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My Little Pony: The Complete Series
Really, how do I write about My Little Pony, Mark One? I was seventeen when the series premiered on television. Fourteen when the toys first appeared. I was then, and still am, a boy. So, Friendship Is Magic notwithstanding, this was never meant for me. (One also wonders why I picked this collection from the screener pool.) Somehow, however, even by 1986, there were signs that a sea change was a-comin'. Or maybe I'm just tripping. How else can you explain the mix of sugary ponies flying about, with multi-episode story arc after story arc from this first series, depicting the ponies battling monsters, ghosts, and demons with the aid of lava-monsters and leprechauns, in an animation style that clearly resembles He-Man and the Masters of the Universe rendered in pink and mint?
OK. So I really like candy colors, and cutesy stuff, plus I have an eight-year-old daughter. (Man-card partially salvaged.) At any rate, this first series of MLP animations came packaged in bite-sized ten-minute episodes from a half-hour program called My Little Pony 'N' Friends. The entire run of those MLP segments comes packaged in this sprawling four-disc set, featuring all 65 episodes. Yup, 650 minutes - or about eleven hours of twee goodness for your addled brain. Nearly every variety of Generation One Ponies gets involved: Earth Ponies, Pegasus Ponies, Flutter and Princess Ponies, Twinkle-Eyed Ponies and Sea Ponies, too! Hell, even their human friend Megan is there, although she plays less of a part than one would expect from a series hoping to get little girls to buy all the Real World goods. Oh yeah, and Spike the Dragon is here too. He's always been here, hasn't he? Like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I'd devoured every single episode presented here, but I've ponied up to many of them. Far too many: both with my daughter, and by myself too. In fact, we'd been down this road before, renting previous DVD collections when she was more interested in the Third Generation, and the scary ghost presented in The Ghost Of Paradise Estate was a little too strong for her delicate sensibilities. Turns out the ghost was just a ... well, I won't give it away, but that four part storyline is here, as well as so much more.
The series kicks off in truly dramatic fashion with the ten-episode opus, The End Of Flutter Valley featuring a toad-like witch and her daughters, (parts Pippi Longstocking, parts Trailer Park Trash) plus a ridiculous giant Cyclops spider. Hell, just drop some acid and it will all make perfect sense. Throughout the 65 episode run, most effort is put forth in the form of such multi-episode story arcs, creating a serial like atmosphere that served two purposes: it kept the girls coming back for more each week, and it kept the writers in easy cocaine (my speculation) since they would only have to come up with a handful of plots which they could stretch like taffy. There were, however, standalone 10-minute episodes, featuring for instance a giant puppy, or Spike the dragon looking for guidance on how to control his fire.
However, most stories at the very least stretched over two weekly episodes, such as the two-parter Woe Is Me featuring Woebegone the bad luck troll, whom all the ponies shun since he tends to rain on their parades. The lesson here - lessons taught obviously being the justification for creating an animated show that is nothing but a lengthy advertisement for toys - the lesson for Woebegone is that if he could just stop assuming that's he's a luckless shlub, he might cease to manifest bad luck. It's a lesson many adults could stand to heed. (However, any adult MLP attention would come a quarter-century later.)
As the series grinds on through The Glass Princess and The Return of Tambelon and The Quest of the Princess Ponies we get; evil witches, (Somnambula and her beautiful birds singing eerie songs) Leprechauns, (Tony Randall dropping in to voice said mythical imp before apparently bailing even before the story arc completes) ice cream wars, rainbows turning animalistic monsters into butterflies, and more. Did I mention the lava creatures yet? Or their crystal enemies? Or the sea ponies who sing a shoop-shoop song every single time they appear? How about the Crabbies and the Flories? Oh yes, we can't forget the Bushwoolies and their friends the Furbobs. These wildly grimacing piles of colorful fur appear regularly throughout the series, hoping their own line of toys will sell as briskly as the ponies.
Whatever the case, there is enough mid-80s cartoon insanity here to please anyone with a yen to return to those easier days - boys and girls. These ponies aren't quite as clever and engaging as the Friendship Is Magic crew, but they do sing constantly, and Nancy Cartwright provides voice talent, so if you want a pony or two to sound exactly like Bart Simpson, your wish is granted. And, for what it's worth, my now eight-year-old kinda digs this collection, too. Nostalgia buffs and those wanting to turn their children on to the good old stuff will probably think this extras-free four disc collection is Recommended, and who am I to argue?
These Pony Stories canter up in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, preserving their original look. At that, they look about as good or better than they did then (mainly due to the better TVs we enjoy nowadays). Colors are bright and rich, and details are sharp enough - nothing like today's Flash animation, but still pretty good, for almost 30-year-old Cel Animation that probably wasn't sweated over too much back in the day. Transfer or compression problems aren't a big issue either.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is fine but unremarkable. Everything sounds acceptable, with no distortion or degradation of the original elements. The title sequence (which uses the jingle from the MLP advertising campaign) is a little odd, with the lovely lyrics somewhat low and muffled, but in the episodes themselves the songs and dialog are all mixed together appropriately and perfectly serviceable.
The four-disc set comes in a standard sized clear keepcase with two flippers, and is housed in a nice slipcover. The pastel color scheme looks a bit different from slipcover to keepcase insert, and I only mention this because there are no other extras to discuss. You get a 'play all' option on each menu screen, or you can churn through each episode separately.
Nostalgia buffs and those wanting to turn their children on to the good old stuff will probably think this extras-free four disc collection of all 65 11-minute episodes from the My Little Pony original series is Recommended, and I will agree with them. For pastel colored nuttiness from the '80s, replete with witches, devil-beasts, and Bushwoolies, you can't find a cartoon series that touches many more bases.