Birth of a Brony: The Second Coming of MLP by Jerry Whitworth
Produced by Hasbro the same year they reinvented G.I. Joe into the A Real American Hero line, My Little Pony was a toyline targeting little girls employing multicolored pony (and later, unicorns and Pegasi) dolls adorned with a symbol on their derriere referred as a “cutie mark” (not unlike the popular Care Bears and their tummy symbol that appeared a year earlier). The series, referred MLP for short, proved to be popular and was accompanied by an animated series (first as two television specials, then a theatrical film, and later the My Little Pony ‘n Friends series). Just as with Hasbro’s Transformers and G.I. Joe, the animated MLP adventures were produced between Japanese studio Toei and Korean company AKOM under Sunbow and Marvel Productions. The series would continue off-and-on since, but the franchise gained new life in the new series Friendship is Magic.
The television station Discovery Kids was purchased by Hasbro and re-purposed as the Hub, relaunched in 2010 and featured rebroadcasting older shows such as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Transformers, and Jem and new programs like G.I. Joe: Renegades, Transformers: Prime, and Pound Puppies. However, the surprise hit of the new line-up was an update of MLP in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Developed by Lauren Faust, wife of Craig McCracken, she gained notoriety working on her husband’s creations the Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (the latter she acted as head writer for). As Hasbro was looking to generate content for the Hub, Faust met with executives to pitch an original series she developed called Galaxy Girls. Impressed with the presentation, Hasbro brought on Faust to pen the series bible for their reinvention of MLP (which the company hoped to appeal both to young girls and their parents). Faust, who grew up on the franchise, loved the concept but always hated the trappings of young female programming of the time featuring protagonists more interested in doing “girly” things than anything of real importance. With this in mind, Faust remodeled MLP characters as unique, strong individuals that could just as easily plan and attend a party as they can go into a magical forest and save the kingdom from some monstrous beast. The show struck gold, in time as word spread, MLP became a must-watch series, but not for those intended.
The fan-coined “Brony” is the combination of the word “Bro” and “Pony” as it describes men who are fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. While many observe this phenomenon as bizarre, a show intended for small girls and their mothers instead was bandied about by teenage boys and men, around 13 to 35. It’s believed this developed from discussion and memes made on 4chan that stirred interest, introducing the series in a roundabout way that these viewers discovered was actually quite entertaining. And the producers of the show have taken notice, listening to fans and incorporating feedback into the show to make it even stronger (such as adopting names fans came up with for supporting characters). You could have the characters in one episode singing about a fair or party but in the next facing a voodoo zebra priestess, hunt down a cockatrice, tangle with a griffin, journey to a dragon in its keep, combat an army of changelings, or match wits with a reality-altering chimera (all the while with enough humor to keep things from getting too serious and enough heart to make you care about its characters). I can say from experience many episodes are not unlike watching a Dungeons and Dragons campaign unfold in animation (minus, of course, the wanton violence and profanity often associated with it). It’s these stories that have made the series one of the networks’ most watched programs, with its second season finale the highest viewership in the history of the network. Currently, the third season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is in development.