» TRS Round Table 046: Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

We’re here today to learn about Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 which aired on April 5th. Chillin’ at the Round Table to school you about the wonders of the Wonderbolts are Mr. Big, Opposing Farce, acksed, drunkill and KefkaFloyd.

Read more to find out how different learning techniques help get results.

KefkaFloyd: We’ve had a topic on our forum for a while now, called “An Episode for Dash.” It’s interesting that, I think, the exact conundrum that thread was describing was well handled by this episode.

Mr. Big: I was dreading this episode because the other Dash episodes we’ve had this season were underwhelming, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be better than I expected. Amy Keating Rogers gets all the credit, but I think extra thanks needs to be given to the directors, Jayson Thiessen and “Big” Jim Miller, as well as the storyboard artists, here Emmett Hall and Tony Cliff, for executing this. Not only do we see Dash’s insecure side, but we also get to see her playful side, which was played out beautifully.

Opposing Farce: Rainbow Dash is pretty firmly established as the dashest pony who ever dashed, so her focus episodes end up better off when they force her to deal with one of the other elements of her personality rather than just being a question of athleticism.

drunkill: With people starting to tire of Rainbow Dash’s episodes revolving around the Wonderbolts, I think this one proved there is still some life left in her goal of joining up and still being enjoyable to watch.

KefkaFloyd: Written by Amy Keating Rogers, this marks her third episode this season. Coming after the well received “Pinkie Pride” and “Filli Vanilli,” it feels like Rogers hasn’t missed a beat after her brief hiatus from horses.

Mr. Big: For the most part I think her three episodes were a hit. The best thing about her episodes is that she wrote about the Ponies’ insecurities (Pinkie not being able to make others happy, Fluttershy with her stage fright, and Rainbow’s learning troubles) with extreme confidence. Maybe it’s because she’s been involved on the show since the beginning, but she really knows how to show them in this light well.

Opposing Farce: I feel like I was one of the few detractors (of sorts) for Filli Vanilli; it’s not bad or anything, and the barbershop quartet scenes are awfully fun, but I felt like it had a weak second act that went on for a long time with a minimum of conflict. And I actually think I like this episode more than Pinkie Pride, too; PP has lots of good humor and I think we can all appreciate Weird Al guest-starring, but for the most part this episode’s jokes landed harder for me. It’s been a while since this show’s had such a concentration of gags I absolutely love like Fluttershy’s terrible, ridiculous pet play and the sheer audacity of Pinkie Pie’s edurapping sequence. On the whole, though, AKR’s episodes this season have had a really high ‘fun factor’ with lots of time dedicated to just doing something really entertaining or funny, which is probably why they’ve been hitting so hard.

There's always someone in the classroom to cause distractions There’s always someone in the classroom to cause distractions

KefkaFloyd: The episode’s storyline about Dash having trouble learning will resonate with a lot of people, especially the target audience.

Mr. Big: I was a crappy student as a kid in school, to the point that I had to be homeschooled, so yeah, I relate to Dash VERY well here. I’m actually glad that the show tackled this subject. I think it’s great for kids (and parents of said kids) to know that everybody learns things differently, something that’s not exactly spelled out so much in today’s media. Well done, Pony crew.

Opposing Farce: This is one of those episodes that really struck me with how straightforward, directly relevant to the target audience, and actually fairly important as a life lesson the moral is. (Leap of Faith was another one, because what could be more a more important lesson than mistrusting late-night infomercials and detecting shills?) The downside here, though, is that it leads to the story bending over backwards in a really awkward way to put Dash, who by all accounts is an independent adult living on her own, into an “oh no I have to study for the history test!” situation that’s high school as all hell. I’m sure there’s a way to make this setup work (it’s not like it’s utterly inconceivable that Dash would have to do some good old-fashioned book learnin’ to get into the Wonderbolts) but the episode never makes me believe it and it ends up ringing really hollow.

