“My Little Pony: A New Generation” stars Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Marsden, Sofia Carson, Liza Koshy, Elizabeth Perkins, Jane Krakowski, Ken Jeong, Phil LaMarr, and Michael McKean. Released on Netflix on September 24, 2021, the film has a pony going on a journey to restore friendship and harmony in Equestria.
The film was directed by Robert Cullen (the founder of Boulder Media) and José Ucha. It is based on the My Little Pony brand created by Bonnie Zacherle. I didn’t expect myself to revisit the colorful and friendly world of Equestria, but here we are. The My Little Pony brand made a successful comeback more than a decade ago with the release of “Friendship is Magic”. Along with a slew of merchandise, spin-offs, and a theatrical film, that show expanded its fanbase in more ways than one. After Twilight Sparkle’s journey came to a satisfying close two years ago, it didn’t take too long for Hasbro to reintroduce the franchise to a new generation of fans. Not only is it introducing some new characters in Equestria, but it also continues where “Friendship is Magic” left off…by wiping Twilight’s teachings about friendship out of existence. I guess nothing lasts forever, not even harmony. Initially slated for a theatrical release by Paramount Pictures, the film was sold to Netflix due to the pandemic, making the streaming service a new home for the brand. I hadn’t got into My Little Pony until I watched the 2017 film, which I thought was decent, by the way. That lead me to binge-watch the entire “Friendship is Magic” series, believe it or not. Long story short, I understood why it was that popular in the first place. When I saw that there’s a new film that’ll kickstart the franchise’s fifth incarnation, I became interested in seeing the direction they’re going to go for it. After all, I did experience its fourth incarnation, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t pass up on this latest generation. With that in mind, let’s travel back to Equestria and see if it’s harmonious enough to carry the franchise forward.
The story takes place many years after the events of “Friendship is Magic”, where the world of Equestria is now filled with paranoia and mistrust. As a result, the three pony species (Earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns) live separately in their respective lands. Sunny Starscout (Hudgens), an adventurous Earth pony in Maretime Bay, hopes to accomplish her father’s (McKean) dream of reuniting the ponies and bring peace and friendship back to Equestria. One day, Sunny encounters a lost unicorn named Izzy Moonbow (Glenn), who reveals that the unicorns can’t use magic anymore. Together, Sunny and Izzy, along with Sunny’s childhood friend Hitch (Marsden), embark on a journey across Equestria to restore magic to the land and make some new friends along the way. “Friendship is Magic” was known for teaching viewers about the values of friendship and unity. No matter how different they are, whether they’re ponies, pegasi, or unicorns, they’re the same, both inside and out. “A New Generation” did the proper thing by reintroducing those themes and setting the storyline in the same universe as “Friendship is Magic” instead of rebooting it from scratch. The result is a flawed yet joyful reintroduction that sets the stage for the franchise’s fifth generation. Like 2017’s “My Little Pony: The Movie”, “A New Generation” is meant to provide a harmless and kid-friendly adventure about anthropomorphic ponies who sing, dance, learn about friendship, and prevent that friendship from being destroyed. It’s never meant to be an animated masterpiece like the ones from Disney and Pixar. It’s a small-scale, cutesy-wutsey CGI cartoon aimed towards kids (primarily young fans of the brand) and nothing else. As long as it has something that gets the adults interested, like myself, I have no problem with that. Fortunately, that’s what “A New Generation” offered. While its story has some elements that “Raya and the Last Dragon” did better, the film compensated by honoring the brand’s magical spirit and themes and delivering a humorous and heartfelt journey through Equestria. As mentioned before, the film introduced some new characters to continue Twilight Sparkle’s never-ending quest for peace and harmony, including Sunny Starscout, who believes that friendship still exists. She and the other supporting characters provided enough likability and charisma for me to grow attached to their quest. This was mainly due to the voice cast, who did a decent job delivering their uniqueness to the characters. Former “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens led the cast with ease as the voice as Sunny, and Kimiko Glenn continues to impress me with her vocal talents regarding her portrayal as Izzy. Izzy is best described as the Pinkie Pie of “A New Generation” because of her high-spirited and innocent personality. She had a balance between energy and humor that didn’t come across as obnoxious or annoying, and Glenn succeeded in nailing that balance. Marsden, Carson, and Koshy were also good in their roles as Hitch, Pipp Petals, and Zipp, respectively. Ken Jeong’s Sprout Cloverleaf, the deputy sheriff at Maretime Bay, did the best he could to provide some silly humor, but his character came off as a one-note antagonist who’s gone mad with sheriff power. “A New Generation” marks the first time in My Little Pony history to have CGI animation instead of the usual traditional animation from the previous incarnations. While far from grand, the animation is vibrant enough to revamp Equestria in a distinctive and contemporary way. It’s also good enough to transition the character designs from the 2D world to its third dimension. It’s too bad that the world-building wasn’t massive enough to take advantage of the style due to its inconsistent pacing. Maybe they’ll explore more of that world in the upcoming television series? The film also included some songs performed by the cast, except Jeong for Sprout’s musical number, “Danger, Danger”. Alan Schmuckler provided Sprout’s singing voice. They’re nothing too special, but they were honestly fun to listen to with the right mindset.
Overall, “My Little Pony: A New Generation” has enough harmony in its friendly soul to continue the franchise’s positive reputation. Its storytelling and pacing made it feel like a 90-minute pilot for the upcoming show on Netflix. However, it does provide a sense of joy and harmlessness in its voice cast, animation, characters, and relatable messages about unity and friendship. The result is another decent addition to Netflix’s collection of family-friendly animated features. It’s worth checking out if you want to watch something sweet and innocent or if you like My Little Pony (mainly “Friendship is Magic”).