We’re 3 months away from this glitter-bomb and they gave us some stuff to scream about. I think I’ll do just that. I took my sweet time putting this together, I know, but there’s a fair bit to unpack and a lot to be excited about so, let’s go through it all!
Okay, so first things first: people are calling this a 2D movie and that’s not really that accurate.
It certainly has some 2D elements, like the backgrounds, but the style of animation only makes the characters look 2D, when in fact they’re 3D models.
You can tell in how they move. If I were to give you a still screen shot, you might guess that it was from a 2D animation, but in motion, you can tell what it actually is: cel-shading.
I had a hunch that’s what it was so I asked a storyboarder who worked on the MLP movie (and the show) if I was right and she said:
The program they’re using is ToonBoom, which does rigs with 2D toon shaders, among other things!
You know, I don’t often call things, but I fucking called it. Let me have this. Just to give you a quick definition from Wikipedia:
“Cel shading or toon shading is a type of non-photorealistic rendering designed to make 3-D computer graphics appear to be flat by using less shading color instead of a shade gradient or tints and shades.”
3-dimensional figure with cel shading, has the effect of making it look 2D. Typically seen with thick outlines on the outside and little to no outlines on the inside:
(Team Fortress 2 itself isn’t normally cel shaded, but that’s a great example a fan made of what cel shading usually looked like when I was growing up)
Cel shading without outlines, as seen in Wind Waker.
Like I said, just seeing this still image, it looks 2D, but watching it move, you can tell there’s a 3rd dimension to the character with the features and lineart mapped out onto the models to make it look 2D
Which by the way, is really unique for a major release! I don’t know about anyone else, but I was excited that MLP: The Movie seemed to be 2-D since there hasn’t been a domestic 2-D animated movie since Winnie the Pooh in 2011. 6 damn years! While I maybe would’ve ideally liked a completely 2-D animated movie, the backgrounds and the cel shading works in really neat ways, and it will definitely make the movie stand out
The purely 3-D objects seem unfinished at the moment (but that’s not out of the ordinary, CGI seems to be one of the last processes). It needs texture or shading or something, and I can tell because most of the ship looks too soft (too much like a model) to be metal. I really think this will be fixed for the final product, but that’s probably the most jarring part of the style at the moment
Not all of the 3-D looks unfinished, but the best looking parts are still the painterly, 2-D stuff (look at those towers; they’re really stylized, but you can tell they’re 3D in a more 2D environment)
THAT DIGITALLY PAINTED VERSION OF CANTERLOT THOUGH:
The light effects are definitely 3-D in the fireworks and rainboom
Oh, and speaking lighting, so much of it looks so pretty! There are one or two times when the colours are slightly off, but the majority of the time it looks freaking gorgeous
You can kinda see by looking at Rarity that the shading is juuust slightly off here (kinda like they were for the teaser trailer), but then you look in the background and see this BEAUTIFUL background and Twilight all upset and worried about this invasion, and it feels like such a nitpick to worry about what will probably still be cleaned up before it hits theaters
We also get some really great expressions, so they’re not really limited by the 3D models underneath (if I’m right about that)
Also, just as one last little note here, the style is detailed enough to see little things about the characters we didn’t know up until now, like the fact that the spines on the side of Spike’s head are translucent, or that the colours of RD’s mane aren’t 100% perfectly separated
Overall with the animation, I’m so impressed not only by how gorgeous it is,but by how willing they were to take a risk and incorporate a 3D element in the form of (I think) cel-shading. This only really matches the creative spirit of the MLP team, though. Whether or not you agree on how well they always execute everything, they always try to step up their game with every new season and push themselves to be and do better.
And while I will say that if some of the more 3D parts (yeah, I’m talking about the zeppelin/airships mostly) aren’t fixed for the final release, I would have a bone to pick with them, but I have faith that we’ll be seeing a much smoother integration of that 3D on the big screen.
Story and Character Details
I really appreciate that they didn’t outright spoil anything too big. It’s definitely a well-cut trailer! We basically only know about the same information we did before, with just a hint or two as to things like who the true villain is.
Just based on the focus given to these characters in the trailer (and what I know of the Storm King’s characterization in the first Movie Prequel comic that was just released), seems like he’s not as big of a threat as the commander of his fleet, Tempest.
