Old school, New School, Pony school.

Posted: September 14, 2012 in Storytelling Elements
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One of the more interesting phenomenon of late that’s made it’s way to the internet is the fascination that some 14-25 year old men seem to have with a show that is meant for small children of the female variety that was produced to sell a line of toys. That’s right friends, this article is all about the magic of friendship so saddle up everypony.

For those of you whom may not have yet heard or are just possily new to the whole internet thing, My Little Pony: Friendship is magic is a cartoon show based of the old line of my little pony toys that have been around since 1982 but have only recently ben pulled into media spotlight via their new cartoon. Also let’s clear something up for those of you who want to rage quit from wordpress because this article is pony related, this is still a storytelling blog and this is still a storytelling article, we’er not going to dive into who is best pony or any other non-sense.


Okay maybe a little non-sense

I’m more interested in what has come together to make ponies so popular among the demographic that normally won’t touch something if it isn’t a dark and gritty rebut of their childhood. In fact I was so interested that in one of my more sleep deprived moments I watched a solid twenty episodes of the show and you know what, it’s not that bad, in fact as far as children’s shows go it was pretty good. In fact I think that there is a lot we can learn from MLP.

Animation

A shows animation is the first thing that a viewer see’s, and much like a person looking at the clothing you wear the viewers start making assumptions about the show from that first glance. For a lot of shows that can be a make or break moment for them, shows like adventure time a regular show have a very particular type of animation and you can tell just from looking at them what the show is going to be like. The same thing also applies to shows who seek a more adult audience who give there shows a much conservative appearance while shows like South Park went for childish look for a show that has a very immature nature.


alright a lot of non-sense

What does this say about MLP, well first off the animation is top notch, it’s bright, it’scartoony, it’scute, but what hooked me mostly is that it’s clean. It was obvious that the shows artist put real work and effort into creating the shows animation instead of treating it as just a 30 min commercial for little girls toys. What can you take away from this as an artist or a writer, MLP uses it’s animation to set the tone for the show, just looking at it is going to make you puke rainbows and leave you wanting more, as an artist you want your art to set the mood of the show or comic well before the characters utter their first words and writers need to be able to set the tone of their books in early descriptions and snippets of their world and make sure that this tone is conveyed in such a professional way.

Format

I think this might be the most interesting part of MLP, or at least the most nostalgic. MLP episodes are all self contained, there is no overarching narrative, there is no broad story line, there just a bunch of anthropomorphic ponies having a different moral adventure each week, and then reminding you exactly what that moral is at the end of each episode. It reminds me of all the old Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Ah! Real Monsters and every other single piece of nostalgia I can bring to you from your childhood. On a more recent note, the Disney show Phineas and Ferb also follows this format as well as do most TV sitcoms, whether it’s big bang theory or King of Queens. This format isn’t something that went away and is now coming back, we just haven’t seen it with this kind of face for a very long time.

So what makes this format valuable? It’s simple really, or should I say it’s really simple, MLP doesn’t require complex character arcs or a drawn out narrative, Just fit your moral/joke/theme of the day into the episode and move on. It works well for folks who have lot’s of cool ideas and want to get as many of them in as possible , it also fits well with those of you who like to write by the seat of your pants each episode is it’s own little thought with little or no heed to what comes before or what comes next.


This sums up the show pretty well

What can we writers take away from this, well mostly that a series doesn’t need a long complex narrative, sometimes it can just be the six different books about how a boy and his dog find different treasures every week, or about the different planets a group of space marines visit. The point is that people can enjoy simple shorts as well as writers can enjoy writing them.

Theme

The main thing that separates MLP from other form of television that most 14-25 year olds watch is it’s constant theme of light hearted comedy and cute aesthetic design, which stands in opposition to every notion of dark and gritty that has been installed in us since Batman became a thing.

um, yes all day, yes all night, for the rest of my life.<br /><br />
{picture of batman riding through the sky on the back of a purple my little pony with a bat symbol on the rump and it’s amazing.}
Batman riding a pony, deal with it.

Simply put shows like MLP offer us a refuge from a reality where stories are getting darker and edgier everyday without any sign of stopping, between writers like Christopher Nolan, Steven Moffat and movies like Toy Story 3 and Up even kids shows and movies are pressing toward the gritty realism of everyday life. And maybe, just maybe there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to give up on a world where kids can build roller coasters in there back yard or one were the worst thing that can happen when two groups of people disagree is a really bug food fight. At the end of the day we all want to go back to those days where you knew that every episode Duke would win out over Cobra Commander and the worst thing we had to worry about was Tommy losing his screwdriver, really we all want to believe again in a world where friendship is magic.

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