My Little Pony: The Movie (2017 film)

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My Little Pony: The Movie
My Little Pony The Movie Poster 2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jayson Thiessen
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Based on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
by Lauren Faust
Starring
Music by Daniel Ingram
Cinematography Anthony Di Ninno
Edited by Braden Oberson
Production
company
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release date
  • September 24, 2017 (2017-09-24) (New York City)
  • October 6, 2017 (2017-10-06) (United States and Canada)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
Country
  • United States
  • Canada
Language English
Budget $6.5 million[2]
Box office $60.3 million[3]

My Little Pony: The Movie is a 2017 animated musical fantasy film based on the television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which was developed as part of the 2010 re-launch of the My Little Pony franchise by Hasbro.[4] The film was directed by Jayson Thiessen and based on a story and screenplay co-written by Meghan McCarthy, both Friendship Is Magic veterans.[5] The plot follows the "alicorn" (winged unicorn) Twilight Sparkle, her five pony friends – collectively known as the "Mane 6" – and her dragon assistant Spike embarking on a quest to save their home of Equestria from an evil conqueror, gaining new friends in the process. In addition to the show's regular voice cast reprising their roles, the film features the voices of Emily Blunt, Kristin Chenoweth, Liev Schreiber, Michael Peña, Sia, Taye Diggs, Uzo Aduba, and Zoe Saldana as new characters.

The film was produced by Allspark Pictures and DHX Media,[6][7] using traditional animation created with Toon Boom Harmony.[8] It premiered in New York City on September 24, 2017,[9] and was released on October 6, 2017 in North America through Lionsgate.[10] The film received mixed reviews from critics and grossed over $60 million worldwide.

Plot[edit]

The ponies of Equestria prepare for their first Friendship Festival, overseen by Princess Twilight Sparkle in Canterlot. The festivities are interrupted by an invasion of monsters commanded by the broken-horned unicorn Tempest Shadow, who uses magical obsidian orbs to petrify Twilight's fellow princesses; Princess Celestia gives Princess Luna incomplete instructions to seek help from "the queen of the hippo" before they are both petrified. Twilight flees the city alongside her five pony friends – Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy – and her dragon assistant, Spike. Tempest is contacted by her superior, the Storm King, who reminds her to gather all of Equestria's princesses for him to harness their magic through his mystical staff, promising to restore her horn in exchange.

Twilight's group travel to the desert city of Klugetown in search of the aforementioned "hippos". A feline con artist named Capper offers to escort the group, secretly intending to sell them to settle a debt; however, he develops a genuine friendship with them. Twilight discovers an atlas that reveals the "hippos" to be hippogriffs, exposing Capper's treachery. After the group evade a pursuing Tempest aboard a delivery airship, Tempest brings Capper to guide her to them, but he deliberately misdirects her to atone for deceiving the group.

During a lunch break, the airship's birdlike Captain Celaeno and her crew reluctantly allow the group passage, revealing themselves to be former pirates that have been forced into the Storm King's service. Rainbow Dash persuades the pirates to defy orders and take the group to the hippogriffs' kingdom on Mount Aris. In celebration, she performs a Sonic Rainboom that inadvertently gives their location away to Tempest, forcing the group to escape in a makeshift hot air balloon before Tempest destroys the ship with the pirates and Capper on board.

The group reach Mount Aris to find it deserted; while exploring the ruins, they become trapped in an underwater cavern, where they are saved from drowning by the seapony Princess Skystar and led to her undersea home of Seaquestria. Skystar identifies her kind as the hippogriffs, transformed by a magic pearl used by her mother, Queen Novo, to hide from the Storm King; Novo demonstrates by turning the ponies into seaponies and Spike into a pufferfish. When Novo denies them the pearl to use against the Storm King, Twilight desperately attempts to steal it while letting her friends unknowingly distract the seaponies. She unwittingly triggers an alarm, prompting the outraged queen to banish the entire group to the surface.

