Saturday, 30 November 2019

My Little Repeats 8: "Look Before You Sleep"

"Rarity, do y'all realise what we're startin' here?"
S1E08: "Look Before You Sleep"
Written by Charlotte Fullerton
3 Dec 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.4

The one with Truth or Dare.

Thoughts: Another new writer joins the team – in fact, only two more would be added during S1. This is an episode that in the past was widely disliked for being "too girly", and I wasn't a huge fan. Now? I like it rather more. It's the real kick-off for the long-running Applejack v Rarity sparkiness, for a start. (Though AJ using "y'all" in the singular still sounds odd.) I like the little scientific bit about why being inside that tree in a thunderstorm is okay. Twilight's wide-eyed enthusiasm about the slumber party is really cute, plus we get an early, pre-fandom Parental Bonus in her book's title. Twi also introduces us all to the legend of the Headless Horse. Although not Rarity's first "Oh. It. Is. On" (that was "Boast Busters") this is the one most people remember, thanks to the funny pillow fight sequence. The other three Mane Sixers don't appear at all. I'd classify this episode as simply nice – a gentle, domestic story with plenty of warmth, something that S1 often did pretty darn well.

Choice quote: Rarity: "It is a ghost story. They're all made up."

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Bridle Gossip", another popular "gateway drug" to FiM as a whole. It's a very long time since I've seen it, so I have no idea how it'll hit me now.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 32 to 28

Still not feeling great, so have another pre-prepared post. I'm pleased with myself for having a small stock of these ready – if only I were like PaulAsaran and could say the same for Ponyfic Roundup! Anyway...

Here we are again with another "Sounds of 2012" post. To remind anyone who's forgotten, this is a series wherein I look at the songs that Everfree Radio's listeners voted into the Top 100 tracks released in 2012. As ever, a quick reminder of the criteria for inclusion:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

32: Lenich & Kirya – Pinkie's Brew Russian Gypsy Jazz
31: Aviators – Friendship
30: The Living Tombstone & Bronyfied – Stuck in Time
29: PrinceWhateverer ft. Liquid Cobalt and ISMBOF – Between Fairytales and Happy Endings
28: Assertive Fluttershy – Boooring!

Just the five songs featured here today, but beyond the cut you'll find videos of them all, as well as where (if anywhere!) you can pick the songs up in better-than-YouTube quality. Let's go!

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

My Little Repeats 7: "Dragonshy"

Where's Ponyfic Roundup? Well, I haven't been feeling well off and on recently and have only finished one story, which isn't enough for a PR! I'll bring the feature back as normal next Wednesday. Since I had this MLR piece ready to go, you're getting that instead today. Sorry for any disappointment.

Talk about eye
S1E07: "Dragonshy"
Written by Meghan McCarthy
26 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 8.4

The one with Angel kicking his carrot.

Thoughts: The first adventure since the premiere, Meghan McCarthy's debut and and Fluttershy's first real Crowning Moment of Awesome. Before that, though, we get the A Team-style montage, one of the show's funnest. Then it's off up the mountain. Flutters is a bit over-the-top timid even for S1 – but Dash isn't very nice to her, especially given that they go way back. (Okay, we don't know that yet.) Still, 'Shy is the one who confronts the dragon and stares (though not yet Stares) it down when it really matters, and that is something nopony can ever take away from her. The others aren't much help in the cave, and it's decidedly not Rarity's finest hour. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene about two minutes in, we first see Lyra sitting human-like on a bench – though she's with a blue earth pony, not Bon Bon! (The two are seen chatting shortly thereafter, though.) Also seen: Angel being a pain, Rainbow saluting and Rarity being incompetent at noughts and crosses. I do think the gang are a bit mean-spirited to Dash at the end, though, scaring her so close to the ball-bouncing record. But it's a minor problem in a generally excellent episode, to my mind the first classic ep.

Choice quote: Fluttershy: "I guess I forgot to jump."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "Look Before You Sleep", which I used to find dull but have warmed to considerably in recent years. Let's see whether that continues.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 38 to 33

The YouTube concerns have, if not gone away, then at least calmed down for the moment, until everyone finds out what's actually going to happen in January. With that in mind, I might as well go back to "Sounds of 2012" and the Everfree Radio Top 100 for that year, and see how far I can get before everything falls apart – if, and it's a big if, that ends up happening at all. I'm going to be sticking to the same criteria for inclusion, so a quick reminder:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

38: MandoPony – Shining Armor
37: Aviators – Loyalty (Aviators Remix)
36: Alex S. – Ultimate Sweetie Belle
35: Aviators – The Fear of Flight
34: All Levels at Once – Changeling
33: Forest Rain – Hay Ms. Derpy

Past the cut you'll find a YouTube video (oh yes!) of each of the half-dozen songs from this instalment, plus the usual waffle and info on how to get a better-quality version of each track.

