Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode 33

Rainbow Dash takes the focus and finally gets a pet of her own, managing to be both awesome and kind of a jerk in the process.
May the Best Pet Win!
Rainbow Dash zooms through the sky, as she is wont to do, performing many aerial tricks before being joined by Owloysius (last seen in episode 24).  To her surprise, the owl is able to keep up with her, and to her even bigger surprise, he suddenly sprouts Winona's head and barks at her.  To her further surprise, Owloysius adds Angel and Gummy to the mix, and Opalescense pops out, xenomorph-like, fully freaking Rainbow Dash out and causing her to fall from the sky and back into waking life.  That's right, she was just dreaming, with her dream influenced by the noises of the other ponies' pets, who are all hanging around the tree she was napping in.  Speaking of, the others are not far behind, and Rarity apologizes for the pets.
It seems that the rest of the mane casts have a weekly playdate for the pets, which Rainbow Dash wasn't privy to seeing as 1. she doesn't have a pet and 2. she usually takes a nap around that time anyway.  Which Rainbow totally understands.  So the others get back to playing with their pets and Dash gets back to her nap.  However, she then gets offended that they all assumed she would never have a pet, and tells them so.  This sends Fluttershy into a rhapsody, literally, as she drags Dash back to her treehouse and tells her, in song, all about the many potential pets she has.  And Dash replies, in song, that it has to be a pet that is cool, fast, and can fly.  After a few false starts, in song, Fluttershy finally brings in the animals that fit the bill, but there's too many choices, so Rainbow Dash decides, in song, to hold a contest to see which animal is worthy of being her pet.
Once everything is set up, Rainbow Dash gives the prospective pets a rousing speech about what is expected of them, causing to the other ponies to wonder if Dash really "gets" what having a pet is about.  But her contest, her rules.  Fluttershy, despite knowing Dash's prerequisites quite well, brings in one more competitor: a tortoise.  Dash flat out refuses to let him even try, but Fluttershy's continual wheedling gets her to give in.  But she lets the tortoise know that this isn't going to be a walk in the park.  With the line-up settled on, Dash describes the various tests: Speed, Agility, Guts, Style, Coolness, Awesomeness, and Radicalness.  Twilight objects that the last three are all the same thing, which just proves she would never make a good pet for Rainbow Dash.
The falcon is the clear winner of the Speed test, and the hummingbird takes the Agility test, though it loses points for being unable to high-five without falling.  As for Guts, only the monarch butterfly is brave enough to get Opal's toy away from her, with bonus points for essentially hypnotizing her to do it.  The Style test involves posing for photos, and Coolness is judged solely on their calls, with the Eagle winning for an inaccurate call.  Awesomeness is a test of natural talents, with the owl's head-turn trumping the rest, and the Radicalness test is all about performance, which the bat wins, though with points off for being awesome rather than radical.  And the tortoise is pathetic at each test, which Rainbow Dash is quick to point out.
When the points are tallied, it's the tie between the falcon, the owl, the eagle, and the bat.  Since there can only be one, Rainbow Dash declares the final test will be a race against herself through Ghastly Gorge.  She also declares that the winner will have to cross the finish line with her in order to win.  Despite not making the cut, the tortoise joins in anyway, but is left woefully in the dust.  Rainbow Dash takes off like a flash, flying through the many obstacles in the gorge, (including Quarray Eels) and the potential pets following behind the best they can.
Getting cocky, Rainbow Dash flies backwards and smacks right into the gorge wall, getting caught in a rockslide that leaves her wing pinned.  The potential pets, unaware of her plight, fly right on by.  Worrying that she'll be stuck in the gorge forever, Rainbow Dash starts to panic, and begins to succumb to despair, when she suddenly hears the sound of (hopefully) a rescuer.  She rejoices at her good fortune, until she sees her would-be savior: the tortoise.  Despite her lamentations, the tortoise manages to lift the rock.
At the finish line, the other ponies cheer as the challengers come into view, and the falcon crosses first. However, it soon becomes clear that all is not right, as the potential pets are all there, but there's no sign of Rainbow Dash.  Twilight pulls out her binoculars, which are commandeered first by Fluttershy and then Applejack, who spots the fallen rocks.  As the others discuss what to do, Pinkie Pie catches sight of Rainbow Dash riding on the tortoise's back.  Accommodating the tortoise's slow speed, the others bring the finish line to him and celebrate.  Rainbow Dash thanks to the tortoise for rescuing her, and Fluttershy introduces her new pet, the falcon.  Rainbow Dash, however, is not so sure any more.  The others point out that it's just what she wanted in a pet, and Rarity commemorates the event with a photo.  The camera's flash sends the tortoise back into his shell, and Rainbow Dash tries to coax him out.  She has a conundrum, as she has the pet she thought she wanted, but finds that she now wants a different one.  But she remembers that her exact words were that the pet who crossed the finish line with her would be the winner, and only the tortoise did that.  The falcon, though disappointed, takes his loss like a gentleman.
With things settled, Rainbow Dash calls for Spike to take a letter to the princess, and as she dictates what she's learned (there are more important traits in a pet or friend than just being cool), the tortoise manages to get Opal's toy away from the cat, passing the Guts test.  Dash praises the tortoise for his tenacity, which gives her the perfect name for him: Tank.  Fluttershy, however, points out that one of the reasons Rainbow Dash turned down the tortoise in the first place was that it couldn't fly, but in a magical land, anything is possible, even magic-powered tortoise-copters, which Tank debuts at his first pony-pet playdate.
There's a lot of fun stuff in this one, but it was pretty obvious that the tortoise was going to end up as Rainbow Dash's pet.  For me, it was when he put on the sunglasses during the song.  All the tests were interesting to watch, and it was great having Flight of the Valkyries as BGM (and Rainbow Dash whistling it?  Priceless!).  The Find a Pet song, while nice, doesn't feel worthy of being the first song of season two.  And see these faces:

