• Episode Followup: "Sparkle's Seven"

    Is this a Spike episode? It almost could be a Spike episode. Regardless it was super cute and a fantastic episode 200. So this episode was about what the voice actresses wanted to do and boy howdy, did they do some things.

    Join me below for baby Spike, tinfoil hats, sibling rivalries, penetration tests, bunny suits, contrived backstories, lasers, and catfishing.

    Moral of the story time:

    Be unexpected.

    Do things according to plan.

    Your friends will help you succeed,

    A single moment of being included undoes a lifetime of sibling neglect.

    Being raised by an 8 year old has no lasting effects on dragon psyche!

    Have a mare on the inside then flaunt your victory?

    I give up. We'll go with that. Maybe this episode was just fun. On to the Followup.

    What makes episode 200 special is that all the plot point ideas came from the voice actresses. They came up with ideas they wanted their characters to be faced with. I'll include some screenshots from Jim Miller vis Twitter who spills the beans on the behind the scenes action.

    Y'all know the title is a reference to Ocean's movie franchise right? Well, it sort of even plays like one with the real heist being revealed in flashbacks at the very end. We'll get to that but first...

    Let's start from the beginning...

    You can see Spike's glee here hinting he takes this Hard-Won Helm of the Sibling Supreme pretty seriously, and not just on Twilight's behalf.

    This episode might be mostly flashbacks. Also, at what point in Equestrian society does possess a personal cutie mark shaped and/or designed object crossing a line? Probably not until your cutie mark is your own face. Remember that pony?

    This is the sort of sibling dynamic most of us are familiar with in our personal lives. Siblings always break our stuff, am I right?

    Discipline through positive reinforcement. Does that work? Asking for a friend.

    Also, Spike is cute and a little hatchling/weyrling/wyrmling/whelp/whatever.

    Looks like Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns is doing well for Twilight. Smiley face and everything. I never got smiley faces in English. Does it show?

    ERMERGERD TOTES ADORBS! It only flashes by for a second but did you catch that Spike drew himself also getting stars? There are some serious issues here if no one in the family caught on and added little Spikey-wikey. Maybe they didn't want to ponify Spike early on and let him keep some semblance of a tough dragon.

    Ever the counselor, Glimglam is connecting some dots into Twilight's oft-times intense personality traits. More importantly, Spike needs a hug.

    Now that is a punchable smug face! Where did this rivalry come from among Twi and her BBBF? Why Tara Strong herself of couse!


    See? I wasn't lying when I said this episode is all the VA's fault idea! Good job to Nicole and Josh for making all the ideas work together!

    No wonder one of these ponies was sent to the moon.

    Some of you are calling this Twilight's Pudding Face but that has the pupils much further apart than this. This is focused wonderment. It reminds me more of Filly Pinkie Pie when she got her cutie mark.

    Anyway, Shining Armor has challenged her to a defense penetration test. Let's see what she's up against...

    Star Swirl the bearded laying down some sick magic. Now that he's touched it, I'd be worried now, that if you broke off a brick it would just grow into a new castle à la last weeks episode, "Uprooted".

    What is happening here? These spinning fans are going to make the Canterlot golf course view look hideous.

    Join the Equestrian Guard today! Build the wall!

    Shipping Guarding intensifies!

    These are the ugliest geese imaginable. They look like a cross between a flamingo and that rabbit from Monte Python and the Holy Grail a.k.a. Angel Bunny.

    Our very own pony version of the confused math lady meme. This brings new life to the format and is trending strong.

    Classic Twilighting planning room.

    I don't normally point this kind of thing out but it's hilarious to me give Spike's feelings of being left out of the Sparkle family unit. It looks like a rendering error causes him to just disappear as soon as Twi takes flight. So much for being Twilight's number one assistant let alone little brother.

    I know shots like this are used a lot in everything to show all the characters but I can't help but draw a parallel to the original 1960 Ocean's 11 posters.

    The simple black lines between the ponies, as opposed to pastel lines or none at all, is what gives it away. Too bad Jim said it was just a coincidence.

    I love this poor posture, grumpy lipped Twilight. Pouty pone.

    I love this face. This episode is full of great faces. And why do you have such a smug face Rarity?

    Well because the interesting thing about Rarity planning the heist is Tabitha St. Germain came up with the idea.

    We're all super used to Rarity's noir imagination. Starting with a pony we do know, second from the left, we have the pony know as Cleopatra Jazz, designed after Josephine Baker. You can't see her banana cutie mark and she doesn't have it because she went to the moon, but because of Josephine's outrageous banana mini skirt. I'm not allowed to show you a picture of that. She first appeared in "Dungeons and Discord."

    The three ponies at the table have been on the show before but I can't place them. They were modeled after the characters from Boardwalk Empire.

    We also, have a what looks like a new background pony-sona of Marlene Dietrich in the top hat, legendary stage and silent film actress, sitting next to a Betty Hoof, the Betty Boop pony.

    What's interesting these two, not the pony versions, appeared together in on this random Italian comic book of sorts.

