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There is always this hurdle that fans of a new film or show based on a beloved property has to go through whether they like it or not, the new iteration of said property. With something like My Little Pony, the last incarnation of the show had a decade worth of seasons, DTV specials, and a feature-length film. Like, that’s a ton of stuff for one generation of a show. It’s time for a change of pace and that’s going to happen for any long-time running series. At the end of the day, what it all adds up to is that the new incarnation of the franchise adds something distinct to make it stand out, and the execution of said new entry in the franchise is entertaining. Luckily, My Little Pony: A New Generation has put its best hooves forward for a rather magical time. I promise you, the horse puns will be as minimal as possible in this review.
Our story follows Sunny Starscout, voiced by Vanessa Hudgens. She is an earth pony that lives in a nice oceanside town known as Maretime Bay, a community full of only earth ponies. In this incarnation of the franchise, it takes place after a rather long length of time from the last show, and now the earth ponies, the pegasi, and unicorns are segregated and live separately from one another. Sunny is the only one to believe that there used to be a time period where they all lived in harmony, and is constantly laughed at for believing in something as optimistic as living together in peaceful harmony. One day, as she is almost forced back to her place, a unicorn shows up and causes the entire town to crumble into chaos. This new unicorn is named Izzy Moonbow, voiced by Kimiko Glenn in her second horse/pony appearance this year alongside the amazing Centaurworld. Sunny soon realizes that something is amiss in Equestria due to the fact that unicorns can’t use their magic. Sunny and Izzy then go on a journey around the land to try and reunite the three races and bring the world together. Along their journey, they meet two pegasi ponies named Zephyrina Storm and her sister Pipp Petals voiced by Liza Koshy and Sofia Carson, and Sunny’s friend from Maretime Hitch Trailblazer, voiced by James Marsden. Can our heroes find a way to unite the world and bring metaphorical and literal magic back to the world?
With this being a brand new batch of characters and a new setting, is there enough here to make the film and world feel different from the previous show? The world feels a little more technologically advanced with certain pieces of tech like phones and HD screens being noticeable, which doesn’t fully take away from the magic and timelessness of the previous show, and honestly adds a bit more to the overall theme of how the world has metaphorically and literally lost all of the magic. It still has its fantastical details, but the setting helps bring the film up to date in a better way than the 90s version did where they took out the magic and just placed the ponies in a “50s era/Happy Days” setting. It takes a pseudo similar approach to how Onward handled its lost magic approach, but without the discrimination and themes of segregation and propagandistic campaigns.
Oh yeah, while this is a film based on a toy line of multi-colored ponies, the film is unapologetic with its themes and commentary. The overall world in this film is split up, due to the works of discrimination and propaganda fueled by racism and it’s also mentioned in the songs as well. Sure, this is nothing new in the world of My Little Pony, but it’s nice to see them not regress in terms of world-building and storytelling. This has happened before where the previous incarnations had some substance to them, but then the more recent one was just “sell toys who cares about plot and substance”. While the story and characters do feel like this is a pilot film for an upcoming series, the characters are likable. They are distinct within their designs and personalities even down to subtle animation quirks that they are given due to this being a film. It’s also nice that they aren’t going full tilt with “they are the previous generation, but 2.0” with the cast of characters. They all feel distinct, and this is the first time in a while where a male lead is introduced into the core cast. Some of them could have had a bit more time to be fleshed out, but again, this is probably a pilot film and their personalities are going to be expanded upon in the main series.
Animation-wise, while it won’t be competing against some of the bigger CGI films of the year like Luca and the upcoming Encanto, A New Generation does look attractive. It has good character animation, the texture compositing makes for a rather lovely film, the color palette is pleasing, and it’s pretty much a better-looking version of the other toy and show-based film of this year, Paw Patrol: The Movie. Boulder Media, the Irish studio behind the first season of The Amazing World of Gumball, and many other productions helm the animation here, and they did a fantastic job. You don’t need to spend millions and millions of dollars on theatrical/feature animation, you just need to know how to work around the budget and make it look satisfactory. Having the highest-end animation doesn’t always mean the film is going to be good.
The voice cast is quite strong with actors that include Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Marsden, Sofia Carson, Liza Koshy, Elizabeth Perkins, Ken Jeong, Jane Krakowski, Phil LaMarr, and Michael McKean. And yes, the original cast of the previous incarnation of the franchise does make an appearance with Tara Strong, Tabitha St. Germain, Andrea Libman, Ashleigh Ball all playing their respective characters for a humorous and lovely 2D animated sequence. The songs are also another mainstay from the franchise and they are quite good in this film. They were composed by Alan Schmuckler and Michael Maher, while Heitor Pereira composed the overall score of the film. The songs are diverse in tunes and the singing is actually on point for a lot of the characters, but there are going to be songs you will like more than others.
There are only a few criticisms to be found with this film. The first one is that the story and its overall execution does feel like a pilot film for a TV series. The pacing feels a touch repetitive in terms of how the story unfolds, and like previously said in the review, not all of the five main characters get development. The later they are introduced, the less time they have on screen. They are likable, but if you were a fan of these characters, then you will have to wait and see how they turn out in the upcoming TV series. There are also some mixed feelings overall to be had with how the final act unfolds. It’s like when you go from Bayonetta 1’s final boss, which is this deity that throws literal universes at you, and you finish it off by throwing it into the sun, to Bayonetta 2’s final boss who is this human-sized boss when the previous bosses were gigantic individuals. It feels like a step backward to go from a powerful demonic pony from the first season of the previous show to a mama’s boy that uses something that you would find in a Super Mario game piloted by Bowser Jr. He fits the overall theme of the film, but still.
A New Generation is, well, a new incarnation of the franchise that hits it out of the park with an overall fantastic first impression. It has a solid core theme, the animation is quite lovely, and it’s an enjoyable time with a solid soundtrack to boot. The fact that there was a lot of obvious effort put into the film is incredible. This could have easily been some slapdash film put together to get the new series off the ground without doing anything different, and yet here we are in a period of time where even some films made with a license in tow can be rather delightful experiences. If you are hesitant to check out this new film because you were such a huge fan of the last show, well, it’s understandable, but you should also get over it. Embrace both the old and the new. It’s on Netflix for free, so you have nothing but time to waste in that regard. Next time, we shall journey back to Netflix for a limited series that is such a delight!
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Rating: Go See It!