Monday, 25 November 2019

UK PonyCon issues budget breakdown

Usual disclaimer: I am not UK PonyCon staff
The graphic above was issued by UK PonyCon yesterday. I was very pleased to see it, as I've thought for a long time that organisations such as conventions should be as financially transparent as is practical. Given that venues and suppliers tend not to be keen on doing their negotiations in public, expecting a pound-by-pound breakdown is excessive. BronyScot did just that in its earliest days, but that's not at all the norm. A percentage breakdown as published by UKPC seems a good option.

It may be interesting for any readers involved with convention organising to look at the graphic and compare how it stacks up with the cons they know. The thing that stands out immediately to me is that venue costs absolutely dwarf anything else. Audiovisual costs alone are double those incurred by the events team, and venue hire itself accounts for fully half of the entire UKPC budget. This underlines why choosing the right venue for the con is so important, and why it can't be rushed. Much as we all want to know, we do need to wait!

Something that isn't added to the cost is hiring a third-party ticketing provider. UK PonyCon, unlike a lot of similar events, does not charge a booking fee – so a ticket this year with a face value of £37 cost exactly £37 to purchase. Of course, there are still banking and PayPal costs to consider (see the top of the graphic) but I think UKPC's approach has worked well over the years. It's certainly nice from an attendee's point of view not to have 5% or so slapped on top of what you thought you were paying!

This all adds up to a lot of money. Of course, the precise figure isn't in the public domain, but you can get a very, very rough idea by considering ticket prices and attendee numbers and making some semi-educated guesses. At any rate, it's certainly several tens of thousands of pounds. It's widely accepted that BUCK's expenditure ran into six figures, but that con aside UKPC has the biggest budget of any British MLP convention in the fandom's history. That means the con absolutely has to be run carefully by people who know what they're doing. Happily, I feel completely reassured on that score.

Anyway, I congratulate UK PonyCon on producing this graphic; I think it's an excellent balance between transparency and commercial realism. I would like to see this sort of thing become absolutely standard for all cons, all over the world, with a few appropriate tweaks in parts of the globe where conventions are run in a different way. I'd certainly like to see both BronyScot and Griffish Isles issue something similar. Your move, folks.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

My Little Repeats 6: "Boast Busters"

It was only then that Twilight realised she'd mixed up the milk and the vodka
S1E06: "Boast Busters"
Written by Chris Savino
19 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 6.6

The one with Spike's moustache.

Thoughts: Chris Savino's name is mud these days, but he wrote two early FiM episodes, of which this is the first. Interestingly for an ep that's now remembered fairly fondly by many, it has the lowest IMDb score by some distance up to this point in the series. Anyway, this is of course where we first meet the Great and Powerful Trixie, who is immensely irritating in her magical tussles with other ponies, even allowing for her showmare status. We also get our first real insight into Twilight having exceptional magical talent, though we're still a while away from having cutie marks properly explained. Her feats of magical music and telekinesis to calm the Ursa Minor remain highly impressive all these years on. (Mind you, it's Spike who accidentally and indirectly caused it to be there in the first place!) Snips and Snails turn up, and are just the "irritating boy" characters they remain for many seasons – though they do wander into the Everfree Forest at night; the place is already losing its "impossibly terrifying" reputation from the opener. On the plus side, the ep sees Rarity's first "Oh, It. Is. On." The door gag in the library is also one of the funniest. The moral of the episode is an interesting one, too – but somehow this feels like an episode whose parts don't quite gel into a smoothly flowing whole. They're not quite there yet. A upper-end two for me, though I'm sure some will rate it higher.

Choice quote: Trixie: "Was there ever any doubt?"

New rating: ★★

Next up is "Dragonshy", which was the episode where I was first hit by the realisation that this was something special, beyond just "a fun cartoon". Does it hold up for me now?

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Dramatic reading by Scribbler et al of It Doesn't Matter Now

And the very next post after talking about the future of YouTube videos features... a YouTube video. Suffice to say I downloaded this one as soon as I saw it!