    Brian Drummond everypony. I love Pinkie's spacesuit by the way. I have no doubt that will be a go-to cosplay this con season.

    Looks like Applejack learned more from Ra Ra than first anticipated. I love how Ashleigh's other character, Rainbow Dash, calls AJ out on her outrageous claim of being a county western superstar. Can Applejack lie?

    And you guessed it, all Ashleigh's idea. This is likely a reference to Ashleigh's double life as singer/musician for her band Hey Ocean. We'll get to Zephyr in a bit.

    But first...

    The most outrageous laser deactivation scene since Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.

    Even if it was all in her head, you have to agree it was pretty bad ass.

    You may have missed it in Shining Armor's rambling speech on security but you need a Guard medal to get through the doors.

    All I could think of during this moment was the Portal 2 Space Sphere screaming "wanna go to space, wanna go to space, SPPPPPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCE!"

    This is how Tabitha throttles people in real life.

    I love how the animators have to convey an entire idea via a pony's looks. We knew exactly what she wanted Rainbow to do and, boy, does Dashie not want to do it.

    There are so many amazing Rainbow Dash facial expression during this sequence too, I just had to grab the gif. If you notice, Zephyr armor is rather ill-fitting, showing that he's not really cut out to be a guard.

    Also, RD's hairdo reminds me of Meg from Hercules.

    Sweet Celestia Rarity those are going to grow into new castles now!

    Yeah, Luna is in on it. "False alarm sister!" They're like albino vultures. I shouldn't say that. That one looks like a cousin to Captain Celaeno.

    This is Twilight's 'everything is fine' face.

    The new "Duck Hunter" looks intense. Can you imagine the bird mess on the floor?

    If you notice, you'll see that Fluttershy is wearing the 'dangerous mission outfit' from "Magic Duel". They really missed a big opportunity to give Spike dog ears, though Spike likely would have had 'Nam flashbacks about that.

    Anyway, this is a touching reveal from Spike that he never felt treated like a little brother to Twilight and Shining Armor. Thanks to Cathy Weseluck for wanting to explore it!

    And this is a devastating moment for Spike. Sorry little buddy, you've been friend-zoned.

    Pinkamena Piñata Pie

    Captain Marevel everpony.

    We find out later that Luna assigned him to his post so that he would fail. Now he's getting fired. Luna is savage.

    It's not what you know, it's who you know!

    How Pinkie? Also, Rarity the guard pony is my new favorite thing. Take note Spike, she knows how to massage wings.

    Mastermind Shining losing his mind a little bit.

    But the true mastermind is now king! The long con played just right

    Luna is displeased with your choices. Clearly the best frame of the episode, Princess Luna is straight out of The Godfather with her foreboding pose.

    What really makes this episode great is that it was all Spike's idea to through a wrench in the works.

    Spike is a jerk to balloons.

    These faces. We love faces, and these faces tell me someone is punching their own ticket back to the moon. This made me want to go watch some two best sisters play.

    In the end, Twily and BBBFF realize they had a little brother all along. Congratulations Spike on winning The Hard-Won Helm of the Sibling Supreme and some siblings to go along with it.

    Also, I guess you can add this helmet to Rarity's fabulous hat collection. I would have loved to have heard Shining Armor comment on it like he did Applejack.

    Before I head off I wanted to share what else Jim Miller had to say about the episode on Twitter. I didn't want to throw a bunch of blurry screencaps at you so here's a transcript of the rest of his afternoon tweets:
    @NicoleDubuc and @joshhaber went and did a really masterful job winding all these ideas in to a coherent script full of all sorts of little extra bits and jokes that came up in the initial story breaking meeting. I can’t understate how impressed we were with their first draft. The fact that they made it all work and make sense was incredibly impressive. Then our design teams kicked it up a notch with the various styles of the wish sequences, the new looks for characters (70’s Dolly Parton AJ, Zephyr’s ill fitting royal guard armor, RD’s glam dress).
    @kayleachard, @OhJeeToriG and Anna Latzer brought such a fun and imaginative vibe, and came with a host of ways and ideas to push the visuals at the boarding stage. You can thank Kaylea for those star wipes!
    @steph_mahoney and her layout crew continued to push the poses and expressions, elevating the whole thing.
    The animation team delivered some exceptional work. We were so impressed with what was coming in.
    Ben Galewitz and Jacintha Caldwell did some great stuff with the AFX. All the wish sequences when the girls are pitching their heist ideas have different looks/film grain effects thanks to Ben and Jacintha.
    The boys at Dick and Rogers, and @Wm_K_Anderson did some truly inspired work with the audio and score. They made the whole package come together.
    The end result is the episode you just watched! It’s a true testament to the power of the teamwork that’s brought 200 episodes to life so far!
    And finally, the most important piece, is you the viewers/fans. We could never have even conceived of making it to over 200 episodes without all of you who’ve been with us on this journey. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! It was over a year and a half ago when we sat down to talk about this episode for the first time.

    Anyway, that was a fantastic episode and I hope it was memorable to the lot of you. The voice actresses came up with some exciting story points and we all know the only reason we've watched MLP for these past 9 seasons, is for...