Author's Note: With Twilight revealed to be an alicorn, this editorial has been revised to fit the current timeline.
For over a month, the rumor of having Twilight Sparkle evolve to an alicorn, either temporary or permanent, has floated throughout the brony community. Although it comes off as a worrisome hoax, there have been several hints of Twilight evolving to an alicorn since then, particularly the promos that hint Twilight's "destiny." Combined with the sticker book that was shown on Equestria Daily yesterday, the worries have arisen again.
On January 29th, Entertainment Weekly has officially revealed the main context for season three's finale: Twilight will officially become an alicorn. At what point in the episode and how it impacts the episode remains to be seen.
Now, before we move on, let me talk about the concept of Alicorn!Twilgiht alone.
I think it's a fine idea. Throughout the series, we've seen how much Twilight has grown. Prior to staying in Ponyville, she studied in Canterlot as Princess Celestia's protégé. Plus, her cutie mark signifies both magic and the Magic of Friendship. Down the road, having Twilight evolve into an alicorn would work.
But that's down the road. In other words, later in the series to the point where Twilight would be ready to advance further and further in her studies and beyond. But Twilight is evolving to an alicorn during season three's finale, and that idea is objectively terrible.
- It indicates a severe evolution of not just power, but also responsibilities in managing them. Throughout the series, there have been three main alicorns: Celestia, Luna, and Cadance. Each of them have extremely strong responsibilities that determine the fate of the people they care for.
Princess Celestia controls the rising and setting of the sun. The sun results in ponies waking up to do their work, maintaining their crops, controlling the weather, and so on. Luna controls the rising and setting of the moon. When the moon rises, the ponies know when to go to sleep and the nocturnal animals know when to wake up to start hunting. There is a symmetric harmony between controlling the sun and moon, so the fate of Equestria rests on their shoulders.
But Cadance also has a strong sense of responsibility. She holds the ability to spread love, peace, and harmony. Furthermore, as hinted by her cutie mark and episodic progression, she is also responsible for keeping the Crystal Empire peaceful. Whatever happens to her affects the crystal ponies' everyday life.
Twilight Sparkle holds the ability to perform excellent magic, including dark magic and other advanced magic. But the big problem of her evolving to an alicorn is that it represents her evolution in not just being able to progress into more advanced magic, but also harnessing the balance of harmonious magic. In the FIM universe, an alicorn is a symbol of greater responsibilities and the extreme preparation for them. (This symbolism is why there have been so few alicorns in the canon.) She's NOT ready yet. She dabbles here and there, but her ability to harness the balance of harmonious magic isn't there at this point. She's still a rather young unicorn who is still learning how to harness and maintain magic meanwhile keeping herself occupied with those she cares for. In addition, Twilight is still not all that mature as a character. Albeit growing up so much physically and emotionally, she still cracks under pressure and is extremely obsessive in performing her duties, tasks, management, and magic correctly. The progression in characterization is too quick for Twilight and puts her into a situation that doesn't fit her character one bit.
(This also applies to the idea of having Twilight potentially becoming the bridge to help Celestia and Luna rise and set the sun and moon, respectively.)
- It's obvious product-meddling. What makes My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic so strong is the fact that Hasbro has given the team the creative freedom to do whatever they want all the while confining them to within the content rating. Occasionally, Hasbro has meddled in the team's business and mandated them to add what are product shots, such as The Friendship Express, The Crystal Ponies, and Cadance's alteration from a unicorn to an alicorn once Faust resigned. Season three has especially shown to give the team even lesser restraint than the previous two seasons combined. Turning Twilight into an alicorn in this season's finale would nonsensically be a complete 180 on the team and season's progress. Regardless of whether it's temporary or permanent, Alicorn!Twilight this season would make the excuse so blatant that it would become incredibly insulting. It's completely different to those who draw fanart or write fanfic because they don't have the limitations. They can have Twilight evolve into an alicorn at any given point in the timeline. If they take the time to explain the process, then her evolution to potentially evolve into an alicorn (this season or otherwise) would genuinely make sense. The professionals don't have this absolute freedom.