This came entirely out of the blue. Scribbler mentioned to me on Twitter a little while ago that It Doesn't Matter Now was one of her favourite stories, but I didn't imagine that was any more than a nice comment. And then, yesterday, this appeared! I am very pleased indeed with how it's turned out. Scribbler narrates, Illya Leonov voices the Spirit Pony and Quirky Craft voices Pinkie. I think they all three do a superb job with the text and really get across the atmosphere of the piece. A huge thank you to all of them! :)

Friday, 22 November 2019

The future of "Sounds of 2012"

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, and possibly even if you have, you'll probably have heard about YouTube creators' concerns regarding new rules. The signal:noise ratio has been quite poor, but the thing is now starting to have tangible effects for our community – for example, Sim Gretina briefly made all their videos private. Though that decision has now been reversed, it may only be a temporary stay of execution, depending on how things pan out in practice.

Although it's hardly the most important bit of fallout, it does have a bearing on "Sounds of 2012", since the vast majority of songs I feature are found on YouTube. True, some of them are also available on artists' Bandcamps or similar, but a lot are not – and for all the reasons I've mentioned before, I'm not usually keen on embedding videos from third-party re-uploaders unless I'm fairly confident they have the original artist's blessing. (Or unless they're stupidly famous.)

I'll keep a watching brief for now and see how many YouTubers do decide to blank out their channels. I suspect it won't actually be a huge number, but I do think it may include some big names – as we're seeing here. I also suspect that the implementation of the new rules in practice won't quite be as terrifying as some are suggesting. I mean, how many people actually take much notice of the penalties listed in the type of software EULA that's existed for decades?

Of course, that the obvious way to make sure you keep access to these videos is to download them from YouTube while they're still there – something that is itself in breach of YouTube's existing regulations, even though nearly everyone does it. Why does life have to be so ironic?

Thursday, 21 November 2019

My Little Repeats 5: "Griffon the Brush Off"

Only in Equestria could a dragon burrowing through a cake be considered acceptable
S1E05: "Griffon the Brush Off"
Written by Cindy Morrow
12 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.6

The one with the "Junior Speedsters" chant.

Thoughts: Until S5, Cindy Morrow's FiM writing debut had an interesting moral: that, regrettably, it's sometimes necessary to cut ties with toxic friends permanently. "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone" changed that by redeeming Gilda; I've never been quite sure how I feel about that. Back to this episode, and it sees the effective start of Rainbow and Pinkie's friendship (including a self-referential joke about having no fingers to high-five with), as well as the birth of the "You can't outrun Pinkie Pie" meme. The contrast between Pinkie's concern for Fluttershy and Gilda making the latter cry is very noticeable – though it seems a little odd that Dash would even contemplate the prank, given we find out later this season that she's known 'Shy since fillyhood. As for Gilda herself, she's little better than a bully here (and a thief) and she doesn't engender the sympathy that "Griffonstone" would do for her years later. The big twist – that Rainbow set up the party pranks – is nice, though having it be "dumb luck" that Gilda set them all off strains credulity. Dash's speech saying she'd rather be "Queen Lame-o" than have a bully for a friend is good, though. I've slightly warmed to the episode overall now, hence the three-star rating.

Choice quote: Fluttershy to Pinkie: "I'm a year older than you."

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Boast Busters", which I've never been a massive fan of as I didn't like early-series Trixie – though will I change my assessment looking back from several years of StarTrix fun?

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 273

Read it Later story count: 234 (+2)

You'll note that the number of fics on my RiL list is just beginning to creep up again. I shall do my level best to do something about that, though it may just take the form of having another clear-out! The long-term target I mentioned ages ago of eventually having the list steady at around 100 stories remains unchanged. And no, I haven't yet decided what to do when the Pony Life fics start coming in! Anyway, another three today:

The Changeling Queen by Wanderer D
Birthday Cards by Roundabout Recluse
Dear Princess Celestia, by Shakespearicles

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Griffish Isles ticket details announced!

The Manchester-based Griffish Isles convention, which for next year has expanded to two days (9/10 May) and has a new venue (the Pyramid Hotel) has announced that tickets will go on sale on Saturday 23rd November at midday UK time. A few people already have tickets, as they were doing pre-sales at UK PonyCon (and maybe BronyScot; I'm not sure), but for most people, Saturday is when they'll have their chance. Here's how the ticket prices stack up for attendees; vendor ticket applications will be handled separately.
Adult Standard Weekend: £45
VIP ticket (limited) : £95
Golden Ticket (two only) : £500
Saturday only: £38
Sunday only: £18
Foals (under-12s) free with paying adults; must leave by 6pm
Carers also free
The above prices do not include the booking fee; if you order a ticket in person at a Lancashire Brony event, that will be waived. Here are a couple more details from the Twitter thread that was how I found out about this:
  • VIP tickets include T Shirt, Front two row seating in mane theatre, early access and additional perks as per previous years.
  • Golden Tickets include dedicated front row seating in the mane theatre, along with personal thanks from the conference Chair for them helping to make the convention a success. 
The basic weekend ticket price is about what I'd expected: it's a little bit more than UK PonyCon was this year (£37) but then UKPC has economies of scale. The disparity between Saturday and Sunday prices seems very wide (cf UKPC: Sat £25, Sun £20) which leads me to wonder what the difference in scheduling will be like; I'm assuming Saturday's events will go on quite a way into the night.

