Thursday, November 28, 2013

Trot Topics, *What Makes A Background Pony?

If there's a fandom that celebrates its background characters more than any other, it's Bronies! MLP is he only other titles to garnish such praise from its fans outside of Star Wars and The Simpsons for their extended cast. The "Background Ponies" are what the fans refer to as the unsung heroes in the background of scenes on My Little Pony. However, there is a considerable difference between what is a genuine background character and a supporting one.

Background Ponies are basically those ones you see somewhere in the back of scenes in most episodes of the show, whether its a large crowd in someplace like downtown Canterlot, or just in the off somewhere in Sugarcube Corner. They may occasionally have some actual dialogue(not always by the same voice actor!), but they do sometimes interact with the Mane 6. Other times they might just be providing a little extra eye-candy for the sharp fans, or just doing something for the sake of comedy like popping out of wells.

The most popular ones with the fans are called the "Background Mane 6" which are usually made of Doctor Whooves(Time Turner, Derpy(Ditsy Doo), Bon Bon(Sweetie Drops), Lyra Hearstrings, Octavia, and Vinyl Scratch(DJ Pon3). Others like Berry Punch(Berryshine), Colgate(Minuette), Roseluck, and Cloud Kicker are also popular with the fans. Some for their unique attire, designs, or color schemes which draws attention to them, while others are possibly for their actions, like sticking their head in a punchbowl or dropping anvils on Twilight. Some of them almost rarely appear at all, like in the case of Vinyl Scratch who has a collected 15 seconds of airtime so far in the whole series, and yet she's one of the most recognized characters in the fan medium, especially in official merchandise.

An off-shoot of the Background Ponies are the recurring characters which are in a different class all their own. They are very incidental to the story at hand, but appear regularly throughout the series, and frequently have a steady dialogue. Characters like Mayor Mare, Snowflake, Mr. Greenhooves, Rarity's parents, Donut Joe, Pipsqeak, Featherweight, and Truffle Shuffle regularly appear and sometimes play a small part to the larger story in each episode. They're not really background characters though, but not full-on regular parts of the cast either.

The last step on this ladder are the supporting characters, that are not really secondary characters. Secondary characters are regular cast members that play in large part in the series as a whole, like the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Big Mac, Granny Smith, Celestia, Luna, and Cheerilee. The supporting ones are characters that show up every so often or sometimes just for one episode(so far), but they are active participants in the episode their in. One-shot characters like Prince Blueblood, Cranky Doodle, Flim & Flam, and Cheery Jubilee have only appeared in the episodes they were first shown in, but managed to pull their own and draw enough attention to themselves to be noticed.

The appeal to most of the actual Background Ponies are that they lend themselves more for interpretation by the fans than the main characters since there's not much given information on them provided by the source material. It can be something like a character's unique style such as big sunglasses, crossed-eyes, or their similarity to David Tennant. Other times it might be something simply because they're shown in one shot sitting on a park bench like a human, which most fans take as them having an obsession with mythical creatures called "humans". But the Background Ponies are a larger part of the of the MLP fan community, even though sometimes they get confused with the supporting characters.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Trot Topics, *How Canon Is Expanded Universe?: Neigh Anything

The fourth comic story arc weirdly takes place prior to the previous one, Zen And The Art Of Gazebo Repair. This has the Mane 6 meeting up with Cadance and Shining Armor at Tealove's Tea Room in Canterlot just before the Summer Wrap-Up Festival in Ponyville, which is also weird since we see Tealove herself there at the beginning of the first chapter, but also in Ponyville later on fighting Fleetfoot for Big Mac's affection. Although the bulk of the story itself is really one big flashback with each issue does it from a "he said/she said" point of view. This doesn't just give a look into their past, but also several other background ponies as well, so you know there's gonna be a lot of continuity hiccups!

We open up on Shining Armor going over his secret origins at Canterlot Academy, which is their equivalent of high school, and how he hung out with his three buddies from the LARP club. One is none other than Poindexter(aka: Gizmo), the nerdy pony Rarity conned out of his asparagus, and the other two are the unicorn Gaffer and the pegasus 8-Bit. One day at school, the local bully/jock Buck Withers trips Poindexter piling him onto his friends. Cadance helps up Shining, and he falls in love with her from that point on. After he reveals his feelings for her with his buds at during a session of Oubliettes & Ogres(the pony version of D&D), Shining's mates pledge to help him make Cadance his VSS. 8-Bit gives him the idea for hiring Cadance as Twilight's foal sitter. On the night of one of Shining's flugelhorn recitals, his parents get her to take of Twilight. The amazing thing about this scene though is the fact that Twilight's parents actually get some freaking dialogue for once, which they've never had in their three brief cameos during the show. Shining works up the nerve to say "hello" to her in the most awkward way possible on his way out. The next step in Gaffer's campaign to win her heart is to put on a performance during the school's pep rally. Shining dresses up like Adam Ant, and sings a rewritten version of Little Girls dedicated to Cadance. The noteworthy thing about this is watching in the audience is none other than a filly Vinyl Scratch getting her cutie mark realizing how much she loves rocking out, all this while on the back of her older brother, 33 1/3 LP, who is also a student there. Cadence is very moved by Shining's song and starts clapping, but Buck calls them a bunch of geeks, which gets the whole stadium laughing at him. Despite this setback, Shining tries to ask Cadance to the Fall Formal dance, but Buck beats him to the punch and convinces her to go with him instead. The chapter ends going back to the future-past at the teahouse, but there's a short 2-page story with Shining gaming group playing O&O where he mentions that Twilight is also a big player.

