• Bronycon Coverage: John de Lancie and Show Writers

    Equestria Daily's coverage of all things Brony and Con continues, this time with tidbits from John de Lancie's Q&A session, the official Show Writers panel, and individual press conferences with both Charlotte Fullerton and M.A. Larson. What do I mean by "tidbits", you ask? Just things like John de Lancie supporting a non-zero number of recent rumors; Charlotte Fullerton revealing what the post-production process cut from her scripts, the show writers sharing the episode ideas they wish could've made it to air, and M.A. Larson explaining how if Season 4 had been announced just a few months earlier Twilight might never have become a Princess. Pretty standard stuff, honestly. Nothing to really write home about.

    Get the goods, juicy as ever, below the break.

    * * *

    John de Lancie Q&A

    Since participating in the making of Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, he's really been amazed at the spirit and passion on display within the brony community. Even compared to Star Trek fans, what we do is incredible, and it's amazing to come out at 9:30 AM and, despite the early hour, still see everyone singing and dancing at the Opening Ceremonies.

    John's been told by a "higher-up" (maybe a producer) with our show that he's somewhat of a "gateway drug" for fans of Star Trek to start watching My Little Pony. He himself wonders whether that relationship might work both ways.

    His experiences with the fandom thus far have broken the mold in terms of his expectations for media and fan interaction. He thinks the fact that 20-year-old men will watch a show for 10-year-old girls says something about what society gives to some people and restricts other from doing, and considers the show and its fandom a very positive thing. Especially now that we're rolling into a presidential election season here in the US, there's a lot of polarization in popular media, and bronies have done a great job at carving out a place for themselves and others like them.

    When asked what inspired him to continue attending cons, John compared the experience to that of a stage actor taking off his makeup and meeting with fans outside after a show ends. For him, conventions are his "backstage" where he gets to interact with fans and forge a relationship with them, and there's a great deal of appeal to that.

    Despite what you may think, John doesn't watch a lot of TV. In fact, he admitted that he doesn't even know how to turn his on!

    Possible costars John would love to bring to FiM include any one of the numerous opera singers he's worked with and/or directed in the past, Bryan Cranston, and "Bill" (as John refers to him) Shatner. Perhaps the rumors as of late will pan out in the near future...

    Conventions are his fondest memory of working with the show. Recording sessions for FiM generally progress very quickly and he only does one or so a season, so there's not much time to really interact with costars outside of cons.

    Contrary to the hall's belief, John claims he has never "permanently borrowed" any props from the sets he's performed on.

    John's favorite FiM episode is "Make New Friends But Keep Discord", The issue of a good friend having another good friend themselves is one that he feels resonates whether you're "8 years old or 80 years old".

    When reading for a character, John tries not to read ahead or inject his own personality over the rhythm of the script. Instead, he focuses on understanding the role and getting the "rock" of the character under the surface rather than "skipping along the top". The setting, scenario, and narrative context of a scene all play into how he approaches a page of dialogue, and in the process of pretending to be someone else, he often learns something about himself.

    Although John likes Discord's design and wouldn't change anything about it, he does wonder whether Discord would change himself to fit better into an aquatic environment rather than a terrestrial one...

    In John's opinion, Discord and Treehugger are "very good friends" now.

    In response to an accusation that Discord has become less "chaotic" since his reformation, John warned us that Discord shouldn't be "too nice" all the time, and that a future may come where he may be "naughty" again...

    His thoughts on DisLestia: "We've had a few interesting nights..."

    John's advice on getting into the acting business: "Don't." Going professional is a very different beast than just acting for fun, and it's a very difficult path to take. If you're enjoying with what you're doing now, then stick with that.

    Finally, John considers animated shows to be easier to act for than live-action ones, since he's a lifelong audiophile and "doesn't have to come in [to a recording session] with his hair combed" or wait around all day for a thirty-second scene. However, live-action roles allow for him to use his face and body in expressing a character, while animated shows require everything to be shown through just his voice. Both forms ultimately have challenges, and ultimately he enjoys them both.

