It is no surprise, now that G4 shows signs of winding down, that Hasbro is already putting together its plans to revamp the My Little Pony franchise yet again. The new version, which Hasbro executives recently revealed to Entertainment Weekly in an exclusive screening, is designed with a number of arguably conflicting goals in mind.
First, Hasbro wants to maintain the core base of young children, which means the content has to be such that will interest them, and which their parents will approve. Second, Hasbro wants to maintain the audience of older girls by placing more emphasis on romance and adolescent drama. Third, Hasbro hopes to keep the new peripheral fandom by adding more complex themes and storylines. Finally, Hasbro also hopes to bring back to the franchise the older generations of fans and collectors who were turned off by G4; thus, G5 will have a lusher look with more overt fantasy elements, and it will blend components of all the previous generations into a single world.
The pilot of the new series, tentatively entitled My Little Pony: Equestrienne Girls, has almost completed filming, and the production as it currently stands was revealed to Entertainment Weekly in a three-hour session. A complete copy of the script is unavailable at present, of course, but we can piece together most of the content of the pilot, which will take the form of a two-hour movie slated to air on Discovery Kids in the fall of 2017.
The story does not begin in the land of ponies at all, but in a high school. The heroine, fourteen-year-old Megan, is a freshman girl madly in love with horses and all things horse-related. Alas, like many young girls who want ponies, she doesn’t have one. She does however have six friends who are accomplished equestriennes: there’s the bookish Tina, who rides a Dales Pony named Twilight Sparkle; the elegant Rowellina, whose beautiful Fell Pony mare Rarity has won many pleasure riding competitions; the cowgirl Amelia, who rides her hardy Criollo Applejack in Western competitions; the spunky Roxy, who rides a feisty Caspian-Welsh cross named Rainbow Dash; the shy Faith, who rides a gentle Batak named Fluttershy; and the hyperactive Paulina, whose energetic Dartmoor Pinkie Pie has won many jumping contests.
Megan, though she doesn’t have a pony to call her own, nonetheless knows everything there is to know about horses, and she is an excellent rider in her own right, having frequently ridden the horses of her friends. Megan’s passion for the equestrian arts is matched only by her curious penchant for certain anachronisms, which have earned her a reputation as an eccentric. She wears long and frilly dresses to school, keeps a complete tea service in her locker (she brings it out at lunchtime), and speaks in an arch fashion.
Unbeknownst to her, Megan’s strange ways have gained her the attentions of a new boy in town, Spike Hawterson, who was the star quarterback at his former school. So far, on account of her mannerisms, he hasn’t worked up the courage to speak to her. For her part, Megan shows no interest in Spike whatsoever, but Spike has caught the eye of both Tina and Rowellina, who sigh over his chiseled frame and rakish good looks.
The yet-to-be-produced movie introduces this sizable and decidedly cumbersome cast of characters quite rapidly and quickly finds an excuse to bring them together: the Equestrienne Girls are planning for a big riding competition coming up on the weekend, and Megan is planning to watch. Spike, though he has no interest in horses, has an interest in Megan, so he plans to attend as well. The competition is about to start, and Spike confronts Megan behind the stables with the hopes of asking her on a date. Before he can untie his tongue, however, a transdimensional vortex opens, swallowing Megan, Spike, the Equestrienne Girls, and the six ponies.
Screenshot from My Little Pony: Equestrienne Girls.
They come to themselves in a beautiful and fantastic place called Ponyland, the inhabitants of which are various magical creatures, including a race of colorful, talking ponies, who rule over a kingdom called Equestria. To the girls’ surprise, their own ponies, under the influence of Ponyland’s magic, develop the ability to speak; soon after, each pony changes color and takes on the attributes of one of Ponyland’s three breeds, Earth, Unicorn, and Pegasus.
This of course thrills the Equestrienne Girls: they quickly become fast friends with their respective ponies, with whom they even start wearing matching outfits with interchangeable accessories, suitable for children ages three to seven.
