How do we inculcate into the growing minds of our young the notion that bigotry and discrimination based on inherent traits is unsavory and immoral? How do we cultivate a new generation that is better and brighter?
The answer is simple: Hasbro. Obviously.
The newest permutation of Hasbro’s multimedia goldmine is “My Little Pony: A New Generation,” and it asks an age-old question: What if horses were prejudiced?
In the whimsical land of Equestria, they are. In some distant past, the three breeds of Equestria — unicorns, pegasi, earth ponies (read: regular ponies … except that they can, y’know, talk and stuff) — had a great schism and now live isolated from each other, eternally stoking their mutual hatred. They make up stories about each other — earth ponies smell funny, pegasi eat people, unicorns fry brains with their horn-lasers. All except for Sunny Starscout (Vanessa Hudgens, “The Princess Switch: Switched Again”), an earth pony raised in the homey little hamlet of Maretime Bay by a scholar of ponykind and inveterate anti-racist. When bubbly unicorn Izzy Moonbow (Kimiko Glenn, “Over the Moon”) wanders into town, Sunny is forced to embark on an epic quest to safeguard her new unicorn friend, track down some magical gems and return magic to the land of Equestria.
There are a number of things askew with the world of “My Little Pony.” Maretime Bay, for example, is pretty much just a regular, human town, completely unaffected by the fact its inhabitants are hoofed and hirsute. They have cell phones and stoves and pencils and doorknobs and things … never mind their lack of hands or bipedalism.
But let’s hold our horses. This is “My Little Pony.” It’s about chromatic little horses powered by the magic of friendship. While it has, perhaps unpredictably, garnered a wide and diverse audience, it is primarily intended for children. Spending time on things like “verisimilitude” and “fidelity to reality” completely misses the point. Never mind pondering how ponies produce and consume canned goods or operate heavy machinery — the power of friendship supersedes such trivialities, goddammit.
Because y’know what? “My Little Pony: A New Generation” isn’t that bad. While the world of Equestria inexplicably mirrors our own in every architectural, ergonomic and technological sense, it’s likewise filled with clever and cutesy little touches that make the 90-minute runtime pass relatively smoothly. A pony rollerblades, another pony descends into fascism and at another point ponies compete in something called “Prance Prance Revolution”; each is something of an absurdist delight. Songs (yes, it’s got musical numbers) are pleasant if not entirely catchy, jokes aren’t too sophisticated but well-executed and mercifully light on the horse puns and the world-building — from the crystalline woods of the unicorns to the art deco metropolis of the pegasi — is fun and varied if a tad elementary.
The film’s weakest point lies in its characters. As our equine heroine Sunny prances around Equestria in search of magic gems, she picks a merry band of strays (as is the plot of all too many films). Except for their roles in advancing the plot and setting up the ultimate theme of ooey-gooey friendship and unity, each character adds just about nothing to the group dynamic. The only bright spot is Hitch Trailblazer (James Marsden, “Westworld”), who supplies a fair number of laughs and most satisfyingly allows for the theme of pony solidarity to shine through as you watch his steady conversion from earth pony sheriff to protector of ponykind.
“My Little Pony” isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for me, for one. And “My Little Pony: A New Generation” isn’t the most breathtaking work Netflix has distributed — it’s largely unoriginal, mostly unchallenging and possessed by woefully uninspired animation (every kids’ movie has to have that soft, rounded CGI style these days). But insofar as a movie about prejudiced ponies goes, it’s light and cute and a reasonable introduction for our newest generation to some of the world’s headier problems. So, y’know. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Daily Arts Writer Jacob Lusk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.