• HASCON Interview: Meghan McCarthy on Writing for My Little Pony: The Movie

    There's only 25 days left until My Little Pony: The Movie is released in theaters everywhere!


    So while I am having a scheduling crisis today, two days ago at HASCON I wasn't, and so I conducted an interview with My Little Pony: The Movie's Co-executive Producer and fan Favorite Show Writer Meghan McCarthy.

    After the break you'll be able to find out when Meghan first found out she was working on the movie, how the film was able to keep current with the developments happening in the show, and how one particular villain ended up changing from a he to a she. Catch you later!

    Perhaps I should see if any of my artist friends at the con will want to go see the movie with me…

    The Illustrious Q: So Meghan, first I just want to say thank you so much for agreeing to the interviewed by Equestria Daily here at HASCON. I know you’re incredibly busy with everything else that’s going on with the CON, with the panels that you have to be on, and with whatever else you’re doing that’s, even though the movie’s done, is probably needed to get ready for the film's World Premiere.

    Meghan McCarthy: My pleasure, I love you guys at Equestria Daily. You’ve always been really good to us, and so I’m very happy to do this for you.

    TIQ: Thank you. When and how did you first found out “My Little Pony” was going to be a major motion picture?

    MM: Gosh, it was before season five.

    TIQ: That was a while ago.

    MM: Before we started the writing on season five is when I started working on it.

    TIQ: Before Starlight?

    MM: Yeah, way back! I was supposed to be writing season five, and then we decided we were going to make this movie. I had to come off of doing most of my day-to-day on the show, so I could start working on the film and developing the story for it. It’s been a long, long process and a long journey for me.

    TIQ: Wow, so that’s why you were actually able to work in Starlight Glimmer and Trixie into the film.

    MM: Yeah! Essentially, the very first draft I did for the movie was so different from where it ended up, which is pretty common. The show was continuing as we were developing the movie, so we had to kind of make sure there was some connection to the continuity.

    TIQ: You had to make sure that the Cutie Mark Crusaders who had earned their cutie marks in season 5, didn't show up in a film two years later with blank flanks.

    MM: Exactly! So luckily we were able to be pretty consistent with that.

    TIQ: One of the major recurring bits of news that comes with the production of any major motion picture is that a whole bunch of new writers are constantly swapped out during the scripting and even production phases of the film. This is usually to re-write the script, re-work the script, and re-doctor the script.

    MM: Right.

    TIQ: From what I could gather from the various interviews and news articles I’ve researched, it’s just been you, Mike [Vogel], Rita [Hsiao], and Joe [Ballarini] on the development of the movie story and script. What has it been like for you to work with a consistent team on the story for the film?

    MM: At the end of the day, the group that was working on the day-to-day once we had more of a script—and were going into the actual production of the film—was myself, Rita, and Mike. Really, Rita and Mike were doing more of the writing and I was at that point doing a little bit more in a producerial role by exchanging pages, reading everything, and making sure that it was all still making sense.

    It was great! It was a team effort, which in the feature film world is a little bit more how it works. Even as you start to do animatics, and you start to do more of the production work, the movie is still growing and changing and evolving! You’re finding new things, making new jokes, and doing total shifts in dialogue. It’s really different from a TV show in that way.

    TIQ: That’s actually a good segway into my next question. What were some of the big differences you found while writing the movie when compared to your work on the production and design of the TV series, or even your work on “Equestria Girls”?

    MM: On the show, there’s a locked script. That goes to our directors up at DHX, who are amazing, who make some tweaks to it—definitely plot things, new gags, and all that kind of stuff—but it’s a locked document when they get it. They’re shooting that script. With this, at every stage of the production there would be pages of the script. They would go and board those. Things would change even within that boarding process!

    Once it was animated, we would find new things to do there. That was a big difference! The writing was never done! On the show you turn in a script and you’re kind of like, “Okay, my job is done. I’m out. Take this and go make it amazing.” With this we’d get an animatic and we’d be pitching new jokes and new material. We would get a cut of the film, and we would be talking about what to edit and what to add. It just kept going.

    TIQ: That really is a lot of insight into the differences between making a movie and making a TV series.