Even Spike, though disoriented at first by the interdimensional travel and the strangeness of Ponyland, soon becomes good pals with a Pegasus named Flash Sentry, who teaches him many of Equestria’s martial arts, including the use of spear, broadsword, and poleax. Spike takes readily to this teaching, and his manful exertions often cause him to glisten shirtlessly. After his many bouts in the practice arena, he cools his overwarm flesh by pouring water on his face from a bucket, in slow motion, while doves take flight behind him.
The ponies of Equestria are a friendly lot, and they take the Equestrienne Girls on a whirlwind tour of Ponyland: they visit Ponyville, where they enjoy sweets at the Sugarcube Corner Playset; they visit the sprawling city of Unicornia, where they see Sweetie Belle’s Gumdrop House Playset with its spinning elevator; they go to the beach (each Equestrienne Girl and her pony in a matching swimsuit and sunbonnet) where they cavort with the sea ponies and mermares in the Undersea Castle Playset; and at last they travel to the capital city of Canterlot to see the greatest marvel in the land: the Dream Castle Playset.
Yet, through it all, Megan still hasn’t found a pony friend, and thus she waxes angsty.
At Dream Castle, the Equestrienne Girls and their companions are summoned before the benevolent rulers of this shining land, Princess Celestia and King Sombra. The princess and king officially welcome the newcomers to Equestria, but warn them that this paradisiacal kingdom holds great dangers as well as great wonders.
Leading them up to a high tower, Princess Celestia, with the wind whipping her long and beautiful mane, points to the east, where the girls can spy a high wall of marble and gold, beyond which swirls a dark cloud, in which nothing can be seen.
“A thousand years since,” Celestia intones, “my sister Luna waxed jealous of the ponies’ love for me, and thus she sought solace in the pursuit of profane power. She conjured divels out of Tartaros and had truck with the spirits of the middle air. After the darkness consumed her soul, she prostrated herself before the lords of the House of Silence, and thus she cast all the lands to the east in eternal shadow. If any of her servants catch a pony out after the sun has fallen, they drag her back to my sister’s sunless land. There, by her dark arts, she transforms that hapless pony into one of the slavering Wraiths who serve her.”
Celestia heaves a deep sigh. “The wall you see, which I erected nine hundred years gone, is our only defense against my sister’s malice. On its parapets, my guards stand vigilant, their magical spears charged with power and dripping golden fire. They are ever watchful to turn back any Wraiths who would profane our fair land, but nonetheless, our enemies sometimes slip through. I believe they have grown bolder of late, for, since you first appeared in our land, many ponies have disappeared without a trace, and I fear Luna has already perverted their souls and warped their bodies in her torture pits.”
The other girls listen raptly, but Megan broods on these words and, brooding, descends back into Dream Castle alone. On a winding staircase, she comes upon King Sombra, who nods to her gravely. “I have scried in my glass,” he says, “and have determined that Equestria’s fate is bound up with thine. Come with me.”
Without a word, Megan follows Sombra, who takes her to a lavishly decorated boudoir where a white pony is gazing into a mirror and brushing her bright pink hair.
“Sundance, my daughter,” Sombra says, “is this the strange creature—fair of mane, hairless on its body, and armed with hands—that thou beholdest in thy dreams?”
Sundance carefully lowers her brush. She says not a word, but when she looks at Megan, her eyes shine. She rises from her seat, walks to the girl, and kisses her on the mouth.
From that day forth, Megan and Sundance are inseparable. They wear matching outfits as the Equestrienne Girls and their ponies do, and they often take lavish tea parties in the beautiful gardens around Dream Castle. Megan cannot tell whether she is in heaven or on earth, now that she at last has a pony friend of her own.
Yet from time to time, Sundance turns pensive and taciturn, and Megan often notices Sombra, his grave face never cracking a smile, watching the two of them from corners or through windows.
At last, late at night, Sombra, with a wrinkled and heavily bearded pony by his side, rouses Megan and Sundance from their slumber and leads them down a dark passage into a series of cold and dank caverns beneath the castle.
