Brony Report: The ATX "Best Morning Ever" Event
August 27th, 2016 @ 4PM CST
This is Dwight House reporting direct from Austin, Texas. As a resident Brony, it is my pleasure to guide you through the experience of this event if you were unable to attend. Before you ask, yes, they did show next week's episode. And no, I won't spoil it. Sorry guys. You can jump to episode reactions if you only care about the episodes, though.
Like many of you, I originally found out about the event just days ago on Equestria Daily. I signed up within minutes, but the reservation system reported that the event was already at capacity. I decided to go anyway, figuring I might at least document the event. Believe it or not, the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater for the event is five minutes from where I live.
Always looking for an excuse to cosplay MLP characters, I decided to attend wearing a simple costume I had on hand. Arriving about 45 minutes early, I drove past the front of the theater. I saw a massive line of young children, from infants to 12-year-olds, with their parents. Most of the kids were wearing pajamas, and many parents were wearing the same pair of hipster-looking sunglasses. Seeing no obvious Bronies, and considering that my cosplay was a fairly creepy-looking Equality Pony costume from the Season 5 premier episodes, I decided against cosplaying. Didn't want to scare the kids. I rushed back home and changed into jeans and my subtle Brony shirt. Now only 25 minutes early, I entered the massive line.
I spoke to a few parents in line. They said that the Alamo Drafthouse does these sorts of special events, for all different subjects and audiences, frequently. They had gotten an email about the event a month ago. The parent also mentioned that this was not the first event for kids like this, and that they had shown My Little Pony episodes like this last year. She assured me that I would be able to get in. As we were standing there, a volunteer walked by carrying a box of those hipster-looking sunglasses and handed them out. As we rounded the corner, it became very clear why. The sun shone brightly in our eyes as the Austin morning began to heat up, as it does here in very hot Texas.
After getting around the corner, we saw other volunteers. The Google Fiber team was there, helping check people in and asking them if they had signed up for delicious gigabit internet yet. Google Fiber had just finished laying the conduits in the neighborhood, and will be rolling out actual installs within a month or two. At this point, a lady came by handing out sticky notes with numbers on them, indicating which group we would be in. She told me that it was fine that I didn't have a formal reservation, and that I would get in. Yay!
Because lobby space was limited, people entered in groups. At about 9AM, I was stopped right before entering, where I got to interact with a very enthusiastic and awesome staff member for the event. She was the only staffer wearing anything pony-related, and an excellent choice at that. We talked at length about the event, how it was structured, and its history. She was very insightful, and there was good reason for that, as I would soon learn.
Here's the rundown. The ATX festival is an annual celebration of great television. It is not a film festival that also has television panels. It's JUST about TV. This event for kids has been going on for five years, but this is the first year that it was broken off into a separate time from the rest of the festival. ATX's main festival focuses on actors and writers of the more adult-focused shows. It took place in June. They moved the kid's event to August to avoid overcrowding and to simplify scheduling. This event marked the first time that Hasbro allowed them to screen early episodes.
Once inside, I saw a huge cloud of activity. Pictures do it more justice. I spent my time in the lobby walking around photographing the activities and talking to staff about the event.
If you've never been to an Alamo theater, you are missing out! Go to one the next chance you get. There are lots of them in Austin, and a few in other parts of Texas. Not sure about other areas. Alamo theaters really care about the movie-going experience. They hold interesting events (like this one) and have cool props in their lobbies. The viewing experience itself is amazing too. Instead of standard previews, they show parodies and sketches from the internet, all related to the current movie or event. For this event, they were showing cereal commercials from the 50s to the 90s. Want food? Right at your seat, you can order from a remarkable selection of snacks, full meals, and drinks (yes, including alcohol with ID). They will even get you refills while you watch the movie. They are also super serious about cell phone usage and talking. They WILL kick people out.
Because there were so many people, they staggered everyone into one of three theaters, with my theater (blue) being the last called. Unlike the normal Alamo experience, they set up food tables on the way into the theater. They had pancakes, waffles, and four kinds of cereal. I had already eaten, so with giant glass of water in hand, I entered the theater to find my seat.
No pictures from inside the theater, obviously.
As I mentioned before, the theater played dozens of classic cereal commercials from the 50s to 90s. After that, two women entered to address the crowd. Surprise! The woman in the Fluttershy shirt was one of the two founders of the festival! They thanked everyone for coming, spoke briefly about the festival, and then quickly allowed the main event to proceed!