As for the Golden Tickets? Well. £500 will be the single most expensive ticket in British MLP convention history – from memory, the Celestia tickets at BUCK were somewhere in the £300-£350 range. And those got you a lot of perks. The Golden Tickets are so dear that I can only think they're intended for people who feel like making a statement of how much GI means to them. I'm a little bemused, if I'm honest.

I attended Griffish Isles last year and had a good time. Some of my concerns in 2019 still exist, and I'll be watching particularly closely to see whether the sometimes poor communications (especially regarding the con's website) have improved since last year. It's less likely that I'll actually attend in 2020, as I have a holiday only a few weeks away, but it's not impossible. Naturally, I hope Griffish Isles 2020 is a happy, successful event!

Monday, 18 November 2019

My Little Repeats 4: "Applebuck Season"

S1 Twilight: "I'm surrounded by idiots!"
S1E04: "Applebuck Season"
Written by Amy Keating Rogers
5 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.9

The one with Rainbow's first "so awesome!" face.

Thoughts: The the first solo credit for one of FiM's best-regarded writers. We start out in Sweet Apple Acres, which back then was enormous, and Big Mac actually gets to use words. AJ calls herself "the loyalest of friends", which maybe was inspiration for a certain Friendship is Witchcraft joke. The stampede is an odd early-series event, especially the cow talking to Applejack afterwards – even if we do get what's almost the Bonanza theme! Other old-feeling stuff includes Pinkie deferring to Applejack as a superior baker. (Though in the event it leads to the dreaded "baked bads"... and, many years later, to Derpy's canon name of Muffins!) I think this is the first time we see Lyra and Bon Bon standing together, when AJ is dragging her trophy away. Anyway, Twilight (who can now teleport with ease!) cajoling AJ to get over her stubborn pride is a simple plot, but one that works quite well for this stage in the series. We even get a bit of slapstick with Applejack and Rainbow and the contraption intended to launch Dash – who calls AJ "Ponyville's best athlete"; she'd have second thoughts about that a little way down the line! Then there's the famous bunny stampede: "The horror! The horror!" Oh, and the first mule joke. So although a notch short of a classic, "Applebuck Season" is a good watch that still holds up fairly well.

Choice quote: Twilight (again, I know!) : "AJ? I think you're beating a dead... tree."

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Griffon the Brush Off", which apart from having one of the most commonly misspelt episode titles is also decidedly not amongst my favourites. We'll see whether that changes!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Season 9 – the UK of Equestria rankings

For the very last time, at least in the Friendship is Magic era, the members of UK of Equestria have been giving their ranked lists of their favourite and... less favourite episodes of the season. Since there were two double-headers this season, there were 24 episodes in the list – Rainbow Roadtrip did not count as it's not officially part of the season and doesn't have an episode number.

We had 13 voters, exactly the same as for the half-time vote. As usual, I've divided the episodes into five tiers, going by their mean rankings. An episode with a mean better than fifth gets five stars, from there to 10 gets four, and so on. My own rankings are in brackets after each episode name. Here we go...

1. The Ending of the End (5)
2. The Last Problem (10)

3. Frenemies (1)
4. Between Dark and Dawn (9)
5. The Big Mac Question (3)
6. Sparkle's Seven (2)
7. A Horse-Shoe In (7)
8. The Summer Sun Setback (4)
9. The Beginning of the End (6)

10. Student Counsel (15)
11. She Talks to Angel (8)
12. The Last Crusade (14)
13= Common Ground (11)
13= A Trivial Pursuit (22)
15. Dragon Dropped (19)

16. Growing Up is Hard to Do (16)
17. The Last Laugh (17)
18. The Point of No Return (21)
19. Going to Seed (18)
20. Uprooted (20)
21. She's All Yak (23)
22. Daring Doubt (13)
23. Sweet and Smoky (12)

24. 2, 4, 6, Greaaat (24)

Number of times each episode placed first
5: The Last Problem
4: Frenemies
3: The Ending of the End
1: The Beginning of the End

Number of times each episode placed last
6: 2, 4, 6, Greaaat
2: Growing Up is Hard to Do
1: Going to Seed
1: The Last Crusade
1: The Point of No Return
1: Sweet and Smoky
1: A Trivial Pursuit

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. Growing Up is Hard to Do
2. Sparkle's Seven
3. The Summer Sun Setback

Least controversial
1. The Ending of the End
2. Between Dark and Dawn
3. Daring Doubt

"The Ending of the End" was a clear victor, being the only episode that all 13 voters placed in their top seven. No other ep even had unanimous top-half placings. The fandom's doubts about the S9 epilogue were fairly firmly squashed on UK of E – although there was a small cluster of voters (including me) who placed it mid-table, it still gained enough top spots to take second position with some ease.

