• Editorial: The Best and Worst Parts of Fandom Animation Structure

    Rest in peace... I think.

    Animation is probably one of the hardest pieces of media to execute in this fandom. Merely putting a project together is an uphill battle, which is why it's understandable to see that the best animations within the fandom were made with small teams. Button's Adventures is a good example. Made with close to 3 people (ShadyVox, JanAnimations, and ElieMonty), Button's Adventures was all the fandom was talking about in 2013, along with the unfortunate drama that ensued.

    However we are not here to talk about that. I've noticed a problem with every major animation that has been released or posted to Equestria Daily: none of them are completely perfect. Sure, there are some animations that couldn't live up to their hype. There were some that were very close to being perfect. Finally, there were some that were simply missing the mark or the potential within their story. Let's talk about the major fandom animations after the break.

    Button's Adventures remains to be one of my favorite animations that came out of the fandom. Focusing on a colt that hasn't gotten his cutie mark, Button's Adventures is exactly what it says on the tin. Not only was the animation ground-breaking with its quality, but JanAnimations showed the fandom what you could do with a small team and a whole lot of initiative and work. Both Button's Adventures and Don't Mine At Night were excellent, with only a few slight nitpicks.

    The Best: Nearly everything in the animation was exceptional. From the animations to the music within Don't Mine At Night, Button Mash's only real flaw was his voice. Some thought his voice was annoying and it really depended on patience over whether Button's voice replicated nails on chalkboard. Button's Adventures is (to me) one of the best animated pieces to come out of this fandom. With only one person working on the animations, that's impressive.

    The Worst: I have a few nitpicks for Button's Adventures, but they all remain within an area of subjectivity. While the animation relies on one-off jokes and fast scene transitions, I feel that the series is going to have a hard time if it were to branch off into 15-30 minute episodes (if it wanted to). Button as a character is energetic and distracted easily, which reflects in the animation. I'd say that's a good use of thematic structure, but I can't help but shake the feeling that Button's Adventures is one-note, even if more episodes were to come out. An unfair assumption, perhaps, but it's how I feel.

    Suggestions to Make It Better: As I said, it's unfair to assume that JanAnimations or ShadyVox wouldn't be able to expand Button's Adventures into a bigger series. So, I'll just throw out a few suggestions if Button's Adventures were to be rebooted. Explore Button's father and what he does. Have an episode purely focused on Button's mother because I'm sure she would be a fun character if she got back into video games. Have Button team up with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. His distracted and energetic attitude would be funny when put side to side with the CMCs, who are usually focused until their adventure is over. I'm positive that JanAnimations thought of all of these suggestions, but that's the best I have.

    2013 was a great year for fandom animations. Both Snowdrop and Double Rainboom came out within the same month, while Children of the Night followed in July. Snowdrop made waves upon its release, acquiring 10 million views at time of writing. The animation concerned a blind filly named Snowdrop, who struggles to find her place in Equestria. But upon being noticed by the Princesses, her life is about to be changed for the better.

    The Best: Every single voice actor brought their "A" game. From Snowdrop to the Princesses, the voice work was superb. The animation was also very good, setting the precedent for what we wanted in animation going forward. The idea is also interesting, building upon a lore that could have an effect on other ice-related creatures such as the Windigoes.

    The Worst: Snowdrop's story and character is lacking. Snowdrop as a character is the type of character that might be fun to write, but not fun to watch. The best explanation for Snowdrop would be that it's a sad fanfic within an animation, and that's not within its favor. The animation characterizes Snowdrop as useless because of her deformities, and every character that isn't the Princesses or Snowdrop's mom acts in a completely unacceptable manner.

    The children make fun of Snowdrop right in front of a teacher while the teacher embarrasses her even more in front of the children who were teasing her. Not only that, but the children tease Snowdrop in front of their own parents and the Princesses while no one bats an eye. The ending of the animation paints Snowdrop as someone who impressed the sisters with her invention: the origin of the snowdrop. Yet, we have to sit through an insubstantial "sadfic" story in order to reach this interesting idea, which is only really corroborated in the end of the animation when the last snowdrop is released.