It’s a kind of villain we haven’t seen on the show or even in EQG, and not only that, but
She’s got a fantastic voice actress behind her, so she can pull off the deliciously evil vibe well without, say, reminding us too much of Chrysalis or other powerful animated villains from Disney classics
Plus her design with the broken horn and her magic sparking up out of it is instantly intriguing to me: for such a powerful presence, it’s awesome to see her weakness (and most likely shady past) is always on display—especially for a commander character, that’s just really cool
Grubber seems to be pretty standard so far, nothing he’s done has really impressed me quite yet, but I’m hoping his best stuff is saved for the movie itself
The sky pirates (or skyrates) look like a lot of fun, and in context I can see how well the bipedal birb pirate blends with the universe (the bipedal designs were the ones I had the most trouble with)
On top of that, we have sea ponies at last! And they’re far more adorable than I ever could’ve hoped
The original sea pony designs from G1 looked a lot more like sea horses, with curling tails and fins on either side, but I think the meraid-ish look is both more marketable for Hasbro and more appealing to look at (the original sea ponies always seemed like a joke in the fandom to me, I admittedly never understood why people would actually want it in G4)
And a-ha! Good queens do exist! Poor Celestia and Luna. Always a princess, never a queen.
Oh, and Seaquestria? It’s freakin’ beautiful. I LOVE the rich blues and purples here. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the 360 image of the underwater palace complete with an excellent piece of background music, treat yourself.
The Mane 6′s sea pony designs are pretty dang adorable. I don’t have anything interesting to say, I just like the cute water horses, okay?
Minor Details and Incidentals
I’ll start out by saying Twilight’s narration in the trailer is pretty standard, but still heartwarming (mostly because I already know and love these characters though). It sort of reminds me of the bits of narration from the How to Train Your Dragon movies, although those had a bit more character to them.
The what could possible go wrong? line, though. It just makes me laugh thinking of all the flashbacks we could have to the series.
I guess she’s talking about that festival specifically that she’s organizing, and in that way it’s a show of character development (in a similar way to the character development on display in A Flurry of Emotions, where Twilight is told she’s late and doesn’t have a panic attack or worry about what could go wrong… too much), but it’s still hilarious to contrast the idea that nothing could go wrong in Equestria to… literally all of the show.
AJ and RD protecting their friends even before the others have gotten over the shock of whatever they’re seeing tho
Starlight and Trixie get a bit of screen-time together and it’s adorable. Starlight might be stuck in Canterlot for the duration of the adventure, but I’m glad to see her included. Characters like Discord who might be too hard to explain to new audiences are understandable losses, but even if Starlight’s cameo is brief, it’s good to see her role acknowledged
In terms of music, Sia’s looking adorable so far, and Lukas Graham’s as of yet unreleased Off to See the World sounds pretty catchy (it’s the song at the end of the trailer), so they’ve got talent behind the vocals!
Jumping back to little details, it’s neat how sea pony magic has a very distinct look from unicorn/alicorn magic. Also, the bubbles are really cute
And, okay, I just wanted to take a minute to appreciate how serious this ponk is. Can we all just stop and take a look, because in this scene Twilight’s saying how she’s the one Tempest is after, and she should probably face this alone, which seems to be our Princess of Friendship’s big dilemma in this movie, and Pinkie’s clearly trying to tell her she’s crazy
Gotta love that they didn’t just go for hyperactive comic relief Pinkie Pie; they don’t seem to be boiling down these characters to just one trait (which is partially why I loved the moment where RD and AJ defend the girls; RD’s ego will no doubt be on display throughout the movie, but you’ll also see she’s ready to lay down her life for her friends)
And hey, lookie here! Canterlot got a make-over… and a contractor. There’s more pink than there typically is and it doesn’t necessarily match what we’ve seen of it in the show. Especially places like the throne room:
And you know, I’m a little torn on this detail? It’s beautiful, and I’m digging the starry night mosiac they’ve got going on back there, but it would’ve been nice to see the throne room we know and love rendered in this new style, you know? I’m gonna miss the deep magentas and the stain glass windows of the Mane 6′s accomplishments. I know that’s mostly the fangirl in me, but I like seeing continuity nods back to the show (like hey look: Cadence gets a cameo!)
Unless Canterlot gets destroyed and subsequently rebuilt in the season 7 finale, in which case I’ll shut my mouth
Speaking of which, I still have to wonder exactly when this will take place in the series, or if it exists slightly to the left of canon like the Equestria Girls movies (which, I mean, I consider canon, but still). I know there’s ties into the comics, but I wonder if/when the show will acknowledge the events of the movie… I guess only time will tell
And for now, I think that about wraps it up! All in all, I’m beyond excited to see this thing, as anyone could’ve guessed.
It should also be noted that a lot of kids movie trailers focus on the fun, comedic portions of the movie, so while I do think it’s mostly going to feel like this, I’m also looking forward to the more character-driven feelsy parts. As we well know, you can never get the full scope of a movie from just the trailer, but it’s usually especially true for kids movies.
Even just from what we have seen, it looks like we’re in for a ride. Can’t wait to get on.
This was going to be a football player, I think. More importantly, it was a test of some non-photorealistic shading techniques. One of the ideas was to make the outlines get narrower where surfaces overlap each other. Although it technically worked, it suffered from terrible aliasing. Varied line weight is tough. 2009