In the wake of Fighting Is Magic receiving a cease and desist from Hasbro Inc, Zachary Rich, A.K.A. FlamingoRich, came to a small anime convention in Atlanta, Georgia to show the first half of his entirely fan-made My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode, Double Rainboom. I was lucky enough to be there to see the panel, and so I’d like to share my thoughts about the work that we were presented.
The original plan was for the panel was to show Double Rainboom, and then answer a few questions from the audience. However, like most well attended convention panels, things didn’t go as planned. The laptop the Double Rainboom crew were using was insufficient for playback so while one of their members went to hunt down something better, Zach skipped ahead and answered questions. And sure enough, the first question that came up was about copyright. Zach quickly went over the process involved in asking permission, including writing Hasbro an email explaining who he was, what the project was for, politely asking for their blessing to create the episode, and waiting patiently for a response. And while it apparently took quite a while to receive an answer—three days longer and he would have had to abandon the plan entirely—he was given permission to go forward with his idea.
Now many of you may be wondering “If it’s that easy why don’t all of these fan projects just ask for permission? Why did Fighting is Magic have to get shut down?” Well, I believe I can answer some of these disparities. Unlike most fan projects, Double Rainboom was being completed by a student for his college animation project, and large companies tend to be much more forgiving when it comes to educational endeavors. As this was a student project, there was absolutely no chance for profit, which is yet another consideration for Hasbro’s legal team, since they don’t really like anyone else making money off of their intellectual property. Finally, the reason I feel that Double Rainboom received permission and many of these other large scale fan projects did not, is Double Rainboom fits with Hasbro’s MLP brand image. Zach’s episode still fits within the guidelines of how Hasbro wants their brand portrayed. Among other things, this meant no combative violence, no cursing, no blood, and nothing close to an adult situation. Further questions touched on what software they used during production, how many people worked on the project, whether their ‘first fan-made episode’ claim held any weight, and other assorted topics.
After nearly half an hour of questions and explanations, a new laptop finally arrived and we got the chance to watch the first half of Double Rainboom. What did that eager audience see in that crowded room in the Atlanta Hilton?
First off, I’ve got to say the animation of the episode was pretty stellar. For the most part, I would definitely put the animation close to show quality. I was certainly impressed but that doesn’t mean it was perfect. One section I noticed that seemed out of place was a scene with Scootaloo. While riding her scooter, Scootaloo’s wings and tail were animated, but not much else. It seemed like someone dragging an animated gif across a background. And on the opposite end of the scale, near the beginning, Twilight made a quick series of facial expressions while performing magic—which were very well done—but the whole scene almost seemed over-animated. Most shows do not have such rapid expression changes, because it’s a bit hectic and it does not give the audience a chance to follow the emotions being portrayed. In any other fan project these two things would not seem like big deals, but to me the reason they stood out so much is due to the high quality and consistency of what I saw in the rest of the film. Because most of it was so well done, the parts that didn’t quite meet the same level of quality really stood out.
Speaking of things that stood out, I want to address the complaints about the fan service and memes in Double Rainboom, but I have a different take on it. This episode was made by fans for fans, so am I not surprised that there is a large quantity of community jokes and references during the course of the episode. Some gags including Scootaloo hitting a billboard that is advertising chicken, and Derpy eating a muffin are to be expected, and as a fan I found them enjoyable. Some people get upset at the slightest hint of fan-pandering from the actual show creators, but, once again, this is a fan project and this kind of stuff is to be expected. These fan jokes kept reminding me that this was a fan work, but never once interrupted the style or feeling of the episode. The one outside reference I did see that I did not like was when the troll face appeared in the smoke coming out of Twilight’s potion. I didn’t get upset about the fact it was a meme, only that because the image seemed so out of place compared to everything else. It sort of kicked me out of my enjoyment of the episode and disrupted the atmosphere that was created before that point. It would be like seeing a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 drive across the screen while watching The Hobbit. It just shouldn’t be there, the audience knows something is wrong and probably doesn’t like it. I should note that while that did interrupt the atmosphere they had going, they quickly got right back to business.
Now the third aspect of the show deals with the audio, the voice acting, the music, and the sound design. One of the hardest things to deal with when making a fan project like this is finding vocal sound-a-likes. We, as fans, have listened to these characters jabber jaw for well over two years now, and their voices are completely stuck in our heads, so when one sounds slightly off it is incredibly evident. That being said, the voice actors that worked on Double Rainboom did a fantastic job. Twilight was pretty close to dead on, and Rainbow Dash needed some work, but was at definitely recognizable. About the music and the sound design, I can only say one thing: phenomenal. Not a single sound stood out to me as ill-fitting, none of the background music got stuck in my head, and that tells me everything was mixed very well and put exactly in its place.
Overall I must say I truly enjoyed what I saw so far. My complaints are few and far between, and as I have said previously, it’s only because the episode was so well done that these minor flaws stood out. I took the opportunity to ask one of my cohorts OmegaOzone what he thought about the whole thing, he responded with:
-Ozone, March 9th 2013
I am very much looking forward to the full release on March 30th and I highly recommend you check it out yourself. ■