» Interview: Amy Keating Rogers at Midwestria

This is the second of four interviews of guests from Midwestria that we’ll be posting in the next few days.  Next up is Amy Keating Rogers who spent some time talking with us about how she made her mark on My Little Pony and how it compares to her other writing experiences. Rogers is best known for writing episodes like “A Friend in Deed,” “The Last Roundup,” and “The Best Night Ever.”

If you prefer reading, a full text transcript of the interview is behind the break.

Hi my name is jHaller, I’m here with The Round Stable and joining me is Amy Keating Rogers, a writer for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Thank you very much for joining us.

Amy Keating Rodgers: Absolutely.

I just have some questions related to your work on the show. You’ve been a writer on the show for the first two seasons and can be considered a veteran of the show, after working on it for so long how does it compare to working on projects or other shows you have worked on?

I got in on this right at the very beginning, Lauren [Faust] approached me when she was pitching the idea. So i knew about it and I guess it was great to be involved in something that was new and getting to create the characters along; you know Lauren created all of them, but get them to speak early on. Most of the shows I’ve worked on, besides Fosters [Home for the Imaginary Friends] I came in when they had already been created.

So you already had some insight to the characters there.

Yeah, with Power Puff Girls I came on during the end of season one so I knew what the vibe of the show was.

So you know typical kids show that people think of that are just out to sell toys, especially with the history of My Little Pony, but this is a version of the show that feels very much that it’s more almost for grownups than kids in a way, there’s a lot more depth to characters and a lot of emotional cores and stories being told. So when you were asked to sign up for this did you find Laurens vision for the show with this much ambition to be a breath of fresh air?

I think that all children’s shows should have depth of character, I think it’s a shame that there isn’t a depth of character and I think a lot of the shows I worked on- I think Fosters has a lot of depth of character, those characters are very interesting and have good sides and bad sides and are very well-rounded. So I wasn’t surprised that Lauren created a show that had really well-rounded characters because that’s just the kind of writer she is. The difference with this show is that it was female characters that were well-rounded as opposed to male characters. The adult audience that we appealed to were mothers, but we were trying to write good strong shows for girls because girls traditionally get the short end of the stick of well-developed characters.

So you already knew Lauren and knew she was going to be making these more in-depth characters but did you at any point think that you were making anything groundbreaking or new based on the response of the large adult fan base that this has gathered?

You have to realize that when we were writing season one we didn’t have any sort of fan base.

Right, it was written a year in advance.

Yeah, it takes nine months, so we were writing the way we wanted to write these episodes and we were just hoping that it got the audience we were intending it for, those six to ten year old girls. In writing it, I knew that I was writing something that I was very proud of and that I was really excited for girls to see. In talking to other mothers I was saying “This new version of My Little Pony is coming on, it’s a really good show, it’s got real interesting characters, your daughters are going to love it.” So that’s what I was excited about.

Yesterday at M.A. Larson’s panel he mentioned that as you write for characters more you tend to grow more comfortable with them, after writing scripts for episodes where you featured a lot of the main characters what kind of challenges are presented when you have to write for a character you are not immediately familiar with, such as Cranky Doodle Donkey from ‘A Friend in Deed’?

Cranky was kind of easy to write for because he was such a strong point of view and such a real pain in the butt. So it was easy, he was this opposite of Pinkie Pie so she’s just super high happy energy and he wants nothing to do with her. Cranky wasn’t hard, Zecora was hard. Zecora was harder because we just knew that she was supposed to be  mysterious and that when she said things you were supposed to go “What? I don’t get what you’re saying”, and my first version of her was not in rhyme, it was just her kind of speaking cryptically. My notes on that were that you have got to kinda make her more interesting, you’ve got to do something special with her and the I said the special thing I’m going to do is I’m going to have her speak in rhyming couplets so not only is she cryptic, now she’s poetic as well. And to have her rhyming couplets that elevates her language, she’s a challenge because we didn’t quite know what was going on with her, it seemed that she was devious but in the end she’s not. Whereas Cranky Doodle Donkey lays it out right there, what his feeling are “get away from me kid.”His point of view is obvious whereas Zecora, in that episode we were like “Oh, is she a bad character? whats her motivation?”

Cranky was only being focused on in one episode out of two seasons and we may never really see him again, we don’t know. Do you feel that if you are writing for a minor character to that degree such as Zecora or Cranky, that you have to put more effort into them to make them feel memorable or is that something that you feel natural because again, these characters have a lot more depth to them, like you said, you felt like Zecora needed something else as well.

Yeah you always want to. You’re not just going to go “oh, this is a one-off, I’m just going to not give them anything” that would be silly, they are there for a reason in the story. Even if you never see that character again you want to—you know the main six will be reacting with this character so you want that character to have something for the story to hang onto, for those characters to react to. You always want to make sure you are committing to that character.

You write different types of episodes based on how many characters it’s focused on, do you find it difficult to change gears to write an episode that’s focused on one character versus one that is focused on multiple characters?