The last chapter opens with Cadance beginning her part of the story where she admits that Shining Armor is always a bit of a dork after Twilight asks her, and that's a big stretch considering how much of a total dork Twilight later becomes. Cadance's flashback begins when she comes to foal sit for filly Twilight to who she grills for info on her brother, and wins over her help by revealing her stationary resume, to which we're also shown the first time the girls do their "Sunshine, Sunshine" bit. They go over several charts and calculate that Shining is the best one for her VSS, but this doesn't seem to add up when she accepts Buck's invitation to the dance. A later scene has Cadance revealing her feelings for Shining to two background ponies, Lemon Hearts and Diamond Rose, which she convinces to help her get Shining so that one of them can go after Buck on their own. Meanwhile, Shining and his gamer bronies plan on sabotaging Buck at the dance to make an chance at Cadance. On the night of the dance, Buck comes to pick up Cadance at the palace and meets Celestia who seriously wants her to ditch him, but the thing to look for in this bit is on Celestia's desk where she has a book labeled "Progress of Sunset Shimmer", meaning this is still prior to Sunset left Equestria. At the Fall Formal, we're treated to 80s Cheerilee talking to a pre-dyed mane Mayor Mare about their aptitude tests, with Mayor going "as if" to being a policition. What is really bizarre here is Cheerilee thinking the idea of being a teacher is "grody", when on the show she said she got her cutie mark when she decided she wanted to be a teacher. Shining shows up at the dance with Poindexter in drag for his date, to which Carrot Cake immediately falls for. After realizing that Shining isn't really with another girl for the prom, she politely ditches Buck to ask Shining to be her date. Buck realizes what's going on and tries to break them up, although this gets the whole student body talking smack to him about all the times he's bullied someone, which is an odd turn considering they just voted him Prom King. No one seems to mind Shining sending Buck catapulting up into the ceiling to get electrocuted by the disco ball, which you'd think would at least get Shining expelled. Shining and Cadance kiss, while Carrot Cake tries to dance with Poindexter still thinking he's a girl, but the thing to look for in this shot is Gaffer talking to a pony hologram of Al from Quantum Leap, meaning Gaffer this whole time was taken over by a time-travelling Sam. We then go back to the present at the tea house where a slightly older Buck shows up with Lemony Gems as his girlfriend/wife and winking to Shining signifying that they became bros sometime over the years. This chapter also had a cool 80s look at "PTV" with takes on classic music videos featuring most of the background ponies.

Neigh Anything is a decent attempt to present how the show's token happy couple got together, although it really contradicts the given history up until now. For one, Twilight didn't seem to show any kind of notice of Shining and Cadance got together just before their wedding considering she helped Cadance do it in the first place. Plus, funny how neither of Cadance's friends or any of the guys in Shining's gaming club were at their wedding since they were also key players in their becoming a couple! Hard to say if the comics creators were more interested in doing their own story instead of keeping it in sync with the show's continuity.

It's Time

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Trot Topics, *How Canon Is Expanded Universe?: Annual 2013-Equestria Girls

In an effort to elaborate on the history of the Equestria Girls movie nemesis, the first 2013 MLP Annual shows how Sunset Shimmer ended up going from Equestria to "Earth", plus how the human Mane 6(minus human Twilight)all met up and became friends. The only downside to this premise is that it covers more of the latter than the former which is what the fans really wanted to know more about. So this annual seems to only expand on so much of the established universe, at least on the one Equestria exists in.

