• Equestria Daily Interview Series: Mike Vogel on Good Night Baby Flurry Heart

    Mike Vogel Interview

    To say that my OC is exaggerating my reaction when Mike agreed to sit down would be a complete lie. If anything, my initial reaction was quite a bit more over the top than that. Think just slightly below foaming mouth guy in Avatar: The Last Airbender and you'd be pretty spot on with my reaction.

    Not that there wasn't good reason to be excited. For five seasons, Mike Vogel was the Vice President of Development for Hasbro Studios—which means that basically he's the guy who either approved, denied, or made suggestions to everything relating to the My Little Pony cartoon. And that was prior to his departure from that role to become a co-executive producer for the My Little Pony Movie (due out in 2017) and a writer on season 6 of the show.

    To sit down and chat with him for a small fraction of his time was an absolute honor.

    As promised from our Exclusive Reveal of the cover to Good Night, Baby Flurry Heart, Equestria Daily held an an interview with the book's writer Mike Vogel. You'll be able to find it after the break.

    Thank you for agreeing to this interview with Equestria Daily.

    Mike Vogel: No problem!

    I ask this with every interview, and I see no reason this should be any different. Who is your favorite pony and what is it about that pony that makes them so?

    MV: I feel like I'm going to get in trouble if I pick a favorite. That being said, it's Rainbow Dash! *laughs* My friends all make fun of me. It's probably been written slightly into the show in some way or another, but apparently a pony who thinks very highly of herself, says the word "awesome" a lot, and can be a little arrogant might have some similarities with me according to others.

    Yeah, she's my favorite, I like her a lot. She's the most fun to write for and I do use the word "awesome" way more than I should.

    Including those two little variants of hers that she uses all the time?

    MV: Ha! Yeah, pretty much.

    So, you went from being the Vice President of Development for Hasbro Studios to Co-Executive Producer of the My Little Pony Movie. How big of an adjustment was it to step away from overseeing the rest of the brands that Hasbro Studios has cartoons for and focus in on the world of colorful equines?

    MV: It was an interesting adjustment. The biggest adjustment was probably the fact that as an executive, you're kind of overseeing the broad strokes of everything and you're working with writers, directors, producers, artists, designers. When you move over to the creative side, you are dealing much more with the specifics that goes into creating… if that makes sense.

    You have to actually work out all of the little mini issues. I could tell Megan [McCarthy] or any writer on the show, "Hey, you really need to work on that moment with Twilight Sparkle and make sure that she really feels more sympathetic" or whatever the note might be. But when you're on the creative side—when you're producing and writing—you have to figure out what that moment is and execute it. It was challenging, but also the reason that I made the move.

    Nice! How did you end up with the assignment to write "Good Night, Baby Flurry Heart"? Was it an idea you pitched to Little Brown? Did they approach Hasbro about the book idea or was it something directed by someone above your pay grade?

    MV: The publishing team—who I worked with a lot as an executive—works with Little Brown. They were talking about doing this book, and they were talking about finding writers who knew the show really well and knew the characters really well. They knew that I had started writing a couple episodes of the show for season six, so they approached me and said, "Hey, you're the guy that used to approve all the writers and read a lot of stuff that they wrote, would you be interested in writing?" I said, "Yeah! I've never written a children's book before, but I think that would be really fun."

    It was actually at Comic-Con last year where I sat down with Little Brown and discussed the idea of what the story book was going to be and pitched out a bunch of ideas on how you could do it. They got really excited and that's how it happened.

    Nice. Exactly how long ago was it that a certain little princess ended up being conceived? That totally—

    MV: You would really have to ask Cadance and Shining Armor, that's a very personal question! *laughs*

    I realized that the second I asked! *laughs*

    MV: Aside from discussing it with Cadance and Shining Armor, it was the episode The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows. Where she finds out about the baby.

    It was right around then where we decided that in the Arc of Pony, it just made sense for there to be a baby at some point. Cadance and Shining Armor being the married in love couple that we have in our universe, it just made sense that they were the ones to do it.

    You mean aside from the Cakes who already have their two bundles of joys?

    MV: *laughs* Yes, yes. It actually started as a theoretical discussion of what Shining Armor and Cadance's baby would be if it happened, and then that led to, "Oh, well we should do that!"

