Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode Twenty Two

This episode features a rare combo: Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy, and Princess Celestia in a glorified cameo (that describes most of her appearances, actually).
A Bird in the Hoof
Fluttershy spends a typical day tending to the sick, in this case a mouse with a broken leg.  But it's not a typical day, as Angel rushes in to remind Fluttershy of a previous engagement.  It takes quite a bit of pantomime for Fluttershy to get his meaning, but as the clock chimes four, she remembers: the luncheon with Princess Celestia at Sugar Cube Corner!  She rushes off to get there before she's too late, but keeps coming back to thank Angel for reminding her so many times that finally the bunny just locks the door.
Down at Sugar Cube Corner, Rainbow Dash tries to get the royal guards to drop their stony facade, but gets bored before too long.  Fluttershy finally arrives, but loses her nerve when the guards bar her from entering.  Fortunately, Twilight Sparkle was passing by the door, and she lets the guards know Fluttershy is one of the guests. Inside, things are hopping, as Spike caramelizes a batch of creme brulees, and the Cakes make sure the Princess has everything she needs.  Twilight Sparkle tries to hide her nervousness about Princess Celestia meeting her friends, but even Fluttershy can see it.  Twilight's fears should be unfounded, as this isn't the first time the Princess has met everyone, not to mention she's already read about everyone week after week.  But this is the first prolonged get-together they've had, and it seems to have brought out the worst in everyone.  Despite the party being casual, Rarity pulled out her gown for the Grand Galloping Gala, realizing too late that wearing it now ups the chances of something happening to it, and spends her time warning people not to get near her.  Applejack becomes paralyzed at the table, unsure of the proper order to eat in, and Pinkie Pie becomes even more hyper than anyone ever thought possible, even going so far as to steal a cupcake from the Princess.  Overcome with embarrassment, the Cakes quickly get Pinkie out of there and replace the cupcake, and take pains to make sure the Princess' tea cup is never empty.  Princess Celestia takes this all in stride, even faking out the Cakes with a pretend sip.
The Princess' attention turns to Fluttershy, and she chats her up about caring for small creatures, all the while failing to acknowledge the hacking cough and molting feathers coming from the birdcage next to her.  The source: Celestia's pet Philomena, a rather odd-looking bird.  It's at this moment that the Princess is called away on urgent business with the mayor, so she cuts the party short and takes her leave, leaving Philomena behind.  As the other ponies exit, Twilight breathes a sigh of...not quite relief, but just gratefulness that nothing all that bad happened, unaware that Fluttershy has made off with Philomena.
Yes, Fluttershy, lover of animals that she is, has taken it upon herself to nurse the sickly bird back to health, assuming the Princess is too busy to do the job.  Her efforts, however, prove fruitless time and again, as putting the bird to bed gives her a fever, while trying to lower the fever gives her chills.  Philomena refuses a pill, and manages to evade Fluttershy's "hide it in a mound of birdseed" trick, nor will she drink any soup.  Fluttershy tries bringing in a feathered friend as testimony to her care, and while Philomena and Hummingway seem to hit it off, Philomena remains uncooperative.  A sauna, aromatherapy, a warm bath, ointment, taping feathers back on, nothing appears to be working.