At the bottom, that cheerleading episode was a predictable wooden-spooner, though two people did include it in their top tens. "Sweet and Smoky" was next, to my continuing disappointment, with "Daring Doubt" ranked between 13th and 23rd by every single voter. There wasn't a noticeable gap between how the two halves of this season were received, though there was a slight skewing due to the finale and epilogue's popularity.

A notable feature of the S9 rankings was the wild variation in opinion given to some episodes. "Growing Up is Hard to Do" was ranked third by one person and dead last by another. "The Last Crusade" had almost as wide a spread, from fifth to 24th. One voter ranked "Frenemies down in 20th spot, while another had "A Trivial Pursuit" up in fifth. Even "Sparkle's Seven" received several rankings in the mid-to-low teens.

Friday, 15 November 2019

My Little Repeats 3: "The Ticket Master"

Enough G4.5 speculation for the moment. Let's get back to the show that's the reason most of us are in the MLP fandom in the first place.

The sort of expression we got so much less of from later-series Twi
S1E03: "The Ticket Master"
Written by Amy Keating Rogers and Lauren Faust
29 Oct 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.2

The one with oatmeal.

Thoughts: This episode started out as an 11-minute script in the Show Bible, then was expanded with AKR's help to 22 for broadcast. (Thanks to Mike Cartoon Pony for that.) Anyway, it's a pretty stupid setup, really: why would Celestia send Twilight just two tickets in the first place? For the Grand Galloping Gala, no less, which first appears here. Early Instalment Weirdness applies: Spike doesn't want any of that "girly, frilly, frou-frou nonsense" and there's some odd levitation right at the end. Still, Fluttershy singing the theme tune (the start of the then-unreleased extended version, at that!) is adorable. Two rather forgettable little Pinkie ditties, too. We get our first sight of Prince Blueblood in Rarity's vision, though (perhaps thankfully!) we learn nothing of his character just yet. This episode does contain a favourite early scene of mine, though: when Twi is picking the petals off the flower, her stomach rumbles... and she eats the petals. A nice reminder that in S1, these were very much horses; see also the restaurant having piles of hay instead of chairs. The Benny Hill-esque chase scene is actually quite funny, and it ends with Twilight first teleportation – awkwardly, and apparently not even knowing it would happen! Overall, though? It does feel a little stretched at 22 minutes, and the plot is all a bit obvious. I think a high two-star rating is about right.

Choice quote: Rarity: "Twilight! It's raining." Twi: "No. Really?"

New rating: ★★

Next up is "Applebuck Season", which many fans cite as their first hunch that things were really going to come together on this show.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

So then, Pony Life

Well, this came almost out of nowhere, apart from a couple of very vague hints in the last few days. My Little Pony: Pony Life is on the way for 2020! According to the Hasbro press release quoted on EqD, the new character designs (also shown in the EqD post) are chibi-inspired, while the show "looks at the funny side of friendship". The series will centre on Sugarcube Corner and will feature mysterious potions. The recently-redesigned toys are associated with the new series, and they will apparently be available in "select retailers" in December, at least in North America.

Okay, before I go any further, I want to mention that I have never watched Teen Titans Go! Why am I saying this? Because about every third comment I've seen thus far about Pony Life has included a TTG reference, usually unfavourable, and I'm getting just a bit frustrated with seeing it mentioned again and again and again. It means nothing to me and in all honesty, it's already boring me. Other cartoons exist, and I'd be much more interested if anyone had some thoughts about other shows that Pony Life may have taken some inspiration from.

Pony Life is very clearly not G5. That shouldn't even need saying, but apparently it does. The Mane Six and Spike are still present (and voiced by the same VAs), the world is apparently the same, and so on. I think there is a case for calling this G4.5, since it's based on a significantly redesigned toyline and it's a different approach for the series. Whether that will stick I don't know, since all we've seen so far are a few still drawings and this trailer – most of which features the toys rather than the cartoons.

