Are unicorns the new vampires? They could be with the Brony craze that’s sweeping the nation. Or at least sweeping the internet portion of it. That craze surrounds Lauren Faust and Hasbro’s re-imagining of the 80’s classic My Little Pony. This recent incarnation or g4 (generation 4) is called My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic.
The question is, why is there such a craze? Is the show just that good? Is it because of creator and producer Lauren Faust? (who recently stepped down and took a more advisory role with the show, but more on that another time). Or is it just that we are that nostalgic for the 80’s and 90’s toons of our youth and this is a pretty faithful re-boot. Compared to other abominations of re-boots. (Smurfs and Michael Bay’s Transformers, yes I am looking at you).
Perhaps it is a perfect storm of all these factors which created this show and the fandom surrounding it.
One of the mane (hah hah puns) reasons I think it succeeds is because it is a show for girls that is unique in that it can be enjoyed by both genders. For the most part it doesn’t pander to its audience of try to hard to be extra politically correct or extremely pink and fluffy like many of its girly show predecessors. It takes into account both its young girl audience as well as the adult audience of the show and it caters to both in a way that is refreshing among the animated shows of today.
|G4 Re-imagined Firefly|
|Rainbow Dash Herself|
Part of the reason for this is the way the pony protagonists are handled. Fans of the original 80s cartoon will be happy to point out that Faust based the personalities of the mane cast on the personalities she gave her own ponies as a child. Anyone who played with My Little Ponies as a child will tell you that they made up personalities and stories about their ponies that were perhaps inspired by the old cartoon but mostly a product of their own imagination. The old cartoons were good but except where Pegasus pony Firefly was concerned, fell rather short in the personality department. Faust even stated that when she created the characters she basically put Firefly’s brain into Rainbow Dash’s body.
As a kid, I was also a fan of the early 90s rendition of MLP called My Little PonyTales which featured a set group of 7 main characters who went to high school and lived in a town together. While this was a bit of a stretch of the imagination and most of the storylines dealt with boy problems, going to concerts and getting makeovers to get said boy ponies to like you, the protagonists at least gained personalities that the G1 ponies lacked. In particular there was the light blue and red-haired pony named Bright Eyes, studious in school, her cutie mark was a pen and notebook and she was awkward around the nice boy-pony she liked. Essentially here was a pony I could relate to. What does this have to do with MLP Friendship is Magic?
When I first heard of the show I was skeptical. But as soon as I watched it I was hooked. Why? Because of Twilight Sparkle. Here was a pony that was a combination of my two most favorite ponies growing up. My sparkly toy unicorn pony and Bright Eyes from the MLP-Tales show. Here was a real protagonist, a slightly awkward but intelligent, scholarly and bookish pony who was also a magic-wielding unicorn. Yes. Even as an adult, I found my relatable character that got me hooked and kept me watching.
But I stayed watching for more than just Twilight Sparkle. Each of the other pony characters were equally well-developed, funny, and interesting. (And bringing back little dragon Spike as an adorable Flounder-esque character. Awesome). Each of them reminded me of both my pony characters growing up as well as many of my personal friends. And the target kid audience responds well to the cute factor and the personalities of the ponies. My young cousins told me their favorite ponies which correspond perfectly to their personalities.
In addition to the characters, the mythological world created of Equestria and Ponyville is both fascinating and refreshing. The ponies live in a world of manticores, dragons, gryphons and other mythological beasts fit to please any fantasy enthusiast. Not to mention Princess Celestia the Pegasus-Unicorn is the pony enthusiast’s dream come true! The flash animation is also beautiful in its simplicity.
Furthermore, the show’s acknowledgement of its adult audience with shout-outs and homages to other works is clever. It is almost like the writers are sitting there thinking, “Hey, adult nerds watch this.” The most blatant recent example was from end of the second season opener, with a straight up homage to the end of Star Wars : A New Hope.
I hope this pony resurgence continues to pave the way for new kinds of fantasy or at least create a niche market. I am tired of seeing the “Paranormal Teen Romance” section of the bookstore. So shows like this as well as books like Zombies vs. Unicorns, entice me and give me hope. As a unicorn fan and someone who has a novel about unicorns I’d like to market and sell, if Bronies will read it, than props to them.