscuit

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 0 | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Monday, 18 February 2019

UK PonyCon dates and venue announced!

And the announcement has been made a couple of months earlier than last year, too! That's probably got a lot to do with the fact that, as the official announcement states, UK PonyCon 2019 will be held at the...

Nottingham Conference Centre
on 12-13 October 2019

That's right: the exact same venue as last year! This isn't the first time UKPC has done this, as both the 2014 and 2015 iterations were held at the same hotel in Leicester, but given the watery theme this year ("Ocean Adventure") it has come as a bit of a surprise. To me and those I've discussed this with over the last few weeks, anyway. Ticket details have not yet been released, so don't go rushing off to buy one – as of yet, you can't! I don't know when they'll go on sale, I'm afraid.

How do I feel about the choice of venue? From a personal point of view, really quite pleased. Nottingham is straightforward for me to get to by train, and not desperately expensive either. (Around £33 for a walk-up off-peak return.) I also now know the city a little better than I did last year, so I shouldn't waste time finding my bearings. It'll also make it easier for me to write up guides for con-goers, as I can use much of last year's info and my 2018 experience!

The city centre is also quite compact and nicely arranged, in that there are several affordable hotels within walking distance of Nottingham Conference Centre (NCC), which itself is on the edge of the shops'n'restaurants area. A tram line runs from the main railway station and there are stops very near to the venue, plus close by are several of the all-important Wetherspoons pubs for cheap food and chat! There's even a little Tesco Express within range.

As for NCC itself, I thought it was a solid venue last year. There was a reasonable amount of square footage to wander around in, sufficient rooms including a cinema/lecture theatre and just about enough chill-out space – though UWE Bristol (2017's host) was better on that score. The venue staff were also very good, in particular one guy who was on bag-check duty a lot. It's hard to make that part of the day enjoyable, but he came as close as anyone could.

I do have a few small reservations. I'm sure NCC's inadequate café provision from 2018 will be sorted so I'm not too worried there, but I can see why some may be disappointed at returning to Nottingham. 2019 will mark the fourth iteration in six that UKPC has been in the East Midlands, which doesn't fit with the con's distinctive feature of touring the country so that as many people as possible get the chance to attend. Finally, Nottingham city centre late on a Saturday night wasn't somewhere I was wild about.

I can't yet say for certain that I'll be going to UK PonyCon for the sixth successive year, but it's more likely now than if the host city had been somewhere 300 miles away. I will have to wait to see how much it's likely to cost me before starting to firm up my decisions. I do want to go, though. We are very lucky to have such a good convention in this country, and I most certainly want to attend and support it. I hope I'll be able to!

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Official confirmation: S9 of Friendship is Magic will be the show's last

For convenience as I don't have Facebook, I'll link to Equestria Daily's report. The news is no surprise to me and nor, I think, to most people – but there's an undeniable pang when seeing it there in black and white from an official source at last. It's going to be very strange watching S9 and realising that the end of the season will also mark the end of the entire show. (Maybe not G4, depending on what happens with Equestria Girls.)

We also have confirmation that the 2021 film will be made using CGI, another entirely unsurprising announcement. While I'd have loved another 2D film, that was only ever going to happen if the 2017 movie had been a major box office hit. And, bluntly, it wasn't. I'll still look forward to the film in two years' time. I just ask that: a) it gets a proper cinema release in the UK; and b) they call it something other than My Little Pony: The Movie. We already have two of those!

Of course, the MLP fandom won't be switched off when FiM closes for business. Inevitably more people will drift away and not everyone will stay to see what G5 has to offer, but I think plenty will. I'm glad I've been to UK PonyCon for the last few years, as that convention has really opened my eyes to the appeal of the older generations. I think that's a major reason why I'm looking forward to seeing what the next gen of the franchise has to bring.

And yes, I do think it's time for Friendship is Magic to wrap things up. While I still like the show a great deal and am certainly not one of those who thinks it all fell apart years ago, I also think this is the right move. As I said in an EqD comment, the time to leave the stage is when the audience still want more. This show has changed my life, and I'm not exaggerating its importance one bit when I say that. I hope its last season gives us something special.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

So, that 2021 MLP film Hasbro announced...

...meaning this one. I reckon it's the long-mooted G5 prequel movie. So don't get too excited if you want another G4 one. So do I. But I don't think we're going to get it, I'm afraid. If that was going to happen, I'm sure they'd have stuck with the Toon Boom Harmony look, whereas this will be a CGI film. So yep, I'd put my money on G5 here. Still interested, but not quite yet.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 237: His Toeses are Roses

A day later than most weeks, but here's the new PR for your delight and delectation. You don't seem to be allowed to have delectation without delight, so you'll just have to lump it. I'm feeling mildly cheerful at the moment, since the weather has been almost springlike lately. Into double figures, crocuses out, you know the score. Onward.