The choice of music for the video is interesting: Lizzo's "Good as Hell". I'm fairly sure Friendship is Magic would never have used the word "hell" in a trailer, especially repeatedly as this song does. Whether that's a deliberate hint of a change in direction, who knows? The song is the clean edit, unsurprisingly: for example, the line "Walk your fine self out the door" is actually "Walk your fine ass out the door" in Lizzo's original. Amusingly, the relevant word is at exactly the same point we see a close-up of Applejack's flank. Coincidence? Yeah, sure it is.

So, will I watch Pony Life? Well, yes – at least at first. It's not going to replace FiM in my affections, I'm certain of that, but then FiM was a once-in-a-blue-moon show for me. But as some cute, funny stuff to fill the gap between now and the movie in autumn 2021, I think it could be fine. If they start filling it with toilet humour or something, then I'll switch off, but I will at least give it a fair chance. And even if it's appalling, My Little Pony has survived all kinds of stuff since the 1980s. It will survive this. I'd like it to do a little more and actually be entertaining, of course!

Edit: an interesting point made by Inkan1969 on EqD: in the pictures released there, the title card shows the ponies with coloured outlines. Every other picture, and the video, shows them with black outlines. Now I've had it pointed out, I can't unsee it. (For what it's worth, I think black outlines work better, perhaps because they remind me of what most of the IDW comic artists used.)

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 272

Read it Later story count: 232 (nc)

Here we go again! Another three stories this week, two slightly longer than I usually review here and one very short one.

Stuck by Callisto
The Best and The Worst by Firesight
Maybe Tomorrow by Baal Bunny

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

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

My Little Repeats 2: "Friendship is Magic, part 2"

Shall we? Oh, go on, let's do it, for old time's sake... "You know. For kids!"
Something I noticed in the comments last time was the number of people – even those who liked part 1 – who felt it was rather formulaic. It felt fresher to me, which I suspect has a lot to do with my general non-watching of modern animation. Anyway, time to end the cliff-hanger! Just be thankful you've only had to wait two days for it – back in 2010, the notion of running a Pony two-parter in a single slot lay well in the future: viewers had to wait for twelve days before they saw episode two. Yes, that's right: ep 1 went out on a Sunday, but ep 2 appeared on a Friday. Indeed, Friday would remain FiM day for the rest of S1.

S1E02: "Friendship is Magic, part 2"
Written by Lauren Faust
22 Oct 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.7

The one with Twilight forgetting how libraries work.

Thoughts: I like the foreshadowing of each of the ReMane Five's Elements, even though with hindsight it's pretty obvious. The Everfree Forest is a much spookier place than it becomes even later in S1, and I miss that – until this episode, none of the ponies had ever been inside before. The manticore shows the dangers pretty well, even if Rarity does kick him in the face! (But Twi wasn't allowed to hit Tirek years later? Hmm.) We get our first song – not a great one, but it's cute in its place. Steven Magnet appears, though he'd have to wait 98 episodes for his pirate-upload name to become canon. The Shadowbolts sequence is nice, showing just how susceptible to flattery early-series Rainbow can be. And of course there's the dramatic final confrontation and the return of (S1-style) Luna. Interesting that Twilight refers to her friends as "the spirits of the Elements of Harmony", not dependent on the physical artefacts. I suppose that also applies after the Tree's destruction so many years later! Also our first sight of Celestia and the first utterance (albeit with significance unexplained) of "cutie mark". And, right at the end, Pinkie's first fourth-wall moment. A fine episode. Not hugely representative of most of the season, but even so.

Choice quote: Twilight (sarkily) to Dash: "Yes, Rainbow. I was there."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "The Ticket Master", which my admittedly rusty memory doesn't recall being all that great. We shall see!

Monday, 11 November 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 43 to 39

Since I don't want to do two "My Little Repeats" posts on successive days, I need to put something else up today. "Sounds of 2012" would seem to fit the bill nicely. We're getting well into the upper half of the Everfree Radio listeners' selections now, and there are a couple of fairly well-known songs featured in this post. A quick reminder of when I'll feature a song – Rule 1 is by far the most common:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

43: Sim Gretina – Colgate Brushie Song (Inspector Brushie Remix)
42: Bronyfied – My Little Metal Medley
41: Bronyfied – Flower of the Season (ft. Aviators)
40: The Living Tombstone – Dubstep Dishwasher
39: Replacer – Let Your Mane Down (d.notive cover)

I have YouTube links, download info where offered and some brief information about each song beyond the cut.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

My Little Repeats 1: "Friendship is Magic, part 1"

I wonder how many of FiM's first viewers spotted this clever foreshadowing shot?
Welcome to My Little Repeats, everypony! Today, of course, we start off with the episode that started it all more than nine years ago. This episode is sometimes referred to as "Mare in the Moon", but I'm going to stick with the more common name here. As you'll see, I'm not joining double episodes together – so there'll be a thrilling cliff-hanger wait before you find out what I think of part two. Off we go!

