|Creator Bonnie Zacherle||Owner Hasbro|
|Original work My Pretty Pony toys (1981)|
My Little Pony is an entertainment franchise developed by Hasbro, originally as a toy line for girls. The first toys were developed by Bonnie Zacherle, Charles Muenchinger, and Steve D'Aguanno, and were produced in 1981. The ponies feature colorful bodies, manes and a unique symbol on one or both sides of their flanks. Such symbols are referred to in the two most recent incarnations as "cutie marks." My Little Pony has been revamped several times with new and more modern looks to appeal to a new market.
- My Pretty Pony
- Mail order ponies
- International ponies
- Petite Ponies
- Dream Beauties
- My Little KittyPuppyBunny
- Takara Variants
- Mid 1980s animated features
- My Little Pony Tales 1992
- My Little Pony Friendship Gardens 1998
- Ponyville figurines
- Direct to video animated features
- Once Upon a My Little Pony Time
- My Little Pony Live The Worlds Biggest Tea Party 2006
- Interactive software
- Collectors and customizations
- Friendship Is Magic fandom
- Secret Wish Horse
- Fantasy Fillies
- Magic Touch Pony
- Cabbage Patch Ponies
- In popular culture
Following the original My Pretty Pony toy that was introduced in 1981, My Little Pony was launched in 1982 and the line became popular during the 1980s. The original toy line ran from 1982 to 1992 in the United States and to 1995 globally, and inspired animated specials, an animated feature-length film, and two animated television series. The first incarnation's popularity peaked in 1990, but the following year Hasbro decided to discontinue the toy line due to increased competition. 150 million ponies were sold in the 1980s.
The toy line was revived in 1997, but these toys proved unpopular and were discontinued in 1999. The brand saw a more popular revival in 2003 with toys that more closely resembled the original toy line, which sold approximately 100 million ponies globally by 2010. Hasbro launched the fourth incarnation of the franchise in 2010, which started with the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The brand grossed over US$1 billion annually in retail sales in 2015 and 2014, and US$650 million in retail sales in 2013.
My Pretty Pony
The predecessor to My Little Pony was My Pretty Pony, a pony figurine introduced by Hasbro in 1981. It was created by illustrator Bonnie Zacherle and sculptor Charles Muenchinger. My Pretty Pony was a ten-inch-tall hard plastic figurine that could wiggle its ears, swish its tail, and wink one eye. The original My Pretty Pony was followed by My Pretty Pony and Beautiful Baby, which came with an additional smaller "baby" pony figure. This was followed by pink and yellow versions of the original that had the now-hallmark symbol on the ponies' backsides.
After the relative lack of success of the My Pretty Pony toy line, Hasbro introduced six smaller and colorful versions of the toy in 1982, sold under the title My Little Pony. The toy line lead to many more merchandise under the My Little Pony brand, which later became known as the "Generation One" or "G1" of My Little Pony. The pony toys were followed by winged ponies, Unicorn ponies, Flutter Ponies and Sea Ponies. Flutter Ponies were smaller and thinner than Pegasus Ponies, and had fluttering wings. Windy Wing and the Summer Wing Ponies were smaller than the Flutter Ponies and were proportioned in a similar way, with larger, butterfly-like wings. The Sea Ponies resembled seahorses, and were produced as both adults and babies. There were also male ponies called 'Big Brother Ponies', which had slightly larger bodies and feathered hooves resembling those of Clydesdale horses.
Many different sets of My Little Pony variations were produced, the first being the Rainbow Ponies in 1983. Other variations included the So-Soft Ponies (covered in flocking), Twinkle-Eyed Ponies which had rhinestones in place of eyes, Twice-As-Fancy Ponies with patterns covering most of the body, Brush 'n' Grow Ponies which had a longer-than-usual mane and tail stored inside the body, Pony Friends - animals designed in the same style as the ponies, such as a lion, giraffe, kangaroo and zebra, among others - and Baby Ponies, some of which were smaller versions of previously released ponies and presented as those ponies' foals. The first generation of My Little Pony toys was sold in the U.S. until 1992, and was marketed internationally until 1995. The final year of sales in the U.S. was advertised as the "celebration year" of My Little Pony.
