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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a Canadian/American flash cartoon series, produced by Studio B Productions (now rebranded DHX), based on the My Little Pony universe. It was developed for television by Lauren Faust, who also did major work on both The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Since its on-air debut in October 2010, the series has become extremely popular across the Internet by gathering a massive online following.
Fans outside the show’s target demographic, especially teen and adult male fans, have come to be known as “bronies”. Female fans of the show may also be referred to as “pegasisters”.
On October 10th, 2010, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was aired as part of the debut of the new television network, The Hub, which replaced Discovery Kids. On October 19, 2010, Cartoon Brew wrote an article about the show titled “The End of the Creator-Driven Era in TV Animation”, which had an alarmist tone. Threads on 4chan‘s comics and cartoon board, /co/, attacked the article for this reason. The article and related threads generated /co/’s initial interest in the show, spurring several members to watch the first episode. After the second episode aired on October 22nd, threads about ponies started to boom on 4chan, gaining the show fans outside of its target demographic. Since then, the fandom has exploded across the Internet.
The sudden and overwhelming influx of MLP-related media on 4chan soon led to an internal division between bronies and those who disapproved of the fandom, which in turn gave rise to the expansion of the fandom outside of the imageboard. Among the first MLP hub sites to emerge were Ponychan, a spin-off imageboard dedicated to hosting MLP-related media, and Equestria Daily, a portal news site for all things related to the fandom, from artworks and fanfiction to news, episode reviews, and interviews. Created in January 2011 by 23-year-old college student Shaun Scotellaro, Equestria Daily receives more than 175,000 visits a day.
Meanwhile, the fandom also spread to major social networking, microblogging, and aggregate news sites, most notably through single topic blogs on tumblr and on reddit, which is now home to over 50 subreddits dedicated to MLP. In response to the growing demand for MLP-related media, Cheezburger launched the Memebase spin-off site My Little Brony in July 2011.
The developer of the show, Lauren Faust, is well aware of the show’s older demographic, as shown in comments to fans on her deviantArt page. She interacts with fans on deviantArt, and occasionally 4chan’s /co/ board. Others who have worked on MLP have also responded to fans and expressed their delight about the popularity of the show. Supervising director Jayson Thiessen even stopped by for an impromptu Q & A session on Ponychan.
On May 27, 2011, the Hub released an extended edition of Equestria Girls, a ponified version of Katy Perry’s song California Girls. The release was exclusively given to Equestria Daily to recognize the site’s dedication to the community, show, and to bronies in general. The video itself explicitly gives a shout-out to bronies, and additionally recognizes the fan-given name DJ P0N-3, pronouncing it “Pon-three” to emphasize the spelling.
The voice actress of the main character Twilight Sparkle, Tara Strong, occasionally gives shout-outs to bronies on her Twitter account. One of the more popular shout-outs was a tweet on March 7, 2012, where she acted as Twilight performing a short free-style rap, ending the tweet with the term “Twilightlicious”. This was followed two days later by a VocalTweet where she sang the lyrics from the tweet in the voice of Twilight Sparkle. Both the term Twilightlicious and the VocalTweet proved popular among bronies, and resulted in fanart and fan videos; this eventually resulted in the show’s other voice actors releasing similar short free-style raps.
Bronies have been mentioned in the mainstream media numerous times. While they are sometimes praised for their loyalty to the show, they are also attacked for their fandom. Media coverage spiked in June, July, and August 2011, with articles mentioning bronies appearing on Wired, Neatorama, Jezebel, and The Observer. Articles about the age difference between bronies and MLP:FiM’s target demographic were also posted on parenting sites and blogs such as Momfia and Parenting. The show and its fandom was also covered by Fox News and Rocketboom (below). During the opening of The Colbert Report on August 1, 2011, Stephen Colbert gave a shoutout to “all my bronies that might be watching”. This shout-out was also covered by Equestria Daily and The Daily Dot. A segment on The Jerry Springer Show with two guests claiming to be bronies in October 2012 caused a lot of controversy beforehand, as bronies rallied to warn others that the show likely would portray bronies in a negative light; similar advice was given by voice actress Tara Strong on her Twitter account.
Despite the outgrowth of the fandom, bronies have continued to maintain their presence on 4chan. While users of /co/ liked the series because of the artwork and animation, users of /b/ found themselves enjoying the plot and characters more. The “cute and cuddly” nature of this show runs contrary to how users of /b/ consider themselves. Pony-related threads often gained 200+ posts.