A common reply is despite Twilight's transformation, nothing else will happen to her — She'll merely have wings, but she still won't change her personality or her duties. While that can be true, you're also not looking at it from a creative or business perspective (nor are you looking at the overall consequences of using this potential in-canon reason). In order for a brand new idea and completely different shape of a character to sell well, you need a great reason behind it. (This conviction must be even stronger when the concept itself is stupid.) With you have a show that's creative despite using realistic logic and physics behind their animation and canon (and especially when you're utilizing the popularity and success of the writing, humor, characterization, character development, common sense, and overall show as leverage to formulate a successful product line), the execution must be breathtakingly convincing. This aforementioned rebuttal makes no sense from a business and storytelling perspective combined: If all that's changing from her is merely the addition of her wings, then it no longer becomes an organic plot point whether she "evolves" as a personality or not. In other words, she doesn't become solely a character anymore. She devolves to an in-cartoon commercial. Viewers in general want to watch to be entertained, not to have a blatant HD-TV-sized billboard plastered in front of them. When a commercial airs, they will get a bite to eat, turn the TV off, or use the bathroom until the round ends. They don't want their brain to turn to gak by watching two boring minutes of commercials. If this devolution is so obvious, then your audience will be completely disgusted, and they'll quickly change the channel. Blatant props within a show are an immense insult to your audience.
If you want to sell a new product or a different shape of a character within the actual episodic show or film, then the audience must be entertained. The prop must have a logical purpose. It must be fun. It must make concrete sense. It must feel like an actual piece of the film or episode rather than be a pointless product that you can just pick out from the shelf or dealership. One great example is the series of short films called The Hire, which features The Driver in various circumstances. To get around, he drives various BMWs, a luxury car brand. These films are obvious commercials, but the BMWs have a purpose, and they blend in with the scenery and action. Instead of having the audience solely focus on the BMWs, the audience is focused on the plot and characters; the luxury cars are secondary. This series is extremely well-received because these commercials aren't treated as such. They're treated as a series of entertaining films, and the BMWs aren't viewed as pointless moving billboards. Consequentially, the audience isn't insulted.
The purpose for Twilight's transformation must be more than merely growing two wings, staying with her friends at Ponyville, and/or retaining her character. Twilight's evolution — whether it's temporary or permanent — must have a stronger, deeper, and more well-thought-out conviction that also makes sense within the Friendship Is Magic universe. Having her grow wings and nothing more comes across as a shallow, purposeless gimmick to your general audience. The brony fandom is extremely intelligent, and the last thing they want to see is blatant advertising that's in the actual episode and not in thirty-second commercials or two-minute-long infomercials.
- It gives the writers so little leeway to explain the process plausibly. Let's cut out the promos one minute and just look at the arc itself. Episodes one and two this season hints at Twilight evolving to the "next level of her studies" (a.k.a., performing more advanced magic). At the end of episode two, a book appeared before Luna. Since then, there's literally been nothing to hint Twilight's evolution of her studies. It's equivalent to season one's "loose 'plot progression,'" only with no plot points in between. Moreover, it's not a two-part finale. Like The Best Night Ever, the finale is one single episode, which means Larson must cram the evolution as plausibly as he can within a twenty-minute time span, and that is extremely difficult to perform well.
As for the writers themselves, they're an extremely intelligent bunch. They can take Hasbro's incessant meddling and bad concepts and mesh it well with the universe. But they can only go so far before Hasbro gives them a call and tells them to have something happen their way in the show, no exceptions.
Take a look at the backgrounds revealed last year, too. These backgrounds have a "313" link on them, dictating the season and then episode (season three, episode thirteen). There's extremely little leeway given to the writers and animation team. If the timeline was a little more obvious, and if Twilight showed much more maturity physically and mentally throughout the season, then the concept of her evolving to an alicorn this season wouldn't be as terrible as it factually is right now.
- Let's talk about the hypothetical logic of the Elements of Harmony being disrupted. Let's break it all down. We have six Elements: Loyalty, Honesty, Kindness, Generosity, Laughter, and Magic. But now let's put them into three pairs.
Applejack (Honesty) and Pinkie Pie (Laughter) are earth ponies.