There's a knock at the door, and Twilight Sparkle barges in, thanking Fluttershy for actually making a good impression at the party (unlike her other friends).  Her thanks soon turns to horror when she sees Philomena, looking worse than ever.  Fluttershy tries to justify her actions, but Twilight is having none of it.  Good intentions or no, taking something without permission will not fly, especially if that something belongs to the Princess.  Fluttershy agrees, and the two ponies quickly get Philomena ready to go, so they can put her back before anyone catches wind of what's happened.  Which of course means that the royal guards are standing at the door once they're about to leave.  The guards inform them that the royal pet is missing, and Twilight tries to keep cool, coughing (and getting Fluttershy to do the same) to cover Philomena's hacks.  She sends the guards on their way, hopefully with them none the wiser.
But now they have an even bigger problem, as they can't just waltz back into town with Philomena now.  Twilight freaks out imaging what Princess Celestia will do to Fluttershy for kidnapping her pet: banishment?  locked in a dungeon?  Banished, then locked in a dungeon?  The possibilities are endless!  Fluttershy is willing to take her punishment, but would rather just get Philomena better first.  So Twilight takes over the healing process, cramming a pill down the bird's throat, applying a cone to keep her from pulling out her feathers, and locking her in a birdcage to make her rest.  But when Twilight tries to force the soup on Philomena, the bird makes a run for it, leading to the return of the ersatz Yakkity Sax, last heard in episode three.
Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy chase Philomena all around Ponyville while also trying to avoid the royal guards.  Philomena, to her credit, pulls off a few tricks of her own, including the "hide behind the newspaper" bit, and drawing a mustache on a "Have you seen me?" poster of her.  Things come to a head when Philomena is spotted by both the ponies and the royal guards on top of the fountain, and the bird's very last feather falls off.  Philomena has a melodramatic death scene, only to spring up and even more dramatically throw herself off the fountain.  Fluttershy rushes to catch her, only for the bird to burst into flames before her very eyes, leaving nothing for her to catch but a pile of ashes.  Fluttershy is devastated, and even the royal guards are shocked.  Which is exactly when Princess Celestia arrives on the scene.
Twilight Sparkle tries to take all the responsibility for what just happened, but Fluttershy refuses to let her, confessing her deed to the Princess.  As she waits for her punishment, Princess Celestia approaches the pile of ashes, and tells it to "stop fooling around."  The ashes take to the sky, and in a flash of light, becomes an awesome firebird.  You see, as the Princess explains to a confused Fluttershy, Philomena is a phoenix, and has to be reborn from time to time by shedding its feathers and bursting into flame.  She also explains that Philomena is a bit of a trickster, and was messing with Fluttershy the whole time.  The bird apologizes.  Fluttershy escapes discipline this time around, since the runaround she went through, which she could have avoided by just asking the Princess' permission, was punishment enough.  Fluttershy promises not to jump to conclusions in the future, and Twilight wonders if she should write up this week's lesson, but Celestia lets her off the hook, as well.   Philomena gifts Fluttershy with one of her feathers, which gives Rainbow Dash an idea.  The pegasus whispers a plan to the phoenix, and Philomena tickles the noses of the royal guards, finally getting them to laugh.
I think that one's enjoyment of this episode hinges on whether or not you realize that Philomena is a phoenix before the reveal.  For me, it was painfully obvious, but then, I've seen the second Harry Potter movie, where a phoenix is introduced in much the same manner, countless times.  So for me, the middle was exceedingly tedious, since I knew that Fluttershy's attempts at healing were doomed to failure, and was waiting for the bursting into flames part.  Getting Twilight involved lifted the last part, and a good Benny Hill chase is always appreciated.  As always, the animation, especially the expressions, was top notch.

