• Panel Writeup: Three Ponies, Three Princesses, and a Dragon

    Before we begin our Last Round Writeup, I'd like to take a moment to say it's been my pleasure relaying these panels to you folks over the past couple of days. I understand well the pain of not being able to attend a convention due to fiscal or distance issues, and not everyone has the time to sit through an hour-long video. Hopefully my ramblings can make up for that somehow.

    The last panel of Saturday -- and the last one we covered this weekend -- drew quite the audience into the Riviera's largest panel room. And why not? Any time you gather Tara Strong, Tabitha St. Germain, Andrea Libman, Cathy Weseluck, and Nicole Oliver at the same table, wonderful, wonderful things will be sure to happen. Let's not waste any more time. Let's finish this writeup so Couch can get some sleep for the first night in a week.

    How lucky were we all to hear from the voice actors a mere week after the Season 3 finale aired? ...Let's make that a rhetorical question, actually. Anyway, Tara loved how Twilight's transformation into an alicorn played out. She acknowledged the concerns the fans had, but she reassured them that Twilight would still be the same pony inside she always was. I have to agree with her when she warned folks against leaving the show for her new looks -- whether or not you believe Twilight's coronation bodes well for the series, the fact remains that something awesome has happened in her life, and such awesomeness deserves support.

    Next, the VAs gave everyone their reactions to the finale in a mix of selves and characters. Tabitha affected Rarity's voice quite smoothly, simply stating that she would be looking forward to altering Twilight's outfits to accommodate her new wings. Andrea spoke for herself when she said she liked it -- she stressed that becoming a princess was something that Twilight earned, not because a magic spell made it so. All I remember from Spike was a big "NOOOO!" What a jokester, right?

    Last at the table, Nicole wrapped the question up wonderfully by pointing out how the finale mirrors the transition points we all experience in our lives. As a college senior on the cusp of graduation, I can't help but agree with her.

    Nicole also got asked about the difference between singing in Littlest Pet Shop and singing in My Little Pony. As it turns out, the studio hired a Top 40s singer to sing for Nicole in LPS. We can make excuses for protecting a VA's voice from overexertion, and that a trained singer would be easier to work with and quicker to record. All right. Celestia's ballad to Twilight in "Magical Mystery Cure" was indeed meant to invoke a Broadway feeling, something big to bring the whole series home at that moment -- so it wasn't like Nicole was working under pressure there for singing for the first time in the series, was she?

    As it turns out, she recorded the ballad with Daniel in less than half an hour. Good grief.

    A little detour about Tabitha's arrival on Twitter led to Tara getting absolutely zero credit and the following (not verbatim) exchange:

    "I didn't believe it was you at first."
    "I'm not really me most of the time. That is why I am Saint of the Goats."

    Once the panel got underway again, the VAs offered their takes on recording the third season of Friendship is Magic. Andrea, Cathy, and Nicole all agreed with each other in saying that their readings were more natural now that they knew who they were in the studio and who their characters were, and that fantastic writers provide them with great scripts to launch off of.

    How much has their awareness of bronies affected their work? Nicole pointed out there was a significant lag between creating an episode and showing it, so that they'll often see feedback on old work while they're reading for new things. For her, it was kind of like being a teacher watching her children grow up, and I could definitely see that coming through in the final episode.

    Tara thought we were "okay." Leaping forth to save face for those who don't understand understatement, Cathy let Spike tell us we were awesome.

    This was the point at which questions finally -- finally -- opened up for the audience. Do you remember when I said bodies hit the back wall for John de Lancie's panel? Oceans of humanity sailed forth from their seats to line up at the microphone for this one. I, continuing in the vein of many embarrassing personal moments at the convention, wasn't too concerned with politeness as I fought my way to the head of the line.

    Thank God there were littler fans there to ask the VAs questions first, though, because I swear to you that kids asked some of the most fantastic questions I've ever heard at these panels.

    • Twilight, what do you think about working with your older brother? Tara explained that Andrew Francis lived in Vancouver while she was an L.A. girl, so they don't get to work with each other a whole lot. That said, she really enjoys watching their characters every time they were on screen together, and many fans have approached her saying that Twilight's bond with Shining Armor has brought their families closer together as a result.
    • Why does Rarity go crazy? ... Dear, she has no idea what you mean. Certainly not for a lack of work, or appreciation, or funds, or rainpower...
    • Advice for becoming a voice actor? Nicole urged her to begin now. John de Lancie urged much the same thing.

