So I went ahead and finished the 3D model today, and... well, it's a start, see for yourself.
Doesn't look like much, but then this is my very first serious 3D model.
Here's what I've learned:
-how to do eyelids. Very important.
-block out proportions first. Pretty much everything wrong with this thing could have been fixed if I'd started with that. Related note: learn to draw references first.
-topology, topology, topology. 'Nuff said.
-facial shapes are a lot harder than people make it look. I just did basics, like opening mouth and blinking and attempting to wince, but I think next time I'm going to just shift the face into the emotional expressions I want and split up the motions. That's how some of the pros do it, apparently. The way I tried to build it now it just looks weird, even after tweaking things. I don't think I'll be trying to animate this one anytime soon. At best, I'll start a fresh model and work with that.
-learn lighting. Seriously.
Speaking of animating, I don't intend to repeat the mistakes I made doing this little project. My animation project will require careful planning, scripting, storyboarding, the works, and that means I need to get a book on the topic. I've got my eye on one, but actually getting it is still a bit of a hurdle.
For those who've read the rough outlines of the script (put your hand down, Joe), I may just end up cutting everything but the bits centering on the training montage and the contest. The rest is either unnecessary or even downright counter-productive to the story.
Anyway, there you have it. I'll have to think about my next 3D model carefully (possibly one of the Funtasia Fillies to transition into the pony creator idea), and maybe plan out a first rough animation once I get a model with a clear purpose.