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My Little Pony: The Complete Series (1986-87)

Shout Factory // G // September 30, 2014
List Price: $29.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 12, 2014 | E-mail the Author

Man card revoked. But seriously, anyone reading this review is probably shopping for their kids or grandchildren, save for the occasional Brony and/or single-digit reader who hopefully has no access to YouTube's comment section. For those folks, Hasbro's My Little Pony needs no introduction, but here's one anyway: this toy franchise has been kicking for over 30 years, ensuring that anyone who grew up with these cute li'l horse action figures dolls is undoubtedly sharing the Pony love with their little ones now. To help sell the toys, an animated tie-in was produced: now known as "Generation 1", a DVD of the first season surfaced in 2004 and has since gone out of print. It collected the first 50 11-minute segments produced during the original My Little Pony 'n Friends' 65-episode run...including the eponymous two-part 1984 special, later renamed "Rescue from Midnight Castle". Shout Factory's new four-disc set completes the run by adding in all 15 episodes from the second and final season...including the two-part 1985 special, "Escape from Catrina".

So yeah, ponies are serious business. Need more evidence? Just look at those episode titles below, such as the ten-part series premiere "The End of Flutter Valley" and four-part epics like "The Ghost of Paradise Estate", "The Return of Tambelon", and "The Quest of the Princess Ponies": though each part is only 11 minutes apiece, only one was shown as part of the series' anthology-style format, ensuring that fans were perpetually left on the hook for days at a time. Heck, only eight of the series' total 65 episodes is a stand-alone story. But is the serialized storytelling any good, or are these just paper-thin adventures stretched to the breaking point? Either way, Shout Factory has done the series right by finally serving up the complete run in a slim, affordable package that fans of all ages should enjoy. Unless if you have little to no respect for Hasbro's merchandising practices or have long since gotten over your bout with 1980s nostalgia, I'd imagine that 65 short episodes for well under $30 will be tough to pass up. Even without extras, it's a good deal.

This release's handicap, unfortunately, is that the two 1984-85 specials---again, presented here as "Rescue from Midnight Castle" and "Escape from Catrina"---are the syndicated versions, which run a few minutes shorter and are missing a handful of scenes and songs. As far as I know, the original versions of each special are still trapped in VHS purgatory (as self-titled releases or renamed exclusives like "Firefly's Adventure")...but since I'd imagine that most fans are only familiar with the shorter syndicated versions, this handicap may not be too disappointing. Still, die-hard fans should be aware that this is not quite "The Complete Series"...and with the 1986 animated movie still long out of print on DVD, those looking for a catch-all release will still have gaps on the shelf. But this is a step in the right direction.

So, what do we get here? 65 featherweight episodes of good vs. evil, featuring a cast of familiar characters including ponies like Twilight, Sweet Stuff, Princess Sparkle, Heart Throb, Applejack, Peach Blossom, and Cupcake; humans Megan, Danny, and Molly; the sarcastic baby dragon, Spike; and, of course, a boatload of baddies who routinely cook up trouble for our colorful friends (more often than not, one of the lower-rank villains ends up switching sides just to help). High art this isn't, but anyone who grew up on this stuff won't care in the least. If, however, your only previous experience with My Little Pony is through modern versions like Friendship is Magic, I'd definitely recommended renting this one first. Aside from a few familiar characters, it's a different beast entirely.

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 mid-1980 productions looks passable enough on DVD (and, from what I can tell, the same as Warner Music's Season One collection). 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 without feeling too saturated, and digital imperfections like compression artifacts and interlacing are kept to a minimum. The opening and closing credits probably fare the worst overall, 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.

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 11-minute episode is presented without chapter stops, and no selection sub-menus are present. This four-disc package is housed in a clear hinged keepcase with colorful double-sided artwork; the DVDs are locked for Region 1 players only and include no bonus features.

Final Thoughts

My Little Pony in just about any format is an obvious example of "what you see is what you get": it's basically a cute, lightweight universe full of colorful characters, over-the-top villains and sugar-coated stories. Aside from the very first run of toys, two shorter 1984-85 TV specials, and the feature-length 1986 movie, this two-season run of episodes is probably where most thirty-somethings were first introduced to the franchise. Though the other segments of My Little Pony 'n Friends (The Glo Friends, Potato Head Kids, and MoonDreamers) are still missing in action and the two specials are still presented in shorter, syndicated form---which gives this four-disc collection sort of a "middle-of-the-road" mentality, to be honest---it's still a good value at less than $30 for about 12 hours of animation. The A/V presentation is fine under the circumstances, while the absence of extras is disappointing but understandable. This collection comes Recommended for anyone seeking a nostalgia fix, but those new to this version of MLP should rent it first.

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.
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