MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

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Movie #5: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night

Dance Magic released 6/24/2017, written by Gillian M. Berrow
Movie Magic released 7/1/2017, written by Noelle Benvenuti
Mirror Magic released 7/8/2017, written by Rachel Vine and Dave Polsky
Magical Movie Night released on DVD 8/8/2017
  • Dance Magic: The Canterlot High girls' fundraisers prove insufficient to repair Camp Everfree, Rarity discovers a dance music video contest with a cash prize. She meets Sour Sweet's gang of Crystal Prep students, who also plan to enter to fund their spring dance. Going all in by spending their fundraising money for costumes and setup, the CHS team has fine music but proves unable to perform Rarity's dance moves. At the mall, Rarity finds that the Crystal Prep girls have stolen Rarity's basic concept. Rarity and Twilight sneak into Crystal Prep and find their team going through impressive dance moves. They claim their video is ready for submission. Meanwhile, none of CHS's ideas are even workable. Consoling herself at the ice cream shop, Rarity overhears the Crystal Prep team discussing their inability to come up with a song for their video. Rarity suggests joining forces to produce a video together. Their entry wins enough to fund both teams' projects.
  • Movie Magic: The seven girls from CHS are in a studio to observing the filming of a Daring Do movie. After splitting up to tour the studio, they return to the set, where an effect is sabotaged and crucial props are missing. Piecing together clues from their tour, the talk through the problem until they spot a robed figure whom they chase through the studio. Rainbow Dash eventually catches up but ends up locked in a storage room. Twilight uses her magic to free Rainbow and gathers everyone to the set for her summation, where she reveals the culprit is Juniper Montage, the director's niece, who wanted the title role in the film. Juniper is broken but nevertheless banned from the set, and the Mane Seven are given roles as extras in the film.
  • Mirror Magic: At the mall, the Dance Magic video and the promotion of the Daring Do movie premiere torment a bitter Juniper Montage as she slacks through her job cleaning the theatre. A swirl of magic enters a mirror at a kiosk, and she buys it. Meanwhile Sunset Shimmer runs out of room in her magical journal to the Twilight Sparkle of Equestria, and Twilight asks her to come to Equestria. As the mirror corrupts Juniper's mind with glamorous images, Sunset goes through the portal and finds Starlight Glimmer alone at the castle. Starlight offers a fresh magical book and then accompanies Sunset through the portal. Juniper discovers the mirror grants her wishes. Bumping into the Mane Six, she wishes them into the mirror. Sunset investigates the girls' disappearance, sees Juniper's memories, and confronts her. Sunset ends up in the mirror, and the union of all seven geodes powers up Juniper into a giant. The mirror takes damage as she and Starlight grapple for it, but at the last moment Starlight convinces Juniper to set the girls free. Starlight, Twilight, and Sunset all recount the villainy in their past, persuading Juniper she can make a fresh start. Through the journal the Equestrian Twilight grants Starlight permission to stay for a few more days.

Character: A bit of background: These Equestria Girls adventures were originally released on TV as three episode-length stories, Dance Magic, Movie Magic, and Mirror Magic, and then collected as a movie-length DVD feature titled Magical Movie Night.

Lots of characters, so let's just run through them quickly. The first story focuses on CHS's Rarity, and it's a nice spotlight on her as she's in idea mode. We see her intellectual and leadership side as she heads up the dance video project and goes investigating with Twilight, and her empathetic side comes through as she offers to team up with Crystal Prep. I can really see her and Sour Sweet being friends. Rarity steps into the background for the next two stories, being mostly a trigger for exposition by Mirror Magic.

Rainbow Dash heads up the middle segment, sharing her Equestrian counterpart's initiative and love for Daring Do. Pinkie Pie is pure comic relief and pop culture magnet throughout; I love the art style of her moon imagine spot. Spike the Dog gets a couple of fun remarks in the Dance Magic episode. Applejack has only a middling role in each segment, but Fluttershy, though soft-spoken, gets a few important moments, revealing that she's now in charge of lyrics for the band, and giving us our clue that Chestnut Magnifico is kinder than she first appears.

Sometimes it's clear in both the TV series and in Equestria Girls that the writers strain to include everyone, but in this case I think it was the right decision to spotlight one of the girls in each segment rather than try for a full-on ensemble story. With all the shorts released by now, there's plenty of material for whichever character you want to see.

I'm happy to see the return of Sunset Shimmer's journaling, and the Sunset-Starlight team-up, especially their first interaction in Equestria, will always be my favorite element of this project. I enjoy Twilight Sparkle's role in all three segments, especially as she gets to play detective, although her part in Dance Magic seems more keyed to the Sci-Twi elements that distinguish her from Princess Twilight.

I likewise welcome the return of the Crystal Prep characters (minus Indigo Zap for some reason). Lemon Zest remains the most good-natured of them, and Sugarcoat remains my favorite. Sunny Flare gets a personality this time: She's the complainer of the group, but her lines are delivered with enough energy that she's still likeable. The only somewhat disappointing figure is Sour Sweet. Her talent as a natural leader comes out, but in her semi-reform it seems she's lost the mercurial "hook" that defined her character in Friendship Games.

Juniper Montage is our new guest character, whose story is that of Narcissus. Based on the boasting in her first scene, we can tell she's in love with her reflection before she ever sees the magical mirror. But there's insecurity underneath, with a desperation behind her actions and her line, "Who would want to be my friend?" For seasoned MLP viewers, she's a prime candidate for redemption, a fairly plain girl who just wants to be noticed, acting impulsively out of a desire for love and attention.