S1E01: "Friendship is Magic, part 1"
Written by Lauren Faust
10 Oct 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.6

The one with the Rain-blow-dry.

Thoughts: The very first thing we see is the book opening – it would finally close over 220 epsodes later. The very first voice is Nicole Oliver's, and quickly we're into the storybook-style opening and the dramatic story of Nightmare Moon's banishment. Then it's back to Flash animation in its S1 form, which these days looks a bit sparse but still quite nice. Meeting the Mane Six is pretty fun throughout, and long-running concepts like Sparity and the Wonderbolts are efficiently introduced. "Ten seconds flat" also shows nice attention to detail. Mind you, Ashleigh Ball's voices for Applejack (especially) and Rainbow aren't quite there yet. Twilight's snarky personality is a joy to revisit, but her sometimes thoughtless treatment of Spike is less so, as is the dragon's partial illiteracy – thankfully swiftly forgotten. Nightmare Moon makes a fine villain in the short time she has on screen, and (despite an anachronistic CMC shot) the final scene works very well. All in all, a very promising beginning!

Choice quote: Twilight to Spike: "Focus, Casanova."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "Friendship is Magic, part 2" [You don't say? —Ed.], which I'm looking forward to very much as the series' first big adventure!

Saturday, 9 November 2019

EqG Mini-review: "Holidays Unwrapped"

Does nobody do any work in EqG-world when it snows?
Here we are, then. With the final Friendship is Magic episode now a few weeks behind us in the rear-view mirror, here's the final Equestria Girls special. This is actually not a special in the usual sense of the word, although it was marketed as such. It's a collection of several scenes, and it was written by Anna Christopher – who I'll confess I knew nothing whatsoever about before "Holidays Unwrapped" appeared. Was it any good? Well, past the cut you'll find my short assessment.

Friday, 8 November 2019

G5 film news!

Equestria Daily has reactivated the timer!
All being well, I'll finally have my "Holidays Unwrapped" mini-review up tomorrow. However, there's something big to report today! Well, probably. And it's this news. Paramount will be releasing a My Little Pony movie on 24th September 2021. Admittedly we poor sods in the UK probably won't get to see it until October, unless of course the sieve-like leakiness of recent years continues under new management – but hey, it's coming eventually!

There are, as far as I know, no further details yet in the public domain. I'd be staggered, however, if this wasn't to be the long-awaited CGI G5 prequel. The word is that this will use celebrity VAs, while the follow-up show (in 2D Toon Boom) will go with a regular voice cast. I'm not sure about this – I think one of the things that made the 2017 movie work was that it did use the show's voice cast – but then with the 2021 film, we won't have had seven years of voicing to condition us. Anyway, we'll see. But the ride rolls on!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

UK PonyCon report, part 6: Some thoughts

Bathed in sunshine as the con comes to a close
And at last, here's the final part of my waffling about UK PonyCon 2019. This takes the form of some semi-connected ramblings about the convention – obviously from my point of view, because writing from others' perspectives is something I can only really do in fiction. :P That being so, I make no claims that this will be a complete assessment, nor that other attendees will have had a similar experience.

This was a pretty happy con. The only thing that really went wrong was the appalling level of street noise almost throughout Friday night, and that had nothing to do with the convention itself. Otherwise, people seemed cheerful and good-natured, even when they were tired – as quite a few of us were. I think most of us will look back on UKPC 2019 with a smile, and certainly the notion that the end of Friendship is Magic might add a layer of melancholy didn't really come true.

It seems that attendance numbers were broadly comparable to last year's (900+) and that seemed a fair size for the venue. There was nearly always plenty of room to move around without things seeming too sparse – except perhaps in the refectory, which was surprisingly empty when I was there on Saturday lunchtime. Given this was the con's (and my) second year at NTU, it wasn't surprising that things were quite well laid out, but it was still very much appreciated.

UK PonyCon's committee, volunteers, venue staff and so on were all excellent. That rather goes without saying these days – this is an extremely well run con. I'm sure things are a lot more hectic behind the scenes at times, and I'm sure there were issues in places – but it says something that absolutely nobody I spoke to all weekend had any serious criticism of the people who make this convention possible. The history of MLP conventions is slightly chequered, but this one has a deservedly excellent reputation

More thoughts past the cut!