I don't like them.  I know this puts me in the minority, but I really, really hope they don't show up again.  There's just something off-putting about them to me.

Misc. Screenshots
Headsucker Gummy
Applejack and Winona

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I know it's almost over (on the east coast, anyway), but I hope you all had a happy holiday.  And I also hope that you enjoy this video.  Seriously, I was dying watching it:

Cranberry Christmas

Working in a library, I am well acquainted with the Cranberryport series written by Wende and Harry Devlin.  Yet I was surprised, but pleased, to find out that the appropriate book had been turned into an animated Christmas special, and that it was available online.  Unfortunately, I couldn't seem to get it to load except on random occasions, but I did eventually get to see it.
The special is all right, but it is quite obviously animated in Flash, which I found distracting at times.  The voice acting is pretty good, but Rob Paulsen is just too high pitched for Mr. Whiskers.  Reading the books, I always imagined him with a much deeper voice.  Scott McNeil using his Chief Thunder Hooves voice would have been a better match, in my opinion, but ah well.  But there is just one major thing about it that bugs me, and that is the expanded role of Cyrus Grape.  In the book, Mr. Grape only shows up at the beginning and end of the book, claiming ownership of a skating pond and forbidding anyone to use it.  Mr. Whiskers disagrees with this, but has no way to prove Mr. Grape doesn't own the pond, until, in the course of cleaning up for his sister's visit, he comes across a deed which proves the pond is actually on his property.  In the special, Mr. Whiskers and Cyrus both claim ownership of the pond, which leads to Cyrus examining his deed and finding no mention of the pond.  Which in turn leads to him sneaking around outside Mr. Whisker's house and talking to the camera a lot, plus sabotaging Mr. Whisker's house cleaning to the tune of a "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"-like song  (Barry Manilow is no Thurl Ravenscroft, but the song is kind of catchy), all to keep Mr. Whiskers from finding his deed.
I should mention that there is precedent for this expansion.  Cranberry Christmas is the fourth book in the series, and the second appearance of Cyrus Grape.  While in this book, he's mostly just a curmudgeon, in his first appearance (Cranberry Halloween) and later appearances, he doesn't hesitate to try something shady.  So it makes sense to use him being up to no good as a way to expand the book into a 24-minute television special.  Knowing this, I still find it annoying.  Probably because all the Cyrus sneaking around stuff means that Mr. Whiskers freaking out about Maggie and her grandmother cleaning out his house is pretty much eliminated, and that actually would have been pretty funny to hear in Rob Paulsen's voice.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's about time!