    It's amazing to see how good ideas come out of theoretical discussions. *laughs*

    MV: That's what happens a lot with the show. Those of us that work on the show as an executive—or then later as writers or whatever—are fans of the show too. We love the characters, we love the world, and we sit around and talk about, "What if this, or what if this", or "Could we bring back this character?", or "What would happen if this character showed up in this place?"

    It starts as just a fun conversation, but then leads to, "Well if we were going to do that, how would that actually work?" Sometimes those ideas, after you discuss them, you go, "Uh-oh, that's a terrible idea. It would never work. It would create all of these problems" and sometimes you go, "That's actually a good idea for an episode, we should go with that!"

    Definitely. One of the fun things about writing is getting into the heads of the characters and your story and figuring out how they tick. What were some of the unique challenges of getting into the heads of Shining Armor and Princess Mia More Cadenza?

    MV: That's a good question. I actually think that it wasn't that difficult. I think what I like about Shining Armor and Cadance is they're the coolest possibly version of the high-school quarterback and the high-school cheerleader that got married and are awesome.

    Pretty much.

    MV: These were the popular kids in school except they're super super cool and nice, and amazing, and that's who they are. At least for me, I can't speak for everybody, when playing around with those characters, that's the jumping off point. It's the bad-ass cheerleader and the super cool, sweet, nice quarterback. Once you go from there, it's easy to extrapolate everything that they would say and do.

    Slightly different than the take that was presented in the comics where Shining Armor is complete and total dork, but otherwise Cadance is pretty much a cheerleader.

    MV: Actually I love that comic! It's a really, really good one!

    But, it's more in the way that you play them. When I was writing this book, it was fun playing around with Shining Armor as the dad who doesn't quite know what he's doing, and Cadance as the mom who thinks she's got it all together but maybe doesn't totally.

    That should be a fun dynamic to look at when the book finally comes out. Judging from the title of the book, it looks like Shining Armor and Cadance fall prey to one of the major problems all new parents fall into: how to get their little bundle of joy to fall asleep. Were there any particular memories or moments from your life that you drew upon for crafting this tale?

    MV: A little bit. I'm a really big fan of storytelling just as a concept. The art of storytelling I just find very fascinating. I love stories where there's stories within stories. Neil Gaiman did this in "Sandman"—I believe it's the sixth volume, but I'm not quite sure which one—where it's a comic about somebody who's telling a story, and then within the story they tell a story. It gets deeper and deeper and gets into the magic of telling a story. Growing up, that was the thing that would always calm me down. My parents could do anything in the world and I would get distracted, but if they sat down and read me a Grimm's Fairy Tale, I was set and good to go. This is the same thing.

    It's a story about Shining Armor trying to get Flurry Heart to go to sleep and trying everything under the sun. Then he tries a story and maybe the story he tells isn't ultimately very successful, but then Cadance joins and maybe she tries to tell a story. It's all about what's the right kind of story for Flurry Heart, which deals with me growing up because like I said, I'm obsessed with stories.

    Now for something a little bit different. Did you happen to draw any inspiration from a certain bedtime story read by one Samuel L. Jackson?

    MV: Ha! No, however, I love that story! That's now my go-to present for anyone who has a child, and they all are very appreciative of the story.

    I can't imagine why. *laughs* Who would you like to have perform the audio version of your book? Assuming it's not Samuel L. Jackson.

    MV: I really think Samuel Jackson or Morgan Freeman should do every audio book for My Little Pony, but if it wasn't them, I'm obsessed with Helen Mirren and feel she should read everything. Let's just go with her.

    She'd be fun and so would Betty White.

    MV: *laughs*

    I know not much can be said about the baby Pink Alicorn in the book—owing to major spoilers with the upcoming season six opening—but what was it like writing for a character who is a baby as opposed to an adult?

    MV: Fortunately, Flurry Heart is very young so like most babies, I didn't have to do a lot of writing for her. Because I had worked on the episodes of the show that dealt with Her Alicorn-ness, I had a good sense of what she was and was not able to do. That's all I'll say on that front. I didn't actually have to do nearly as much writing for her as I did for Cadance and Shining Armor.

