Editor's note: The following comes from "Hoof Hearted" , a podcast show on the Internets. The stories and information posted here are unverified. The opinions expressed in this commentary are theirs. Doesn't really matter because we will be blamed for this, be accused of "harassment", and get the same passive aggressive tweets sent to us, but hey don't let that stop you :).
THE MADNESS OF MIDNIGHT MARES
by HOOF HEARTED
The resemblance is uncanny.
4 months ago, a Kickstarter began for a project called Midnight Mares which was helmed by Mr. C. Allan Gann, the head of Gann Memorials (no, that’s not a funeral home) whose claim to fame is being contracted to make plushies for a number of different companies. Apparently “inspired” by the brony fandom (read: probably impressed by the ludicrous amounts of money spent on pony merch), he started funding for a horse cartoon of his own, complete with a trailer from Children of the Night animator DuoCartoonist.
The trailer itself is… Kind of okay. The animation looks pretty decent, though the character designs are pretty awful on the whole, and the voice acting is a bit iffy, not that the dialogue offered them much to begin with. This, by itself, would not be worth anyone’s ire until you actually head down the rabbit hole that is Midnight Mares’ production plan. It’s rife with potential legal issues, exuberant costs, a backwards process by which he plans to produce this series, and the fact that it mirrors our Little Pony even in being a merchandising engine. Midnight Mares is an anomalous mess of a kickstarter project, and is one of those really unfortunate examples of Bronies financially backing anything that has a strong resemblance to pony in it, regardless of any of its inherent issues.
The first thing that really pushed our buttons about this project: it’s pitched as something like MLP, only it’d be darker, edgier, and it would cover “more adult” subject matter. In this day and age, we’re used to people using “Dark and Edgy” as a selling point despite neither of these necessarily being positive, but then we get into the idea of cartoon horses covering more mature topics (without being Bojack Horseman). What was that thing C.S. Lewis said about using adult as a positive selling point…?
“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves [...] to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development.”
In all fairness, Lewis was talking about people classifying stories in terms of the art of writing, and Gann isn’t all that concerned about the artistic side of it, he’s a man grounded in good business sense, in marketing. He’s trying to appeal to a demographic, and we guess he’s right about one aspect of his idea being more adult than MLP- we’ve moved the demographic up from 5-year-olds to edgy teenagers- you know, just the kind of people you’d specifically market cartoon horses to.
We’re aware of the irony given MLP’s history with its demographics, but that didn’t happen by design. Faust set out to make this series with the idea that everyone could enjoy it, kids and adults alike, which is a sound philosophy- Disney’s been at it since its namesake was at the helm. It’s why we in the United States refer to this sort of programming as FAMILY entertainment- it’s meant to be enjoyed both by children and the adults (theoretically) supervising their viewing.
But hey, maybe Gann can pull off a more grown-up cartoon pony show. Just look at his cutting-edge character designs!
Who wouldn’t be immediately taken with this magnificent pon- er, mare, what with the black and neon blue-and-pink color scheme, the fur pattern that looks suspiciously like a spooky scary skeleton costume, and the Dia De Los Muertos… Pastie? Piercing? Glued-on Construction Paper project made in preschool? What even is that? There’s so much edge here that we might get a papercut if we touch our monitor. The rest of the designs look basically like OC’s from that other cartoon horse show that Midnight Mares has absolutely nothing to do with. For funsies (and Chelis), let’s have a looksee.
Silly Scootaloo, your cutie mark goes on your butt.
America? Fuck… Me.
I AM NAUGHTY TEACHER GROOT.
EVIL SPIRIT FROM THE KNOCKOFF REALM - PHANTOM GANNHORSE
He must be trying to make a direct connection with his audience, in that his characters look like they were designed by the average teenage brony trying to draft their first OC. The only thing missing is the Alicornification. Come on guys - shoot for the stars!
Hell, we haven’t even touched on the plot yet. So there’s this pon- er, “Mare” that has power over daylight (TOTES NOT CELESTIA) who has an adopted daughter with power over the night (TOTES NOT LUNA GAIS CUZ SHES A DAUGHTER) who gets bullied and snaps into this EEEVIL version of herself (TOTES NOT NIGHTMARE MOON). There’s also this concept of Dreamselves which may have been interesting if this wasn’t mired in every other cliche this thing throws at us.
