Pets Over Ponies (You Heard Me Right)
Brace yourselves, Bronies, I have an announcement that may just shake the very foundation of the world you live on. Here it is:
I think there’s another show on The Hub that I like more than My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Of course, anybody who regularly follows this blog or my posts on either if the 2 message boards I’m currently on already knows that MLP: FiM wasn’t my favorite Hub show to start with–The Aquabats! Super Show! currently holds that title (it’s supposed to be starting its’ 2nd season sometime this spring–can’t wait!) and I also enjoy Dan VS. to a point, though I think it tends to get a little Pinky & The Brain repetitive and the characters aren’t especially likable (and don’t get me started on the horrible scheduling). The Ponies’ show used to be a close third, but recently another show has risen to challenge MLP for its’ bronze medal. The show in question? Littlest Pet Shop.
First, a brief history lesson (a.k.a., the boring stuff you need to know):
Hasbro manages the intellectual properties of both Blythe (a fashion doll originally released in 1972) and the Littlest Pet Shop toy line (introduced in 1992). Originally held by Kenner Products, both were transferred to Hasbro, years after acquiring most of Kenner’s assets.
As of November 2012, two modern incarnations of Blythe are on sale: One, introduced in 2001 as a standalone toy line, is managed by Tomy (after merging with the original licensee Takara in 2006) and CWC (both companies licensed from Hasbro), sold in parts of Asia, and marketed towards collectors. The other, marketed towards children that was released in 2010, is managed by Hasbro as a part of their 2004 incarnation of Littlest Pet Shop, known as Blythe Loves Littlest Pet Shop.
The series was first green-lit in 2011. During production, Blythe Loves the Littlest Pet Shop was also used by Hasbro as the working title of the TV series. The production staff of the series includes developers Timothy Cahill and Julie McNally Cahill of My Gym Partner’s a Monkey fame, along with Dallas Parker and Joel Dickie. Writers M. A. Larson and Cindy Morrow, who previously wrote episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, also wrote the scripts for the episodes of this series. The songs and music of the entire series were composed by Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews.
-OK, with that out of the way, here’s an overview of the show.
Blythe Baxter is a teen/tweenage (her exact age has yet to be revealed, but I presume she’s somewhere around 12 to 14) aspiring fashion designer (you can tell she’s a little fashionista because she sports a different hairstyle and outfit in each show, she is a fashion doll, after all) who’s cheerful, loyal, always tries her best, is cute, sweet and always willing to help others, though she’s a little mishap and comical misadventure-prone. Blythe and her requisite oblivious and embarrassing goofball father, airline pilot Roger Baxter (Blythe’s mother is MIA, but more on that later) move from their home in the suburbs to an apartment in Downtown City, a fictionalized version of New York City, only much cozier and without the crime, poverty, graffiti, gang violence and urban blight. Said apartment just happens to be located above a small pet shop, called appropriately enough, Littlest Pet Shop, a day camp for pets of all kinds. After hitting her head after riding down a dumbwaiter in one of those aforementioned wacky escapades, Blythe discovers she has somehow broken the communication barrier between man and animal, meaning that she can now communicate with animals and when the pets talk to her, it comes out as perfectly understandable English instead of unintelligible critter-speak which is how it sounds to everyone else. Blythe gets a part-time job working in the shop and assisting the shop’s owner, the delightfully dotty Mrs.Twombly. This newly forged alliance leads to all sorts of crazy fun. The pets themselves are a unique and colorful (as in not always typically found in nature) bunch; each one has their own quirk, talent, passion or obsession that he/she specializes in:
- Zoe Trent is a purple Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (of course she’s no mere dog) whose passions are singing and looking fabulous. She’s a full-tilt diva (she even wears a hat).
- Vinnie Terrio is a deep-voiced and somewhat thick Northland Green Gecko whose passion is dancing. He’s got some moves, though his routines often end with him flat on his face. (Give yourself a gold star if you noticed how Vinnie shares a surname with 70’s Dance Fever host Denny Terrio, the man who supposedly taught John Travolta how to dance.
- Penny Ling is a small, super-cute, somewhat shy and very girly female white and purple Giant Panda who is a rhythmic gymnast. She is talented with twirling ribbons but is hyper-sensitive, falling to pieces so fast that onlookers risk getting hit by the shrapnel.
- Minka Mark is a hyper and somewhat spazzy pink Spider Monkey talented in abstract art, which mainly involves splattering paint all over the canvas (hey, it worked for Jackson Pollock). She’s easily distracted by shiny objects, food and pretty much anything else.