    That should be fun, so you also ended up working on the show with her episodes?

    MV: Well the show gets worked on so early. We were working on season six episodes before I actually left Hasbro as an executive.

    You were still looking at the scripts and approving everything.

    MV: For the very very beginning of the season, I was still around as an executive. Soon after I left, I did some work on writing some episodes for season six.


    MV: Yeah!

    Very cool. Were there any licensed media, books, comics, et cetera that you drew information from while crafting this story? For instance, "The Journal of the Two Sisters" by Amy Keating Rogers covers some of Princess Celestia's and Princess Luna's early years—both in terms of age and of reign—

    MV: Mm-hmm (affirmative)!

    —And drops some hints about the life cycles and development of Alicorns.

    MV: I don't think so. Look, I've read all of them. I'm more well-versed in the My Little Pony universe than I ever thought that I would be growing up, *laughs*, but for the storybook, the fun of it was creating that universal story. Rather than getting into the specifics of Flurry Heart being Alicorn, it's much more just that universal story that every parent has had to deal with. Which is, "I love my little baby. I really really want her to go to sleep. How do I make these things come together!?" *laughs*

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun writing the book.

    MV: It was a really fun experience. Writing a storybook, there's some interesting challenges that you don't think about. One of the things you have to do with a book that you don't have to do with TV is you have to actually figure out how the pages roll out. Making sure that you're aware of, "Oh, this is a two-page spread", "Oh, this is going to be the reveal when the reader turns the page", "Oh, this is how I need to position this stuff because you need these pictures to be here and these pictures to be here." There was a lot of things to think about technically that never occurred to me when you're writing a script for a TV show.

    Similar problems arise when you're writing comics which—!

    MV: Yeah, exactly! Same thing. "Oh, this is going to be a splash page so I want this to be on here." It's just interesting.

    Oh yeah.

    MV: That was really fun. It was an interesting challenge and the joy of it was—which is the same as doing a comic book when you're a writer—is writing in the description of what you think should be here like, "Oh, Shining Armor should look frustrated and Flurry Heart should be doing this, and Cadance is standing behind watching them" or whatever. Then seeing the illustrator bringing it to life… It's just this magical moment where this idea that you wrote just appears in this image and you're like, "Oh my God, that's so cool!"

    And it's a million times better than the scribbles that I wrote down!

    MV: Oh yeah, totally! *laughs*

    Yeah, I've had that experience a couple times so far as I've been dabbling with writing comics, so I'm all too familiar with that wonderful feeling.

    MV: The illustrations in the book are epic and amazing. I flipped out when I saw them the first time.

    And this is Amy Mebberson's art—who is extremely well-known for her work on the My Little Pony comics—so it must've been fun to see her finalized work.

    MV: It was great! Again, this is a very traditional storybook story, so you get to see some really cool, fun fantasy images. Which I guess My Little Pony always has the fantasy image, but I think of My Little Pony as a real world because 'cause I'm a crazy person. *laughs* Seeing her illustrate the stories that Shining Armor and Cadance are telling was one of the best parts of the book for me.

    Nice. About how long did it take you to write the book?

    MV: Good question. It was a few months, going back and forth with Little Brown. The fun part about writing a storybook is every word is super important. The way the words fit together are more important. I would write out the idea, and I'd say, "Here's what happens on this page, Shining Armor is frustrated and he's trying to get Flurry Heart to go to sleep." Then I'd sit there and look at the way I wrote the phrases. With a storybook where it's on the page and I know the audience is looking at it, I'm like, "Oh, should this word be here? I'm going to move this here, I'm going to say this word instead of this word." I get very very specific and it's exciting to see it that way. Where people are going to be looking at the words instead of just hearing them.

    That was cool.

    Yeah, definitely more interesting actually writing down the words that you know are going to be read for, hopefully years and years to come.

    MV: Yeah!

    I know this from writing my own stories. In every story, there is one particular moment where a writer cannot wait to see how his audience is going to react.

    MV: Yes!

    I know you have that in this book—

    MV: YES!

    And I know you can't tell us what it is, but what can you tease us about the moment you are most proud of?