In a deep cave, they come upon a tiny island in the middle of an underground pool. The pool glows an unearthly green, and seated in the center of the island is a wizened gnome, his eyes closed as if in sleep.
The bearded pony at last speaks, and his voice is dry and husky with age. “This is Moochick,” he says, “my mentor. Five hundred years ago, he entered his meditations and never returned to his corporeal form. His spirit still hovers about us, watching and guiding us. Because of his protections, the Wraiths of the Dark Princess, though they oft transgress our land, never dare to enter Canterlot herself.”
“The talisman, Star Swirl,” Sombra says with a note of impatience. “Test them with the talisman.”
With a grunt, Star Swirl walks to Moochick and lifts from his neck a gold chain from which hangs a heart-shaped jewel, red like blood.
“This is the Rainbow Locket,” Star Swirl says. “It is a great power, and yet no pony can wield it. The prophecies speak of one from another land, one whose heart is pure, who will use its magic to cleanse Ponyland of darkness.” He places the Locket around Megan’s neck. “If you are the one of whom the sages speak, the magic of the Rainbow Locket will lead you.”
“And if I am not?” Megan asks.
Star Swirl merely shrugs, but his eyes look troubled. “I cannot say. But I possess the gift of Far Seeing, and I know that, whether you be the one we have awaited or no, you are destined for the falling and rising of many in Ponyland.” He turns to Sundance and adds, “And a sword will pierce your own soul also.” Then he pulls up his cloak to hide his face.
The morning after this strange interview, Megan is wild with grief, for Sundance has disappeared, and none can find trace of her.
At the news of the disappearance of her only daughter, Celestia tears the beautiful mane from her head and sits in dust and ashes. Sombra remains on his throne, though his brow is furrowed and his eyes are dark with pain. The courtiers and guards cast suspicion on Megan and her companions; some point out that these strange disappearances only began after the humans and these foreign ponies entered their land. A din of accusations fills Dream Castle’s grand audience hall.
A crack of thunder silences the noise, and all turn to stare at Star Swirl, who holds his knotted staff of oak over his head. “Fools!” he cries. “Has this soft and decadent age no reverence for the higher things? Behold, the girl-child wears the Rainbow Locket! Dare you accuse her to her face, you churls?”
At that, the courtiers stand chastened and abashed, and all turn to Megan and do her homage.
For her part, Megan feels some power, perhaps from the Locket, tugging at her heart, leading her and pointing her almost as a compass might.
She gasps, “I . . . I think I know where Sundance is.”
Star Swirl smiles. “Her heart is bound with thine. Go now and seek her. If, in thy journeys, thou losest thy way, remember these words: wither you wander, hither and yonder, let your heart be your guide.”
Roxy and Rainbow Dash speak up as one and say, “If she’s goin’, we’re goin’ too!” The other Equestrienne Girls and their ponies quickly agree. Spike, struggling to hide his warm blush, gazes at Megan and announces his intention to follow as well. Flash Sentry asks leave to do the same, though his warm blush is not for Megan, but for Tina’s pony Twilight Sparkle.
The friends set forth on a lengthy journey. Megan, guided by the tugging on her heart, leads the way. Having no pony any longer, she rides in the saddle with Spike, whom she considers an untutored and simple fool, he being unable to form but broken sentences in her presence.
The friends range far and wide over Equestria, encountering many dangers, vanquishing many foes, and exploring many playsets (some readily available and some exclusive) until at last they make their way through a dark and mysterious forest to a high and forbidding range of mountains on Equestria’s southern end.
“I don’t get it,” Twilight Sparkle says. “I thought we’d be heading into the Realm of Nightmare.”
Flash Sentry, with his two riders on his back, steps up alongside her and says kindly, “The servants of the Dark Princess take many forms and burrow in many places, milady.”
Twilight turns from him, uncertain why such a simple and polite address should bring heat to her face.
Megan points to a dark cave. “The Locket is leading me there,” she says. Impatient, she reaches back and smites Flash Sentry on the haunch, cutting short his conversation with the fair Twilight and driving him toward the cave.