- Pepper Clark is a fast talking and shtick loving grey-and-white skunk whose passion is comedy, largely of the custard pie and floppy shoe variety. She also has the unique ability to alter her scents from pleasant to repugnant, depending on what the situation calls for and/or how funny it is.
- Sunil Nevla is a timid and neurotic Indian accented teal-blue colored banded mongoose whose aspirations are parlor magic and psychic abilities, which he practices with more enthusiasm than polish. (He reminds me a bit of Raj from The Big Bang Theory, only Sunil’s able to talk to girls).
- Russel Ferguson is an intelligent and organized orange-brown hedgehog (no, he’s not the fastest thing alive!) who’s the brains of the group. He’s a little uptight and overly meticulous, but lets loose once in a while.
In addition to her adventures with the Pets, Blythe also has her own stories revolving around her trio of friends from her new school: Sue Patterson, the jock, Youngmee Song, the brain, and Jasper Jones, the boy. She also has to contend with the requisite snooty rivals, twin sisters Whitney and Britney Biskit, your garden variety rich shallow preps obsessed with fashion and who punctuate their sentences with “like”s, whose dad own the city’s rival pet store, Largest Ever Pet Shop. The Biskits are easily the most cliched and tiresome characters on the show, but thankfully, they don’t appear every week.
Each episode typically consists of an A plot and a B plot running simultaneously, and the 2 plots occasionally intersect. The designs on both the pet and human characters alike are big on cute, with all of the characters sporting huge eyeballs and large heads, and the show is also peppered with pop songs.
OK, I know what you’re thinking: you like THIS more than the Ponies? Well, I have to say yes, I do. Why? For one thing, LPS actually has people in it. I know that’s superficial, but I tend to gravitate more towards shows with human protagonists and all or mostly human casts. On that note, another reason I like LPS is because the animals act like and are treated like, well, animals. The Pets talk (to Blythe, anyway) and occasionally walk like humans, but for the most part they remain close to the real animals they supposedly represent. The Pets occasionally don scraps of clothing and the like, but the anthropomorphism is never carried to the creepy extremes like it is on shows like Arthur. This works for someone like me, who’s not a huge fan of anthropomorphism, at least not when it’s overdone. Another reason why I favor LPS is because it has no pretense or delusions of grandeur; it doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is: a cute little toyetic comedy cartoon. It never tries to do anything grand or epic like MLP frequently does, particularly at the beginning and ending of each season. There are no magic kingdoms on LPS, but there’s plenty of slapstick to be had. For anyone who wonders or wants there to be some deep analysis behind Blythe’s newfound power or some major ramifications thereof, I would refer you to the last verse of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song: “Just repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax’.”
While most of the characters on LPS are appealing and the stories cute and entertaining (and Mrs. Twombly gives the performance of a lifetime), it’s not all gravy. I do have some gripes with the show. For one thing, the Pets flit around the screen so rapidly that it’s hard to keep track of them all at times, though this is becoming less of a problem as episodes progress. Also, I’d like to see Blythe’s friends do a little more; as things stand currently they’re little more than props for the most part. And it’s clear to me that the writers don’t really know what to do with the Biskit Twins. Aside from how their characters generally don’t make any sense (they’re more super-rich kids who slum it with the ‘regulars’ in public school for no logical reason), they don’t work as antagonists for the simple reason that they have no reason to antagonize Blythe other than they’ve been designated as the show’s villains. Yeah, their dad owns the rival shop, but this is barely touched upon in the show and since the Twins don’t give a wet slap about work anyway, it makes no difference. Since they’re ineffective as baddies and it’s clear that the writers don’t want them to be buds with Blythe and company, they just have these characters around but really don’t know what do with them. I know it’ll never happen, but I’d like to see them transfer to a private school or otherwise pull a Houdini at the end of the season.
But by far my biggest complaint about the show concerns Blythe’s mother, namely she has none. Is she alive? Is she dead? Divorced? Where is she? There’s absolutely no reason for Blythe’s mom to be a no-show. While I hate that they also employ the Missing Mom trope on Transformers Rescue Bots, I at least understand why they do it on that show: because it’s aimed primarily at young boys, and few boys would willing buy a Transformers toy piloted by a mom; they probably only have girls on TRB because they’d get in trouble with feminist groups if they didn’t. (It’s also worth mentioning that Cody’s friend Frankie on the show doesn’t have a mother either. So what’s your beef with moms anyway, Hub, you mother-hating pricks?!)
But those little nitpicks aside, I can still enjoy Littlest Pet Shop. It is my hope that the show will thrive, find its’ own audience and finally break out of My Little Pony‘s shadow. Just let it do what it does, and wash over you like a warm mist. It won’t change your life, but it’ll keep you entertained for a half-hour.