I guess I'm stuck in this My Little Pony reviewing business for the long haul, seeing as how my daughter has enjoyed herself so far and Shout Factory keeps cranking out the hits. I will admit that, along with their releases of the original 1986 movie, The Complete 1986-87 Series, and (to a lesser extent) the Classic Movie Collection of early-2000s made-for-TV adventures, I've actually been enjoying myself at times too. If nothing else, the older series' soft, analog charm is refreshing compared to modern razor-sharp 1080p kids' programming, and the stories---though obviously aimed towards girls, back when gender-specific shows weren't as common---are sweet, simple, and appealing to imaginative young brains (perfect for merchandising, too!) The human characters featured in both the 1986-87 series and the accompanying movie, like early Transformers, also give viewers a window into the fantasy world.
But all that human stuff went out the window in My Little Pony Tales (1992), a short-lived animated series that aired on The Disney Channel for all of four months. It's pretty much all ponies all the time, now in a more modern setting that also eliminates most of the more traditional fantasy elements (dragons, witches, magic, etc.) that dominated kids' shows during the 1980s; in its place is suburban sprawl where the ponies have jobs, go to school, totally crush on cute boy ponies ermahgerd, and form little secret clubs or whatever. Either way, the sentiment is the same: My Little Pony still touches on social education and moral lessons, and the main characters (Starlight, Sweetheart, Melody, Bright Eyes, Patch, Clover, and Bon Bon, along with boys Teddy, Ace, and Lancer) have different personalities, talents, flank symbols, and color schemes. Obviously it's aimed at a slightly older audience (7-12)...but aside from the occasional boy crush or shouting match, most younger kids shouldn't feel out of their league.
So yes, My Little Pony Tales has almost as many main characters as it has episodes, but it's still an enjoyable series that stands apart from the original while maintaining a bit of familiarity. Only 13 episodes ever aired and each one serves up two 11-minute adventures; episode summaries are below, and a disc-by-disc listing can be seen further down. During these adventures, kids will get crash courses in how to feign illness for attention ("Too Sick to Notice"), how not to babysit ("The Battle of the Bands"), courtroom drama ("Stand by Me"), Home Alone-style house traps ("The Tea Party"), back-stabbing capitalism ("The Great Lemonade Stand Wars"), UFO sightings ("Up, Up and Away"), blackmailing a girl into dating ("Bon Bon's Diary"), and much more. Shout Factory's low-priced two-disc set collects all 13 original episodes in their original format and broadcast order, complete with commercial bumpers too.
Click here for episode summaries (via Wikipedia)
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios, each of these early 1990s episodes looks passable enough on DVD. Image detail tends to run a little on the soft side, although the series' smooth, pastel-heavy design doesn't lend itself to a crisp, razor-sharp appearance. Colors are reasonably bright and vivid without feeling too saturated, and digital imperfections like compression artifacts and interlacing are present but kept to a minimum. The opening and closing credits probably fare the worst overall (as well as the commercial bumpers), but any problems there undoubtedly stem from source material issues. It's doubtful that any young or nostalgic fans of MLP will be floored or disappointed by this visual presentation...but for what it's worth, these episodes look a little better than expected.
One odd issue appeared during the first two shorts: one of my older DVD players slightly pillarboxed the image to almost a perfect square, resulting in a vertically-stretched picture that (a) has never occurred with any other disc and (b) did not happen with the other 12 episodes. On a newer Blu-ray player and my laptop, the picture was presented in its proper aspect ratio. Either a handful of DVD players don't like that first episode or I'm just going nuts.
DISCLAIMER: The resized screen captures in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent this DVD's native 480i image resolution.
Not surprisingly, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is limited but gets the job done. Channel separation is evident but not strong, though the dialogue and music are clear without fighting for attention. No obvious drop-outs or other signs of damage were heard during the episodes I watched. Unfortunately, no optional subtitles or captions are included.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the static menu designs offer smooth, simple navigation; each 22-minute episode has three chapters (one for the opening, and two more for each short). This two-disc package is housed in a clear dual-hubbed keepcase with colorful double-sided artwork; the DVDs are locked for Region 1 players only and include no bonus features.
Aside from the outdated technology, occasional pop culture references, and some of the music, My Little Pony Tales hasn't aged too badly in the last 20+ years...but if it wasn't up your alley the first time around, I doubt a few decades will make much of a difference. This show and Shout Factory's accompanying two-disc set are both aimed at nostalgic fans and their kids, and this DVD package gives the short-lived series a modest amount of support with decent A/V quality and a similar presentation to Shout's other classic MLP releases from the era. I'd imagine anyone who watched My Little Pony Tales as a kid will snap this up in a heartbeat, while more casual fans---or those raised on Friendship is Magic and the like---should probably rent instead of buy. Recommended for the right crowd.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.