From October 2010 to February 2011, Equestria Daily monitored the census & frequency of Pony-related posts on 4chan’s /co/ (cartoon) board, publishing a series of statistical graphs showing the growing trend of My Little Pony on 4chan.
As the fanbase grew on /b/, a counter “hatedom” culture arose as well. Angry anons attempted to “sage” threads into submission. This was generally unsuccessful, due to the high comment volume the threads already received. Spamming porn and gore in an attempt to dissuade people from posting was also common. The animosity and division in the community eventually led to the creation of Ponychan.
On February 26, 2011, moderators on 4chan’s /b/ and /co/ boards started to sage pony threads and ban users who posted in them. The mods’ reasoning behind this was stated as: “Endless pony threads with no actual content other than reaction images. Go start your own pony imageboard”. The massive numbers of bans issued served only to start a flame war between both sides. Those claiming that MLP-related threads were cancer and did not generate any original content likened the phenomenon to Boxxy. Ponies quickly became the subject of “Mods Are Asleep” threads. The bans were eventually lifted on February 27, 2011 on /co/, and March 1, 2011 on /b/.
During a thread discussion on /a/, a suggestion calling for the creation of a board dedicated to MLP:FiM resulted in the creation of the /mlp/ board. The new board was announced by moot on February 16, 2012, with the acknowledgement that it was time to embrace “one of the biggest subcultures in 4chan history” and that 4chan was “giving the ponies the home they deserved from day one” (below, left). This was also accompanied with a set of rules in place for the new board (below, right).
Although /mlp/ has since gained popularity, many bronies were initially hesitant about using it, believing that it might be trap; many thought the new board would effectively be a sting operation concocted in order to ban anyone who used it. A reason for /mlp/ originally being seen as a “ban trap” was because of 2005’s “April Fur’s Day” massacre. Opinions about the board itself also varied a lot upon its announcement. Some thought it unnecessary, while others stated that a new pony board was a terrible idea, afraid that mixing the /b/ and /co/ bronies together would cause spam posts and “hugboxing”. Moot addressed these fears directly (see below).
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Episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic can be easily found on YouTube, despite facing the risk of being removed by Hasbro due to copyright infringement. Many uploaders have had their channels taken down for uploading full episodes. Originally thought to have been a case of mass trolling due to the misspellings in the claims and the overwhelming support of the brony community by the MLP staff, the take-downs were confirmed to be legitimate by numerous cease and desist e-mails sent out by Hasbro’s legal department in late 2010.
The decision to take down many YouTube channels and video download sites such as Ponyarchive.org left many bronies embittered, as much of the fanbase used these sites to access the episodes at whim. Ponyarchive.org now redirects the official iTunes website for MLP:FiM Season 2 downloads. Some members of the fandom regularly stream episodes of the show for public viewing.
Additionally, fans have uploaded a variety of YTPs, so-called Pony Music Videos (PMVs), and parodies. Dubbing the audio from famous movie trailers, TV shows, or video game trailers over clips from the show has also proved popular. Some dedicated animators have created miniseries that have gained quite a bit of notoriety, such as the PONY.MOV series, and the Friendship is Witchcraft series.
Bronies have taken to the microblogging site tumblr, and have created role-playing ask blogs as various characters from the show, or as original characters. Generally, these blogs take forms like those of “Ask Pinkamina Diane Pie” or “Ask Surprise!”. The first well-known pony tumblr was “Ask Applebloom” (shown below), which started in July 2011, and has since shut down. Other notable tumblrs include Ask My Little Chubbies, Ask Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, Ask Maplejack, and Ask Lyra. Many of the blogs are run by accomplished fan-artists, each with a unique art style. Tumblr users NeuroAster and Redge have created lists of active pony tumblr blogs, and there is also a list on Google Docs.
- For further information, see Bronies.
Brony is an Internet slang term that is used to describe a teenage or adult male fan of MLP:FiM. The term “brony” is a portmanteau of “bro” and “pony”, and was coined on 4chan shortly after the pilot episode of the show on the Hub network. Though initially seen as a cult phenomenon outside of the show’s traditional demographic of young girls, the bronies have since grown into a widely recognized fandom subculture and continued to retain their presence and influence on Internet culture and its hub sites.
- For further information, see Derpy Hooves.
Derpy Hooves is a nickname given to a background pegasus character. The moniker comes from a stillshot in the pilot episode, wherein the character is seen wearing a googly-eyed expression similar to the Derp face. The name Derpy was conceived by the fans on 4chan’s /co/ board on October 25th, 2010.
The show’s creator, Lauren Faust, later explained on her deviantART page that the character’s googly-eyed face was an error by an animator.
