Looking Back on the Worst Reviews of the 1986 My Little Pony: The Movie
As the reviews for 2017 My Little Pony: The Movie begin rolling out, let’s look back at some (but by no means all) of the harsher reviews for its namesake, the 1986 My Little Pony: The Movie. And while not all the reviews were negative, the negative ones were often really negative.
To be clear, our purpose here is not to further bash on the 1986 My Little Pony: The Movie. It is by no means a great film, but it also never stood a chance; from the outset it was pilloried for its Original Sin of having been preceded by a toy line. (For further reading, this author wrote a book about the controversies that have always surrounded the brand.)
In Glenn Lovell’s summer movie preview for the San Jose Mercury News, he described My Little Pony: The Movie as “another animated feature whipped up by merchandisers to cash in on a popular children's toy -- this time Hasbro's My Little Pony. Story promises to ‘transport children to a magical dimension of loveable ponies and fantasy creatures.’ Yeee-uk!” Consider your precious masculinity protected by that “Yeee-uk!”, Mr. Lovell!
The first proper review was by Elanor Ringel of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who took a rather apocalyptic view of how the movie would impact The Kids These Days: “I'll bet years from now, those same kiddies who begged to see ‘My Little Pony,’ are going to be teenagers trading parental resentments like, ‘When I was little, my mom never bothered to take me to the good stuff like the Disney classics. She just dumped me at whatever was easy - crud like `My Little Pony' - and that's why I'm so messed up now." There weren’t any Disney classics in theaters at the time, and the non-classic The Great Mouse Detective was a couple weeks away, but who’s counting?
Nina Darton’s New York Times review opened thusly:
She actually spent most of the rest of
the review discussing the film rather than the merchandising angle,
but Charles Solomon’s Los Angeles Times review started off
with his Lovell-like distaste for the film’s tone:
He then got into the merchandising aspect, while maintaining a shrugging “Who even knows what kids like?” distance.
The capper was the closer:
So popular was the razor blade simile
that Jerry Beck quoted it at length in his Animated Movie Guide…
…and it’s also used on Rotten Tomatoes.
Linda Matchan of the Boston Globe was among the few to acknowledge that it wasn’t just girls’ toys being made into movies and shows: “Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were qualities called imagination and creativity in children's movies. But that was back in the days when movies were based on ideas. Today they are based on toys, as in the current spate of films and TV specials about Care Bears, Transformers and GI Joe.”
Her point about imagination and creativity begins to fall apart as tries to make a point about the film’s story: “The plot (which can be reduced to a single sentence: Will the Flutter Ponies be able to stop the Smooze so the Spring Festival in Ponyland can keep on going?) bears more cliches than you can shake a hoof at.” Let’s test the implied logic that a movie must be bad and/or clichéd if its plot can be reduced to a single sentence: “Will a simple farm boy be able to rescue a Princess from the clutches of an evil Empire?” Man, that movie must suck!
Speaking of which: “With its twittering birds, wicked witch, evil sisters and magic Rainbow of Light, the film borrows generously and unabashedly from good and original movies such as ‘Bambi,’ ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Star Wars.’” So movies respectively based on a book, a folk tale, a fairy tale, and a bunch of hero’s-journey tropes mushed together because the director couldn’t get the rights to Flash Gordon are all “original,” but the 1986 My Little Pony: The Movie isn’t, because of reasons.
Oh well. Today’s critics will probably be kinder.
Additional images: DEG