acksed: My own experience with learning is a little different but I totally identify with Dash too. I was a mature student at university. I bought so many study guides and memory aids, asked people around me how they learned, yet I felt nothing but terror at the thought of an exam or lecture because, while I knew I was good at my subject, I had no idea how to absorb the information to pass the exam. What was a “key word” – aren’t all the words important? How did highlighting help you remember? Do I really have to read all these books? By the time the final year rolled round, even the thought of undergoing an exam would make me go blank. So Dash being a Wonderbolts fan, yet trying and failing to study, is plausible.
KefkaFloyd: It’s been some time since we’ve had insecure Dash come to the forefront. Beneath her wall of cool, her anxiety towards failure still drives a lot of her actions. While she’s grown a lot over the past few seasons, there’s still some of that Sonic Rainboom “curled up in a shivering mess” lurking inside.

acksed: Agreed. Seeing Dash curl up in that cloud, convinced she’s no good because she can’t learn, was heartbreaking. Gah. I can confirm the “shivering mess” part as true – the thought of my final year project left me rigid with fear because it was so important and I knew I wasn’t good enough to complete it.

drunkill: It shows you that despite being brash and often portraying herself as confident, it isn’t always the case with RD.

Opposing Farce: Dash cruises through most things on talent and instinct alone, but when she reaches a roadblock that requires her to get into gear and go outside of her comfort zone she freezes up and gets all crushed by the weight of her obligations. It’s not quite the same thing, but as someone who always cruised through school but has absolutely no work ethic I’ve been in similar situations from time to time.

Sometimes you need friends to help. Sometimes you need friends to help.

KefkaFloyd: Everybody seemed to be geeking out over the Wonderbolts history infodump through the episode. Richy33 even compiled it into a wiki-esque entry on the forums.

Opposing Farce: Eh, I’m not much of a lore guy and I don’t find the Wonderbolts as an organization particularly inspiring. I care about the characters, and the only thing that’s really relevant to them is “Wonderbolts fly good.” It’s nice that’s there for people who are into it, though.
KefkaFloyd: Even though this was a Dash focused episode, she wasn’t the only one who learned something at the end. Twilight might be a good student, but being a teacher takes a different skillset, and being able to recognize that what you’re doing might not fit with the student echoes the whole new kind of learning she’ll have to do as a princess.

drunkill: It’s a good lesson to teach, something the show has touched on in the past but directly pointing out that not everybody learns the same way as others is a good message for kids and parents alike.

acksed: Twilight, Fluttershy and the others each thought that their way of learning was the best, falling prey to the typical mind fallacy i.e. believing that everyone thought like them and coming up with justifications why it was so. To her credit, once Twi discovered how to Dash, she tailored her lesson plan to the student.

People have been complaining that Twi has had her flaws polished away, making her boring. It was a relief to find some of the ‘old’ Twilight resurfacing, but I wonder what the end point will be. We started Season 4 with the dread that she would be changed forever by the wings and responsibility; now we’re coming to the end and fearing that the process of learning to be a princess will make her uninteresting.

Opposing Farce: Twilight’s always been a bit oblivious when it comes to dealing with other ponies, but it’s been a while since we’ve had an episode directly dealing with the difficulty she sometimes has realizing other ponies don’t always think like she does. A lot of that is just character growth; Look Before You Sleep, which seemed a little odd at the time, makes a certain amount of sense for Twilight’s character in season 1 in retrospect, but it definitely wouldn’t fit for season 4 Twilight. It’s a bit of a paradox, really: we want to see that the characters are learning and growing from their experiences, but we’re scared to see them change because then they might not be the same character we loved back when this whole crazy thing started.

She's got the power of Learning! She’s got the power of Learning!

KefkaFloyd: We can’t talk about the episode without bringing up the Pinkie rap. Love it, hate it, you can at least agree that it is a lovingly crafted homage to 90s-era rap montages.

