Wednesday, 25 September 2013

DVD review: Welcome to Ponyville

"Welcome to Ponyville" DVD cover
Rainbow Dash seems to be up to something...
Yes, at long last there is a Region 2 DVD available in Britain. Until now, anyone wanting to watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on official media has had to import discs from the US, Australia, Germany... basically, all the countries that get a better deal than the UK, which is most of them. Rant over! This disc is available from some large Asda supermarkets for £6, but only a few branches seem to stock it, so I paid £8.99 from HMV in Worcester for mine. (It's also available from and direct from distributors ClearVision.) More past the jump!

I already own the Region 1 box set of S1, so buying this new disc was for two reasons: one, to demonstrate to Hasbro that yes, we British bronies would indeed buy official discs if only we had the chance; and two, out of curiosity. The first thing I noticed was that the cover design is very similar to the R1 box set's. There are some subtle differences — Angel is absent, Twilight is more prominent and Spike is gazing at Rarity (how startling) — but apart from a little extra pink on the UK cover there's not much change.

"Welcome to Ponyville" episode menu
Best Episode (on this disc) is already selected, naturally
Unfortunately, the ClearVision disc doesn't simply start at S1E1 and work through in order. It's currently looking as though, assuming the whole season is released eventually, there'll be five discs: four with five episodes each and this first one with six. That makes sense, since it's really only five stories here as the two-part pilot/premiere is included. Hooray for a vaguely sensible decision! Here's the full episode list:

  • Friendship is Magic, part 1
  • Friendship is Magic, part 2
  • Griffon the Brush Off
  • Look Before You Sleep
  • Swarm of the Century
  • Owl's Well That Ends Well

Not, I think we can agree, the most thrilling selection overall. Not even entirely Twilight-centric, as she's a supporting character in "Griffon the Brush Off". Including the premiere is obviously sensible, and "Swarm of the Century" (MA Larson's debut) is a lot of fun and my pick from this DVD. The others... well, I think it would be fair to say that there are better eps in the season. "Owl's Well..." is actually my least favourite in S1.

Pinkie Pie advertising her Walkin' Talkin' toy
Is anyone, anyone at all, even remotely surprised at this?
The disc itself has the usual "unskippable" (not in VLC!) intro, though at least we don't have to put up with some "You wouldn't steal an Element of Harmony" anti-piracy thing. Then there's an irritating advert — which happily is skippable — for Walkin' Talkin' Pinkie Pie before we finally get to the menu. Every time you select an option there's a brief clip of Rarity posing for the camera. My, my, I am surprised that she was the pony who volunteered for that role...

There's not a lot to say about the actual episodes. If you've already seen them in HD, then you'll have to readjust to plain old 576p PAL, though in all honesty it's not too bad-looking. I'm not someone who's particularly sensitive to "PAL speedup" but there doesn't seem to be any change in speed or pitch, and each episode seems to take the full 22 minutes. Sound is in 5.1 in English, French and Italian, but just 2.0 in Spanish and Arabic; the only language that provides subtitles is French.

A scene from the singalong
From the singalong, another scene from an ep not actually included here...
Surprisingly perhaps, we do get some extras with this DVD, and here there's a very pleasant surprise: the inclusion of the official commentary track for the two "Friendship is Magic" episodes. Despite the staff seeming a little more uncertain than in later commentaries, this is well worth having — watch out for their rather obvious avoidance of using the name "Derpy" at one point! There's also a singalong to the rarely-seen (but good) extended version of the show theme, plus a rather pointless colouring sheet.

Finally, there are two "Pony Profiles", of Celestia and Twilight. Anyone who has the R1 box set may imagine that they've seen these already... but they'd be wrong! For no adequately explored reason, ClearVision (and/or Hasbro) saw fit to include profiles based on later seasons. This is bad enough in the case of Celestia's S2 finale scenes, but when Twi's begins with the words "Meet Princess Twilight Sparkle" and includes the "great reveal" from S3E13 you really do have to facehoof a bit.

Twilicorn from her "Pony Profile"
The Princess Twilight cometh... but not for another 64 episodes
All in all, this is a decent enough disc, aside from a couple of odd quirks, but if you already have something like the R1 box set there's not really anything new here unless you're a completist collector. Production standards don't seem quite as high: the disc itself is rather flimsy compared to the R1 equivalent. Whether this release will bring MLP:FiM to the mainstream in Britain I frankly doubt, but it is nice finally to be able to buy Pony officially in the UK, and for that I have to give props to ClearVision.

  • An official UK-spec DVD, at last!
  • Includes 5.1 audio
  • No PAL speedup!
  • The excellent commentary track is included
  • Not the best selection of episodes
  • The Pony Profiles are based on S2/S3
  • Case and disc feel rather flimsy
  • Can't we have our own S1 box set?

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