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My Little Pony Season Eight Turns Friendship Into Schoolwork

Illustration for article titled iMy Little Pony/i Season Eight Turns Friendship Into Schoolworkem/em

In season eight of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, debuting March 24 on Discovery Family, Twilight Sparkle and friends leave the pony empire of Equestria to found a school teaching friendship to the friendless hordes beyond. Is there a toy of this school? Of course there’s a toy of this school.

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The show that launched a million animated GIFs and spread conflicting messages of acceptance and ostracization is still doing its thing, eight years after its 2010 premiere. The new season brings new locations, new magical creatures and, according to the official announcement, seven original songs that are sure to have fans and fathers of fans singing along.

The new season launches with a two-parter called “School Daze.” Following the events of last year’s My Little Pony: The Movie, Princess Twilight discovers that the Friendship Map has expanded to include lands outside of Equestria. Lands ripe for indoctrination. Eager to spread her friendship-based ideology, she founds Twilight Sparkle’s School of Friendship.

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Illustration for article titled iMy Little Pony/i Season Eight Turns Friendship Into Schoolworkem/em

It’s a magical place, of course, where ponies and non-ponies alike can gather together and learn that being nice to one another is better than getting mad at me for posting about My Little Pony. While the Mane 6 (Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, Apple Jack and Insane Pink Horse) remain a focus, the new school gives rise to a new group of six mismatched friends. Ocellus the Changeling, Silverstream the Hippogriff/Seapony, Smolder the Dragon, Gallus the Griffin, Yona the Yak and Sandbar the Pony will go on their own adventures, and they’ll most likely have corresponding toys to play inside of this thing here:

  MY LITTLE PONY TWILIGHT SPARKLE MAGICAL SCHOOL OF FRIENDSHIP Playset (Ages 3 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $59.99/Available: Fall 2018)
MY LITTLE PONY TWILIGHT SPARKLE MAGICAL SCHOOL OF FRIENDSHIP Playset (Ages 3 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $59.99/Available: Fall 2018)

It’s a $60 Magical School of Friendship, sure to be adored by collectors and surprised-looking girls and boys (boys not shown) everywhere. It looks a lot smaller in person.

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There’s probably a boy outside of the shot who is also very impressed.
There’s probably a boy outside of the shot who is also very impressed.

The playset comes with Twilight Sparkle, because her name is on the school. It features a library, a fashion studio—sorry, fashion classroom—and plenty of flashing lights to distract children from the fact that their character toys are just statues. Apparently the articulated figures from 2016 didn’t catch on. Pity.

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Illustration for article titled iMy Little Pony/i Season Eight Turns Friendship Into Schoolworkem/em

The school is nice, but the biggest news of the new season is that everyone’s favorite purple and green baby dragon, Spike, is getting his wings. He’s growing up so fast! Before long he’ll be terrorizing the countryside and setting villages on fire. With friendship. Fire is friendship.

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’s season eight kicks off on Saturday, March 24 at 11:30 AM Eastern. Check out the slideshow below for some choice stills.

Kotaku elder, lover of video games, keyboards, toys, snacks, and other unsavory things.

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DISCUSSION

I used to work for the show’s original producers in a limited capacity during their stint at MLP. Met some really brilliant people while I was there, all working on exciting stuff. God, the things that were planned for this show. Back then, everyone was so committed to making this a high-fantasy sitcom with consistent lore and compelling interpersonal dynamics, treating this as a vanguard for a new wave of intelligent and meaningful little girls’ entertainment.

And for a while, it was working. For a solid two years, their efforts were lauded as being far greater than the sum of its parts, and so much more than a toy commercial.

Ever since my producers were shown the door by Hasbro, it’s been a long time since this show has felt like anything but. There have been brilliant episodes here and there, and even some really excellent recent story arcs that, for a hot second, felt like the show was returning to its lore-centric roots. Josh Haber in particular has been a spectacular showrunner, and every now and then I see the work of his team and marvel at the hidden potential this show still has to steal my breath.

But the franchise has obviously, by and large, taken a “toys first, writing second” stance. They introduce new concepts every ten episodes with little regard to how it might fit into the setting, just so they can spin out a new toy. They buy into nearly every stereotypical story conceit that’s plagued little girls’ entertainments for decades. And all of the incredible, almost C.S. Lewis-esque lore and theming that my producers had planned for it has been almost completely canned.

It just makes me sad to see the team’s incredible early efforts go to waste, and for the thing that took their place to have so few aspirations for advancing the art form for such a miserably misserved audience.

And after five long years of watching everyone around me suffer at the hands of Hasbro’s piss-poor treatment of its artists and talent, it was enough to drive me away from the animation industry entirely.

This show deserved better. Little girls deserved better.