At long last, Cherry Jam is part of Strawberry Shortcake's section of AGKidzone.  I'm assuming that they put off adding her until this week because in this past episode, she decided to make Berry Bitty City her home for good.  It's not like they had a lot of extra work to do that kept them from adding her.  Clicking on her just brings up a profile blurb, aim icon, a non-existent coloring page (I assume it'll surface eventually) and her music video. For all I know, the video might have been on the site earlier, since every time I checked, I only bothered looking at the front page, assuming that, as the newest video, would be the very first one.  But no, now that it's on the site, it's the last video, on page two.  Why?  Who knows?  At any rate, the music video has been up on The Hub for a couple of weeks now (in better quality), and even SSC's youtube had it before AGP put it up (assuming they only put it up this week).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode 32

The first Cutie Mark Crusader episode of Season Two, though it mostly focuses on Apple Bloom.
The Cutie Pox
Today the CMC plan to get cutie marks in bowling.  In fact, Apple Bloom is so certain that all three of them will get bowling marks, she starts brainstorming a new name for their group before they even set hoof inside the bowling alley.  Her hopes may have been set too high, as Sweetie Belle gets a gutterball, and Scootaloo's attempt sends her ball careening around the alley like a pinball.  Apple Bloom's turn is immediately followed by cries of "A bowling cutie mark!" but not for her, as her ball didn't even manage to knock over one pin.  The other two are able to shrug off this failure pretty easily, but Apple Bloom is more bummed out than usual.  The other two crusaders attempt to cheer up their friend, but nothing works.  Not a cupcake, a party, or even a new hat.  All Apple Bloom wants to do is wander around in a desolate haze, and she wanders right into the Everfree Forest, despite her friends' warnings.
It doesn't take long for Apple Bloom to run into trouble, though thankfully all that happened was tripping on a rock and chipping her tooth.  And fortunately, Zecora was nearby and just happens to have a remedy for chipped teeth.  As the potion brews, Apple Bloom vents her frustration at not being able to get a cutie mark, and Zecora prescribes patience.  That's something Apple Bloom's heard before, and she doesn't take too kindly to hearing it again.  But Zecora's potion does the trick, which gets Apple Bloom to thinking.  If Zecora has a potion to heal almost anything, surely she can mix up something to make cutie marks appear.  But Zecora just tells her there's no such thing, and goes on to work on her next brew, to bring back a rooster's crow.  She adds a few petals from a flower called Heart's Desire, explaining that it will bring forth the rooster's talent.  As this fact runs through Apple Bloom's mind, Zecora steps out to pick up another flower she needs for the potion, leaving the young filly alone.
The next morning, as the young ponies play before school, Apple Bloom proudly flaunts her no-longer-blank flank, which now sports the image of a round ring.  According to Apple Bloom, the ring is a loopty hoop, a toy that Applejack made for her a while ago.  Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon scoff, as hula hooping is hardly a "special" talent, but Apple Bloom shows off a couple of tricks using the hoop, garnering praise from all the other ponies.  So amazing are her tricks, in fact, that everyone ignores the school bell.  Even Cheerilee insists she continue, though by turning it into a lesson.  And so Apple Bloom instructs them all in loopty hooping, before getting sucked into showing off her tricks again.
In the middle of using the hoop to hover, another cutie mark appears on Apple Bloom's flank: spinning plates.  Diamond Tiara accuses Apple Bloom of faking the cutie marks, but she's able to spin the plates and the hoop without any trouble.  Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo enthuse at their luck of being friends with such a special pony, and Apple Bloom takes her act into town, class in tow.  She involves the nearby ponies in her tricks (including most of the mane six), and is cheered by all.