    The last child left the microphone behind, and I stepped up to ask my questions. Now, I've given a lot of thought to this after rolling my eyes at poorly-formed inquiries and deliveries at panels throughout the years, and I tried to call to mind all the things I would tell everyone else when they're about to loose their curiosity upon the panelists before them. Preparation is good, but in the end, there's no substitute for experience. I have no idea how I managed to ask my pieces before I crumbled like a statue of Ozymandias, so hard was I shaking by the end.

    If anyone remembers the episode followup I wrote for "Spike at your Service," then, they'll know what I pitched at Cathy first: "What does Spike think of the writers trying to kill him?" I'll do my best to transcribe her here, because there is no way I'm going to subject you to shaky camera footage taken with awkward posturing. Emphasis mine:
    "... [he's a] hero. The thing I love about the writers and how they're sort of setting him up for these funny things... the writers put him in such a position where he's always under a gun. So he's always in some kind of emotional dilemma where he has to solve a problem. And he doesn't -- he just goes with bravery, and he's just like any ol' child that just feels what he feels. So, he's nervous? He says it. He's angry, he says it. But his innocence is so pure that that's what brings you connected to him. And when he ends up saving the day by being himself, it's sort of all the more endearing. It's a purity that the others have, but not to the same extent as Spike. So I don't think he has thoughts about the writers. Just Rarity. 'Rarity...' But I love him because it gives me a chance to be more dramatic and on the spot, and that's always fun to play. Hopefully we'll see that happen. Season 3, when he's babysitting the animals: that was so much fun because it just went on and on and on and I thought he would just fall apart. All I can say is, 'Angel...'"
    I also asked Andrea to say one of Mabel's line from Gravity Falls as Pinkie Pie. Real talk, though: is it "bedazzled", or "bezazzled"?

    I can tell when I sat down to resume notetaking after asking my questions 'cause my strokes became a LOT heavier and squigglier. Anyway:

    • Someone brought up the idea of a Discord and Celestia romance happening in the show, citing how they'd both known each other for a very long time. Nicole thought that would be a great story: John's kind of young, after all. Smells nice, she said. 
    • What advice do the princesses have for the bronies? Celestia urges flexibility. I'm not sure how to interpret the rest of what I said for her. Cathy pointed out how bronies embraced virtues like tolerance and patiencec and wondered where that went. Luna? Dream big, guys. And, for Twilight: ignore the trolls. They aren't worth anyone's time. Block them if they're being unpleasant; don't give them their dues.
    • Would Spike want to be a pony, given the chance? He certainly sees himself as one, but he's too committed to nobility and bravery to give up his dragonhood. His current condition is just a result of his friends' charm.
    • Favorite episodes:
      • "Magical Mystery Cure" for Nicole! I mean, she sang. Gosh.
      • "Just for Sidekicks" was Cathy's. No surprises there. It was the best episode Spike's ever gotten.
      • "Party of One" for Andrea. Meghan locked this one down long ago.
      • "A Canterlot Wedding" and "Lesson Zero" were Tara's favorites.
      • "A Dog and Pony Show" for Tabitha, as well as that episode where Fluttershy and the dragon trade places.

    Wait, what?

    I was there at SDCC when she first talked about the latter, and by God if I wasn't excited for such an episode to show up in Season 3. But it didn't. And after talking about it with the other blogponies, we think it kind of suspect that she'd bring this up twice -- and so openly, too. There were a lot of Season 4 questions directed at the staff this past weekend, and not one of them got an answer so spoilery as the one Tabitha's talking about here. It doesn't seem likely that she'd be mixing up episodes, either. I'm going to go ahead and call shenanigans on this whole business, but it was an awesome laugh while it lasted.

    What came next after all this business was a serious question about a friend who was suffering bullies just for being a fan of My Little Pony. I desperately wish I'd taken a video of this part or more thorough notes. Who better to start the discussion than Princess Celestia?