The book is split into two parts. The first deals with Sunset Shimmer back when she was Celestia's personal protege student at CSGU a while before Twilight started going, in fact filly Twilight is show in the background of one shot with Cadence and Shining Armor having a picnic while Sunset is in the park studying. Some of Sunset's fellow students come up and ask her out to lunch, but she just snubs them for not taking the time to study. Sunset's classmates include none other than Lyra, Minuette(or Colgate), and Moondancer who has only been mentioned on the show during the first episode. Celestia gets wind of this and has a little talk with Sunset, which mainly involves her mentioning other talks that they've already had. It's a little easy to see where Sunset first starts getting her frustration with Celestia if she keeps referencing other times she lectured her. Celestia then shows her the magical mirror which Sunset sees a her relection in as an alicorn princess. Now, whether the mirror has aside from the power to open a dimensional doorway every thirty moons to also show someone's hidden greatest desire is never revealed. So, Sunset spends the next few weeks haranguing Celestia about the mirror, to which she keeps refusing to talk to her about, providing yet another reason for Sunset's burning frustration due to Celestia's inability to truly trust somepony. Maybe if she showed more trust in some of her friends and followers, we wouldn't have incidents like the Nightmare Moon affair. Being all ticked at Celestia, Sunset takes matters into her own hooves and breaks into a Dark Magic library where she learns a few new tricks, but this is totally against the rules and gets her into a big argument with Celestia. Sunset does have a valid point or two saying that Celestia shouldn't have kept some of this kind of information from her, just like if Celestia had trusted her sister a little more it might not have lead to her banishment. Celestia then makes a point too that becoming a princess is something that must be earned, which again brings up the idea as to whether she and Luna were born into royalty or if they achieved princesshood by becoming alicorns. Sunset gets expelled for breaking into the forbidden library, but she manages to ditch the guards and into the mirror which "conveniently" open to the human world at that time. Now why Celestia didn't go in after her is never explained, other than she's just so arrogant to believe that the sole reason Sunset would return was to seek her guidance, as she stated in Equestria Girls. All we get for Sunset arriving at Canterlot High is her stepping through the statue in her human form and not even mildly stunned that she's not only in a totally different universe, but she's now a tall, fleshy, two-legged creature. We don't get any kind of explanation as to how Sunset knew about where the Elements of Harmony would be when she went back to Equestria, or that they'd even been reactivated after Luna's return. There's also nothing on Sunset Shimmer' counterpart in the human world, which is a forgotten but important plot point since it's established that anyone from Equestria has a doppleganger there, so you gotta wonder if Sunset "did away" with her human twin. Considering that this is the part of the annual most people were really buying it for, it would be common sense for them to extend it to more than just eight pages.

The second and longer part goes over the history of the Mane 5 at Canterlot High. We open up on them coming together at the Freshmen Fair, a picture for which Twilight found in a yearbook. It becomes established that Rainbow and Fluttershy were already sort of friends after going to Cloudsdale Jr. High, and the rest all just seem to run into each other. The next day, their first class starts of with human Mrs. Harshwhinny as their homeroom teacher. We also establish that Granny Smith is Applejack's grandma in this universe too, which seems to imply that Applejack's parents are still alive here. To expand on the Apple family, we're introduced to not only the human version of Babs Seed(who here is a little older than her pony twin), but her older sister Sunflower Seed, only previously aforementioned in Babs' premiere episode. Applejack hadn't seen her cousins in a while and strangely reunites with them in the school cafeteria during lunch, but they seem to be really more into getting chummy with Rarity. Applejack accidently spills her lunch on Fluttershy, and Rarity kindly gives her a new shirt from her collapsible wardrobe she keeps in her locker. Applejack gets chastised by Sunflower for her hayseed ways, so she tries to seem more appealing the next day by leaving her hat at home, much to Pinkie's surprise. Dash joins the Wondercolts soccer team, and totally blows over team captain Spitfire, even though Applejack's advice about being a team player seems to set in later for her. We found out how much of the reverse-bullies the Seed sisters are here by totally snubbing Applejack and Fluttershy away from Rarity. The next day at the soccer game, we learn its Pinkie and not Rarity who came up with the idea for the Wondercolt ears and tails, and Pinkie gets all her friends to start cheering for Rainbow in her game. Fluttershy helps Pinkie pass the swag out, and notices Sunflower's tiny dog is sick and tries to warn her about it, but Sunflower again snubs Fluttershy. This causes Applejack and Rarity to finally tell Sunflower off, and then unify in helping Fluttershy and Pinkie cheer on Rainbow in her game. At the end, it's revealed that the entire story was Sunset Shimmer interviewing the Mane 5 to learn more about them to later use against them.

Now, what possible use Sunset had for sabotaging their relationship is still unknown. Whether or not she saw them as some kind of threat to her ascension to ruling the school, or if she somehow knew about their counterparts in Equestria and how they might pose a problem for her in this world is a total mystery. There is a lot still left uncovered as far as Sunset's backstory that the annual didn't get around to. If IDW is going to maybe cover the rest in next year's annual, or possibly in the regular MLP comic or upcoming Friends Forever series hasn't come up yet. Hopefully we'll get more on Sunset's origin story and not have her just turn out to be a "necessary evil" villain like King Sombra.

Have you seen this chicken?