After a full day of hooping and plate spinning, Apple Bloom is ready for bed.  However, as Applejack discovers, a third cutie mark appears, a pair of shoes, compelling her to tap dance (while still spinning plates and hooping) against her will.  Applejack attempts to stop her, but brute force doesn't work.  So, it's off to Twilight's, to see if she can help.  Luckily for them, she happened to read about strange pony illnesses the other day, and as usual, Spike knows just what book it was in.  A few flips, and Twilight has the answer: Apple Bloom's contracted the Cutie Pox, a mysterious illness that caused the ponies afflicted to act out the talents displayed all over their bodies.  Unfortunately, there's no known cure but time, as the cutie marks will eventually vanish.  But there's no telling how long that will take, and Apple Bloom gains another cutie mark: speaking French.  Seeing that the pox is progressing, Twilight realizes they need to see if Zecora can mix up a cure.
The two ponies race off, but Apple Bloom can only go as fast as she can tap.  Her progress is further hindered when a mark for sculpting appears, quickly followed by chimney sweeping, accordion playing, lion taming, playing chess, fencing, and more.  Watching this crazy display, the other ponies in town start to think Apple Bloom has been cursed, but Spike sets them straight about the cutie pox.  Which is worse, as the very mention of the disease's name sends all the ponies back to their homes, bolting the doors.  Zecora happens to show up then, and assumes that the ponies have gone back to their zebra-fearing ways.  Since they were just about to go see her, Applejack wonders if she has a "zebra sense."  But no, Zecora is in town because her supply of Heart's Desire has gone missing.  She asks Apple Bloom, but the pony is mum on the subject (too busy window washing).
Zecora does have a cure for the cutie pox: the seeds of truth.  When planted and fed true words, they'll grow the cure, she says, giving Apple Bloom the stink eye.  This is missed by Applejack, who simply plants the seeds and calls for somepony to tell the truth.  No one will speak up, even as Apple Bloom suddenly develops a whirling dervish talent.  As the silence grows, Pinkie Pie cracks and confesses to eating three corncakes when she said she only ate two.  When nothing sprouts, she confesses it was really six.  Still nothing. Finally Apple Bloom, sick of spinning, admits that she didn't really earn her cutie mark.  This not only stops her spinning, but the mound with the seeds begins to move.  Apple Bloom further admits that she used the Heart's Desire to mix up a potion, and the seeds grow into a plant with a beautiful flower.
Apple Bloom bolts down the flower, and one by one the false cutie marks disappear.  The other members of the CMC venture forth to make sure Apple Bloom's okay, and Apple Bloom apologizes for lying to them about her cutie mark.  She also apologizes to Zecora for stealing the Heart's Desire, but Zecora forgives her, reminding her that making mistakes is how one grows, after all.  And just like that, she's gone.
Twilight asks Apple Bloom to write this week's friendship report, and she accepts.  Through her misadventure, she learned that taking a shortcut for what you really want doesn't lead to true satisfaction, since you know that you didn't get it fairly.  Being honest (and patient) is the way to go.  However, just because she's learned to wait doesn't mean she has to just sit around, and she and the rest of the CMC are off again, this time to see if, based on her little escapade, Apple Bloom might have an aptitude for potion making.
My favorite part of this episode, really, is the opening scene, introducing, as it does, a few new background ponies, and pony versions of characters from The Big Lewbowski.  Plus I just love the concept of a bowling alley in Ponyville.  But this episode was a lot of fun in and of itself, even if I don't think I'd rewatch it all that often.  It's always nice to see Zecora again.  Weird how Apple Bloom was able to mix up a potion that perfectly matched an ancient disease on the first try.  Then again, it was probably mostly the effects of the Heart's Desire.  Which is probably also why everyone, even the teacher, was so enamored of Apple Bloom's hooping talent.  Not only did it make cutie marks (and matching talents) appear, but it compelled everyone to watch, reflecting (perhaps) a desire in Apple Bloom not just to have a cutie mark, but an amazing one at that.