Abandoned by her friends over her actions, Twilight is abducted by Tempest and brought to the Storm King in Canterlot to have her magic absorbed; en route, Tempest gains Twilight's sympathy when she divulges how she lost her horn in a monster attack as a filly, which caused her own friends to shun her for her dangerously unstable magic. Meanwhile, after Spike alerts Twilight's friends to her capture, Capper, the pirates, and the hippogriff Skystar return to help them infiltrate Canterlot and mount a rescue. The Storm King retaliates by conjuring a tornado in the city with his newly empowered staff, betraying Tempest as well. Twilight saves Tempest from the tornado and reunites with her friends, who work together with her to take the staff. The Storm King hurls an obsidian orb at the group to reclaim the staff, but Tempest jumps in his way, petrifying them both. The Storm King's body falls and shatters, while the group use the staff's magic to revive Tempest, who returns the stolen magic to restore the princesses and the damaged city.

The Friendship Festival resumes, and the ponies celebrate with all of the allies Twilight's group have made on their adventure. Tempest is disheartened by her still broken horn until she is convinced by Twilight to join the party by producing a fireworks display with her magic, happily accepting the group's friendship.

Cast[edit]

  • Tara Strong as Twilight Sparkle, an intelligent alicorn who is Equestria's Princess of Friendship, responsible for spreading friendship and harmony across the kingdom. She is the leader of the "Mane 6" ponies. Rebecca Shoichet performs Twilight Sparkle's singing voice.
  • Ashleigh Ball as Rainbow Dash and Applejack, two of the "Mane 6"; Rainbow Dash is a loyal pegasus with an adventurous spirit, and Applejack is an honest apple farmer pony.
  • Andrea Libman as Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, two of the "Mane 6"; Pinkie Pie is a party-obsessed pony filled with joy and laughter, and Fluttershy is a kind, timid pegasus who cares for animals. Shannon Chan-Kent performs Pinkie Pie's singing voice.
  • Tabitha St. Germain as Rarity, a generous fashion designer unicorn and one of the "Mane 6". Kazumi Evans performs Rarity's singing voice.
  • Cathy Weseluck as Spike, a baby dragon who is Twilight Sparkle's faithful assistant.
  • Emily Blunt as Tempest Shadow, an embittered unicorn once known as Fizzlepop Berrytwist who serves as the Storm King's second-in-command in order to repair her broken horn.[11][12] On the development of the character, screenwriter Meghan McCarthy said, "We just arrived at this idea of a character who had come from Equestria, and had not had the positive experience that Twilight [Sparkle] and her friends had. It felt like a good counterpart to our heroes was to have a villain who didn't just not get friendship, but had a reason that she didn't understand it." McCarthy also called Blunt's performance "a big influence" on how the character was animated in the film.[13]
  • Michael Peña as Grubber, a wisecracking hedgehog creature and Tempest Shadow's cohort.[14] McCarthy said that Grubber "needed to be goofy" to counterpoint the "very straight-laced, hardcore" Tempest. Peña ad-libbed much of the character's dialogue, with McCarthy saying, "You get Michael Peña in a recording booth, and you just are like, 'Please just go and say funny things.' He will be there for hours, just giving you all kinds of really great material that was not something that we had originally scripted!"[13]
  • Liev Schreiber as the Storm King, the despotic, satyr-like leader of the storm creatures who conquers lands in search of powerful magic to control the weather.[15] On his acceptance of the role, Schreiber said that he wanted something child-friendly for his kids to watch, noting his repertoire of violent, adult-oriented films.[16] Comparing his character to Basil Rathbone, Schreiber said the Storm King "is prone to temper tantrums, and he's a little crazy. He has a wide range of behaviors."[1] He considers the character to be "one of the more intense roles [he's] played".[17]
  • Taye Diggs as Capper, a humanoid alley cat who is a cunning yet good-hearted con artist.[18] Diggs, who was excited to appear in an animated film, says, "I'm very movement-oriented, so just looking at the way Capper is positioned, the expressions on his face, all enhances my performance. It's really cool."[1]
  • Zoe Saldana as Captain Celaeno, a humanoid parrot and jaded pirate captain who is relegated to the Storm King's delivery service.[19] Saldana says Celaeno "cares for her crew", adding, "She's a responsible, thoughtful, and empathetic leader. That's a terrific, very poignant message to give to children about leadership – that it's okay for you to want to be a leader as long as you know that the responsibilities that come along with it."[1]
  • Kristin Chenoweth as Princess Skystar, an excitable seapony and magically transformed hippogriff princess.[20][21] Chenoweth said of her character, "Let's just say she's been locked up for a while and is longing for friends." She joked that she dabbled in method acting for the role, making sure her hair was "on point for every recording session".[22]
  • Uzo Aduba as Queen Novo, the benevolent ruler of the hippogriffs-turned-seaponies, and Princess Skystar's mother.[23] The character is described by Chenoweth as "loving but also a little too strict and stern".[1] Detailing her role, Aduba says, "She [wants] to protect her group to the best of her ability, and [wants] to create a life of peace and stability. She doesn't take any nonsense, and will do everything in her power to protect her family."[1]
  • Sia as Songbird Serenade, a pegasus and famous pop star in Equestria.[24] The character's design is modeled after Sia's likeness.[25]

