In a perfect world, everyone could enjoy every movie or television show. They wouldn't need any frame of reference, past experiences, or important knowledge to gain enjoyment from the entertainment. Unfortunately, that is a naive and unrealistic way of thinking, as every viewer experiences movies in their own unique way based on who they are, and based on that profile, not everyone will get something from everything that they see. Although it may seem an odd choice, the newly released My Little Pony: The Princess Promenade provides a fine example of this phenomena.
As My Little Pony: The Princess Promenade opens, springtime has come to Ponyville. This means that two traditions will soon be taking place in town. First, the planting of spring flowers will occur, and this will be followed by the annual spring parade. The Breezies (small, flying ponies), lead by Zipzee (voiced by Andrea Libman), fly into Ponyville to help with the flowers. The Breezies are very skilled in horticulture and is their job to assist with the gardening. Wysteria (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) is the pony who oversees the spring flowers and the creation of the floats for the parade. While checking the garden, Wysteria is shocked to find a weed. She asks Pinky Pie (voiced by Janyse Jaud) to help with removing the eyesore. However, they both tumble down a hole, and Zipzee quickly follows them.
Once in the hole, the ponies find a small dragon named Spike (voiced by Britt McKillip), who has a flower wrapped around his tail. Spike has been asleep for 1,000 years, waiting for the arrival of the next princess. Wysteria innocently places the flower in her hair, only to be told by Spike that this action has caused her to be the princess, and that Spike must now train her in the ways of royalty. Wysteria is shocked and then overjoyed by this news, but her elation soon turns to sadness, as the duties of a princess keep her away from the things that she loves most -- namely flowers and her friends. Will Wysteria be able to exist as a princess and will the other ponies accept her new role?
I watched My Little Pony: The Princess Promenade with my two young daughters, and they loved it. Not only because they are My Little Pony fans (they sat holding My Little Pony toys while watching the movie), but because they found the story to be fascinating. And here's where I make my point about different audiences gaining different things from movies. I found the entire movie to be poorly paced and very predictable. Actually, I felt that I had seen this story portrayed many, many times before. The reluctant princess and the reactions of her friends may have seemed new to my daughters, but it felt very hackneyed to me.
The lack of originality in the script is further hampered by some plot holes. Who never learn who Spike is, where he came from, or why he does what he does. The ponies have clearly never heard of a dragon who picks princesses and Spike seems surprised to have been awakened by ponies. Yet, everyone takes this in stride and Wysteria assumes her post as princess. (This seems to be teaching an alarming lesson about taking everyone at face value.) There's also the question of suspense in the story, or the lack thereof. The DVD box art asks, "Who is the Princess of Ponyville?" A similar sentiment was echoed in the commercials for the DVD. Based on this, I thought that the story would be a sort of mystery as the ponies waited to see who would be princess. But, it's not. Wysteria puts the flower in her hair and poof!, she's the princess. The movie is further hampered by sluggish pacing, which makes its 48-minute running time feel much longer.
Of course, I hear your argument, "You're not the target audience for this product." and I agree whole-heartedly. However, I found the previous entry into this series, A Very Minty Christmas, to be goofy fun which offered enough charm to be enjoyed by adults and children. That movie took a familiar plot, the clumsy soul who almost ruins Christmas, and put some new twists on it while fully integrating it into the pony world. The Princess Promenade does very little to distinguish itself from any of the other home videos out there aimed primarily at young girls. At some point, simply having ponies and princesses doesn't cut it and one should expect a good story.
My Little Pony: The Princess Promenade gallops onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The movie utilizes brilliant colors and they look gorgeous on this transfer. Each pony has her own signature color, and even those who are similar stand out here. The picture is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. In fact, the only defect which I noticed had to do with the animation itself. In some shots, the lines which are used to created the pony's hair become noticeably jagged, and at times, pixellated. This same defect occurred with A Very Minty Christmas. Younger viewers probably won't notice this, but I spotted it immediately every time it happened.
The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The songs in the movie sound fine. I didn't notice much in the way of surround sound, save for some musical cues, and there was no overt subwoofer action. However, the stereo effects are there and offer some ambiance to the experience.
The DVD features a bonus episode entitled "A Charming Birthday". This 20-minute show is actually more entertaining than The Princess Promenade. Here, we meet Razzaroo, the pony who is in charge of the birthday planning in Ponyville. It's time for Kimono's birthday, and as she is the wisest pony in village, it's hard to surprise her. So, Razzaroo gathers some of her pony friends to try and think of a good present for Kimono. This episode is good because it focuses on a subject to which everyone can relate -- finding the perfect birthday gift for someone. Also, it does a nice job of giving brief profiles on several My Little Pony characters. The animation here looks washed-out when compared to The Princess Promenade, but the image is still clear. "Pinkie Pie's Lady Bug Jamboree" is a bonus 6-minute short in which Pinkie Pie must find a talent for a pony show. The DVD also contains Sing-a-longs for the songs "Breezie Blossom" and "A Princess is in Town".
I realize that I may sound curmudgeonly in my assessment of My Little Pony: The Princess Promenade, but when it comes to entertainment for my kids, I want something that tries a little harder, and this show doesn't meet those standards. Still, fans of "My Little Pony" (such as my daughters) will enjoy the program, but it probably won't be one that they watch over and over.