Misc. Screenshots
Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are aghast
Blushing Snips
Twilight with Rarity's 'do

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode 31

After the craziness of the past few episodes, this one takes things down a few notches, focusing on the sisterly duos of Rarity & Sweetie Belle and Applejack & Apple Bloom.
Sisterhooves Social
Rarity awakens one morning to the smell of a delicious breakfast and...smoke?  It can only mean one thing: Sweetie Belle's cooking.  Sure enough, Rarity finds her sister in the kitchen, annoyed that her surprise breakfast-in-bed plan has been found out.  Rarity also finds her parents, pleased as punch at the charred work of their youngest daughter.  They're dropping off Sweetie Belle, since Rarity promised to watch her while they're on vacation, which Rarity had completely forgotten about.
As soon as their parents pull away, Rarity heads back into the kitchen to cook them both a proper breakfast.  Though she promises Sweetie Belle can help, she ends up doing most of the work herself, until Sweetie Belle complains.  So Rarity lets her place the garnish on the plates.  However, she micromanages the whole process, which causes Sweetie Belle to slip and knock everything off the table.  The garnish does land perfectly, though.
By the time the kitchen is cleaned up, it's time for Rarity to get to work, so she has Sweetie Belle take the used towels to the laundry room.  Her little sister, wanting to be useful, takes it upon herself to do the laundry, which wouldn't have been a problem, except that she included Rarity's incredibly expensive, one-of-a-kind designer crocheted wool sweater.  Which promptly shrinks.  With great effort, Rarity manages to control her anger, and heads back inside, warning her sister to stay out of trouble.
But Rarity's boutique is not that kid-friendly, and Sweetie Belle soon finds herself bored out of her skull.  Remembering her sister's warning, she spots some crayons and paper, and since she's never been yelled at for drawing, gets to work.  She feels her artwork needs a little something extra, and she proves she is most definitely Rarity's sister when she decides that something is pretty light blue gems, and Rarity just happens to have a whole trunkful.  But when she shows Rarity the finished product, it creates screams of horror rather than delight.  It seems that these were no ordinary gems, but extremely rare baby blue sapphires, which Rarity procured for a very important client's outfit.  And Sweetie Belle used every single one.  Going off to get more, if she even can, Rarity instructs Sweetie Belle to clean up the art supplies, and to try and find something to do that doesn't end in a big mess.
Fortunately for Rarity, she was able to find more (they can't be that rare, then), which has her in high spirits once more.  But not for long, once she sees what Sweetie Belle did to her workshop.  The entire room is tidied up and organized, much to Rarity's dismay.  Sweetie Belle is confused by Rarity's reaction, since normally the unicorn is all about cleaning and being organized.  But her workshop is the one place Rarity needs a mess for inspiration, and now she has to start all over.  With even greater effort, Rarity keeps her temper in check, telling Sweetie Belle she just needs some alone time.
So Sweetie Belle, feeling low, heads into town, where she runs into Apple Bloom, who is promoting the heck out of the Sisterhooves Social.  She plugs it as the sisterly bonding activity Sweetie Belle and Rarity need, and Sweetie Belle immediately agrees.  However, when she brings it up to Rarity, her sister disagrees, mostly because it's being held at Sweet Apple Acres.  Sweetie Belle insists that any sisters who care about each other go to the social, but Rarity counter-insists that playing around in the dirt is just too uncouth for her to deal with, sisterly or not.  This is the last straw for young Sweetie Belle, who renounces Rarity as her sister.  Rarity is shocked and annoyed at this, feeling that if anyone should be renouncing sisterhood around here, it should be her, based on all the trauma Sweetie Belle has put her through.  Tempers flare, and Sweetie Belle storms out, which suits Rarity perfectly fine.
Sweetie Belle airs her woes at Sweet Apple Acres, where Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Big Macintosh are getting things ready for the Sisterhooves Social.  Applejack advises her to just give Rarity a little time to cool down, and asks her to help them get ready.  Sweetie Belle is hesitant, considering her earlier forays into "helping," and is mystified when she sees how Applejack and Apple Bloom have turned collecting bruised apples into a game.  Her try doesn't go as well, and seeing how well Applejack and Apple Bloom work together just reminds her of how Rarity wouldn't let her help out.  Speaking of Rarity, she's still fuming over Sweetie Belle neatening up her workshop, until she notices how her fabrics are now lined up in rainbow order.  This inspires her for a new line, which she dubs Full Spectrum Fashions.  Despite this, she's still miffed over Sweetie Belle's unsolicited help.