Read it Later story count: 268 (nc)

Just the three fics to look at this week, all E-rated, but if you'd had the week I have then you'd be struggling too. Nothing especially terrible, just that stuff kept coming up in all sorts of places, often stuff that needed dealing with there and then. I hope things will calm down a bit now. Cue hollow laughter.

Brain Problem Situation by Tumbleweed
The Firework Lotus by ArgonMatrix
Decisions by hester1

★: 0 | ★★: 0 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Sounds of 2011: Nos. 24 to 20

As I mentioned yesterday, Ponyfic Roundup will appear tomorrow.

Back to the brony music of yore now, and by the end we'll be inside the top twenty at last! This week's collection starts off with one of the biggest breakout Pony hits, to the extent that many of the recent Bandcamp comments on the track are from people with no interest in MLP at all.

This one probably doesn't need any introduction, but you're getting one anyway! Ken Ashcorp, who rather exotically lives in the British Virgin Islands, specialises in game/cartoon-inspired material, but though he's still active this is his only My Little Pony song. On this evidence, that's a real shame, as "20 Percent Cooler" is a bona fide club dancefloor banger. (Hey, can I have a job on NME now?) It's barely three minutes long, but in that time you get quite a few Pony references and a beat that's truly impossible to ignore. It's also superbly produced by 2011 fandom standards and absolutely holds up today. A shame Ashcorp disabled comments on the video; that's not his normal practice, so I can only guess that there were flamewars or something. On a brighter note, you can find HQ goodness for a measly dollar (US) on Ken Ashcorp's Bandcamp.

No. 23 gets skipped for not meeting my inclusion criteria.

Next up we have an interesting experiment from Syllith. They describe this song as being "the instruments of Octavia but the melody and percussion of Vinyl Scratch" – hence the track name. It nearly works, and to some extent anticipates the ponies' canon duet in episode 100, but it doesn't quite gel as well as that. The artist re-did the track a couple of times in 2012, first with this re-orchestrated version and then with this improved release, which Syllith described as "a more accurate version of what [they] always hoped Scratching Harmony would sound like" and which adds some pleasant percussion. I'd recommend that third version to listen to, but it's not the one that made the 2011 chart. Sadly the Mediafire download in the description is just a 160k MP3.

More Vinyl now, this time from The Living Tombstone, though it's so old that he signs the video description with his former name, "Koolfox". He wrote this as a deliberate departure from electro stuff, and it's a little more ballad-y and reflective. This isn't one of my favourites of Tombstone's songs, largely because his Israeli accent seems particularly strong here and (to my ears, at least) rather gets in the way of the lyrics. The orchestration is pretty nice, though. Look in the description for a 320k MP3.

I said a little while back that WoodenToaster's "Pinkie's Lie" (late May 2011) wasn't quite the earliest enduring brony track I knew of. Because this is. Not A Clever Pony blazed brightly in the early days of the fandom and then was gone: their last upload is dated 30 July 2011. But this song, the one they'll be remembered for, was uploaded on 24 April. Not quite their first, as there are a couple of minor (and comments-disabled) tracks from a week or two earlier. But "For The New Lunar Republic" dates from the days when some fans raged at "Celestia's tyranny". By modern standards this isn't exactly a complex tune, being largely variations on a theme. But you can't argue with over a million views! 192k MP3 download in the description.

Next time: Your fears and horrors will come true. And not just because of my writing!

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Worcester meets now on UK Bronies & Pegasisters

Before I get to that, a quick PSA: I've been snowed under with actual Real World Stuff this week, which is why things have been quiet here for a few days. To avoid complete burnout I'm pushing a couple of things back a day. There'll be a "Sounds of 2011" tomorrow, and Ponyfic Roundup 237 will appear on Thursday.

As for the meets, we now have a listing on UK Bronies & Pegasisters, a website (and associated social media) which does pretty much what it says on the tin. For now we're using the rather generic name "Worcester Bronies", but that's up for discussion at our next meet on 23 Feb. Find our listing on the Adventu-cations page!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Is the news drought nearing its end at last?

It's now less than a week before this year's New York Toy Fair kicks off in, surprisingly enough, New York. This is speculation on my part, but given that Hasbro will have a substantial presence there and that they've made significant announcements at the Fair in the past, I'm at least half-expecting the announcement next week. Or at least one of them: when we can expect Season 9 of Friendship is Magic to air. Of course, some of that will be down to Discovery Family, but even "Spring 2019" would be something!

The other big announcements that may be less likely are linked: confirmation (or otherwise!) that S9 will be the end of the road, and any official details at all about G5. Personally I'd be relieved if Hasbro came right out and said, "That's all, folks!" as it would mean we'd be going into S9 without that extra layer of uncertainty. I'm not convinced they will, though – but a basic S9 timing announcement? Yeah, I think it's about time the powers that be broke their silence on that one, and I hope they do.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 236: Hey now, the story must go on

Gosh, it's been years and years since I've watched Willy Fogg. You can probably get the box set on DVD—but I don't like it that much. It was just something I'd watch in the afternoons on Children's BBC after I got home from school. I keep it together in my mind with the likes of Dogtanian, The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31. Anyway, ponies now.