The first episode was Transformers Rescue Bots: Camp Cody (S04E18), which premiered today on Discovery Family. I had never seen this series before, and while the show was somewhat predictable and simplistic, there were a couple of genuinely funny moments. Immediately after the credits rolled, we got into the good stuff...
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Dungeons and Discords (S06E17)
Many of you have seen this by now, but I will still avoid spoilers. Simply put, this was the funnier and more interesting MLP episode of the morning. Discord is always amazing, and he does not disappoint here. Spike and Big Mac are great too. Spike really shows some leadership here.
After the MLP credits rolled, many of the kids simply couldn't sit there anymore. The kids were all well-behaved (both before and during the show), but they were reaching their limits. Either they were tired from waking up early or too bored to continue to watch. Of course, in my childhood, a 4 hour cartoon watching marathon was pretty common most Saturdays. Kids today... wimps, I tell you! :P
Next we jumped right into next week's episode of Transformers Rescue Bots, Once Upon A Time (S04E18). It is going to premier on September 3rd. I won't reveal anything, but it's a pretty wacky episode. By now, more than half of the attendees had left. I couldn't believe it. After all, we were about to see...
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Buckball Season (S06E18)
This episode is not scheduled to air until September 3rd, 2016. I can't say much. It's certainly a great episode. Not as crazy as Discord's episode above, but a good episode all around. The show took a rather unexpected turn pretty quickly. However, that's because I didn't read the synopsis for the episode before seeing it. There is one thing that will be a surprise though. A character we haven't seen for a LOOOONG time makes a significant and wonderful appearance in this episode. I think some people may gain a new favorite pony after this... well, a few might anyway.
(For those of you trying to guess who it is, don't take my words literally. I'm being intentionally vague. I think you'll understand my meaning when you see the episode.)
After almost two hours of Saturday morning cartoons in a lush theater with hundreds of kids and parents, even I was getting tired. We headed out into the sunlight of the lobby to find toy giveaways for all the kids. Staffers were very clear, "Only one toy per child. Per CHILD!" they said in my general direction, repeatedly, as I lurked, not unlike a drooling shark, eyeing the MLP posable figures. They had posable Applejack, Fluttershy, and Cheerilee, along with Transformers toys and a blanket option. I was one of the last out of the theater, and, as you can see below, there were many dozens of extra toys.
I ran into the Fluttershy woman again (who is named Emily btw) and we chatted about the experience. She had not seen the episodes yet. Running the event had prevented her from seeing them. However, she said she would see them soon. My new friend Emily also offered me a choice of toy, since they had plenty of extras. I picked the second best pony, Fluttershy, because the best pony, Book Horse, was not available. I guess I'll get to try out the posable figures now. I hadn't had one of them before.
As we were talking, the other founder of the festival, Caitlin, came up and said that there were over 450 attendees at the event. By my estimation, over half of them were kids. I thanked them both immensely for the opportunity to come and see the episodes. I told them I would be letting you guys know about the event. They, in turn, expressed thanks for my attendance. Free food and unreleased episodes of My Little Pony, and they are thanking me!? They really are the best. They even let me take a photo of them. You can find out more about them on their ATX page.
I was able to meet many different staffers, many of which were friends of Caitlin or Emily, and all were really great. Other interesting things that happened...
- When explaining that I was a Brony and there to cover the event, one staffer asked "What's that?" It's amazing that, after five years, there are still people who hadn't heard of Bronies or the existence of adult MLP fans. That's always a fun thing to explain. :)
- At one point, I overheard a little boy proclaiming, very matter-of-factly, that he enjoyed Transformers more than My Little Pony. It was all I could do to resist the urge to turn around and yell "Blasphemy!"
- I saw no other Bronies the entire time. At all.
Thanks to everyone involved, especially the ATX staff, Hasbro, the Alamo, and all the sponsors, for putting on this great show for the kids (and the kids at heart).
And with that, the event was concluded. Time to head home, eat lunch, write up this article, and then go into hiding so the Bronies can't try to strong-arm me for info about the new episode. You'll never take me alive!
8:15PM Update - Fixed episode number errors. Added note that my statements about next week's episode are intentionally vague and not completely literal.