After many hours of journeying in darkness and beholding strange wonders, the friends at last peer down into a deep cavern, wondering if it might be a pit of hell itself, for down below, many ponies, their necks in chains, are digging at the cavern walls with cracked and bleeding hooves while monstrous cave trolls, their cavernous mouths dripping drool, lash them with whips.
“Oh, how vile, to chain a pony of Equestria!” Flash breathes. Teeth clenched with barely restrained passion, he turns to Twilight and says, “Milady, but grant me some token—a tassle from thy bridle, perhaps—so that, seeing it, I may think of thee and not faint in battle, and I shall slaughter the lot of these beasts in thy honor.”
Twilight, unable to think of what to say, turns her burning face away from him while, on her back, Tina gazes at Spike fondly and thinks of how gallant he looks in the golden armor Equestria’s artificers have furnished for him.
But then Megan leaps from Flash Sentry’s back and screams out, “No! No!” For, down below, she has spotted Sundance. Two great trolls stand over the little pony: one has her crushed against the ground with his enormous knee on her neck, and the other, with a grin of triumph on his hideous face, holds up two small, blood-clotted orbs, which Megan realizes, with a pang of horror sharp as a dagger digging into her innards, are Sundance’s eyes.
The scream has given away the companions’ position, so now they have no choice but to fight. Wave after wave of trolls, all of them bearing truncheons, rush upon the friends. Flash Sentry and Spike both give a battle cry. Flash fixes a lance to his tack, and Spike draws his great ax. Together, working as one, pony and rider smite troll after troll. Flash runs them through their soft underbellies, causing them to scream like wounded pigs, and Spike silences them with the edge of his blade, cleaving their heavy skulls in twain.
The other ponies fight with less skill but much gusto—as well as desperation. Rainbow Dash and Applejack prove strong, and they deliver punishing kicks with their hard hooves. Twilight Sparkle, now a unicorn, and having spent much time already in the tutelage of Star Swirl, casts fearsome spells that burn away the trolls’ faces or cause their innards to bleed out through their lower orifices. Rarity, though less skilled, nonetheless harries the trolls with spells of her own.
In spite of the heroes’ valiant effort, the trolls soon capture them and drag them before their master, a stooped and wrinkled wizard who sits upon a high throne made entirely of glowing, sparkling jewels.
The wizard gazes at them for several minutes, but at last his lips curl into a sneer. “As for the ponies,” he says in a high and reedy voice, “put out their eyes and put them to work with the others. As for the humans—kill them.”
An especially enormous and hulking troll, carrying a truncheon as thick as a tree stump, steps forward, eager to carry out the latter command.
Megan is certain the end is come, and she bows her neck in expectation of the killing blow, but then a voice, Sundance’s voice, whispers from across the chamber: “Megan. Oh, Megan, where are you?”
Then the Rainbow Locket burns as if it has turned to fire. Megan’s chains fall away, and a burst of light from the Locket consumes her, driving back the trolls, who clutch at their eyes and scream.
When the light subsides, Megan has transformed into Magical Girl Mega Megan. Her ordinary clothes have been replaced by jodhpurs, riding boots, a waistcoat, dressage tails, and a felt riding helmet, all of them in gaudy colors and decorated with frills and bows. With her magical riding crop, Mega Megan fires a blast of rainbow-colored light at the wizard.
Early concept art for Magical Girl Mega Megan.
The wizard utters a shrill cry, and the jewels of his throne glow. Mega Megan’s magic is deflected, and then the jewels fire many beams of hard light, all of which strike Mega Megan in the chest.
This magical attack proves so much less effective than a conventional weapon, as Mega Megan merely falls to her knees and looks despondent. She can feel her magic weakening quickly: she realizes her magic is powered by her heart, but her heart has darkened at the sight of Sundance being so cruelly maimed, and she is certain that their friendship must be ended, since she could not save her.
But then Sundance calls out again, “Megan! Megan, I believe in you!” And the Equestrienne Girls and their ponies cry out the same thing.