Mr. Big: It occurred to me that the “fake VHS effect” has now joined the “fake film effect” (see the beginning of “Hurricane Fluttershy”) in the list of common visual tropes. I actually feel old now, to be honest. I thought the rap was hilarious. The great thing about Pinkie is you can pretty much do any silly thing with her and, in general, isn’t too grating.

Opposing Farce: Like I said before, it’s incredible how much I loved this scene. The actual content of it is great– from the terrible rapping and corny lyrics to the costumes, backgrounds, and color palette, everything about it is absolutely perfect for the kind of painfully unhip 90s edutainment they’re parodying. The 4:3 aspect ratio, interlacing, blurry image quality, and murky indistinct audio distortion are what really put the sequence over the top, though, and it all comes together in a way that’s really funny. Humor, as they say, is all about defying expectations, and this sequence comes straight out of left field in the most wonderful and baffling way. It’s strange to think that the target audience will probably never see an actual VHS tape and will only know of them through parodies like this, though.

drunkill: Like other unexpected segments the show has aired (Boneless and Gummy in Pinkie Pride for example) this one was so absurd that it worked perfectly, it was an imitation of 90s rap but you could tell it wasn’t just a parody, it was a homage and a skilled creation in it’s own right.

acksed: I saw this completely cold, on the livestream, and I loved it. Loved the interaction between the Word-Eater and the Detail-Drinker, loved the way the rest of the Mane 6 were sucked into helping, loved the callback to Dash’s lack of confidence and loved the lesson and conclusion. Even Pinkie was displaying some sensitivity.

Now, had I read the intro, I still would have loved it. Had I seen the Pinkierap clip, my anticipation might have downgraded from “hmm, interesting” to “cautious”. In the stream I disliked the rap itself, but I appreciated that they were lampooning every painful, self-consciously hip learning rap, and they succeeded. I was amazed that they did it so well; the ‘can’t believe they DID that’ is part of the show for me. To see it divide people was a bit alarming, though I see both their points, and they are not always incompatible: to those who wanted the show to be its own fantasy universe, with internally-consistent stories and mythology, I want that greatness too. To those who see MLP as a cartoon, with Pinkie as a ‘living’ cartoon character who is the very model of a cartoon individual, who breaks the fourth wall, who can cause outbreaks of live-action Gummy, who from this bag can pull almost anything imaginable: I love those moments. You could have simply eliminated the VHS effect and it wouldn’t have broken immersion, but they went for the full reference like other cartoons. And that’s okay.

Rappin' History of the Wonderbolts It’s so 90s it hurts.

KefkaFloyd: This episode was especially rich in nice animation touches and visual gags. What was your favourite?

acksed: There’s a moment in the intro where Twilight lands on a cloud, then begins to sink before she adjusts her footing. It’s a neat little joke and an indication that she hasn’t quite learned how to pegasus.

Mr. Big: That whole “Idiot Concert” with Rainbow Dash, Spike, and Owlicious is one of the funniest things to happen in this show. It’s something I never expected this show to do.

acksed: The little ‘rock rock’ at the end, when Twi asks if Dash was listening? Genius visual comedy.

drunkill: RD on the stool during her lesson was genius, it may have been scripted as simply as “Rainbow Dash is distracted” yet it had a life of it’s own.

Opposing Farce: Spike gets somewhere between zero and almost zero lines of dialog in this episode, but he still manages to be responsible for a solid string of funny gags the whole way through. 

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  1. I’m a little surprised that no one mentioned Rarity’s attempt at teaching. Of all the girls’ approaches, I think hers would have realistically had the best chance of helping Dash. Her historical fashion show was a marvelous combination of visual and kinesthetic education, giving an immediate and tactile history of the Wonderbolts that would have been extremely effective at reaching kids who struggle with more traditional forms of learning.

    It’s seems like kind of a cop-out that it didn’t work, actually. Dash’s problem with Rarity’s approach was that there was too much going on for her to process, yet in the end, it’s revealed that’s she’s capable of processing tons of information visually (albeit unconsciously).

    I dunno. Maybe I just wanted to see the Best Pony come out of nowhere to win this one.