Misc. Screenshots:
Angel, keeled over from exhaustion 
Doctor Fluttershy
Twilight's tail stands on end 

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode Twenty One

Sorry to have put this one off for so long.  Not that I was avoiding this episode, though it isn't necessarily one of my favorites.  But it does have the voicing power of Scott McNeil in it, which is a definite plus.  And a wild west setting, with Settler ponies and Native Buffalo.
Over a Barrel
Out in the desert, a pony-pulled train chugs down the track, and Applejack reads a bedtime story to a tree, much to Rarity's disgust.  Her indignation has less to do with the story, and more to do with the fact that a tree gets an entire car to itself while she has to share space with the other ponies.  Applejack justifies it as the tree, named Bloomberg, is the reason for their trip: it's a gift for her cousins out in Appleloosa and she wants it to be in the absolute best condition.  Frustrated that Applejack feels more emotion for a tree than her, Rarity storms out.   As night falls, Spike and Rarity do their best to get some rest while the other ponies chatter, enjoying the ride.  Though Twilight Sparkle calls for lights out, the chatter continues, as a discussion on the tree-ness of Fluttershy ensues.  Spike heads for quieter cars, bunking down with Bloomberg, and even Rarity snaps, leading to lights out for real.
The next morning, the ponies are awakened by a thundering herd of buffalo running by the train.  And running into the train, as well.  Unable to knock it over, the buffalo form a ladder to get a small buffalo on top of the train.  Hearing hooves running the length of the car, Rainbow Dash goes to investigate.  Her attempts to talk to and/or stop the young buffalo are fruitless, though she is impressed by the buffalo's hoofwork.  And just when Rainbow Dash thinks she's got her, she crashes smack dab into a Railroad Crossing sign.  Ouch.  The young buffalo unhitches the last car from the train and signals the rest of the herd.  As the ponies watch helplessly, the buffalo herd makes off with the car containing Bloomberg and Spike.  Rainbow Dash recovers just in time to see the herd with the car, and vows vengeance both for Spike and her aching head.
Once the train arrives in Appleloosa, Applejack and the others attempt to head off to save Bloomberg and Spike, but are met by Braeburn, Applejack's cousin.  Without letting anyone get a word in, he welcomes them and shows them the sights: horse-drawn carriages, horse-drawn horse-drawn carriages, the watering hole (a salt bar), the sheriff's office, wild west dances, mild west dances, and of course, the apple orchard.  With that out of the way, Applejack finally gets him to listen and they explain how the buffalo took Spike and Bloomberg, plus Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie are missing.  At the word "buffalo," Braeburn's eye goes all twitchy.  It seems that the buffalo have demanded the Appleloosans remove all the trees from the orchard, which is probably why they took Bloomberg.  Braeburn laments the unfairness of this demand, since they need the apples to live on.
Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash, her head still smarting, sneaks around the desert, trying to get close to the buffalo herd, but runs into Pinkie Pie instead.  Which blows any chances of being sneaky, and soon the two ponies are surrounded by buffalo.  But Spike intervenes, and with one word from him, the buffalo take their leave.  Turns out buffalo have mad respect for dragons, so Spike is being treated as an honored guest, and while they don't care for ponies, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie are okay as long as they're with him.  Dash would rather take off while they still can, and when the young buffalo that she encountered on the train shows up with a bowl of turquoise for Spike, she's out of there, dragging Pinkie Pie with her.  The young buffalo, Little Strongheart, apologizes to Spike's friends, saying they just wanted the tree.  Spike takes them to Chief Thunder Hooves to get the whole story.  The chief tells Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie of the long and winding stampeding trail that the buffalo have run for generations upon generations, a sacred tradition that has now been upset by the apple trees planted by the settler ponies.  With the trees in the way, their path is cut off, effectively trapping them.  Hearing the buffaloes' reasons for taking the tree, Rainbow Dash is instantly on their side.
