MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE
A Stable Phenomenon Makes A New Leap
Since the early 1980's, the My Little Pony franchise, based on Hasbro's
incredibly popular toy line, has been
matching children's imaginations with the colorful and courageous equine
inhabitants of a magical and
sprawling pony world known as Equestria. As several incarnations of the My
Little Pony universe galloped
up to the 2010 premiere of the immensely successful My Little Pony: Friendship
Is Magic television series
created by Lauren Faust, the Ponies gathered whole new generations of young
But for their leap to the big screen, the look and feel of the My Little Pony
world was gently adjusted by
director Jayson Thiessen and screenwriters Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao, Michael
Vogel, and Joe Ballarini.
Backing up this deeper look into pony-rific antics are dynamic animation and a
sophisticated visual approach
that brings the Mane 6 and their friends into sharper, more illustrious focus.
"To me, this seemed a natural progression, with all these epic, big worlds that
surround the ponies, and
the way that their ensemble cast works so well together," says MY LITTLE PONY:
THE MOVIE director
Jayson Thiessen. "From the beginning, the storytelling was so strong on the
series, that I thought,
someday, we could work our way up to making a story worthy of the big screen. So
being able to do that
now was huge."
"It felt like it was inevitable that we would get here eventually," continues
"The film is hand-drawn, 2D animation created with Harmony software from Toon
Boom, but with a few
twists," says Theissen. "To allow for more dynamic camera moves and enhance the
story-telling, we hired
a director of photography and a camera crew, and shot the movie first entirely
in CG before transferring it
back into 2D - to accomplish this, we had to create a whole new pipeline that's
a lot more like what you'd
see on an entirely CG film. There were certain sets that are done entirely in 3D
- like Tempest's skiff and
the pirate ship. We were also aggressive with the lighting rigs - really
striving to push what you could do
in a traditional 2-D film. Some of the effects and shadows are a mix of CG and
hand-drawn, but we hope
the result is seamless, and that you can't tell."
Some of the visual flourishes are quieter, but nonetheless crucial: The
characters' horns are narrower, their
ears more pointed, and their eyes now have sparkles and transparent highlights.
(Rarity would likely
describe these improvements like a day at a Ponyville spa.) As art director
Rebecca Dart explains about the
overall visual style, "For the feature film, we thinned out the lines because
thicker, cartoon-ier lines didn't
work with the new movie's character changes. The lines were adjusted for far,
mid-, and close-up shots
for the best possible results."
Animators added depth to the Ponies' eyes and ears as well as the heart-shaped
shadow under their hooves,
and changed the line color based on the interior color of their manes and tails.
"For the movie, for instance,
we could give Rainbow Dash's mane and tail colored outlines versus the blue
outline from the television
show," says Dart. "We could also step up her wing design."
Other detailed elements were added to the Pony designs specifically for the
film. Pony tongues in the movie
are pink instead of orange, for example, and even their hooves have a heart
shape (thus those heartshaped
Additionally, more dimension and volumes were added to the ponies' design. Tails
have more depth, and
the characters' eyes are also given a greater shimmer and intensity thanks to
extra sparkles in the irises
and color in their pupils.
Storyboard revisionist Harinam Virdee saw the changes from the moment she came
onboard. "The movie
is so much bigger than the series," Virdee says. "It's just got a bigger scale
overall, and it's so much more
dramatic. Everything is kind of pushed to the limit."
"On the TV show, we had to limit our poses, and limit our expressions, just for
do-ability," says Thiessen,
who directed numerous episodes of the TV series, as well as short films and
spin-offs from the Pony world.
"But in MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE, we can add a lot more subtlety - much fuller
animation. We can
also expand on the acting. And that's part of the personality - really getting
into the characters' little
Emily Blunt, who voices Tempest Shadow for MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE, heartily
"So many people have connected with the ponies over the years," says Blunt.
"Adults who watched when
they were younger and kids who play with them today, I think everyone will be
excited to see the ponies
in a new light."
Tara Strong, who leads the brigade again as Twilight Sparkle, says that,
"Whenever you go from TV to
film, the animation has to up its game." Strong adds that, "The team behind the
MY LITTLE PONY: THE
MOVIE are meticulous in making sure everything's going to look beautiful and
big-screen-ready. The show
famously has wonderful colors and scenery, and from the very first episode, I
was completely impressed
with the world that they created. This movie is even bigger and better, and more
colorful and polished."
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