So, earlier tonight, this came out. I hadn’t really been following its development all that closely, but I had of course at least heard about it a number of times before it came out. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it… from some corners, I heard that it was meant to be a “fan episode”, meaning, something that would feel at home as part of the show, in terms of style and content. In any case, it came out, and I watched it. What follows are my thoughts on this work; there will be some spoilers, in case you haven’t seen it yet.
My initial reaction can best be summed up thusly:
It was a smorgasbord of nonsensical meme-dropping and random events connected by… I don’t even want to call it a narrative, the events mostly just happened. I was left with a distinct feeling of having watched a very pretty, but completely disjointed, mess. The crossover element renders the work completely incompatible with the concept of “it could have been an actual episode!” Since, generally speaking, one wouldn’t expect to see a member of the mane 6 get sucked into the Powerpuff Girls world. But the thing is, all of the above is not necessarily a bad thing… depending on the intent of the work.
As a kind of “tech demo” of the creative team behind it, it wasn’t bad at all. The animation was very impressive. Credit where it’s due. The voice work was, overall, pretty good, if not great. At times, a given character’s voice felt off from the character they are supposed to be, but when creating an amateur project, that’d be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Without the resources that an actual production studio possess, finding voice actors that are decently good in general, AND can reasonably “sub” for the VA that voices the character in the actual show, would be extraordinarily difficult. So, FOR an amateur project, the voice work overall was pretty good. All in all, major kudos all around… on the technical fronts.
But the story and direction… bit of a let down. Actually, I’m feeling brutally honest tonight: it was, candidly, terrible. I was pretty disappointed by that. And not just because I didn’t find it entertaining – I honestly didn’t, beyond a few moments of mild amusement; too much of the “funny stuff” felt very forced. And I was also surprised that it was a crossover, of all things, and a meme-happy one at that (several instances of those made me facepalm pretty hard, most especially the troll-face in the smoke cloud near the beginning, and dropping Brony easter eggs left and right, i.e. Derpy’s eyes, the Scootaloo chicken thing, etc). The pacing was broken; several scenes dragged on WAY too long, and at other times, it seemed to cut almost randomly between scenes. And Dash was so thoroughly flanderized it was painful. Yes, she’s brash and impulsive, but this felt unjustifiably extreme, especially if it’s supposed to take place at any point beyond very early season 1. Really, the Powerpuff Girls felt pretty off too, and even Twilight did to some degree. The only character who felt right was Pinkie Pie.
And speaking of the Powerpuff Girls being out of character: what the bucking buck was up with killing that fish-monster-thing? That was honestly disturbing. Was it the INTENTION of the creators to portray the fish-thing as sympathetic and the PPGs as evil sociopathic monsters? Is this the PPG Mirror Universe?
Needless to say, I would have been happier without those elements. But beyond all that, there’s something about this that I honestly find… kind of maddening, IF it is intended to be a fan-episode, and not just a tech demo.
It felt phoned in. Not the whole thing – the story/writing, specifically.
Now, I wasn’t privy to the creative process behind this, but purely from what I’m able to glean and analyze after viewing the finished product, I just got WAY too strong a sense that it was about priorities.
-The animation was given a VERY high priority; it shows. Bravo.
-Sound design was pretty highly prioritized – but some of the music was kind of overbearing (ESPECIALLY during the beginning; the whole “call & answer” style guitar riff/orchestra hit/guitar riff/orchestra hit/on and on, EVERY time Twilight and Rainbow spoke, was honestly pretty distracting). Conversely, the sound effects sometimes felt flat. However, both of those flaws are somewhat excusable within the framework of it being a fan-work. This is the kind of thing that one would be expect to be rocky on a first attempt at something like this. All in all with sound, good job.
-The story and dialog was… OH CRAP WE NEED A STORY. Um, um… ok, here, this’ll do. Lemme throw in some memes and stuff, too…
Is that actually what happened? Did the writing actually get pushed out till the last second, and then half-assed just so they’d have something? I have no idea. But that is honestly how it came across to me, VERY strongly, and that was the biggest weakness of the whole thing: it felt very much like the narrative aspect was given NO priority, and was little more than an afterthought. Writing being a passion of mine, I couldn’t help but bristle a bit at that.
That’s why I still wonder, what was it really supposed to be?
A) A fan film that “feels” like it could be part of the actual body of FiM work? A fan film that is enjoyable in its own right as a work of fiction, as a “Fan episode”, something you’d watch just for its own sake? Because, animation aside, it is emphatically not either of those things.
B) A fan film that is more or less a tech demo? Something this creative team put together in order to both show off and test their skills in animation and technical design? If THAT were the case, then hey, thumbs up. Sure the story is garbage, but who cares? It’s only there as an excuse to make the animation!
B would be fine. But honestly, if the original intention was to make a “fan episode” (something that falls into type A), a haphazard story that reeks of bad fanfic isn’t going to cut it. And apparently that’s how they billed it to the Brony Community if a lot of comments on the EQD page for the film’s release are any indication: as a fan-made “episode” that could be part of the real show in terms of content. IF they really did sell it that way, then I’m not sure they can just backpedal now and say Oh, no, it was meant to be a type B (if they even have any intention of trying to backpedal in that way). On the other hand, if it was meant to be a type B the whole time, and people just got caught up in hype that the team behind the project never really put out themselves, then that’s different. But I don’t know if there is any way for me to ever know one way or the other for certain. Based on what I know right now, I’d lean toward taking people at their word, that director Zachary Rich and the other people involved in the film’s production, did bill it as “it could have come right out of the show”. On the other hand, perhaps they DID bill it that way… referring to the animation. And then people just misinterpreted that, and that misinterpretation gained steam, and before you knew it, you had a bunch of people who “knew” that this was going to be a fan episode through and through. So who knows.
In closing, and viewing this once again as a fan episode and not just a complex animation test, if there are going to be more “fan eps”, from this team or anyone else, I don’t want more crossovers and memes bashing me over the head and plotlines that would be better suited to FIMFiction stories tagged with “Random”. I want to see effort on the story, if it’s going to be something that calls itself “a fan episode” and wants to be taken seriously as such. Even if I don’t end up personally LIKING the story, that’s different from barely even having one.
So, I’m certainly interested to see what else this sparks in terms of fan productions, and in my honest opinion, it has set the bar quite high in terms of animation and technical prowess for a 100% unofficial fan production. But in terms of writing, pacing, dialog, direction – basically everything that has to do with creating a good narrative… the field is wide open, because this bar is really low.