Nicole Oliver, St. Germain, and Britt McKillip reprise their respective roles from Friendship Is Magic as alicorns Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Princess Cadance. St. Germain also voices Granny Smith, Applejack's grandmother, and Muffins, a cross-eyed gray pegasus. Michelle Creber and Peter New voice Apple Bloom and Big McIntosh, Applejack's younger sister and older brother, respectively. Michael Dobson voices Bulk Biceps, a muscular pegasus. Samuel Vincent voices Party Favor, a balloonist unicorn.

Adam Bengis voices Code Red, one of the Canterlot ponies. Brian Dobson voices Verko, a mole-rat crime boss in Klugetown. Max Martini, Mark Oliver, and Nicole Oliver respectively perform as three of Captain Celaeno's parrot-like crew: Boyle, first mate Mullet, and Lix Spittle. Michael Dobson, Andrew McNee, Tegan Moss, Sabrina Pitre, Rhona Rees, and Vincent all feature as assorted citizens of Canterlot. Richard Ian Cox, Michael Dobson, McNee, New, and Nicole Oliver also perform as denizens of Klugetown. Additional voices are provided by Alistair Abell, Caitlyn Bairstow, Julia Benson, Christine Chatelain, Brian Dobson, Paul Dobson, Rondel Reynoldson, Jason Simpson, Sarah Troyer, and Siobhan Williams.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

At San Diego Comic-Con International in 2012, Friendship Is Magic head writer Meghan McCarthy commented on the possibility of a feature film based on the series, saying that it was not in her control whether or not the film would be made.[26] The film was announced on October 20, 2014, with Joe Ballarini attached as screenwriter and McCarthy as co-executive producer.[6] Hasbro Studios president Stephan Davis said of the film that "I think it gives us an opportunity to tell a bigger story, that maybe we [can't] tell on television" and that "[it's] also an opportunity to broaden the franchise".[27] The film is one of the first being produced through Hasbro Studios' self-financing film label Allspark Pictures, which also produced the live-action adaptation of Jem and the Holograms.[6] During PonyCon AU on February 22, 2015, McCarthy said that the movie would be unrelated to the Equestria Girls spin-off franchise, and that the crew was "going all out on it, to make sure it doesn't just feel like an extended episode".[28]

Series director Jayson Thiessen and McCarthy were both confirmed as the film's director and screenwriter, respectively;[29] Michael Vogel was also signed on as co-executive producer alongside McCarthy, with Hasbro executives Brian Goldner and Stephen Davis as producers.[29] Rita Hsiao and Vogel were later announced as co-writers alongside McCarthy.[5][30]

On April 30, 2016, concept artwork and other information was officially revealed at PonyRadioCon in Moscow; the panel included additional plot details such as the main characters' transformation into "sea ponies" for a portion of the film.[31]

Casting[edit]

The initial Lionsgate announcement listed the principal voice cast of Friendship Is MagicTara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Cathy Weseluck – reprising their roles alongside actress Kristin Chenoweth as a new character.[32] On February 12, 2016, it was announced that Emily Blunt joined the voice cast.[33] By April 27, 2016, actors Michael Peña and Uzo Aduba were in negotiations to join the cast.[34] On May 16, Liev Schreiber and Taye Diggs were confirmed additions to the cast.[5] On June 20, Ashleigh Ball stated through Twitter that she had begun recording for the film's songs.[35] At San Diego Comic-Con in July 2016, singer Sia was announced to be portraying a new "pop star pony" character called Songbird Serenade.[24] On January 11, 2017, it was reported by Variety that Zoe Saldana had joined the cast.[36] Friendship Is Magic voice actress Nicole Oliver confirmed via Twitter on January 23 that she would also be a part of the film's cast,[37] reprising her role as Princess Celestia.[38]