The next morning, the other ponies prepare for the long hike into buffalo territory, only to be surprised by Spike, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie showing up before they've even broken a sweat.  After everyone is reunited, Spike and the others reveal that they've brought Little Strongheart with them to talk to the Appleloosans.  Though Braeburn is eager to hear what Little Strongheart has to say, Applejack talks over him, and Rainbow Dash does the same for Little Strongheart, presenting their versions of the two sides.  Despite this, it soon becomes clear that both parties have good reasons for needing the land.  Twilight wonders how they can resolve this conflict, and Pinkie Pie comes up with a plan....
Later that day, with all the Appleloosans and buffalo collected, Pinkie Pie, dressed as a saloon girlperforms a number about how they're not so different and everyone needs to share and care.  However, the only conclusion that the leaders come to is that the performance was absolutely terrible.  Sorry, Pinkie.  In fact, things are worse than ever: Chief Thunder Hooves declares that the buffalo will stampede as planned, and will trample the orchard and the whole town if need be.  Sheriff Silver Star responds to this challenge, insisting they'll be ready and waiting.  Preparations begin immediately: the Appleloosans board up their houses, harvest the apples, and bake pies.  Lots and lots of pies.  Applejack and her friends try to talk some sense into the townsfolk, but they'll have none of it.  The buffalo, meanwhile, practice headbutting, sharpen their horns, and apply war paint.  Rainbow Dash appeals to the chief, but he can see no other course of action.
Noon approaches, the appointed hour for the stampede.  The buffalo gather on a cliff overlooking the town, where the settlers wait, pies at the ready.  As Rainbow Dash tries in vain to think of something, the clock chimes twelve times.  Little Strongheart puts a hoof on the chief's cheek, and with a resigned sigh, Chief Thunder Hooves stands down.  The ponies breathe a sigh of relief, which is short lived, as Pinkie Pie, doing her best to help the situation, decided to do a reprise of her song.  This so enrages Chief Thunder Hooves that he calls for the stampede to go as planned!  Pinkie Pie is carried away by the herd, as it easily breaks through the barricade.  The townspeople retaliate by throwing pies, which amazingly are able to take out full-grown buffalo.
It's ponies. vs. buffalo, with the ponies proving to have the upperhand, thanks to the pies and a few tricks.  But the chief goes straight for the sheriff, who finds himself out of pies.  Sheriff Silver Star prepares to go out like a pony, but as Chief Thunder Hooves approaches, a pie from left field flies into his path, knocking him out completely.  Seeing the fallen noble buffalo, ponies and buffalo alike mourn the chief.  But the chief is not gone for good, as the remnants of the pie dripping down his face land in his mouth and revive him!  With the sweet taste of apple pie, the chief is inspired, and a compromise is reached.  The buffalo agree to let the orchard stay if the Appleloosans clear part of the orchard for the buffalo to run through, and share the fruit.
And so the two groups are united, Bloomberg finally gets planted, and Twilight drafts her report to the princess: with compromise and understanding, even enemies can be friends, if they just share and care.  Pinkie Pie, of course, insists that Twilight is ripping off her song.
This was one of those episodes that had a lot of fun little moments, but didn't really add up to the sum of its parts, which isn't exactly a surprise, considering it was written by the same guy who wrote "Feeling Pinkie Keen."  For one thing, it feels like the Appleloosans were getting the worst of the deal at the end, since the buffalo got to run and have fruit, while the settlers got their orchard and didn't get their town smashed.  Sounds a little like extortion to me.  But overall it nice to see a different setting, and hilarious to see Pinkie Pie's song actually fail, and then incite a war.  And Braeburn was pretty awesome, too.