All packaging came with Horseshoe Points, which could be used to obtain discounts on special ponies available only through mail order. The Horseshoe Point program was offered in both the US and UK, although the items available for purchase varied by country. Mail-order ponies were generally reissues like Majesty, which was previously available only with the Dream Castle Playset, or unique ponies such as the first boy pony, Lucky the stallion. Another line of exclusively mail-order ponies was the Birthflower ponies, which featured a pony for every month of the year. All had white bodies with pink hair and tails; their names were Carnation, Violet, Daffodil, Daisy, Lily of the Valley, Rose, Water Lily, Poppy, Morning Glory, Cosmos, Chrysantheum and Holly. Special baby ponies, such as the Pearlized Baby Ponies and Twice-As-Fancy babies, were also available by mail order. Some mail-order ponies, such as Sweet Scoops, Goldilocks and Rapunzel are rare and sought after by collectors.
Some companies were licensed under Hasbro to produce their own line of ponies instead of shipping them from China or Hong Kong, where the vast majority of ponies were produced; these companies were located in Argentina, Brazil, France, Greece, India, Italy, Macau, Mexico and Spain. Some of these ponies are very similar to their Asian counterparts. For example, the Italian Clio looks very similar to Glory, with the most obvious difference being a non-glittery symbol. Some, such as the Mexican Twilight are a variation on existing colors, poses or species, while others, such as the Greek Ladybird, are completely unique to their region.
Due to factors such as limited production and their condition, international ponies tend to bring a higher price than their more-common counterparts. Ponies from certain countries are also easier to find, while others, such as those made in Greece and Brazil, are more difficult. There are also international ponies which were distributed from China or Hong Kong, but made exclusively for a particular region, either a variant of the local ponies or completely new types.
Most ponies released in the United States were found in Western Europe as well. The majority of US domestic mail-order ponies never appeared overseas, although many countries had their own mail-order systems. Many of the excess ponies offered by mail order in the US were bagged, carded and sold overseas. Some of the ponies and playsets were given different names abroad; for example, the Big Brother Ponies were known as Adventure Boy Ponies in the UK.
Petite Ponies were tiny pony figures sold in sets. Some had different characteristics, such as brushable hair, pearlized or glow-in-the-dark bodies. Under the base of each was an engraved hoof, which allowed the pony to function as a key to the Petite Playsets. Most of these smaller ponies had no official name, and many had the same symbols. They were sold from 1989 to 1991; only Earth Ponies and Pegasus Ponies were produced.
These larger figures made of hard plastic were advertised as "grown up" ponies and called Dream Beauties. Unlike My Little Pony toys, they looked more like real horses in proportions and musculature. The Dream Beauties came in a range of decorated and accessorized styles, including plastic beads along the base of their manes, ornamentation in the style of carousel horses, glitter or pearlescent finishes, and elaborate symbols, some extending the full length of the body. All were Earth Ponies, except for the three Highflying Beauties, which had large, multicolored wings. They were sold from 1989 to 1990.
My Little Kitty/Puppy/Bunny
Cat, dog and rabbit sets were sold under the Hasbro MLP logo during the early 1990s. Each Lil' Litters set consisted of a mother, two babies and a plastic comb. The mothers had flocked bodies, and the babies were miniature plastic figures. Kitty mothers had cottony tails, puppy mothers had either silky or cottony ears and bunny mothers had cottony tails and silky forelocks. There were also Nursery Family sets, featuring the puppy and kitty characters.
In 1984, Takara (Later merged with Tomy to form a single company) released a line of My Little Pony toys, which were released in two types: Osharena Pony (おしゃれなポニー, Osharena ponī) and Kawaii Pony (かわいいポニー, Kawaī ponī). Only released in Japan, these are a more anthropomorphic take on the toyline and considered as the most rare of the "G1" collection due to how they were released.
Besides the toys, merchandise included children's bedding and room decorations, plush toys, puzzles, clothing, books and playsets. There were also unusual items such as a pomander and toy sewing machines. In 1985, a picture disc featuring songs by Tony Markey was released.
During the 2000s, like other fictional characters of the 1980s, My Little Pony merchandise aimed at young women has also appeared, including T-shirts depicting "G1" ponies in a "retro" style, featuring slogans such as "Livin' in the 80s" or "I Love Rainbows".
Mid-1980s animated features
As a part of Hasbro's media strategy, My Little Pony, along with their other properties like Transformers and G.I. Joe, was adapted into following animated features:
The TV specials, the film, and the TV series were all set in the same milieu: Dream Valley, a land inhabited by witches, goblins and other magical creatures with whom the ponies, their human friend Megan, and their dragon friend Spike interacted.
In 2004, the first season of the original My Little Pony television series was released on DVD. The four-DVD collection features the two prime-time television specials and 50 episodes from the original series. Some songs from the original airing of the two specials have been cut, leaving the specials as they appeared when syndicated as part of the cartoon series. The ten-episode miniseries The End of Flutter Valley was released on DVD in 2005. 2006 brought the release of episodes from the second season, with two DVD releases: Flight to Cloud Castle and Other Stories and Quest of the Princess Ponies and Other Stories, as well as a DVD entitled Two Great Pony Tales with The Magic Coins and The Glass Princess available in eight episodes.
