No matter how you slice it, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the most recent reboot of the classic franchise, has been a rousing success. Beloved by everyone from its target demographic – my three-year-old daughter is a rabid fan – to a growing community of adult, generally male viewers known as bronies, it’s become a veritable pop culture juggernaut.
Still, despite its nigh universal acclaim, Hasbro has done little to favor the fanbase with a proper home video release. Sure, individual episodes are available via iTunes, but physical media releases have been few and far between. A Target exclusive DVD entitled Celebration at Canterlot (boasting a scant two episodes) was made available in 2011, but this month at last sees a more substantial collection make its way to the awaiting masses.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – The Friendship Express is a disc that ably explores an enchanted world inhabited by Manticores, baby dragons, Windigoes and, of course, bizarre anthropomorphic ponies. It’s a character-driven affair punctuated by music and adventure, not to mention powered by the golden touch of former Executive and current Consulting Producer Lauren Faust. More importantly, though focused on the exploits of a predominantly female cast, its skillful blend of satisfying action and good-natured comedy help make the recurring themes friendship and acceptance palatable even to an audience trained to ignore the trappings of traditional “girls’ cartoons.”
This collection primarily consists of five episodes from the show’s two seasons. Titular two-parter “Friendship is Magic” introduces viewers to the principle cast – narrative voice of reason Twilight Sparkle, noble country girl Applejack, timid animal lover Fluttershy, fashion plate Rarity and the sugar-fueled Pinkie Pie – while simultaneously highlighting the fantastical world-building that is a hallmark of the series. “Over a Barrel” finds your favorite ponies cast against a western pastiche as settlers and native buffalo vie for control of a disputed frontier, while the holiday-themed “Hearth’s Warming Eve” tells of the founding of the magical land that is Equestria. Finally, “The Last Roundup” sees Twilight and the gang facing the possibility of Applejack abandoning them and their quaint hamlet of Ponyville. (It also features the first proper acknowledgment of fan-favorite character Derpy Hooves and a nice homage to I Love Lucy, which made it an easy highlight in my house.)
It’s a solid selection of episodes that proves a great introduction to the series, but The Friendship Express also includes some newer material for longtime fans – specifically the latter two episodes – that make it more than a simple by-the-book rehash. Similarly, its supplemental material, while not overly substantial, is equally inspired.
A “Meet the Ponies” feature offers bios on the principle players, and a bonus sing-along provides karaoke-style on-screen lyrics for the show’s theme song. There’s also a bonus episode of another recent Hub network re-launch, Pound Puppies. The only head-scratcher is the included printable coloring sheet. Yes, I said sheet. Singular.
Still, Friendship is Magic succeeds more by virtue of quality than quantity, and The Friendship Express reinforces this by offering five great episodes in one handsome package. It might not be the full series that the community is clamoring for, but it’s certainly a start. So if you and/or your geeklings are existing fans looking to relive your favorite moments or are only now discovering this world of spirited Pegasi, magical unicorns and industrious earth ponies, this DVD is an ideal way to do so.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – The Friendship Express will be available at retailers everywhere at month’s end for a suggested retail price of $14.97. Consequently conscientious bronies can pre-order now from Amazon for a mere $9.99.
Review materials provided by: Shout Factory