Contains minor spoilers for the Netflix movie “My Little Pony: A New Generation”; everypony is advised to proceed at their own risk.
When I was younger, I watched a lot of “My Little Pony.” Something about colorful ponies who liked rainbows and glitter and stereotypically “girly” things just spoke to me as a child who liked those same things.
I grew up on MLP Generation 4, the series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and its “Equestria Girls” spin off movies. I loved both the series and the movies immensely, and I still do. Each pony has her own distinct personality, and none of the Mane 6 are static characters—they are well-rounded, and they learn and grow like anyone else. The storylines, though understandably juvenile, are interesting, and each pony has equal room to face challenges. The Gen 4 characters and their world hold a very special place in my heart, and I still enjoy rewatching the series and the Equestria Girls movies.
So when I heard about the new Generation 5 movie, I was skeptical. They weren’t going to be using the Gen 4 characters, so I didn’t have to worry about them mischaracterizing any of them, but still, it’s hard to be excited about a new iteration of a work of fiction when the previous one means a lot to you and is still fresh in your memory. I decided to gather a group of my fellow journalists—consisting of Owen, Victor, Renee, and Joleen—to watch the new My Little Pony movie with me. And it was certainly an experience.
“My Little Pony: A New Generation” is set in an Equestria where the three types of ponies—earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi—no longer live together in harmony, but are instead distrustful and hateful towards each other. Basically, pony racism. Sunny Starscout (Vanessa Hudgens), a bright-eyed earth pony who was raised on fantastical stories of Princess Twilight Sparkle and friendship between all pony races, sets out with unicorn Izzy Moonbow (Kimiko Glenn) to prove that earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi can be friends—and, of course, to discover what happened to Equestria’s magic.
I can’t say that “A New Generation” is any better or worse than I thought it would be; I was satisfied and even impressed by some parts, and yet left disappointed by numerous others.
As I expected, I really enjoyed the characters, Sunny and Izzy especially. The rest of the main cast includes Sunny’s best friend Sherif Hitch (James Marsden), pegasi sisters Zipp (Liza Koshy) and Pipp (Sofia Carson), and Deputy Sprout (Ken Jeong). Though the Gen 5 characters aren’t as well-developed as the Gen 4 characters—which is understandable given the fact that there is always more time for fleshing out and building on characters in series than there is in movies—I thought they were interesting and endearing. Sunny’s determination, Izzy’s vivaciousness, Pipp’s confidence, Zipp’s rebelliousness, and Hitch’s charming stupidity work together with the relationships between them to make all of them characters you want to root for.
“A New Generation” also does a good job of keeping the energy that made Gen 4 magical. Colorful character designs, fantastical settings, upbeat songs, messages of friendship and unity; all of these are things that made “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” the hit that it was, and “A New Generation” acknowledges this by including these aspects. At the beginning of the movie, the only characters with the signature wacky designs are the main ones, which bothered me at first, but the decision does have plot significance that is explained by the end.
Speaking of the songs—they were pretty great. I admit I may be a bit biased, seeing as I have a large weak spot for animated characters who sing their hearts out, but I stand firmly by what I said. Though the film lacked the iconic theme song from “Friendship is Magic,” it made up for it with songs like “Gonna Be My Day” and “Danger, Danger.” However, the animation sequence during “Fit Right In” was kind of all over the place; I understood what was going on, but there was really no need for it because it didn’t add anything to the plot.
A lot of moments were like that. It would be one thing if moments that didn’t add directly to the story’s progression instead expanded on the characters and their relationships, but they didn’t and were kind of just confusing.
Speaking of the plot, I was skeptical about it going in. The movie dives right into its “pony racism” with Sunny’s friend Sprout claiming that unicorns shot ponies with their “laser horns,” showing how even young foals can spout ridiculous, stereotype-heavy lies about a group of ponies they’ve never even met. This is clearly seen from Sunny’s point of view as bad and wrong. While I appreciate the allegorical approach to teaching kids that racism is, as Sunny knows, bad and wrong, it’s also a little jarring to see the My Little Pony franchise used as a conduit for these ideas; not bad, just a little confusing. I do think that Sprout’s fear-mongering is very funny in context, though.
This is far from the worst thing about the movie, though. It pulls itself apart by running in too many different directions, spreading itself too thin. It’s like “A New Generation” is trying to be five different movies wrapped into a single animated kids film at once. “Did they switch writers every 10 minutes?” Owen asked while we were watching, and the question was definitely justified; it was all over the place. The inconsistent writing saps the movie’s intrigue quickly, so that by the second half the ponies’ quest to bring magic back to Equestria feels boring and new plot points and characters introduced, like Alphabittle and his contest against Sunny, feel unnecessary.
Then, of course, there was the ultimate disappointment: none of the characters are queer. We got queerbaited. We were queerbaited by My Little Pony Gen 5.
As an avid enjoyer of the My Little Pony franchise, I didn’t really expect for any of the characters in “A New Generation” to be gay. It’s just that, well . . . the characters all have queer energy. They do. It was the first thing I picked up on as the main characters were introduced, and the MLP watch group picked up on it, too. A lot of our conversation during the movie was about how we thought that the ponies were queer.
This is the thumbnail for the movie:
Come on. They literally look like they’re about to kiss. You can’t tell me they’re not about to kiss; I won’t believe you. They’re about to kiss! What do you MEAN they’re not gay??? Queerbaiting at its most egregious, truly.
In terms of overall quality, I think that all the flaws of “My Little Pony: A New Generation” outweigh the things I like about the movie. At the same time, I can’t bring myself to say that I strongly disliked it; the songs were catchy, the characters were interesting despite being underdeveloped, and watching with friends made the viewing experience incredibly fun. Aside from that, though, I think the main reason that it’s so hard for me to seriously say that “A New Generation” sucked is because even though it’s not Gen 4, it’s still My Little Pony. Sure, it sucked, but it kind of sucked so much and in such a very specific MLP fashion that I enjoyed it.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend “A New Generation” to anyone; the parts of it that are genuinely worth watching—some of the songs, that is—can be viewed independently from the whole movie. If you’re looking for a really good animated movie, this is definitely not it. However, if you’re looking for a mindless animated movie that you can waste time watching, then it should be right up your alley.