Oh, and they say they’ll cover bullying. Truly, no animated production in the history of ever has dared to brave such murky, gritty and unfamiliar territory! You know, except for almost every superhero cartoon ever, the Simpsons, and this other cartoon horse show you may or may not have heard of called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Oops, almost forgot-- Gann has stated over and over that Midnight Mares is a totally different concept than Friendship is Magic. Though both shows involve animated, multicolored, magical talking equine creatures that look extremely similar to each other, it’s been stated that Midnight Mares is completely different and doesn’t step on Hasbro’s territory in the slightest. Mares are totally not ponies, after all.
To show the world just how different Midnight Mares is from MLP, Gann has decided to advertise the series at multiple Brony conventions and on popular brony websites. This move was totally not done in order to drum up interest for the series, but rather to prove to all that you can easily tell the difference between the two. It is very clear to us that Gann is absolutely not trying to profit off of the brony fanbase in the slightest, and his project is most certainly not similar to MLP in any way. Also, Paul Blart 2 should get an Oscar for best film.
To make this even more baffling, Gann actually plans on pitching this Horse-Cartoon-That’s-Totally-Not-My-Little-Pony to TV networks (if not pitching, then at least selling the rights to it). There are several issues with this, not the least of which being the Intellectual Property Law mess that may come as a result. Gann constantly insists that his legal counsel says everything is fucking dandy, but in a country where people are as prone to sue as the United States, if your legal counsel isn’t erring on the side of caution, they’re doing something wrong.
But hey, maybe we’re missing a few pieces of this unholy puzzle.
Well, what do you know? It’s got its own website! Maybe there’s more detailed information there that will clear the air completely.
Nope. Just like everything else in this project, it’s misleading, bass-ackwards, poorly designed, and not even close to being the final product.
First off: GAH, what the fuck - our eyes! We must need glasses, because those words on the side are so blurry. Let’s put on our… Wait a second… Half of us don’t even wear glasses!
Sweet Christ, we need to look at anything but that fucking sidebar. How about the title banner of the website? It looks okay, and it links to something. Let’s see what it is.
Oh. It doesn’t work. Splendid.
Oh. It doesn’t work. Splendid.
The title is not only a broken link, but it’s also an error 500, which means the program the website is running has crashed. How the fuck is this website considered ready? Better yet, HOW THE FUCK DO YOU FUCK UP THE LINK TO THE HOMEPAGE?!
As for the other parts of the website, well… They’re about as helpful. All the other links show the news page. By the logic of the coding, apparently,
Story = News
Castmares (ugh) = News
Contact Us = News
About the Creator = News
FAQ = News
News = News (WELL THANK GOD THIS ONE WORKS OR WE’D BE IN REAL TROUBLE)
Ladies and Gentlemen, and those in between, we present to you: THE WHOLE WEBSITE. NEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWS (of the horse variety).
I had no idea all these things were synonyms for news! Guess we can now call Horse News “Horse Contact Us”. Except we can’t, because even the News page DOESN’T CONTAIN NEWS. It just links back to the now-finished Kickstarter.
Sweet Pogo-Stick Hula-Hooping Christ, why even bother putting up the website right now if you’re just going to send us back to the Kickstarter and give us absolutely no new information?
But miraculously, we finally DID find something on the site that works - the social network buttons. Thank White Sunbutted Horse Jeebus. Whatever would we do without a link to their Pinterest? Incidentally, their Pinterest page has a single link: THEIR GODDAMN YOUTUBE TRAILER. HOW. HELPFUL.
Wait, before we say anything that might get us in trouble, let’s check the terms and conditions for the website. Lemme just click on… Hold on, there’s no link. Guess there are no terms and conditions, besides the terms “terms” and “conditions.” Welp, that works for us. Thanks, Mr. Gann!
That website was of zero fucking help, so the Kickstarter’s all we have to go off of. From everything that we’ve seen from the trailer and from all the notes on the Kickstarter pitch, Midnight Mares doesn’t strike us as a good product. The story, the character designs, and what we can glean of the setting isn’t very good - it just appears to be a poor MLP knockoff with extreme amounts of edge. Even if we don’t have the complete product, this is a pitch, and honestly, there’s nothing all that interesting or original. This is the point where most even remotely sensible people would stop looking, and closed the tab to resume their regularly scheduled horse por- er, non-safe search web browsing. But we just couldn’t shake this nagging similarity to that other horse cartoon made to sell toys...
Those who have witnessed the numerous Hasbro vs. Fanworks smackdowns in the past, one might be wondering why this project has yet to even earn the attention of the Eye of Hasbro.
I don’t see you.
Justified or not, many of these fairly quickly get slaughtered by Hasbro, yet like a lamb-blood painted door, apparently the Hasbro Plague of C&D has passed over them. Surprised? We sure as hell are, given some of the bizarre similarities between Midnight Mares and My Little Pony, not only in terms of design but also in terms of the particulars of its cosmology and setting (what of it we know). Let’s put words to those nagging concerns you may have about the strange resemblance.
