Everyone in the Brony-verse wanted to see the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cast on the big screen. There were plenty of plots to be had to make a full length animated feature. Now, on the eve of its fourth season, the MLP franchise has indeed hit the big time. Hasbro Studios teamed up with their friends at Shout! Factory and The Hub to put together an amazing, full length animated movie event, Equestria Girls, and released it across the country on a limited-theatre basis.
However, when the concept was first announced, that is to say, when they announced that the "Mane Six" ponies would instead be teenaged girls, it was as if a million Bronies cried out at once (to paraphrase a quote from another popular film with massive fandom). I'll admit, being a fan of the show myself, I was skeptical that they could do anything but destroy the franchise with such a bold move. However, after waiting the weeks it took for the film to hit the likes of Ohio where I live, and now having seen it, I'm beyond pleasantly surprised with how the seemingly strange theme was handled.
Now, let me back up a moment. You did read that right above: the ponies are transformed into human teenage girl likenesses of themselves. Alas, fear not, for they are in an alternate universe (metaphysicist philosophers, eat your hearts out!).
The plot is actually rather straightforward (spoiler alert for those who haven't seen it!): Newly-coronated Princess Twilight Sparkle and her friends are invited to the Crystal Empire. However, while they're sleeping their first night there, a shadowy figure swipes Twilight's crown and tosses it through a magical mirror portal that Princess Cadence was protecting. Princess Celestia immediately knows the culprit, and tells tale of the protege she had prior to Twilight, Sunset Shimmer, who was impatient with her studies and wanted ultimate power instead, and likely believes that the crown Twilight was given is meant to be hers. Celestia gives Twilight the task of going into the alternate universe to reclaim her crown, as without it, all the other elements of harmony won't work in Equestria, leaving their universe vulnerable to all sorts of evil. However, Twilight must go alone, as sending all six friends could upset the balance in the other realm. Spike does manage to sneak in with her as she enters the mirror.
Once Twilight is "through the looking glass", she finds herself looking strange. Spike is now a fluffy dog, and Twilight is a purple-skinned, sweater vest-clad teenage girl, and she is standing in front of Canterlot High School. There is lots of interesting comedy in the film surrounding Twilight learning how to use her new body: walking on two legs, having hands instead of hooves, holding a pen, using a computer, and so on.
Almost immediately, a bell rings and viewers see where they're going with the human theme. Many of the student crowd resemble popular background ponies: DJ-PON3, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon (the Ponyville school snobs), and Cherrilee the school teacher (who is, not surprisingly, a teacher at the school) are all seen right off the bat. Twilight manages to save Fluttershy from Sunset Shimmer's bullying in an empty hallway, and we learn that Sunset Shimmer is the resident "mean girl" of the school. Fluttershy directs Twilight to the office to meet with Principal Celestia, where we find out that her crown is now up for grabs at the school's fall dance.
One by one, Twilight meets the Canterlot High equivalents of her Ponyville friends, as she quickly studies the culture of the high school in order to be elected Princess of the Fall Formal. She must first reunite the five friends, who aren't speaking to one another after Sunset Shimmer's meddling. Sunset Shimmer, aided by goons Snips and Snails, repeatedly tries to foil Twilight's campaign, trying to smear her on the school's video website and even trashing the gym's dance decorations and blaming it on her. However, her plots are foiled time and again by Twilight showing her true colors and being the kind and loyal friend she is known to be in Ponyville, earning the respect and admiration of the entire school body in just three days. Enough respect, in fact, to tell the main group of friends that she is from another realm.
At the dance, Twilight wins the crown by a landslide, which prompts Sunset Shimmer to all but attack her on the school lawn and snatch the crown away. Alas, when she puts Twilight's crown on, she is transformed into the scariest villain MLP has ever produced, a succubus-esque demon. She attempts to turn the rest of the school into zombies to help her take over Equestria, but Twilight's power of friendship wins out, magically of course, and Sunset Shimmer realizes what it was she was missing in her prior studies with Celestia.
As a fan of the show myself, I can say that I was pleased with the treatment of the characters in this most unusual situation. Background ponies are given appropriate personas in the Canterlot High world and give the hardcore fans a little treat (besides those I've already mentioned, Photo Finish is the school photographer, Hoity Toity is part of the "fashionista" crowd, Mr. Carrotcake and Mrs. Cupcake run the local coffee shop, and even Derpy shows up dancing in the credits holding a signature muffin).
One thing I was not a fan of is the introduction of a possible love interest for Twilight in the pretty-boy Flash Sentry. In fact, in my coverage of the Coronation event, I mention just how refreshing it is to see a princess sans-prince in the world of girls shows and films. It made Twilight stronger, in my eyes, to be doing everything on her own without the help of some guy. However, in the movie, said guy even comes to her rescue when seemingly all hope is lost and proves her innocence of the gymnasium destruction for her. We find out upon her return to Equestria that there is a pony equivalent to Flash Sentry on Cadence's castle guard. I'm hoping they don't keep him around, other than maybe a bumbling crush on occasion, but even that makes Twilight a different princess than I'd hoped.
A couple words of warning for parents, if you take your child to see this in a theatre: there will be more grown adults there than children. Period. In fact, if it's anything like the showing I attended here locally, it will be grown adults in full pony regalia, second only to costuming seen at comic cons. The Bronies are out there, and they want to see this on the big screen. With limited engagement options to do so, you will be in a theatre full of them. Also, when Sunset Shimmer and Snips and Snails transform into the demons, it's actually pretty intense for a cartoon. My four year old son jumped, and he's seen stuff far scarier than an animated demon before. In a dark theatre, some children might be even more scared. If your child fits into that category, you might want to wait until it comes out on DVD or is shown on The Hub in the fall.
Overall, if you or your children are fans of the show, you're going to enjoy the movie. The humor is even better than many of the episodes, and the music by Daniel Ingram is even peppier and catchier than the series. Just remember, a toy line is due out in late summer, the DVD and Blu-ray release on August 6th, and it will be shown most likely several times in the fall on The Hub, so be prepared to be inundated with Equestria Girls in the months to come. Still, it beats waiting until next winter for season four!