    This is something I noticed when I was looking at the trailer, all the books, the comics, and the toys that have been released to date. It looks like Tempest Shadow is going to make one heck of a villainess. How did the character development for Tempest come about? I know in The Art of My Little Pony: The Movie, it tells us that Tempest started out as a completely different character.

    MM: Yeah, she did. She actually started off as a he! *laughs* The very first draft that I wrote of the movie had a villain whose name was Cosmos, who was actually a completely different character. At that point we knew the kind of the villain he was, and had a sense of what the back story for him. As we kept going, Tempest just sort of came to be. We just arrived at this idea of a character who had come from Equestria, and had not had the positive experience that Twilight [Sparkle] and her friends had. It felt like a good counterpart to our heroes was to have a villain who didn’t just not get friendship, but had a reason that she didn’t understand it.

    She was as emotionally broken as her horn. That felt like an interesting direction to go, and so we kept exploring. She went through a lot of different versions. Visually, if you have the book, you see how many different ways we experimented with what her look would be before we arrived at how she appeares in the movie. Really, that’s kind of the theme of making the movie. Something would start in one place and by the end it would have evolved into something that was pretty significantly different from where we started, but hopefully in a good way.

    TIQ: That almost sounds like a character arc.

    MM: *laughs* Yes! She went through her own character arc in the writers’ room, and then in the movie itself!

    TIQ: This is just me spitballing an idea out here, but what would your thoughts be to a little documentary showcasing the making of “My Little Pony: The Movie,” where we actually get to see some of this creative process that was going on in the writers’ room, or some of the stuff that went into the animation?

    MM: I know that they have shot behind-the-scenes footage. I’m not sure how they plan on packaging it. I know we’ve shown it, at the convention today we showed sort of a little sizzle of some behind-the-scenes interviews with some of the folks that worked on the movie. I know they’ve shot stuff. I know they talked to a lot of people, especially even for the making of the book, of the art, they talked to a lot of people and asked them about it. I don’t know for sure, hopefully it’ll be something that might be available on the DVD, or it might just be extra footage that we put out there. We did record stuff to be able to show people behind the scenes.

    TIQ: That’s very, very cool. When writing the scripts, I know sometimes a script has a character who’s tailored for a very specific actor. Did that end up happening with any of the characters who are going to be introduced in the film? Or was a character written first, and then re-written and revised to fit the actor who was casted in the role?

    MM: We had the shape of a lot of these roles, but we also had an idea of, “Okay, this is who we want,” and we got them! Which was pretty amazing. We really got all the people we thought would fit the archetypes we were going for. Then once they were cast—and once they were in the booth—they brought these characters to life. They even did a lot of things that influenced how they were animated! With Tempest, Emily Blunt’s performance I know was a big influence on how she was ultimately animated in the movie.

    Really, that was true for all the characters. We had the shape of them, but you get these really talented people in a booth and kind of let them go, not have them perform every single line exactly as written, breathe the life into it.

    Michael Peña was a great example, where we knew Grubber was going to be a funny character. We knew he needed to be a counterpoint to Tempest—who was this very straight-laced, hard core kind of character—and he needed to be goofy. You get Michael Peña in a recording booth, and you just are like, “Please just go and say funny things.” He will be there for hours, just giving you all kinds of really great material that was not something that we had originally scripted! However we knew he was the guy who could bring it to life.

    TIQ: I take it “the easy as pie”, “I like pie” exchange was ad libbed by him?

    MM: I think that might have been. It’s almost a shame that we couldn’t put all the material that he did in the movie. Hopefully, we’ll kind of be able to pull some of that and let people hear it at a later date, because he really did do some stuff that was cracking us up!

    TIQ: Kind of like how Robin Williams, when he voiced the Genie in Aladdin, ended up recording more than enough material to make six movies. It sounds like Michael Peña did something similar with his character.

    MM: Really similar, and really all of them would do little things that were these nuanced kind of stuff once they got in there.

    TIQ: Well, Meghan, I just have one last question, and then we can go. Do you have anything to say to the readers of Equestria Daily?

    MM: Oh my gosh, I love Equestria Daily! You guys have been big supporters of us since the beginning, and I just hope the folks will decide and go see the movie. I think we’ve made something that people who have been with us on this journey are going to see as a real labor of love! When they see it, and hopefully they’ll love it and know that we put our hearts and souls into it.

    TIQ: Thank you for your time, Meghan.