First off, we have the issue with Copyright Law, which is made to protect the ownership and the use of an intellectual property (basically anything that can be credited to a particular person as the creator). Generally, a Cease and Desist can be sent to someone who may be futzing around with a property you own. If they refuse to back down, that’s the point that you can take them to court, and if you can prove to it that the offender copied your work intentionally, they’re gonna get rekt.
Now, someone who is even a little familiar with Copyright Law (or at least the asinine way in which YouTube handles it), you may then wonder “What about Fair Use?” We almost thought that Fair Use might work with Midnight Mares, except for the fact that this series doesn’t seem to be making much of a commentary on MLP, and it takes itself way too seriously to be a parody. Even if it could be classified as that, there’s another aspect of Intellectual Property law that Midnight Mares may invoke the wrath of Hasbro on:
As we talked about earlier, Copyright Law is designed to protect a creator’s property from theft. Trademark, however, serves a different purpose: to make sure one product is distinct from its competitors. Specifically, there’s an aspect of Trademark Law called “Trade Dress,” which is essentially the visual aspects of a particular property, which can range from the color scheme, to font of a label, to the shape of a bottle, or even, say, to the particulars of a character design.
Examples of trade dress infringement.
What’s that? These characters are suspiciously similar to a certain other cartoon horse show? Why, that sounds like something you could get slammed on trade dress for! See why it’s so weird it hasn’t been touched yet?
In design and in story, it’s way too similar to MLP to ever really fly on any network. Nobody would be dumb enough to risk invoking a legal battle with Hasbro just on the incredibly small chance this show becomes a hit.The only significant differences is that we get a few more details about the transformation of Totes-Not-Luna and the early introduction of the dream world concept.
But hey, let’s assume, for a moment, that Mr. Gann’s “It’s totally not MLP gais” rhetoric is actually legitimate- seems like Hasbro thinks so, at least so far. There’s yet another issue with the particulars on how he plans the production of this animated series. The first thing he says is being funded by Kickstarter is… A trailer? Wait, what the hell?
In his most recent Kickstarter venture (the first one came up short of its lofty goal), Gann asked for $5000 to fund the 3 minute pitch trailer for Midnight Mares. Before, he asked for $25K to fund this trailer. Putting aside the fact that this was an absurd amount of money to ask for just a trailer, that’s a $17,500 difference between Kickstarters (he’s since thrown $2500 more of his own money towards this project as well). But wait – it gets even better! For the second kickstarter, Gann asked for $100K to fund the full first episode. The first time around, he asked for $250K. A $150K difference in estimates between Kickstarters. Holy shit – you could buy like ten custom pony plushes for that.
Despite these staggering dollar amounts, it doesn’t appear that Mr. Gann took the effort to properly research the correct amount of money needed for this project before jumping into it the first time, because what’s an $150K difference between horse friends, right? This shit is Unicon levels of responsible.
The money aside (you wouldn’t think anyone would bother defending this guy after that, but this fandom has stuck up for dumber things), one could possibly make the argument that prioritizing the trailer might make some level of sense. After all, a trailer takes less time to make than an episode, but that’s usually because the episode has already been made and the trailer is just made of a selection of clips from it. Trailers are put together after a significant portion of the production has already been made, usually an entire season done in advance.
Just to emphasize- most trailers aren’t made until most of the production is finished, because, you know, they’re supposed to show you some of what actually happens in said product.
He wants to make the trailer before the first episode has been made.
But, let’s once again give Mr. Gann the benefit of the doubt- after all, you go big or go home, right? Hell, he dumped in a lot of his own personal funds and commissioned DuoCartoonist to do the first trailer, for crying out loud!
Too bad the trailer is kind of deceptive.
While he did commission DuoCartoonist to make the original trailer, he’s mentioned that they will not be involved in the production of the series itself. For that, he’s gotten some people from everyone’s favorite fan project, Double Rainboom. You know, that one animation that was actually a crappy Faust-fap-fest and was (allegedly, but with overwhelming evidence) run using stolen assets from DHX?
Well, I’m sure they’ll make good this time.
Regardless of whether or not that inspires confidence, it exposes one of the greatest problems of making the trailer before the actual episode-- the trailer, which is supposed to hook the audience in with footage from the close-to-final product, may not actually reflect the content that will be in the show, and before anyone forgets, the Kickstarter’s first priority is the funding of a trailer.