    I love the idea of a pony creating the "first" something. We had this with Starswirl the Bearded for a while. But Snowdrop as a character carries no weight on her own. There are no stakes for her story besides her own insecurities, which are immediately cast aside at the Princess' whim. Needless to say, this story needed more in order to have a coherent narrative, since the second act is practically nonexistent due to the conflict that's immediately resolved.

    Suggestions to Make It Better: My suggestion for this story would be to have more of the Princess' point of view when it came to Snowdrop. The end of the animation was definitely the best part, and I wouldn't change a thing. However if the story focused on what the Princesses felt and how Snowdrop affected their lives and the lives within Canterlot or Cloudsdale, the narrative would be stronger since it wouldn't have to rely on Snowdrop's characterization and conveyance to carry the animation. It could carry the weight of a myth or an old tale such as the Nightmare Moon arc or Discord's first episodes. However this animation botches the execution in the beginning for a story that relies on uncharacteristic negativity to grab the audience's empathy. This animation deep down is about a filly who overcomes both her social problems and her disability in order to make her own kind of magic, her own mark on the world. Unfortunately, the story isn't written that way.

    The biggest fandom project ever created thus far, Double Rainboom hit the fandom like an actual double rainboom, acquiring millions of hits before the video was rendered private due to the creator's request. The episode had the length of a real MLP episode, as well as Hasbro's endorsement. However hype could not carry the finish product, considering the animation completely lacked substance.

    The Best: The animation, voice acting, and the idea were all ambitious. The studio that put this together had a deadline and they made a finished product. That's an achievement in itself with a staff the size that Double Rainboom carried. The numerous cameos throughout the animation were neat, and the animation change from MLP to PPG seemed right. However, the product was all spectacle, which is disappointing considering all the hours that were put into it.

    The Worst: This animation needed a writer or script editor. I'm aware that this wasn't possible due to the specifics behind the project's rules, but the lack of either really shows. The PowerPuff Girls and Rainbow Dash are completely out of character, the dialogue throughout the animation is stilted and awkward, and the music is unnecessary half the time and has no structure besides [guitar noises]. There's a troll face in the animation, which I feel is a perfect metaphor for the story: there isn't one.

    The hype for the animation completely left out the fact that it was a crossover with PPG, which only brought confusion when Rainbow teleported into that universe. Sure, the animation styles were gorgeous, the double rainboom was excellently animated, and the voice acting was on point (sometimes). Everything else was a mess. A weak story is still a weak story, and it shows with how forgettable Double Rainboom is. There seemed to be no research done for both Rainbow Dash and the Powerpuff Girls, or perhaps there was and it was lost in translation to animation. Which is a shame, considering I'm sure that Double Rainboom is going to be remembered as no more than a disappointment. Double Rainboom is one of the few examples I can think of where the "execution" (animation, voice acting, etc) was actually better than the idea. Even then, the idea was subpar. This project feels more like an animation test than an actual animation, which is unfair for all the people who worked on it.

    Suggestions to Make It Better: If we want to keep the crossover element to the story, then obviously some more research on the characters is going to have to happen in order to save the crippled narrative. My best suggestion would be to pull back the timeline for the animation to be around season 1, with either callbacks or some sort of easter egg. That way, Rainbow's character would at least be understandable when she steals Twilight's potion since she hasn't learned how to be likable yet. A good way to introduce conflict would be to have Rainbow Dash be all too eager to jump into a monster battle, only to bite off more than she can chew. Similar to the last part of Powerprof, Rainbow Dash could simply burn out on fighting too many monsters, or is defeated by Mojo Jojo only to be saved. She could then admit that her cutie mark isn't to fight monsters, despite how "awesome" she is. Then the Professor makes a portal to teleport her back, and Bubbles could give her a memento for their visit (such as Octi).