    * * *

    Charlotte Fullerton Press Conference

    Charlotte's first point of contact with FiM was through Amy Keating Rogers, whom she'd been friends with beforehand and who introduced her to Lauren Faust and Rob Renzetti during the show's early stages. At first, she couldn't imagine how the toys she remembered from the 80s could have a 22-minute show, but after seeing Lauren's show "bible", she was impressed with the show's depth of characters and tonal consistency. She appreciates the fact that the show doesn't talk down to children or patronize them, and that it contains a cast rounded, well-written, primarily female characters in an industry where that's still kind of rare.

    M.A. Larson asked her to be a part of the show again for Season 6, but she unfortunately had to decline due to other commitments.

    In her opinion, the primary difference between various forms of media is the structure of stories told through them. At the end of the day, "writing is writing", but the pacing and narrative design of a story is determined by chapter breaks in novels, commercial breaks in TV shows, and level ends in video games, all of which require unique approaches and thought processes. Whatever the medium, she tries to make sure her writing is internally consistent, and that it ends up being something she can be proud of and, if necessary, defend.

    Most fundamental reimaginings of characters are requested by "higher-ups" within networks or publishing companies. Writers themselves almost never suffer from a lack of ideas for characters; their problem is rather that they have too many ideas to choose from, and generally only consider make such fundamental changes if they have a different story they'd like to tell with that character. Charlotte said she still has plenty of ideas for FiM herself, but understandably didn't spoil any in particular.

    Even now, Charlotte isn't sure she's watched the final versions of all the episodes she's written. Her self-described "OCD" about the small changes that often occur in post-production contribute to that.

    On the subject of post-production changes made to the show: the original title of "Look Before You Sleep" was "Opposites Attack", Philomena's name was originally "Phoebe", and in "Suited for Success" Pinkie's original response to the suggestion of Rarity becoming a crazy cat lady was "It's a slippery slope..." (one of Charlotte's favorite lines that didn't make it to the final episode despite her best efforts).

    When working on the show, Charlotte unexpectedly enjoyed writing for Rarity, even though she wasn't sure she'd be able to write a classically "girly" character. In her experience, sometimes the characters you don't immediately identify or feel confident with end up being the most interesting to write for.

    * * *

    Show Writers Panel - Charlotte Fullerton, Amy Keating Rogers, Gillian (G.M.) Berrow, & Mitch (M.A.) Larson

    Gillian has enjoyed her transition from novel writer to show staff, and finds the collaborative atmosphere more fun and easier to work within. Her biggest challenge so far has been learning to let ideas go, whether to other writers on the team or to the proverbial cutting room floor.

    Cut scenes from Episode 100 include: Flash Sentry running around behind Doctor Whooves screaming "Why doesn't anyone like me?", Celestia and Luna's guards mimicking them outside the town hall while they argued inside about who was supposed to bring the gift, and a closing shot of a changeling army flying towards Ponyville.

    Rarity's fainting couch is apparently unlikely to return. According to Amy, she's maturing past it.

    Mitch's theory about what happened to Spike's pet phoenix Peewee is that he was "doused" in Hurricane Fluttershy and melted into ash... maybe it's better we don't know.

    No one was 100% sure what the cause for the Season 5 hiatus was, but the impending release of a new Equestria Girls movie was labeled the most likely cause, since both the show and the movie use a lot of the same technical crew. Gillian, meanwhile, just figured the show staff just liked watching us suffer.

    Lauren's original show "bible" was a big help to Charlotte and Amy in getting a handle on how to write the Mane 6. Mitch just copied off Charlotte and Amy, and Gillian copied off all three of them.

    According to Mitch, every episode Dave Polsky writes includes the phrase "What in the wide, wide world of Equestria..." at some point in the scripting process, as a reference to a line from Blazing Saddles. Other than that, none of the writers present thought anyone's style of writing differentiated their episodes from others to any significant degree.

    Mitch cites The Taking of Pelham 123 (the original film, not the remake) and certain episodes of Frasier as his inspiration for how to balance comedy and drama, as he considers both to be good examples of characters individually creating comedic moments within harrowing scenarios. He's also a huge Hitchcock fan, his favorite film of whom's is Shadow of a Doubt.

    Although the finished episode differs heavily from his original script, Mitch is still proud of Magical Mystery Cure and denies that the fandom's response to it strongly affected his opinion.

