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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New on Video: Mo' Ponies, Mo' Problems in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Cutie Mark Quests

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 12:05 PM


Much like their Littlest Pet Shop releases, Shout! Factory is releasing My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic in a series of thrice-a-year compilations, and the tenth disc in the Pony series, Cutie Mark Quests, is being released on DVD on June 30.

Brief background: In the show's mythos, a Cutie Mark is the symbol on a given pony's flank; it appears when, and only when, they discover their special talent and purpose in life. (For a show with "magic" in the title, Cutie Marks are the show's only truly inexplicable magic.) The Cutie Mark Crusaders are a trio of young foals who don't yet have their Marks, but are determined to make them appear by figuring out just who they are.

These kind of theme-based series are certainly nothing new; Paramount did it in the 2000s with their Star Trek: Fan Collective series, and initial VHS releases of television shows in the 1980s were often in the form of "here's a random episodes you'll probably like" collections. Also, Shout! Factory does eventually release each full season of Friendship Is Magic as its own set, which look pretty good on one's shelf.


Shout! Factory tends to paint themselves in a bit of a corner with these collections, at least in terms of keeping up with a given compilation's themes. The majority of the episodes that would have fit best in Cutie Mark Quests already appeared in the this past March's Adventures Of The Cutie Mark Crusaders set, and Shout! Factory is good about not recycling episodes for these sets, and certainly not within the space of a few months. That said, there's still some mystery to their selections; the Adventures Of The Cutie Mark Crusaders set included the Season 4 episode "Pinkie Pride," in which the Crusaders don't actually appear. (Though Weird Al Yankovic is that episode's guest star, and Season 4 hasn't hit video yet, so it's no surprise they wanted to get it out there.) Besides, as modern animation goes, Friendship Is Magic has a re-watchability quotient which is matched only by Wander Over Yonder and Steven Universe, so you can't really go wrong with any set.

Of the five episodes on Cutie Mark Quests, Season 1's "The Show Stoppers" (in which the Crusaders decide to find out if 1980s synth-pop will earn them their Marks), would have been more appropriate on the Adventures DVD, and the premiere Season 2 premiere episodes "The Return of Harmony, Parts 1 & 2" have nothing to do with Cutie Marks at all, though they do feature the introduction of Discord, a trickster god voiced by John DeLancie, who is not-coincidentally portrayed the similar trickster god Q on Star Trek. The final two episodes on the DVD are the Season 5 premiere "The Cutie Map, Parts 1 & 2," which only debuted on television this past April.

And while I can quote from "The Show Stoppers" and "The Return of Harmony, Parts 1 & 2" as circumstances require (and you'd be surprised how often they do), I can't speak for "The Cutie Map, Parts 1 & 2," 'cuz I haven't watched 'em yet. I haven't watched any of Season 5 even though it's already 10 episodes in, for a simple reason: I'm currently writing a book about the show. The working title is Ponyville Confidential, but since it's a scholarly study of both the series and the Pony franchise's place in the media since the early 1980s, the eventual title will probably be something more academia-friendly like A History and Critical Study of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, because that's the kind of get-to-the-point title the publisher prefers.

I'm keeping the scope of the book to the first four seasons. The manuscript is due in September, by which time Season 5 will have probably just completed, and there'd be no way to do it any kind of justice. What's more, since I know that "The Cutie Map, Parts 1 & 2" involves a village where the residents have given up their Cutie Marks because it says so on the back of the DVD, and a recurring theme in Ponyville Confidential is the mystery of the Cutie Marks and how they work, there's a good chance that the episode will contradict much of what I've written. So, in the interest of plausible deniability, I ain't watching it yet, which will do me a world of good when the book is finally published in 2016 or 2017, and I inevitably get a flood of angry Tweets telling me that I'm worse than Hitler for including what will by then be out-of-date analysis. I'm sure they won't even be as classy as the Weekly's resident reactionary trolls are in the comments here. (Hello, resident reactionary trolls! God bless you and the wonderful work you do.) I can't even watch these clips I've embedded.  Who is the pony with the parallel lines for a Cutie Mark? Why does Fluttershy have that same Mark on the back of the box, replacing her usual butterflies? I don't know!

So let my future internet abuse be a cautionary tale: if you're going to write a book about a TV series, choose one that isn't still in production. Unless you have as much to say about it as I do about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in which case, go for it.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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