Animation[edit]

On April 2, 2016, Michel Gagné joined the film as an effects animator, taking an eight-month hiatus from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse made by Sony Pictures Animation.[39][40][41][42][specify] In early October 2016, Gagné reported that Nik Gipe was hired onto the film's staff as his assistant. He also mentioned that the film was being animated using Toon Boom Harmony instead of the usual animation software Adobe Flash that is used in the television series.[8] According to art director Rebecca Dart, they wanted to keep to the look and feel of the television show, and the use of Toon Boom Harmony enabled them to add "simple yet impactful changes" to the designs for the big screen, such as depth and shadows for their eyes and ears, and the impression of heart-shaped indentations on the bottom of their hooves.[43] The production of the film ended by July 29, 2017.[44]

The production crew used simple 3D modeling in Autodesk Maya as to determine camera locations, lens, and angles, rough lighting, character and prop placement, and which way the characters would be looking and expressing. The pre-visualization crew were able to use the 3D backdrops that became more detailed throughout the film's development to integrate the simple 3D character models, and then were able to test the Toon Boom animations on top of these scenes using the placement established by Maya, helping to speed up the production.[45]

Music[edit]

The film's official soundtrack was released on September 22, 2017 by RCA Records.[46]

The film's songs and score were composed by Friendship Is Magic songwriter Daniel Ingram, who first announced at GalaCon 2015 that he would be collaborating with a live studio orchestra for the film.[47] On his songwriting for the film, Ingram said, "I had to challenge myself to push beyond what had been done in the TV show; to write bigger, more epic."[48] It was stated through the PonyRadioCon panel that the film would have a total of eight original songs.[31] At Hasbro's Toy Fair investor presentation on February 17, 2017, it was announced that there would be seven songs.[49] Around 5,800 pages of sheet music were created for all orchestral parts of the score.[50] Recording for the score began on June 5, 2017, and finished on June 11.[51][52]

Sia contributed an original song to the film,[53] "Rainbow", which was released as a single on September 15, 2017.[54] A music video for the song later released by Entertainment Weekly on September 19. The video was directed by Daniel Askill and features a dance performance by Maddie Ziegler, a previous collaborator with Sia, intercut to scenes from the film.[55] Danish band Lukas Graham also contributed an original song for the film titled "Off to See the World",[56] which was used in the film's first trailer and played over the closing credits. Other artists included in the album are DNCE and CL.[57][58]

Release[edit]

On August 7, 2015, Lionsgate announced that they would distribute and market the film worldwide except in China.[32][29] The film was showcased at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival on May 10 along with eight other Lionsgate features to help sell the film to international distributors.[59]

My Little Pony: The Movie was originally scheduled for release in the United States on November 3, 2017,[60] but it was subsequently moved up to October 6, 2017.[10] Theatrically, the film was accompanied by a 5-minute animated short from Hasbro Studios' web series Hanazuki: Full of Treasures.[61] A private premiere screening was held in New York City on September 24, 2017, twelve days prior to the nationwide release date.[9]

Marketing[edit]

Numerous toys based on characters, sets, and props from the film were made by Hasbro, and a vast majority of the products was released on August 1, 2017.[62] The 2016 PonyRadioCon panel included a brief preview for some of the planned merchandise being developed for the film, including T-shirts and graphics.[31] On July 27, 2016, the My Little Pony Collectible Card Game hinted on Twitter about a new set of cards based on the film.[63] Hasbro's toyline for the film was shown and promoted at Toy Fair 2017 and various other toy conventions.[64][65][66]

Several books and comics related to the film have been announced: My Little Pony: Annual 2018, which contains "exclusive content from the My Little Pony movie" was released on August 10, 2017;[67] and a "prequel" story released on August 1.[68] On January 23, 2017, Hachette Book Group listed five different books for the film, all released on August 29, 2017.[69][70][71][72][73] Books based on the film have been showcased at BookCon 2017 on June 4, with guest appearances by Andrea Libman and Ashleigh Ball.[74] IDW Publishing released a four-issue comic book miniseries titled My Little Pony: The Movie Prequel, with the first issue released on June 28, 2017.[75] Viz Media released an art book for the film on August 29, 2017.[76] A comic adaptation based on the film by IDW was released on September 27, 2017.[77]