    In response to several congoers thanking the writers for their role in creating a show that helped them through rough times in their lives, Charlotte pointed out how incredible it was to have written something that inspires its audience, as all of them are themselves inspired by the work of other writers that came before them.
      • On that note, they all enjoy the fact that the show inspires people to write fan fiction, even though they can't read it and sometimes people get a little too upset about headcanons. For what it's worth, Mitch always hesitates to answer certain questions at convention panels, for fear of infringing on the fans' ability to come up with their own ideas and interpretations. All things being equal, he prefers to "let the fanfic flow". 

    All of the writers enjoy getting fanmail and only dislike it when it includes personal attacks. Gillian once had a young girl write to her asking if she could be her "Princess Celestia" and exchange letters with her weekly, complete with a timetable of when Gillian could come over to her house on Saturdays.

    The fan reaction they found most surprising:
      • Gillian: Braze from Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare being criticized as being too much like an "OC"... to which Gillian accurately replied, "Well, he is an OC"
      • Amy: Derpy's first appearance, as well as anytime she makes Fluttershy cry
      • Mitch: Starlight Glimmer being well-received, which he credits to Kelly Sheridan's voice work rather than his own script

    Mitch collaborated a lot with Jayson Thiessen (who apparently has an encyclopedic knowledge of the show's canon) to get all the continuity right for "Amending Fences". Despite their efforts, the episode was almost cancelled very late in production by Hasbro, since they realized Twilight had been seen in previous episodes near her former friends when they were just background ponies.

    Here we go again... favorite ponies (besides Derpy):
      • Charlotte: Twilight
      • Amy: Pinkie Pie
      • Gillian: Cheese Sandwich
      • Mitch: Rarity

    In response to a question about Rainbow Dash and Rarity being held back by their friends from their professional aspirations, Charlotte reminded us that just because they haven't reached their goals yet doesn't mean they never will, and Amy advised us to "be patient about Rarity..."
      • Mitch, meanwhile, just blamed Pinkie Pie.

    After some discussion, it was decided that if Winona went through the Equestria Girls portal, she would indeed turn into a dragon.

    Mitch wrote the story for an early episode of Gravity Falls, but he wouldn't want to go back to working on that show. He came in early when there were very few scripts to reference and the characters' identities hadn't been clearly formed yet, so while he holds nothing against the show or its creators, it wasn't a good experience for him.

    The "Equality Town" from the Season 5 premiere was Meghan McCarthy's idea and first interpreted in script format by Scott Sonneborn, so he's not sure if there was any real-world inspiration for it. Gillian suggested that Starlight Glimmer was written to be reminiscent of Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series, though.

    Favorite scene cut by producers:
      • Amy: in "The Last Roundup", a disagreement between Applejack and Rarity over the correct pronunciation of "rodeo"... or "ro-day-o", as Rarity would have put it.
      • Gillian: a reference in Discord and the Ponyville Players Dramarama to "Hoofwig and the Angry Inchworm"

    Favorite episode ideas that never came to be:
      • Amy: constant pitches for seaponies from her and just about every other writer every season
      • Gillian: Applejack secretly becomes a guerrilla artist named "Flanksy"
      • Mitch: "Fillydelphia Ragtime", in which Applejack and Rarity went to Fillydelphia for a friendship problem and discovered that newly-elected mayor Flam had banned cider inside the city, resulting in AJ starting up a bootleg cider operation to keep from losing the Fillydelphia cider profits her family depended on

    All four confirmed that they still plan to come to cons in the future. Gillian in particular expressed her excitement for Larsoncon 2016.

    * * *

    M.A. Larson Press Conference

    After Unicon, the show writers were told by Hasbro they couldn't attend cons anymore, but most of them just piggybacked off the voice actors who kept attending them anyway. Other than that, Hasbro doesn't do much in the way of organizing fandom liaisons, so Mitch's cameos in Ponies: The Anthology and Bronies React were worked out personally between him and the fans running those projects. He has enough leeway with Hasbro to do things like that occasionally, so he just does them.

    Mitch's preferred pre-writing ritual is to clean everything in his house and do every chore possible until he has absolutely nothing left to do but write.

    Not only was Twilicorn not Mitch's original idea, Magical Mystery Cure was originally intended to be the series finale of FiM when he first wrote the script for it. Most major changes in the show stem from requests made by Hasbro's toy department that the writers then try to work naturally into the show, but in this case there was a very real possibility that the show would end after Season 3, since 65 episodes is a fairly standard run for a kid's cartoon to have. The original draft of the episode included some kind of small reference to every single other episode in the show's history, but most of those were cut once the series was renewed two or three months after the episode's first draft was completed. Had Magical Mystery Cure never been intended as the series finale, Mitch isn't sure Twilight would've become an alicorn at all.