Mega Megan feels energy surging within her. She leaps to her feet and shouts, “By the power of friendship!” Then she casts another great bolt of rainbow-colored light. This time, the wizard puts up his hands and whimpers. Mega Megan’s attack bursts through his defenses, strikes him full in the face, and topples him into a conveniently placed crevasse.
With another spell, Mega Megan bursts the chains on all the prisoners. The Equestrienne Girls quickly mount their ponies, and Spike mounts Flash Sentry. The trolls, confused and panicking, rush about the chamber. Those that can, escape, but the others Flash and Spike slaughter with great slaughter until Flash’s breath comes in steaming snorts and trolls’ blood mats his fur to his hide.
A loud rumbling comes from the enormous throne of jewels, and the throne is rent asunder from top to bottom. The Equestrienne Girls and their ponies, seeing what is about to take place, duck behind rocks, but the imprisoned ponies of Equestria, all of whom had been blinded, do not know what is happening and make no effort to protect themselves.
The throne explodes, sending fragments of crystal ricocheting throughout the chamber. Then the captive ponies send up a great wailing, for each of them has been struck in her empty eye sockets by the razor-sharp crystal shards.
When the throne erupts, Mega Megan is still exposed. Spike, seeing this, runs to her, clutches her, and shields her with his own body.
Until then, Megan had thought little of Spike and had felt nothing but impatience with the way Tina and Rowellina mooned over him. But now she notices for the first time how his long and delicate lashes frame his kindly eyes, and how firmly his well-formed lips sit one atop the other, giving him a look of strength and determination.
After the blast has subsided, Spike lifts Megan in his thewy arms; she neither complains nor resists as he carries her, with overpowering strength as well as overpowering gentleness, out of the caves and into the sunlight. At the very mouth of the cave, he at last collapses, and now Megan can see that hundreds of crystal shards, each marked by a gush of blood, had pierced his armor and entered his back.
The friends, now weary, lead the rescued ponies back toward Canterlot. The ponies whose eyes had been put out, and who had been struck with crystals, soon heal: the crystals grow, fill the empty sockets, and take the place of their eyes.
Only Sundance, who had not been struck by the crystal shards, remains blinded.
Spike, though he breathes regularly, is senseless throughout the trip, and Flash carries him on his back. The crystals in Spike’s back dig deep and begin to spread; his flesh takes on a violet hue and turns rough.
Megan leads the blinded Sundance gently by her bridle, weeping all the while. “I’m so sorry, Sundance,” she whispers. “Can you ever forgive me?”
“You came to save me,” Sundance answers. “There’s nothing to forgive.”
When they return to Canterlot, Sombra, seeing his daughter maimed, topples from his throne. His servants retire him to his bed, where he lies for many days on the brink of death. Celestia, however, though grief is plain on her face, welcomes the heroes and embraces her daughter.
The guards of Dream Castle quickly place Spike in confinement, for they recognize that the magic jewels are transforming him into a dragon—and dragons are the ancient enemies of the ponies.
Though Megan, the Equestrienne Girls, and their pony friends have returned as heroes, they receive a heroes’ welcome—and a subdued one at that—only from Princess Celestia. The courtiers at Dream Castle are inclined to blame these foreigners for the blinding of the heir to Equestria’s throne, and they are suspicious, too, of the former prisoners who have returned to them, on account of their mysterious, jeweled eyes.
The ponies of the jeweled eyes soon become known as the Twinkle Eyes, and they are given to strange visions, for their eyes reveal to them things ponies were not meant to see: often they quail in fear at sights only they can behold, and one of them, Sky Rocket, even goes mad, murmuring disquieting things about the Pallid Mask and the Slowly Turning Wheel.
As for Megan, she sits before a window and gazes out over Equestria as the sun sets. In the east, the dark cloud over the Nightmare Realm roils and seethes, suggesting that the Wraiths have grown restless. Glancing at Sundance, who lies in bed and sleeps heavily, Megan fingers the Rainbow Locket around her neck as she muses that, perhaps very soon, Ponyland will have need once again of Magical Mega Megan and the Equestrienne Girls.