Lesson: While most of the truly short Equestria Girls shorts are just for fun, there's a lot of lesson teaching here. Dance Magic has a fairly realistic take on recovering villains, or however you want to characterize the bad girls of CPA. They're not really good yet; it's not necessarily evident that they even want to be straight-out good. But they're amenable to the idea and don't have any personal grudge against Rarity and her friends. They see an opportunity to achieve a goal and just don't have any qualms about cutting corners to achieve it. Rarity employs a strategy that shows up in real-life leadership resources for how to get opponents on your side: Offer them a place on your team and give them something to do that they love, and which benefits both themselves and your project. Then follow through by offering to join them in one of their concepts. I've seen it done, I've done it; it works. And the company our girls provide can only help the Crystal Prep gang's steps toward respectability.

The Juniper Montage arc is standard Pony fare, with a couple nice turns. First, there's a distinction between forgiveness (the restoring of a relationship) and amnesty (remission of consequences). Following her mostly penitent but still partly self-justifying confession, Canter Zoom responds, "Of course I forgive you," but she's still fired, banned from the set, and "it'll be a long time" before she can earn back the trust she's broken. We next see her in the sort of menial job most people her age have to deal with. It's a just and realistic outcome.

As her story plays out in Mirror Magic, there's a secondary lesson for Sunset Shimmer, not to worry and obsess over worst-case scenarios. It's a little odd to see this pop up as things actually are just about to go all worst-case on her, but it takes some degree of optimism to try to save the day, and especially to try to turn enemies into friends the way Starlight does. Now if we can just get Equestria's Twilight to learn the same lesson...

Resonance: Applejack has an awesome geode-powered moment holding onto her friends inside the mirror. There's some good music in the Dance Magic video. Mostly, however, we're here for the laughs. The highlight of this is Sunset's difficulties upon returning to pony form. We get some fun extreme faces, and I get a big guffaw out of the Power Ponies costumes, with Sunset as The Mane-iac, and the firing of the hapless assistant responsible. Fluttershy gets a laugh for her "deep-down-inside freakout." Mount Vehoovius is another one of those great horse puns. And then there's Pinkie. She gets called a genius once again and has some awesome material inside the mirror. Her Pac-Man-style transition gets me every time, and she calls out MLP's frequent villain-flipping.

As mentioned, I adore the bonding between Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer. Princess Twilight also catches my heart by combining her cutie mark with Sunset's on the cover of the new magic journal. And it's practically a throwaway line, but I'm gratified to hear Principal Cinch is now gone from Crystal Prep, with Cadance in her place.


Other Impressions and Final Assessment: These stories aired during the middle of the seventh season, but since I just reviewed the finale, I notice a number of uncanny but probably coincidental parallels with Shadow Play here: The main characters team up with their counterparts, someone steals artifacts out of jealousy, characters get trapped in a sort of limbo, and Starlight Glimmer is determined to turn the antagonist back to the good side.

Summing up, Dance Magic is a slice-of-life friendship lesson story, the closest EQG has come to the format of a Friendship Is Magic episode. It runs a little long for its simple story and might have been better at 7 to 11 minutes. And as much as I dig the music video, it's not quite the amalgamation of musical and dance styles suggested in Rarity's initial concept. Movie Magic gives us a Hanna-Barbera-inspired adventure with teenage mystery solvers, with a lot of gags to pad out the time—still delightful, and I would probably miss anything that got cut. Mirror Magic is the best of the bunch, lots of fun with our characters, and psychologically fascinating on a number of fronts. As a single movie, the only hitch is the lack of unity between the first portion and the second, but the return to the mall and the appearance of the music video in Mirror Magic help to tie things together just enough to make it work.

Overall, I'd say this is a step above the original Equestria Girls movie, but for its softer simplicity not quite on the level of the other EQG films.

This is a good opportunity to address the many Equestria Girls shorts and music videos that have been released. Not counting the blooper reels and a couple clip compilations, we have eleven shorts surrounding Rainbow Rocks, five associated with Friendship Games, sixteen bits in the Summertime Shorts series, and eleven in the latest Digital Series. That's too many to cover individually, but I'll just run through my top ten, in release order:
  1. A Perfect Day for Fun is packed with detail and was my first chance to see the gang just out there enjoying one another.
  2. My Past Is Not Today defined Sunset Shimmer for me, made me a fan, and showcases Rebecca's voice better than anything else in MLP.
  3. Friendship Through the Ages is the most awesome thing to ever bring a tear to my eye.
  4. Pinkie Spy is Rainbow-and-Pinkie humor at its best. "You smell like vanilla," indeed.
  5. Monday Blues makes excellent use of the Twilight-Sunset parallel and is sweet display of the power of friendship to overcome a rough morning.
  6. Not to favor Sunset too heavily, but how can you not adore Pet Project? Ray is our new silent show-stealer.
  7. The music of Coinky-Dink World is just amazing, the most fun I have ever had with Pinkie.
  8. I find Pinkie Sitting to be the most adorable of all the shorts, with Lily Pad now one of my favorite Tabitha voices.
  9. The Finals Countdown hits my alternate-learning-styles button and showcases the intelligence of all our main characters.
  10. And last, Display of Affection shines a light on those moments when one friend just does something simple but spectacular for another, for no reason other than to make her life a little happier.


Friendship Games armor rating: Gold Armor
Ranked 93rd of 175 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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