Misc. Screenshots:
Buffalo food
Pinkie's in trouble

Friday, April 22, 2011

MLPFiM Spot the Differences Game

There's a new game on, which I mention here only because it involves images from each episode, even ones that haven't aired yet (which as of today is two).  For a Spot the Difference game, it can actually be tricky.  There have been a few times where I just couldn't find the last thing, and using a hint robs you of full credit.
In related news, you can finally sign up for a Hub account, which means it's finally worth it to play Adventures in Ponyville.

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode Twenty

You think we'd be tired of Rarity-centric episodes by now, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
Green Isn't Your Color
It seems that Rarity and Fluttershy are closer friends than we knew, as they have a regular date at the spa, which Rarity is currently late for.  But with good reason, she assures Fluttershy when she finally shows up.  As they go through their usual treatments, Rarity reveals that she happened to run into the famous fashion photographer Photo Finish, who was so taken with Rarity's latest hat design that she's coming over the next day to take photos at Rarity's shop.  And of course, there's only one pony who can do justice to Rarity's current fashions: Fluttershy!  But Fluttershy is reluctant to agree, being shy by name and nature, and it takes a plethora of "pleases" from Rarity before Fluttershy gives in.
As the hour of Photo Finish's arrival draws near, Rarity enlists the help of her friends to get her featured dress just right, including a love-addled Spike, whose devotion is such that he even lets Rarity use him as a pin cushion (not that he feels any pain, thanks to his thick scales).  While Rarity is distracted, Spike confides in Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie about his crush on Rarity, though this is no secret to anyone, really, and Twilight nearly says as much.  But Pinkie Pie insists that she not say anything, since "losing a friend's trust is the fastest way to lose a friend forever!"  No time to worry about that now, though, as Photo Finish has arrived, assistants in tow.
And so the fashion shoot begins.  All of Fluttershy's coached poses are rejected by Photo Finish, but her dejection intrigues the fashion pony.  After just a few snaps, Photo Finish leaves with hardly a word, and Fluttershy and Rarity try to console each other on a botched first impression.  But wait, Photo Finish suddenly returns, insisting she's found the next fashion star who will shine all over Equestria (with her help, of course), and ordering a photo shoot in the park.  After she's gone, Rarity can hardly believe her ears: Photo Finish is going to showcase her designs!  In her joy, she gleefully jumps up and down, unaware that she's mashing Spike's tail as she does.
In the park the next day, Photo Finish arrives carried on a litter and instantly rejects Rarity's chosen outfit (a leftover from Sapphire Shores?), wanting instead something inspired by nature.  Rarity searches through the outfits she brought, not finding anything appropriate, but it turns out she's unneeded.  When Photo Finish said she found a new fashion star, she was actually referring to Fluttershy as a model, not Rarity as a designer.  As Rarity packs up her things, Fluttershy tries to bow out of modeling, but Rarity insists that she see it through, so at least one of them can shine.  Back at her shop, however, she must admit her disappointment to the others.  Spike shoos the others away, hoping for a chance with Rarity alone, but no dice.
Meanwhile, Fluttershy is prepped for her fashion debut on the catwalk.  Despite her nerves, she goes out for Rarity's sake, and her natural grace and timidness endear her to the crowd.  Hoity Toity himself declares her perfect for his next ad campaign.  And thus begins her life of photo shoots, stretch limo-carriages, and product endorsements.  Before long, she can't even walk down the street without being hounded by mobs of fans and paparazzi, much to her dismay.  She takes refuge in Rarity's shop, and the two ponies mask their true feelings for the sake of the other.  But their reunion is short-lived, as Photo Finish tracks her down, reminding her they have "the thing at the place."  Fluttershy promises to be at the spa for their regular date, but Rarity can barely contain her jealousy as the pegasus is dragged off.  Even more so when two of the regular background ponies have forgotten her name in favor of Fluttershy.
While Photo Finish gives a press conference, Fluttershy tries to get the photographer to finish up, so she can get to the spa.  Instead, PF suddenly remembers that Fluttershy is due to appear at the ballet opening, and so off they go.  At the spa, meanwhile, Rarity is waiting, sitting in the hot tub for so long that her hooves have gone pruney.  She gripes about Fluttershy's new career to Twilight Sparkle, confiding about how she should be happy for her friend but is too jealous, and makes Twilight promise not to tell.  Twilight starts to quote Pinkie Pie from earlier, but the pink pony pops up out of nowhere (actually, a bowl of sponges) to finish the quote herself: "FOREVER!"  Unable to wait any longer, Rarity leaves the hot tub and changes into her latest design.  Apparently she's been channeling her jealousy into her work.
No sooner does she leave than Fluttershy finally shows up, apologizing, but only Twilight is there to hear.  Her frustration is so great, she can't helping screaming, though not much actually comes out, and it doesn't even make her feel better.  She asks Twilight not to tell Rarity how much she really hates modeling, since Rarity wants her to do it so much.  Seeing the obvious solution to both Rarity and Fluttershy's problems, Twilight almost divulges Rarity's true feelings on the subject, but Pinkie Pie pops up out of the sponges yet again to remind Twilight of her promise.  "Forever!"  Unable to enlighten Fluttershy on her misconception, Twilight asks why she doesn't just quit.  Fluttershy insists that Rarity would be disappointed if she did, and Twilight nearly lets what Rarity told her slip, only to be stopped by Pinkie Pie popping up out of a nearby apple cart.  She even menacingly eats one of the apples to inspire Twilight's resolve to keep her promise.