A teaser trailer for the film was released online on April 6, 2017,[78] and in theaters alongside Smurfs: The Lost Village the following day. The first full trailer debuted online on June 28, 2017,[79] and was released with Despicable Me 3 two days later.[80] Another trailer was released by USA Today online on September 12, 2017.[81] The same day, the official My Little Pony Facebook page hosted a live Q&A stream with two of the movie's characters, Pinkie Pie (voiced by Andrea Libman) and Twilight Sparkle (voiced by Tara Strong).[82] Another trailer was played during the season 12 finale of America's Got Talent on September 20, 2017.[83] On September 27, 2017, the official My Little Pony Facebook page hosted a live Q&A stream with art director Rebecca Dart, who drew a custom artwork of Rainbow Dash (voiced by Ashleigh Ball).[84]

On September 30, 2017, a special titled The Making of My Little Pony: The Movie aired on Discovery Family, a joint venture between Discovery Communications (now Discovery, Inc.) and Hasbro;[85] it was watched by 18,000 viewers.[86]

Home media[edit]

My Little Pony: The Movie was released on December 19, 2017 for digital downloads and was later released on January 9, 2018 for DVD, Blu-ray, and On Demand.[87] Its special features includes a deleted scene, a music video for the song "I'm the Friend You Need", three featurettes starring the Mane Six, an exclusive Equestria Girls animated short, and the Hanazuki: Full of Treasures short bundled with the film's theatrical release.[88] However, the home media release lacks a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and instead has a standard DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

My Little Pony: The Movie has grossed $21.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $38.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $60.3 million.[3]

In the United States and Canada, the film was expected to gross between $10 million and $17 million from 2,528 theaters in its opening weekend.[89][90] It made $3 million on its first day, including $290,000 from Thursday night previews.[91] It ended up opening to $8.9 million finishing 4th at the box office behind Blade Runner 2049, The Mountain Between Us, and It.[92] Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew stated that, despite the opening being considered a disappointment, any reasonable return from the film would be seen as positive by Hasbro because it is tied to the toy line.[93] The film dropped 54% in its second weekend, making $4.1 million and falling to 9th.[94]

Its biggest markets outside North America are China with $7.3 million, the UK with $4.9 million, Russia with $2.3 million, and Germany with $2.3 million.[95]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 47% based on 59 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Charming and sweet, My Little Pony: The Movie will please its dedicated fanbase, even if it's unlikely to encourage non-devotees to gallop along for the ride."[96] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 39 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[97] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[91]

Katie Walsh of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Truthfully, this film feels like four episodes of a cartoon strung together, and there are times, especially during some of the latter musical numbers, where it truly drags." She also remarked on the film's animation, saying it "embraces the flat, colorful, Saturday-morning cartoon look and feel".[98] Christy Lenore of RogerEbert.com gave the film 1.5 stars out of 4, criticizing the narrative as being "all over the place" and having "a multitude of underdeveloped, crammed-in characters", while commending the film for retaining the Friendship Is Magic television series cast and staff.[99] Josh Terry of Deseret News criticized the film, saying parents should "put their money into some new My Little Pony toys" rather than go see the movie.[100]

Gwen Ihnat of The A.V. Club gave the film a "C" grade, favoring the improved animation over the television series, but adding "you have to wonder to what use it's being put".[101] Elizabeth Weitzman of TheWrap wrote positively of the film, saying, "Like its television predecessor, is all dressed up in bubbles and cupcakes and rainbows. But it's so jam-packed with rousing girl power, it passes the Bechdel Test with (literally) flying colors."[102] Amy Nicholson of Variety called the film "at once clichéd and exceptional", praising its female characters and calling the story "emotionally wise".[103]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Behind the Voice Actors Awards Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Feature Film Tara Strong (as Twilight Sparkle) Nominated [104]
Emily Blunt (as Tempest Shadow) [104]
Ashleigh Ball (as Rainbow Dash) [104]
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Feature Film in a Supporting Role Uzo Aduba (as Queen Novo) [104]
Best Vocal Ensemble in a Feature Film Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, Cathy Weseluck, Emily Blunt, Michael Peña, Liev Schreiber, Taye Diggs, Zoe Saldana, Uzo Aduba, Sia, and Kristin Chenoweth [104]

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