    If given the opportunity, Mitch would write a Rarity episode for Season 6 on the spot. He loves writing for Rarity, particularly her tendencies to speak in a haughty manner and be a bit hypocritical, and likens her to the character Frasier from the show of the same name.

    In terms of personal projects, Mitch just sold the upcoming second and third books in his Pennyroyal Academy series, and the recently published first volume has been optioned for a film adaptation with Reese Witherspoon lined up to produce--a deal that actually went through before he'd even gotten a publishing deal lined up for the book itself. He was excited to sell the film rights to Lionsgate since they're well-known for adapting the Twilight and Hunger Games series, but he isn't betting the farm on his film being made anytime soon, given how few films any studio makes in a year.

    On the subject of Pennyroyal Academy, he was first inspired to create it when he was advised that there's no money to be made in writing unless you own your own intellectual property (IP). What eventually became Pennyroyal Academy first started out as Princess Boot Camp, a TV show pitch that Disney Channel picked up and started casting for before it was eventually dropped (auditioners included a pre-fame Demi Lovato). Once he got the rights back, he adapted it into a book that was then heavily pared down into its current form while he was adapting it into a screenplay. Mitch described the adaptation process as "awful", mostly because his original screenplay draft was about 295 pages long (or roughly 6 hours on screen) and he ended up having to cut two-thirds of his own story before it could work. Between screenwriting and novel-writing, he vastly prefers the regimented structure and comparatively limited narrative possibilities of the former.

    While writing for FiM has been a huge boost to Mitch's career and has produced an incredibly unique environment in which a huge community of analysts and fic writers study every detail of his episodes, his only experience of being approached by someone else for a writing job was Chris Avino--a friend from working on My Gym Partner's A Monkey and Kick Buttowski--recruiting him to work on Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. After meeting Lauren Faust through that show, Mitch approached her looking for an opportunity to jump onto FiM and work with her again before her new show got underway.

    A lot of the "pandering" that Mitch gets blamed for in FiM doesn't originate from him. He prefers to insert subtle references into scripts that most people don't pick up on, like Spike referencing Winter Wrap-Up in "Magic Duel", or Applejack's line of "Twilight... get my rope," in "Secret of My Excess" being a callback to an old Pace Picante Sauce commercial he and his brother saw as kids. Many of the more obvious gags in his episodes--like Future Twilight's resemblance to Solid Snake in "It's About Time"--are either the work of the animators or completely coincidental.

    FiM surprised him both in terms of how successful it was and how much credit he got as a writer for it. At the time he first signed on to write for FiM, he was also working on a show called Symbiotic Titan with a creative team that included Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars. Everyone expected that show to take off, but it was cancelled after one season, and FiM's still around. In the meantime, Mitch was surprised to see his name consistently attached to the credits of the episodes he actually wrote, as that's not always a guarantee in the world of animation.

    According to certain reports, Mitch and G.M. Berrow may or may not have bought Peter New a Big Mac body pillow at Trotcon.

    Favorite episode: "Best Night Ever". He loves how much it embodies every character perfectly, and thinks "At The Gala" is one of the show's best song numbers.

    At his beginning of his career, Mitch worked with Mike Nichols on the miniseries Angels in America, and started out his screenwriting career writing spec scripts for Spongebob Squarepants. So technically, he's as much a fic writer as any of us.

    As mentioned in the Show Writer Panel, Mitch is a big Hitchcock fan, and would love to try his hand at writing film noir.

    In his words, Mitch would be "shocked" if plans for an officially licensed FiM video game weren't in the works somewhere at Hasbro, but he highly doubts he or any of the existing show writers would be tapped to work on the game's story, based on how the novels, comics, Equestria Girls series, and the upcoming movie all have their own respective creative teams.

    Finally, in response to the question of whether ribeye or strip steaks are superior: he prefers both, at the same time, one on top of the other.

    * * *

    Tune in tomorrow for more horse news! I'm going to bed now, because there's nothing else to cover for today and oh my god I think my brain is leaking out of my ears.