Fluttershy laments the fact that she's just so moe, without even trying, which gives Twilight an idea: she can solve Rarity and Fluttershy's problems, while still keeping their secrets, with a little magic.  As she tells Pinkie Pie, if she uses her magic to make Fluttershy as un-moe as possible, then Photo Finish will drop her as a model, Rarity won't be jealous, and their secrets won't be a secret any more.  She also makes Pinkie Pie promise to reveal the plan to no one, which Pinkie Pie does by miming zipping her mouth closed, burying the key, building a house on top of the buried key, and then moving in.  Whatever floats your boat, Pinkie.
At the next fashion show, Rarity, who had been avoiding the shows, makes an appearance to see for herself if Fluttershy is really "all that."  Imagine her surprise when Fluttershy suddenly falls flat on her face, and then puts on a most disgraceful display, even managing to pick her nose (how is that possible with hooves?).  The crowd turns on Fluttershy, and Twilight smiles at her plan going as planned, until Rarity actually starts cheering.  The crowd is similarly perplexed; who in their right mind could have enjoyed that?  When the ponies see that the cheerer is a fabulously dressed unicorn, they are swayed, for someone with that much fashion sense obviously knows what she's talking about.  Twilight's plan has failed, and Fluttershy is more popular than ever!
Backstage, Fluttershy is so frustrated over the failed plan, she kicks a nearby vase, though without actually knocking it over.  "If only Rarity didn't want me to be a model so badly," she moans, and Twilight again nearly let's Rarity's secret slip, stopping herself short by stuffing her hoof in her mouth.  Rarity, however, shows up herself to see how Fluttershy is doing.  Fluttershy again puts on a brave face for her friend, causing Twilight stuff both front hooves in her mouth to keep herself from revealing the pegasus' true feelings.  Rarity confesses that she actually felt good when the crowd started turning on Fluttershy before, and Twilight has to stuff a basket of fruit down her throat to keep from telling Fluttershy the whole thing.  But fortunately for Twilight, Rarity finally tells her friend that she's been jealous this whole time, hoping that something like this would happen so that she would fail.  But when it actually happened, she realized how terrible it was for her to wish failure on her friend, when she was just doing what she loved.  Which prompts Twilight to stuff her head in a plant to keep Fluttershy's secret under wraps.  But Twilight needn't have bothered, since Rarity's confession inspires Fluttershy to confess her own true feelings, that she was only modeling because Rarity wanted her to.  They both realize they could have avoided the whole thing if they'd just been honest with each other, and promise to always share their true feelings in the future, Pinkie Pie style.
Which is when Photo Finish arrives, crowing about how brilliant Fluttershy was, and how many jobs she's already got lined up.  But Fluttershy tells her she's quitting, and she and Rarity exit, leaving Photo Finish wondering what just happened.  And all the strain of not telling secrets finally gets to Twilight, as the first thing out of her mouth once she goes up for air is Spike's secret.  Pinkie Pie appears in a nearby mirror (...somehow) just to let Twilight know how disappointed she is in her.  Later, as the ponies relax at the spa, Twilight dictates her latest letter to the princess on what she's learned (keep your friends' secrets, but don't be afraid to share your true feelings), but Spike is having none of it, still miffed over Twilight's lack of secret-keeping skills.  The unicorn apologizes, but Spike still won't take down her letter, since he's too busy fanning Rarity.
What I loved about this ep was the little touches, like how Rarity is such a regular at the spa that she has her own monogrammed bathrobe, not to mention all the little contrasts between her treatments and Fluttershy's (i.e. Rarity gets a full mud mask while Fluttershy just has her cheeks covered).  And this ep also explains how Fluttershy knew so much about sewing and fashion back in "Suited For Success."  Still, it was a little frustrating that Twilight didn't think to tell Fluttershy and Rarity to just talk to each other, but I guess it might not be something that would spring to her mind, still being relatively knew to the friendship game.
Animation-wise, there were so many good expressions!  And Fluttershy really did make an adorable model.  I wish she'd wear her hair up more often.  And one last thing: it bugs me that so many people think Photo Finish was based on Lady Gaga when she's so obviously meant to be Anna Wintour, head editor of Vogue Magazine, famous for her pageboy haircut, never taking off her sunglasses, and discovering new talent.

Misc. Screenshots:
Pouty face
Rarity T-Shirt
Too much blush
Magazine cover 1
Magazine cover 2
Twilight's plan goes awry

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sneak Peek Coloring Pages

Snagged from Equestria Daily.  It seems Hasbro has put up coloring pages of Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Twilight Sparkle, and Spike as their younger selves, giving us a little taste of the much-awaited flashback episode "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" (airing April 15th).