This gets dangerously close to false advertising- it’s like having to pay someone to see THE MENU at McDonald’s, and when the guy gives you the menu from Burger King, he just shrugs and goes “well you’re getting a burger and fries either way, so what’s your problem?” It’s poor practice at best, and flagrantly misleading at worst.
Despite all of these glaring, horrifying flaws in his plan, there may be someone out there ready to call us out and say “Sure, he may not fully understand what he’s doing, but his heart is in this, right? He’s doing this because he has a vision of a more adult, darker, and edgier My Little Pony! He’s in this because he has a story to tell, right?”
Well… Not really. Remember how we made that quip about him being more a businessman than an artist?
And how we mentioned that he was only ever making the rounds at brony conventions?
And that Midnight Mares seems to mirror every aspect of My Little Pony
Including the Merchandising Engine?
At the end of the day, what is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, anyway? The same thing lots of kid's shows are: 22 minute advertisements for toys and merchandise. While the adspace is nice for Hasbro, the real meat of the operation is the merchandising. Kids want toys of their favorite characters to play with, pony collectors can add to their hoard and to their debt, and Hasbro lines their pockets. Everyone's a winner.*
*Not everyone may be a winner when it comes to pony. Consult real life for details.
Coincidentally, Gann owns his own toy company, and has already produced merchandise for his pon- mare cartoon! It's cutting it close onto Hasbro's turf, but I'm sure he's not stepping on any toes!
... Oh dear...
Gann, you got some 'splainin' to do.
As a toy company, of course he will mention his product and his company. Frequently. In fact, in almost every sentence you will read. It’s to the point that even using the word “toyetic” to describe Midnight Mares is an understatement. If Midnight Mares plans on following the same formula as Hasbro (toys first, show drives toys) then that’s not just planting a flag on Hasbro’s turf, that’s jumping over a wall dramatically with some lens flare shit for effect, spiking down a flag, and then waving your dick at them as if on a dare.
It’s no longer merely a labor of love with a terrible premise like the grand majority of brony animation projects. Now it’s a brand, something to sell, market, and profit off of. Say what you will about how asinine Dusk’s Dawn was, at least they didn’t develop a toy line based on Pony Creator abortions. At this point, Hasbro very much has the right to flatten this project, and letting this thing live on is a stain on their honor.
The worst part about all of this is that it’s funded. Hasbro has taken no real interest in stopping it, though it’s hard to say why. It could possibly be because of all the money and legal counsel Gann keeps talking about, which would lead Hasbro to believe that, if they were to try to pursue legal action, Gann would actually be able to put up a fight, unlike the other groups they C&D’d in the pony fandom. Hasbro may simply be waiting for that bizarre and unlikely time that this thing actually starts getting released, and possibly gets attached to a network that could pay out more in a lawsuit. Maybe Hasbro is just tired after curb-stomping other fan projects. Maybe Hasbro thinks no network would dare pick it up and risk having an unnecessary legal battle with them. Maybe Hasbro has next to no confidence in this production’s capabilities that they figure it might just die off when it comes out and people see that it’s kind of crappy. Maybe-- Wait, what the fuck...
He… He worked for Hasbro.
This just raises more questions. How does Gann’s time at Hasbro connect to this project? How is Hasbro reacting to what he’s doing? Is there a reason neither is really speaking up on this issue? Well… We’re not entirely sure. It’s highly unlikely Hasbro has some secret deal with Gann due to his past connection to them - they have no reason to play his game, and any reason we can come up with is overridden by the fact that Hasbro has the resources to accomplish what Gann could do tenfold. There is a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and Gann is apparently contracted to manufacture 4DE’s MLP plushies, but that’s a really indirect connection, and there isn’t much we can draw in the way of conclusions. This rabbit-hole has apparently reached its end.
What can be said for certain is that this thing got its money and then some. Whether or not it’s actually happening remains to be seen- while Gann repeatedly appears at pony cons to promote this project (and virtually nowhere else), all he’s currently got to show for it is two trailers. Thousands of dollars have been thrown at this thing, and not even a single episode has been produced.
But this whole experience may yet have the saddest commentary on the Brony Fandom itself. Where the hell is this diamond mine bronies are getting their endless money from? This fandom has enough to spend $1,200 on a plushie, $700 on one you can fuck, and $1,300-ish on a 20 page pony porn comic book (yet it’s only $30 for a DVD of a bunch of idiots in pony cosplay fucking in a field). Apparently there are 87 people with too much money and too few neurons to fire that gave just shy of 8k to this knock-off garbage. Among the fandom’s many other less-than-reputable monikers, we can add that it hosts a horde of salivating, sycophantic suckers ready to throw their money at anything containing poni-