After the numerous appearances by Derpy in season one, the fans were very curious if the background character would continue to make appearances and if they would be more lines for her. The directer, Jayson Thiessen, responded that she would indeed be making future appearances and that they would be in an “I Spy” fashion.
The character is often portrayed in online tributes and fan fictions as the town’s “mailmare” despite her appearance in the show as a crew member of a moving company, which was established through fan-fictions released prior to the broadcast of the official episode. In this alternate storyline, Derpy is seen as being extremely efficient at her job despite her lack of dexterity and mental capacities.
- For a selection of MLP-related images, including fan art, please view this entry’s image gallery.
DeviantART has seen an influx of MLP-related pieces. As of July 3, 2012, over 300,000 results can be found with the search tags “Friendship is Magic”. In addition, several groups dedicated to My Little Pony have been created there such as MLP-FiM and MLPFriendshipIsMagic. The popularity of art also spread through Equestria Daily’s Drawfriend posts. These showcase the recent fanart from the last 1-3 days. Meme Generator currently also has several generators related to ponies. The large amount of pony fan animations has also warranted a dedicated collection on Newgrounds.MLP-dedicated image board Ponibooru also contains over 100,000 images as of December 17th, 2011. Ponibooru eventually shut down on August 1, 2012, with 191,274 images totaling 93.2GB present before shutdown. Since then, Derpibooru has taken over the function of Ponibooru.
Music within the fandom ranges from remixes and covers of songs from the show to completely original pieces. Musicians often post on the music forum site My Little Remix. Radio site Ponify.me streams music 24/7 and contains profiles for many MLP-inspired musicians. In an article on Rolling Stone, the show’s main music composer, Daniel Ingram, was praised, as were a few brony musicians, such as The Living Tombstone, Alex S., and Eurobeat Brony.
Games & Mods
Fans have created numerous small flash games for the series, such as the Luna Game and Story of the Blanks. Skins and mods for existing games, such as Team Fortress 2, have also been created. A series of character models based on MLP characters was also created for Garry’s Mod (below, left). Various skins and mods have also been created for Skyrim (below, right), changing the player, various in-game objects, and even monsters.
As with other fandoms, cosplay also has a notable presence amongst bronies. Cosplayers often share photos of their outfits online, and can be regularly found at conventions. On deviantART, searching for “My Little Pony Cosplay” generates over 12,000 results as of October 2012. deviantART hosts several groups dedicated to My Little Pony cosplay, such as MLP-Cosplay and My-Little-Cosplay. Similarly, groups dedicated to MLP-related gijinka art have specific folders for cosplay, such as Humanized-MLP and Human-Ponys. Simple outfits like shirts and accessories are sold on WeLoveFine and HotTopic, with more specific items being available on Etsy.
- For further information, see Bronyspeak.
The brony subculture has developed its own lexicon, consisting mostly words or phrases that were either taken directly from dialogue in the show or originally coined by the fans, taking to the habit of referring to each other the same way that the ponies do as well, using words like “somepony”, “anypony”, and “everypony”.
Since the establishment and mainstream recognition of the fandom, bronies have organized multiple local meet-ups and small conventions centered around the show, beginning with the first BronyCon, held in New York City in June 2011. The inaugural event was attended by 100 people and featured Cabal, the founder of RainbowDash.net, and Jayson Thiessen, the show’s supervising director. The following two BronyCons also resulted in several hundred attendees and a lineup of several notable names within the fandom. The fourth BronyCon took place from June 30 to July 1, 2012, with more than 4,000 attendees, and featuring a number of the show’s production staff and voice actors; headliners included Lauren Faust, John de Lancie and Tara Strong. Using footage and interviews from the event, documentary producer Michael Brockhoff created a documentary about bronies, with de Lancie, Faust, and Strong as executive producers. This documentary was funded with over $320,000 from Kickstarter supporters.
Search queries for “my little pony friendship is magic” have risen steadily since October 2010 when the show was released.
The Daily Dot – Tara Strong spearheads brony campaign against Jerry Springer
The Observer – Pony Up Haters: How 4chan Gave Birth to the Bronies
Associated Press – Guys Who Like My Little Pony Gather for ‘BronyCon’
My Little Brony
The “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Official Page
MLP Adventures in Ponyville game
Rainbow Dash Network
PonyChan on tumblr
Ponies on Synchtube
Ponies on Funnyjunk
Equestria message board
Friendship is Magic Wiki
Chart of MLP’s rise to top meme
Chart of KYM activity during Season 2