Rainbow Dash (Loyalty) and Fluttershy (Kindness) are pegasi.
Rarity (Generosity) and Twilight Sparkle (Magic) are unicorns.
There's a balance between races when it comes as to who holds the Elements. It isn't a coincidence that there there are three equal, balanced pairs. Just like the Elements, the pairs themselves demonstrate balance and equality. Especially in this case where Twilight isn't even mature enough to evolve further. Twilight evolving to an alicorn risks upsetting this balance, especially during a sequence where her evolution has no canonical momentum.
- It's just a straight-up HORRIBLE business practice. Twilight Sparkle has been shown for the last three years as a unicorn and is remembered as a unicorn. There's merchandise of Twilight as a unicorn, including some developed right now as I'm typing. The bronies like her for who she IS: a unicorn with raw abilities and potential to do great things. Her becoming an alicorn this season comes across as abrupt, nonsensical, and a waste of time and money to spend on material, molding, ink, and labor.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is one of Hasbro's brands, but the Mane Six are also individual brands for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Just like their personalities, one of the biggest strengths in the characters is the ability to recognize or remember them by their basic outline.
Take a look at this silhouette.
Just by viewing those silhouettes, you can recognize who they are. In the world of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, character design and their simplicity are crucial in forming their own memorable and iconic identities. Like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic itself, the Mane Six are their own brands.
Twilight Sparkle herself is not only a character. She is her own brand (defined as a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or organization). Over the past three years, she has established herself as a unicorn and is adored as such. At this point already, she is an iconic figure to this fandom and the canonical universe.
Switching her to an alicorn here is extremely risky. If pulled off greatly, you can make her even more iconic than she already is. But if the execution fails horribly, you run the risk of making her Friendship Is Magic's equivalent to Tropicana's repackaging project: generic, unidentifiable, and unmemorable.
If Twilight Sparkle was more developed and genuinely mature enough, then maybe she can hold onto extra responsibilities. The idea and support of her becoming an alicorn would make more logical sense. But she can't at this point. She still needs more time to develop physically, emotionally, and mentally before she can have the ability to really step up in the ranks. Like I wrote before, the brony community is smart and can spot an objectively bad concept when they see it. The concept of her evolving into an alicorn this season makes no logical sense, and they have every reason to complain and/or worry. Her evolution in this season's finale is extremely risky and can potentially alter a very strong dynamic. The show is great, and they don't want what is a diamond-in-the-rough animation to become merely a soulless gimmick to sell products. If they didn't care about the show, then they wouldn't be complaining or worrying in the first place.
Over the past several decades, Hasbro has repeatedly interfered in order to insert their own toys into the canon universe. When Hasbro and its toy department do this, they tend to literally screw up the shows. Two huge examples are Transformers (such as late in the first generation and the second, and the Beast Wars/Machines timeline) and the earlier generations of My Little Pony (G2's toyline, G3, and G3.5 by altering the demographic from an all-ages product to one that targets little girls only, a decision that nearly killed the the franchise). As a result, while there may be faith in the writers, there is even lesser faith in Hasbro due to their very mixed track record and repeated patterns of devolving shows into half-baked, half-hour infomercials rather than half-hour, high-quality entertainment packages.
Also, you may LIKE the concept, but just because you like it doesn't mean it's factually good. And that's what the concept is: factually bad.
Finally, there is executing the idea in the canon. It's easy to write a good concept badly. It's hard enough to write a good concept well. But writing a bad concept well is three to four times harder. When you have a concept this rushed and this stupid such as Alicorn!Twilight in season three's finale, then it becomes incredibly difficult for the writer to execute it and have your audience buy into it and further support it. M. A. Larson (the writer of the finale) has a lot of work cut out for him and make this daft concept genuinely sensible in execution. The in-verse reason MUST be great and MUST be extremely convincing. But he is the best and smartest writer on the team; if anyone can pull this daft concept out from its proverbial corner, it's him. He has the intellect to do it, and he understands the canon front and back. But he needs to muster that creativity in order to convince the community as well as myself that the execution of the idea of Twilight becoming an alicorn in season three's finale makes genuine sense.
Because its concept doesn't, period!