Things Only Adults Notice In My Little Pony: A New Generation

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There's a new team of powerful ponies to spread the love in "My Little Pony: A New Generation." The film takes audiences of the beloved "My Little Pony" franchise to a new point in time for Equestria — magic has disappeared, and instead, the world is riddled with division and distrust among the Earth Ponies, Unicorns, and Pegasi.

At the center of the story is Sunny Starscout (Vanessa Hudgens), an Earth Pony who was raised by her father, Argyle Starshine (Michael McKean), to believe in the legends of magic and the unity of all ponykind, along with the splendid tales of the Twilight Sparkle crew. When she grows up, Sunny follows in her father's footsteps to become an avid activist who pushes back against the tide of her town of Maretime Bay. Sunny might be something of an outcast, but she still steps up to encourage a sense of community between the supposed rivaling species. And when a precocious young Unicorn named Izzy Moonbow (Kimiko Glenn) strolls into the city hoping to make friends, Sunny has to shield her from the instant scorn of other Earth Ponies, and together, they set off on an adventure to prove Sunny is right about it all.

"My Little Pony: A New Generation" is a film that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages because in addition to being a visually dazzling and heartwarming story that'll thrill young viewers, it also includes some meaningful messages for the grown-ups who might be tuning in to watch. Here's a look at some of the things adults are bound to notice about "My Little Pony: A New Generation."

The Mane 6 are now legendary

"My Little Pony" has been a beloved part of pop culture for four decades, ever since the very first pastel pony toys were released by Hasbro in the early '80s. Since then, the ponies have become the subject of multiple hit television series and films, with several different groups of ponies taking the stage over time. In "A New Generation," we see Sunny and Izzy join forces with Earth Pony Hitch (James Marsden) and Pegasi princesses Zipp Storm (Liza Koshy) and Pipp Petals (Sofia Carson) to form the fifth generation of "My Little Pony" pals.

Before the new team unites, though, the film opens with a tender homage to the previous group that made such a splash over the past decade — the Mane 6. Though an unknown period of time has passed since these "Guardians of Friendship" worked their magic for Equestria, Sunny is a huge fan of Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack, and she believes the stories about a time when all ponykind worked together for the greater good. For grown-ups in the couch crowd, the shot of little Sunny playing with the action figures is bound to be both meta and a shot of nostalgia, especially for anyone who once found themselves fancifully whinnying around the room with their own "My Little Pony" dolls and a bit of imagination.

Prejudices run in every direction

One of the most striking things about the world in "My Little Pony: A New Generation" is how ingrained the various prejudices about the other pony species have become in each of the societies. Through word of mouth, widespread propaganda, and scary corporate salesmanship, all of the ponies have heard countless horror stories about one another, and they're positively convinced that they're all born enemies. Even Sunny and Izzy, who both buck the system to become fast friends and work together as Earth Pony and Unicorn teammates, have to work to find out the truth about each other's physical makeup and magical capabilities. 

Over the course of the film, we steadily learn that such misconceptions abound throughout Equestria, as all three of the major pony homesteads have dug in with some derogatory stereotypes about one another. Earth Ponies think that Unicorns can control their minds and Pegasi will snatch them right from the ground, while both of those species regard Earth Ponies as dumb and smelly (with some slightly offensive visual materials to promote that theory). They're all completely misguided and downright wrong, of course, but their biases have made them all divided into increasingly isolated and unhinged little communities, which is a very clear statement on the perils of intense factionalism in modern society.

Fear-mongering is a major form of control

Adults are also bound to notice just how effective the use of scare tactics are in riling up the community into a full-on mob mentality. The Unicorn- and Pegasi-hating entrepreneur Phyllis Cloverleaf (Elizabeth Perkins) is incredibly successful at spreading a message of imminent danger as a means of selling her array of protection products at her factory, Canterlogic. Though Sunny tries to prove to the audience of a commercial showcase that they don't need to live in fear and buy up things like the Pega-Periscope Goggles, Anti-Pegalift Boots, and Splat-a-Pult machines, everyone is positively convinced by the company's tagline: "To be scared is to be prepared."

And we see other forms of control being used throughout the other communities as well. In Zephyr Hills, Queen Haven (Jane Krakowski) and her daughters also manipulate their citizens by pretending that the royals are the only ones who can still fly, and they stay at the center of attention through celebrity livestreams and showcases. Meanwhile, in Bridlewood, the influential stallion Alphabittle (Phil LaMarr) keeps everyone under his hooves by outsmarting them at betting games, and without any magic running through their horns, the entire forest is just collectively bummed out. But when it comes down to it, all of these communities are driven by their distrust and fears of other pony species.

Jealousy is a dangerous thing

Although the head of Canterlogic is certainly to blame for much of the fear-mongering that we see in the beginning of "A New Generation," it's Sunny and Hitch's former childhood friend Sprout Cloverleaf (Ken Jeong) — the dear son of the persnickety Phyllis herself — who proves to the biggest purveyor of this powerful sentiment.

At first, he just seems like a bit of a lazy sidekick, but the second he gets the chance to undermine Hitch, Sprout proves to be much greener than his red coat lets on. He reveals his jealousy of Hitch's popularity around town — particularly his boss' "perfect mane [and] chiseled abs" — and happily steals his title as sheriff, thanks to a little prodding from "mommy." What's more is he's not content to just be Sheriff Sprout. Eventually, he deems himself the emperor of Maretime Bay and even sports some old-school dictator gear while whipping the town into a fearsome frenzy. But parents are bound to notice that Sprout's entire essence is just an act. As vicious as he is, he's still completely terrified of not having his mother's approval.

The mind of a child is powerful

There's a point in "A New Generation" when all hope seems lost for Sunny. Sure, she's successfully gathered a team of Earth Ponies, Pegasi, and a Unicorn, who all put aside their misgivings to become true friends and fight for unity and the return of magic. But even after they manage to gather the two crystals from Zephyr Hills and Bridlewood, nothing happens, and it seems that everyone is doomed to go their separate ways into miserably isolated existences without the return of Equestrian magic.

The thing that seems to shatter Sunny's sunny disposition the most is the sight of someone who reminds her of herself. In Bridlewood, she sees a little Unicorn who's hopeful that magic might be restored by Sunny, and when it's not, the child's father grimly tells her that it was never real. It's a stark contrast from the tales of infinite possibilities and optimism that her own father regaled her with as a child, and it seems that Sunny is instantly heartbroken and resentful of her late dad for not giving her that kind of reality check. She even returns home to literally put away childish things, including the everypony carousel her dad made her as a kid.

Sunny was always meant to be a guiding light

In the end, of course, it's Sunny who discovers the missing piece of the puzzle, as there's another crystal hidden in her everypony carousel and a place in her lighthouse to fit all three together. And once she does, Sunny's wildest childhood ambitions come true as she's gifted with the wings of a Pegasus and the horn of a Unicorn, just like what she wore for fun as a kid.

One thing more mature audiences are likely to notice about Sunny's feat is that she was always meant for this moment. It's not just that she's the one who dreamed of uniting all the ponies and even dressed up as the others for fun. She also lives in a lighthouse, which is symbolic of her being the one to usher everyone in safely, and, well, her name is Sunny, which is reflective of the star that tipped everyone off about the magical crystals in the first place. In other words, Sunny was always meant to be a guiding light for ponykind, and she quite literally brings them all together, even more than she ever dreamed she could.