Read it Later story count: 268 (-11)

I really do want to read another long story for a PR spotlight at some point. For me, "long" is anything over 50,000 words. I won't say what the story I'm thinking of is, but I will say that it's a very old one. Written in 2012, in fact. A couple of people I've asked recently say it still holds up quite well, so expect it... er... sometime. Anyway, now I have five stories (yay!) of which three were published in the last year (also yay!) so let's get a wriggle on.

Friendmaker by Lets Do This
My Limitless Lily by Allonsbro
The Legend of Falling Rocks, Buffalo Brave by Titanium Dragon
The Hand of Friendship by Incredible Blunderbolt
Hopeless Romantic by Flutterpriest

★: 0 | ★★: 0 | ★★★: 4 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Sounds of 2011: Nos. 29 to 25

I think it's time to get this moving along. You'll probably have noticed that I've been putting slightly more songs in each post than I did early in this series. I'll keep doing that until I get to the top ten, and then I'll slow down again. I'm not entirely sure how much, but the number one song will get a post of its own. Right then...

Yet another Chain Algorithm track now. The guy really was popular back then, wasn't he? Yet seriously, when did you last hear someone (other than me here!) mention his name? Even though his songs are still up, he's dropped almost completely out of sight. This track is "zubstep", a genre invented by Chain Algorithm using "a triple oscillator and wavetable/granular hybrid system run through band-based equalizers". As any fule kno. It's not really to my taste, being very repetitive, though there are a few show voice samples scattered about to add interest. Unfortunately both Mediafire download links in the video description are dead.

This track, on the other hoof, remains instantly recognisable across the fandom. Thanks to Alex S. having an official archive channel, it's also very easy to find! Its name tells the story: this is a very smoothly produced glitch reworking of the show's opening theme, and I've heard people say they wish this was the song they heard at the start of every FiM episode! It may be four and a half minutes long, but it seems to pass in a flash. Truly one of the finest brony remixes. The Mediafire download got copyright claimed(!) but it's not a problem, as there's a name-your-price HQ version on Alex S.'s Bandcamp.

You know what I just said about great remixes? Well, here's another excellent one from the ever-reliable Sim Gretina. The YouTube upload is dated 2012, but this is definitely a 2011 production. The big musical number from the S1 finale lends itself pretty well to this kind of treatment, though it does perhaps make the song a little longer than it might have been. I'm not entirely keen on the vocoder-y bits, but isn't that much of that and the beat is, as the cool kids probably said about 15 years ago, banging. For 320k MP3 goodness, look on

I should be so Pony, Pony Pony Pony... ahem. This wonderfully retro d.notive song deserves to be better known these days. As he says, he's channelling Stock Aitken Waterman here, which explains all the echoes of Kylie (Minogue, not Jenner!) and company around the place. Given a time machine, you really could imagine people with big hair jumping up and down to this three decades and more ago. It's a shame that the MP3 download in the video description is only 225 kbps, but maybe the quality of a song like this, harking back to a time when cassette was king, shouldn't be too high!

Finally for today, here's one by StormWolf (now JoshLohMusic) that's another take on a huge fandom classic. As its name suggests, this is a take on "Nightmare Night" that reimagines it as an orchestral, film-score-ish piece. It's really rather epic, though it could perhaps have done with a smidgen more bass. The crashing symbols and blaring brass really work well for this song, though. Want to hear this in higher quality? You're in luck! The Mediafire link in the video description is still active at time of writing and will bring you a 320k MP3.

Next time, a song that's transcended the fandom to the extent that it now has many firm fans who've never watched a single episode of FiM. And no, it's not Tombstone's remix of "Discord". Wrong year!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Conventions and generations

If I manage to get to UK PonyCon this year, something I hope to do but which is far from certain for a number of reasons, it's likely to be somewhere around mid-October. By that time BronyCon will have receded into history, and depending on scheduling Season 9 may have done so too. Which would probably mean that the Friendship is Magic era will have drawn to a close. Depending on what happens with Equestria Girls, we may even have reached the end of the G4 era, at least on screen.

It makes me wonder what the atmosphere might be like. I think things will be cushioned a bit by UKPC's multi-gen nature; you can't really spend much time there and still think G4 is all that counts for anything at all. Nevertheless, the majority of attendees these days are first and foremost fans of this generation, and in many cases they will never have taken any interest in anything My Little Pony before FiM came along. So it may still feel rather strange.

This isn't really leading anywhere. I just wanted to set it down, and here seemed as good a place as any.