    MV: The moment that I'm most proud of, without spoiling anything, is the way the resolution of the story works out. It's pretty simple, it's a storybook for young kids, but I think that it represents what I feel is good about strong relationships.

    Cadance and Shining Armor are two very different characters, they have very different outlooks on life but when they come together, that's where they're strongest. That's what's cool about a relationship, and that's the moment of the story that I like the most.

    Nice, look forward to seeing it. Now something that's interesting about the book is the way that it was solicited on Amazon and everywhere else. It was called "The My Little Pony: Bedtime Picture Book". To your knowledge, was it always going to be called that leading up to its release or did that hit you as a big surprise?

    MV: I had no idea. *laughs* That was all Little Brown. They hired me, I had the idea for the story, and we went back and forth. But as far as as the way it was laid out or the way it was promoted, I had nothing to do with that.

    Then seeing the book shown at Toy Fair in New York must've been a big surprise.

    MV: I had a feeling. I knew we were getting close to the book coming out and—having a few Toy Fairs under my belt—I knew they showed everything. I had an inkling that this was around the time that they were going to start revealing images and stuff, but it was still awesome to see it. I had a bunch of friends from Hasbro who were at Toy Fair who were texting me pictures of the book and they're like, "Oh, look at you, so fancy." I was like, "Yeah yeah, I'm cool, whatever. I'm a storybook writer now, it's all right."

    Yeah, at least you were acting cool with the text, but I'm sure you were busy freaking out on the other side of the phone.

    MV: Exactly! Oh yeah, it's a total freak-out moment. Just seeing the cover and knowing it's happening. I'll probably do a whole freak-out geeky dance at Barnes & Noble when I go over and see the book on shelves! But then I'll play it cool after that.

    I know that Barnes & Noble does occasional author signings, so you could potentially let your local Barnes & Noble know, "Yeah, I wrote this."

    MV: Maybe I will! *laughs* I'm going to be the guy that goes in and asks to do a reading, like, "Hey guys, so this is me, I can show you my ID so if you want me to just sit up there and read the book, I could do it."

    "Yeah I can read it to all these little kids."

    MV: Exactly!

    "Uh, those aren't little kids."

    MV: *laughs* Yeah exactly!

    What'd you think of the cover when you first saw it?

    MV: I thought it was beautiful. It's a pretty easy answer, but I'm so in love with the illustrations and the style of everything that I think it's all perfect.

    High praise from the man that used to approve everything with regards to the My Little Pony Show.

    MV: That is true! There was a funny sort of thing, I was speaking with one of the publishers at Little Brown, and they were like, "Wow, it was really easy to get your story approved." I wrote up a synopsis of, "Here's what happens in the story", "Here's the way I see the story going out", and they're like, "Wow, your stuff got approved really quickly by Hasbro." I was like, "Well, I was the guy who was approving these things and I know the people who are approving them now. So I know what they want to see because we've had all these discussions about what should be in a good My Little Pony proposal, so I think I ticked all the boxes since I was the one that helped define what those boxes were."

    That must've been interesting going from the person who approved everything to, "Okay here, I'm submitting this to company A who then is going to submit it to company B who then submits it to subdivision C who approves all this stuff then replies back to company A who will then hopefully tells you 'It's approved'."

    MV: Yeah, it's a very very funny process because you literally do go from one end of it to the other. Me and my team who worked on the show were the ones who would get calls from the publishing team, or the licensing team, or whoever saying, "This company wants to do this with Pony" or "There's this proposal for this book" or "IDW wants to do this with the comics." We would be the ones like, "Oh okay, that's cool" or "Maybe shy away from this or do this". To go from the person at Hasbro who's working with that company, to the opposite end as the one who's hired by that company to write it for it is very different. Then after hearing them go "Oh that's a really cool idea, I wonder if Hasbro would go for it", I'm like, "I think they will."

    My Little Pony: Good Night Baby Flurry Heart

    My Little Pony: Good Night, Baby Flurry Heart by Michael Vogel and illustrated by Amy Mebberson—a sweet and funny book in which parents Princess Cadance and Shining Armor struggle to find the perfect bedtime story to get their sweet little alicorn to sleep.

    Available wherever books are sold April 12th, 2016. You can pre-order the book now from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.