    • Nicole was bullied as a child and as an adult. And she spoke for the entire panel when she said that none of them condone bullying. Bullies are victims of bullying themselves, a point Cathy would echo later on. The important bits: Love who you are, and know your friends. If you can count them on one hand, you are rich beyond understanding. And never apologize for being who you are.
    • Cathy backed Nicole up by saying that bullying happens everywhere. It's important to remember where it comes from, however: it's not from the victim. The bullies? They're the hindered ones. They don't know how to deal with themselves, so they take their insecurities out on others. So it's important to treat bullies with compassion, but it's also important that a victim refrain from engaging them and giving them what they want. Cathy also advised the asker's friend to band together with others who share his interests.
    • Final Draft, the moderator of the panel, followed that up by pointing to all of the people in attendance at the convention as proof that the bullies are wrong.

    I don't know who that attendee's friend was, how many friends he has, or how long this bullying has gone on. But on behalf of Equestria Daily and the rest of brony community at large, we offer him, as well as all victims of bullying, our thoughts and prayers. Whoever you are out there, you are not alone.

    The next question: How did Tara get Twilight so crazy in "Lesson Zero?" It was really a matter of applying Twilight's situation to real life. The point was to get Twilight completely freaked out over nothing in the end, even if she thought it was the biggest thing ever in the grips of her panic.

    • What's in store for Princess Twilight in Season 4? She's got to take on new responsibilities, but we'll have to wait and see what they are.
    • What should the bronies organize during the seasonal hiatus? The idea of a brony cruise got kicked around, but Cathy said it best when she simply told the fandom "continue on."
    • Have the VAs seen the show in foreign languages? Many of them haven't, though Tabitha once watched The Muppet Show in Portugal. Nicole was definitely interested in meeting her international counterparts, and all of them were excited for the upcoming release of Friendship is Magic in Japan.
    • Since Cathy and Tabitha work together a lot on the show with Spike and Rarity, does that relationship apply anywhere else? Apparently, [Cathy deadpan] it gets real awkward in the studio. [/Cathy deadpan]. Tabitha got curious and expressed a desire to find things on the internet. I don't think I've ever heard a crowd shout down an idea so desperately before.
    • Yes, Pinkie still wants a fluegelhorn.
    • How would Tabitha approach a Luna song? Well, someone else would sing it. Cathy jumped in with the first few lines of "Moon River."
      • Incidentally, Tabitha has sung a featured part in an episode of FiM. Highlight the following text if you can't figure it out: Granny Smith in Super Sppedy Cider Squeezy 6000". And for those of you who didn't think to do this in my last episode followup... well, you have time, don't you...?
    • Will Twilight live for a very long time? Tara says yes. We'll leave the implications on the table for now.
    • Tara has impacted a lot of childhoods. How has that impact impacted her? Well, it's a different time in the modern era because she didn't have Twitter of Facebook growing up--
    My notes end there, because the rest of the panel became a BronyCon fire re-enactment.

    Strobe lights flashed on the walls in addition to the wailing of fire klaxons, forcing everyone out into the parking lot. Cries of "We already did this!" filled the air. 

    The cool part was, as these bronies began singing along to "Smile, Smile, Smile", Amy Keating Rogers was standing behind this photo. I can only imagine what must've been going through her mind at the time.
    What wound up happening was that someone left through an emergency exit somewhere in the building, cutting the panel short by fifteen minutes. By the time we got back inside and shoved people out of our original seats, question time was all but over.

    With Season 3 come and gone like my resolution to visit the gym, it's looking to be a very long wait until we get to see the culmination of all the little hints we've picked up about Season 4. The return of (a singing?) Discord. The second and third parts of "Magical Mystery Cure". Tabitha's pranking revealed once and for all!                          living        a Ponyville        chaos fax machine                superballs everywhere (we love you, Meghan! HA HA HA)! Unfortunately, this means I won't have a whole lot to do until that day comes. So while I still have the time to do so, I wanted to thank you all for giving these writeups a shot and sending in your fixes and feedback all the way through. I did this for you guys. And I want you to know that even though I couldn't reply to every one of your comments, I read them all. So long as these kinds of articles are useful to you, I will be willing to write them. And if you demand more of me in the meantime... I've got a Twitter for occasional attempts at wit, a deviantART for drawings and comics and my sketch Tumblr for silly pieces like this one.

    Let's follow Draft's example here. Couch out.

    Thank you for reading.