Journey Down the Toy Aisle: My Little Pony
by Justin Keys (@mrjroc83) and Melanie Bolen (@melaniebolen)
“Friendship is magic”
My Little Pony was created in 1982 by American illustrator and designer Bonnie Zacherle, coming into popularity in 1983. The original toy line ran from 1983 to 1995, but Hasbro has since revamped it, now producing more than just toys. There is a wide variety of MLP merchandise from bed sets to clothing and games. Recently, My Little Pony has also made a name for itself in pop-culture, thanks to conventions like the San Diego Comic-Con and MLP’s own themed conventions. This journey down the toy aisle will cover the main aspects of one of the most popular toys; from the love it has gained from boys and girls, to its beloved cartoon series that helped it garner a large fan base the world over.
Let the journey began, never to end.
Ah, the love for brightly colored horses—eh, ponies. Many children may have first come across My Little Pony in the toy department or at a friend’s house and were drawn to the bright friendly colors of the toy’s design. A cute face painted on to the head of the toy, and with long manes and tails that could be brushed and styled also added to the play value.
My first encounter with the toys was in the late 1980s. My cousin had a good amount of them, donned in pastels and strawberry-scented with colored manes. I don’t know why I found them interesting; there I was, a young boy fascinated by this “girly” toy when I could be playing with Transformers and G.I. Joes. I swear it wasn’t their strawberry scent (that must have been Strawberry Surprise that I played with). As I researched for this article, I realized that as a fan of My Little Pony I had nothing to be ashamed of. There are guys out there who enjoy My Little Pony too; in fact there is a name for their male audience: Bronies. If you are a Brony, do not be ashamed, your masculinity is still intact (go ahead and check if you must). In pop-culture, Bronies have been widely-accepted and well-known men, such as former US President Bill Clinton, have joined the club. However, there is more to My Little Pony than just Bronies; there is also a category for the mature female fans called Pegasus. The older sisters or grown up female fan of My Little Pony. My Little Pony has been transcending cultures, age groups, and genders since the early 1980s and it doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Stories of Rainbow and Firefly
What attributes to My Little Pony’s success over the years is that it utilized the novel idea of associating stories to each of its pony characters such as Rainbow Dash or Pinkie Pie. Most of these stories were told via cartoons, as Hasbro produced the My Little Pony cartoon. The stories brought out the personalities of each My Little Pony character and even added other non-horse characters such as dragons (such as Spike) and griffins. This in turn would help the audience relate to My Little Pony and even a particular pony. The stories would involve the ponies going on adventures, discovering new places or even new things, and most importantly discovering that friendship is magical. However, in the early 2000s, the storytelling in the cartoons digressed to being all about cakes, candy and parties, lacking the thrill of adventure. This soon turned around as the creators of the show brought back My Little Pony to its origins and restored the magic. The cartoons in turn have helped fuel toy sales.
The toys have a huge following, with collectors around the world, and there are four generations (five if you count Generation 3.5). My Little Pony G1 came out in the 1980s, with G2 in the mid 1990s, and G3 and 4 in the early 2000s and current, respectively. The rarest of the My Little Pony toys are “nirvanas” that actually can go for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. For more info on the collectors’ side of My Little Pony toys head over here.
From the many other aspects and attributes of My Little Pony, from the main characters pony line of Earth Ponies, Pegasus Ponies, Unicorn Ponies, to the cartoons and now even comics that will be coming out next month (November 2012); My Little Pony has become a main staple in the toy stable. Keep traveling on the journey down the toy aisle.