    The rest of the .mov series is NSFW if you want to Youtube it. You have been warned.

    The .mov series is weird. Not just because the tone goes up and down like a sine wave, but because the first part of the series preceded all the other animations by a full year. Some would say that after all of this time, the .mov series still remains the king of MLP animation, despite it basically being an AU (alternate universe). I can't really explain the videos, so it's best to simply watch it on your own. However be advised that it's very violent and has references that I can't mention.

    The Best: The idea behind all of the .movs is admittedly original, along with the animation. The execution is good as well for what it's trying to be, and the voice acting has excellent comedic timing. Within every .mov there's something for everyone, and I applaud HotDiggedyDemon for trying to change up the narrative every episode.

    The Worst: One of the problems of having something for everyone is that not every episode is going to hit. While the .mov series keeps the same sense of humor, there were some videos that simply fell flat for me (Party.mov). I'm sure that there was that one video for everyone, but that's not much of a nitpick since that puts the .mov series' structural "problems" within the realm of audience subjectivity. Max's sense of humor is his own style, and I wouldn't change a thing. Doing so is how shows like Family Guy and American Dad run into the ground.

    Suggestions to Make it Better: Apart from making Party.mov funny, I have no real suggestions for the .mov series. Max walked the line between poking casual fun at bronies as well as the ones who would watch his stuff and hate the fandom. Most of us found it funny, and while Max has moved onto different animations, his work stands out among the pile as original, funny, and clever.

    And finally...

    Children of the Night is my favorite fandom animation. Not just because the animation is spotless from beginning to end, but this animation managed to take a regular story idea that we've seen time and time again (Luna's disciples) and surprise us with its originality.

    The Best: The entirety of Children of the Night is excellent, minus one thing that I will bring up in a minute. The animation is flawless, the singing and song are both breathtaking, and the combination of the two creates a tone that leaves you immersed within their story, Luna's story. You can feel the children's undying loyalty to their princess, as well as the secretive nature of their meeting. Finally, you can feel the foreshadowing of the Nightmare Moon confrontation with the final scene of Celestia in her study. This animation is pure 24 karat liquid gold.

    The Worst: The beginning is the only chink within this animation's armor. Gari's explanation is not necessary, and detracts from a story that is perfectly capable of being told on its own through the song.

    Suggestions to Make it Better: Taking out Gari's explanation will remove the timeline of where this animation takes place, but a simple camera shot upon Discord's statue would provide the same effect as the first scene. Everything else can be picked up via context clues. The Main 6 aren't in the animation? Then it must take place before they existed. Discord is turned to stone and there's no mention of a Crystal Empire or Cadance? The timeline is right there. Everything else in Gari's explanation (Luna wanting to make a different country with her children of the night) is already established through the song and animation. While it's a small nitpick, taking out 55 seconds from the song not only improves its longevity, but not a single second of our time is wasted. Only then, would Children of the Night be without a flaw.

    That's it for my current analysis of the fandom's animations! As far as I can tell, the main problem with animations is forming a coherent narrative. Sometimes the narrative doesn't exist, sometimes it falls flat, but in examples such as Children of the Night, they are one step away from perfection. These flaws simply show how important writing is to a project, and the fact that writing is a very hard skill to master. Not only just for fanfiction, but writing affects every medium within the fandom. After all, the show's writing is what helped bring so many people into this fandom. With excellent writing in a fandom project, it can help fans stay as well.

    Was there an animation that I missed? Do you disagree with my observations on these popular animations? Let me know in the comments. I leave you all with this question: "Is writing as important to an animation as I'm making it out to be? Or can poor writing be excusable when it's obviously not the main focus of the animation?" My apologies that I couldn't record an audio version of this editorial. My microphone wasn't working and I might have to get another one. Thanks for reading this editorial, and I'll see you next week.

    Editor's Note: The title has been edited to show that the focus of this editorial is more on the structure of the animations than the animation. Considering I don't know a thing about Flash, I'm sure this is more clear.