Back at Sweet Apple Acres, Apple Bloom gets a turn at stomping on grapes for grape juice, but gets a little overenthusiastic and splashes Applejack.  To Sweetie Belle's surprise, Applejack doesn't get mad, but just joins her in the tub to get her covered in grape juice, too.  Meanwhile, Rarity prepares to wash her latest creations, but spots her shrunken sweater and fumes again.  Until she realizes it's the perfect size for Opal now.  Still, she isn't quite ready to forgive her little sister.  Applejack and Apple Bloom corral some sheep, amazing Sweetie Belle with their oneness of purpose.  And Rarity finishes up her commissioned outfit, but needs just one more sapphire.  Again raging at the Sweetie Belle-emptied trunk, she goes to see if she can't pry one off of her sister's art project.  And is rendered speechless, as this time she actually sees the image: her and Sweetie Belle, surrounded by a heart of sapphires.  Seeing this, she dramatically agonizes over the way she treated her one and only sister, and with a speech inspired by Gone With The Wind, she vows to get Sweetie Belle back and make it up to her!
Night falls, and Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle gather around a campfire, which is where Rarity finds them.  Sweetie Belle is still miffed, but when Rarity apologizes, she tells her that spending the day with Applejack and Apple Bloom has shown her she needs a sister.  Just not Rarity.  So instead, she's decided to make Applejack her new sister, which is a shock to everyone.  Applejack tries to get her to reconsider, and Apple Bloom refuses to share her sister.  So Sweetie Belle suggests that Rarity take on Applejack as her new big sister, to show her what a sister should be.  Rarity insists she doesn't need lessons on sistering, and to prove it, offers to teach Sweetie Belle all manner of things that she (but not necessarily Sweetie Belle) enjoys.  Sweetie Belle is having none of it, and huffs off.  Rarity complains to Applejack for making her look bad, but Applejack just explains to her that being sisters is like apple pie: it's only together that they become something special.  Once this sinks in, Rarity realizes what she has to do!
On the day of the Sisterhooves Social, Sweetie Belle checks out the various competitions with Applejack and Apple Bloom, and considers what her sister would think of it.  As the starting time for the big obstacle course race arrives, Applejack gives her their surprise: she gets to be Applejack's honorary sister for a day and run the race with her.  Sweetie Belle is overjoyed, but Apple Bloom is quick to emphasize the "for a day" part.  Repeatedly.  Granny Smith announces the beginning of the race, and the five sister teams get started.  Sweetie Belle skips across the mud, but Applejack falls in, covering herself head to toe.  But she continues on, and the two of them move on to the next obstacles, passing each one with ease.  Though they seem to have the lead, another team comes up from behind, giving them a challenge.  In the end, it was close, but the other team made it across the finish line first.
Sweetie Belle doesn't care, though, as she just had such a good time.  She leaps up to give Applejack a hug, knocking off her hat and revealing a horn?  Sweetie Belle pushes more of the mud off, revealing it was Rarity all along!  Applejack explains that they switched places at the mudhole so that the two sisters could compete together.  Even Apple Bloom was in on it.  With their sisterly bond repaired, Rarity suggests celebrating at the spa, but no one takes her suggestion seriously.
After a week's worth of sisterly activities, Rarity and Sweetie Belle have Spike take a letter for the princess detailing what they've learned about being sisters: it isn't easy, it takes teamwork, compromise, and accepting each others differences, but mostly it's about having fun together.  The two fail to agree on how much dirt that should entail, so Spike intervenes, and all ends happily.
This one was really sweet, and it was great to see the sister relationships between Rarity, Sweetie Belle, Applejack, and Apple Bloom.  And Rarity's parents!  And of course, I loved that the sweater that got shrunk was crocheted.  Even if you can't really tell from the art style.
I'll admit, the first time through, I totally did not pick up on the whole Rarity and Applejack switching until the reveal, but if you go back and watch, sure enough, "Applejack" has Rarity's blue eyes.

Misc. Screenshots:
Applejack and Apple Bloom
Sweetie Belle is touched