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 271

Read it Later story count: 232 (-3)

The end of Friendship is Magic certainly doesn't seem to have stopped people contributing ponyfic. In fact, Fimfiction's stats page shows that October was the first month since December 2017 when the total number of new story approvals broke the 1,000 barrier. Nearly three-quarters were E- or T-rated, too. It may not last – but it's still nice to see. Anyway, three fics today:

Special Relativity by Melon Hunter
Whoya gonna call? by Lexicon Spark
Let Her In by TooShyShy

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

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

My Little Repeats: full-series rewatch coming very soon!

I was originally going to leave my full-series rewatch of Friendship is Magic a little while longer, but it turns out that I'm just too impatient for that! So, like (it seems) about half the fandom, I'll be getting under way with that very shortly – perhaps in just a matter of days. If I waited until the other rewatchers had finished then I'd be waiting literally years to get started, so that is definitely not on!

I'm going to call my own rewatch My Little Repeats. For those unaware, "repeats" is the word that we in the UK use for what Americans generally call "reruns" – shows that have already been seen on TV. I thought the MLR name was a bit obvious, but a quick Google reveals that the phrase doesn't seem to be being used by anyone else in the fandom, and certainly not for a series rewatch like this.

My current intention is to watch about three episodes a week, with occasional adjustments for holidays, conventions and so on. (I'm tempted to break from the norm and review double episodes singly.) I'd like to try to avoid posting on two successive days, and this is the fastest pace that allows me to do that. I won't be worrying too much about posting on exactly the same days each week, since I can't guarantee to keep to an inflexible schedule.

Of course, Louder Yay won't only be here for My Little Repeats – another reason I want to keep some off days. Ponyfic Roundup and Sounds of 2012 will be continuing, and I'll carry on posting from time to time about other stuff that comes up. If there's a Really Big Deal, such as an official peek at the G5 designs, then that may well bump a planned MLR instalment back a day or two.

My Little Repeats is not going to be a short-term commitment, as I intend to see it through. Even at three episodes a week, it's going to take me well over a year. I'll still be writing MLR stuff into 2021. I already have a pretty good idea of the format I'll use – please don't expect full-length reviews, but more my briefish thoughts and points of interest; think Ponyfic Roundup review length.

Episodes will be reviewed in the order of their release on US TV, ignoring earlier foreign broadcasts or leaks – though I may well make a slight exception for the 2017 movie and watch that after all of S7; it's only a few weeks out and seems more comfortable there. I will also include "Best Gift Ever" and "Rainbow Roadtrip", even though the latter doesn't have an episode number.

And what about Equestria Girls, I hear you ask? That's a good question. Even though EqG is part of the G4 My Little Pony world and several of its releases do include segments set in Equestria, my current inclination is not to include them in this rewatch. That doesn't mean I won't rewatch them at some point, possibly even as another rewatch series – but not as part of this series.

Oh, and I hope this goes without saying, but just in case: I will be assuming that everyone reading MLR posts has already seen the entire series – so there will be no spoiler cuts! If I see something in S1 that reminds me of an episode in S9, then I'm not going to be coy about what that is. And now I think I've rambled quite enough. Keep a look out for My Little Repeats, coming very soon!

Monday, 4 November 2019

His Dark Materials

I haven't forgotten about the final part of my UK PonyCon report, but as that will take the form of a (moderately) thoughtful summing up, I want to take my time a little and get it to say what I want it to say. Unless anything comes up, though, I will have it up on the blog at some point this week. I'll also have a mini-review of Holidays Unwrapped, though it's not much of a spoiler to say now that it didn't exactly blow me away.

And now for something completely different. Last night, I watched episode one of the BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Well, all right, episode one of the first series, which will cover Northern Lights (US: The Golden Compass). I am a big fan of HDM, so I was nervous. I'm happy to report that I was very pleased. Not everything was perfect, but I definitely feel the makers get this world. So yes, recommended!

A few more specific thoughts now, with spoilers – though many probably won't make sense unless you've read the books, in which case they won't be spoilers!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 48 to 44

Let's have a quick "Sounds of 2012" post today. Unfortunately I've had to skip two of the five tracks this time for not complying with the four rules I've set myself for determining inclusion or otherwise. That's made this a rather short edition, for which apologies. Still, at least we have some music to remember! Before I get on to the three tracks I can talk about here, have a reminder of the inclusion criteria:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

48: skipped
47: Makkon – Deae Lunae
46: MLP:FiM Season 1-2 Medley
45: Aviators – Never Back Down (feat. d.notive and Yelling At Cats)
44: skipped

Come past the cut with me to find out a bit more about the tracks I didn't have to skip.