I don’t know if I find it hard to change gears, but it’s sometimes challenging when you have the main six to make sure that everybody is represented.  If they’re all there you don’t just want them doing nothing, you want’ to give them something otherwise why have them all there? That’s the challenge, you want to make sure that they have a goal of some sort, even if it’s a simple goal.

In season one you wrote ‘Applebuck Season’ which was an episode that the lesson is based on Applejack coming to grips with her pride and then in season two you wrote ‘The Last Round Up’ which is another episode where Applejack has a similar type of lesson coming to grips with pride. Having written two similar show lessons did you find ‘The Last Round Up’ easier to write in any way because you had already written a similar lesson?

They are such different episodes and one she didn’t want to ask for help and yes that’s a pride issue whereas in Last Round Up she felt shame and disappointment in her self and that she wasn’t living up to what everypony thought, what everybody was expecting of her.Yes they’re both involved with pride but there’s so many inner-motions, so many versions of how that effects you. It was a different thing, it was a very different version of that and in the last roundup she was so mortified that she didn’t live up to it and didn’t get that money. It felt very different and I knew Applejack so differently because Applebuck Season was the second episode I wrote so that was all very, very new and fresh and I was still kind of getting the feeling for all the characters. By Last Roundup I knew who these characters were.

For a kid’s show there are a number of instances in the scripts where you are dealing with very relatable adult situations such as the competition between Applejack and Rainbow Dash in Fall Weather Friends, two friends who are rivals and trying to beat each other out or even Applejack accepting help from others in ‘Applebuck Season’. Is there a challenge in adapting these situations that are relatable to adults into a way that kids will understand as well?

We always approached it as what would kids—we all experience these things as kids first because we start as humans as children, so all of those things are relatable to everybody, but kids get that, they get that… what were the two examples you gave?

Rainbow Dash and Applejack in Fall Weather Friends.

Well that’s competition with your friend, that happens all the time. We picked out themes that kids could relate to. Adults could relate to them too but it’s what kids can relate to, it’s a human experience even though it’s set in a pony world.

Some of these lessons you write, sometimes maybe kids might not get them immediately, would you say that the lessons are things that kids can grow into rather than having something they get right away or did you expect them to get the lessons when they see them?

We always assume that kids are not dumb, we always assume they are bright and that they’re going to get it. All the kids I know are smart, they get stuff. Kids don’t like to be talked down to so when we write stuff we don’t talk down to the kids. I don’t sit there with the kids watching my episodes and say “Did you get it? Did you get what that lesson is about?” So maybe they don’t get it on the first time they watch but things play a lot and maybe they get it later. If a four year old is watching it, if a six year old is sitting there watching it with her four year old sibling the four year old might not get it the first time but if you watch it enough times the lessons will be learned.

I think in some cases actually there are some situations where the kid will get it before the adult because you are writing for that target audience, I can understand that as well. Now that you know there is a large adult community that has formed around this show, did that knowledge affect your writing process in any way?

Not really, because if we changed it for this particular adult audience, beyond the adult audience of the mothers, it would change what the show is. If we suddenly wrote a different show and it suddenly catered to you guys you’d probably think “What are you doing?” That doesn’t resonate and that’s what I loved about this show, we have to keep it like what Lauren intended, what we all developed as we wrote the season to be true to the characters and be true to this world.

Now you’ve already talked with your work with Fosters and the Powerpuff Girls and both of those jobs had you working with Lauren as a writer as well, when you were coming on board with My Little Pony where she was the director of the project did that have any significant change on your working relationship with her?

I was lucky I got to go hang out with a friend at story meetings and we have a nice working relationship, we’ve known each other for years. In animation you just end up working on shows with different people and sometimes this persons a story editor and you’re freelancing and it can all switch around. That’s just the nature of it, you’re happy to be working with friends and that they want to work with you.

So that’s the nature of your business basically?

Yeah.

Everyone knows everyone in a way?

Yeah.

So as evidenced last night at karaoke you have a wonderful singing voice…

Thank you.

And you are also doing a fan collaboration with Mic the Microphone and David-O for the Bronycon documentary. Might this be something that you are willing to do other collaborations in the future with other people in the fandom or is more of a one time thing?

This is kind of a special situation, John de Lancie called me and asked me if do this and I was honored that he asked me. And John’s involved, Tara [Strong] is involved, Lauren is involved with the documentary so it was a very special situation.

This’ll be the last one, are there any other projects that you are working on that you’d like to discuss or would like to promote at this time?

So many of the things that I’m working on are things that I’m waiting to hear that they are going to go though, so I can’t really talk about them because of that which is a drag. I story edited the first season of Carebears so I would love for people to watch that because it’s a very good show, it’s also on The HUB so it’s conveniently located to My Little Pony, I think it’s often comes before My Little Pony episodes so I often watch some Bears and then watch some Ponies and learn about more kindness.

That’s all that we have here, thank you very much Amy for taking the time to speak to us, you can catch more content at The Round Stable.

Thank you! 

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