My Little Pony Tales (1992)
My Little Pony Tales, premiered on July 3, 1992 on Disney Channel, was set in a different environment. This series anthropomorphized the ponies further than the works from the mid-1980s, as the ponies lived in a town, went to school, ran businesses, went on vacation and exchanged currency for goods.
Two British comic series were published by Egmont during the era.
The 1997 incarnation was marketed by Hasbro as "Friendship Garden" and designated "Generation 2" by collectors. They were manufactured in redesigned poses with jewel eyes and turning heads and were smaller, slimmer, and longer-legged than their 1982 counterparts. The line was not successful in the U.S. and was discontinued in 1999, although it continued overseas for several years. Since the second generation was more popular in Western Europe, Hasbro continued to produce and sell them in Western Europe after 1998. Most were Earth Ponies, but a few unicorns were made internationally. Although no Pegasus Ponies were made, some adults had clip-on wings. In the early 2000s, several unicorns with clip-on wings (called the Magic Unicorns) were made. Two baby ponies were introduced, and none of the baby ponies were sold in the United States.
In Europe, the main location was renamed Ponyland instead of Friendship Gardens, and were discontinued with the inception of the "G3" toyline in 2003. Many ponies released in the last years of the line are considered rare. A number of playsets were introduced, including a mansion and a castle. Some of the licensed merchandise released in Europe included beanbag plushes, magazines, clothing, perfume, wrapping paper and coloring books. A CD-ROM game for PC, Friendship Gardens, was also released, which involved taking care of a pony and playing games along the way.
Some Generation Two ponies were sold as detachable key chains, including Morning Glory, Sundance, Light Heart and Ivy. The pony came with a comb attached to her neck by a string. The back of the package says, "My Little Pony Logo and Pony Names are Trademarks of Hasbro Inc. Copyright 1998." They were produced under license by Fun-4-All Corporation and made in China.
My Little Pony: Friendship Gardens (1998)
My Little Pony: Friendship Gardens is a virtual pet game developed by Artech Digital Entertainment.
The third incarnation of My Little Pony, which is often referred to as "Generation Three" or "G3" by collectors, began in 2003. The revamped line of dolls was targeted to a younger audience than the previous lines.
"Generation Three" is set in the fictional town named Ponyville, which is centered on Celebration Castle. Only Earth Ponies were released from 2003 to 2005, but in 2005 and 2006 Pegasus Ponies and Unicorn Ponies were respectively introduced.
Until late 2005, packaging came with Pony Points that were later used for exclusive mail orders. Unlike the "G1" line, the Pony Points had to be mailed in to order; a customer could not pay a flat fee and add points to it to lower the price. Some of the ponies available with the Pony Points program were Dazzle Surprise, Sunshimmer and Love Wishes. Other merchandise included posters or a play mat to put buildings on. The points program ended on 31 January 2006.
While the line was simultaneously released in the U.S. and Europe, there are a few ponies unavailable in the U.S., such as Winter Snow and some small, fairy-like ponies called Breezies who first appeared in the animated feature The Princess Promenade. One of the most uncommon ponies in this third line was released by mistake in 2004. A Pinkie Pie with the words "2003 Licensing Show" embedded into her symbol was used to promote the My Little Pony toy line at the 2003 Spring Licensing Show, and were intended to be released only at that show in a limited edition of 300. Due to a packaging error, a few were packaged as regular ponies and sold in stores. Other limited-edition ponies have been the Pony Project promotional ponies and Rosey Posey, who was given to attendees at a charity dinner held by Hasbro.
In 2008, the number of characters were reduced to seven: Pinkie Pie, Scootaloo, Toola-Roola, Rainbow Dash, Sweetie Belle, Cheerilee and Starsong. The following year in 2009, Hasbro redesigned the characters to resemble Ponyville figurines.
Recognizing the older fans of its line, Hasbro has released special collector ponies noticeably different from the regular "G3". While some had a general release as "Art Ponies", many are available through special events, such as the annual My Little Pony Collector's Convention and the San Diego Comic Con. These ponies are elaborately designed, such as the underwater-themed art pony which has fish and sea creatures printed all over its body, and come in matching display boxes. The 2011 SDCC pony is black and pink and has a kawaii skull instead of a "cutie mark". There is also a white pony available to customizers. Despite the redesign as "G3.5" and the advent of the "G4" line, Hasbro has continued the collector-themed "G3" ponies in their original poses.
The Ponyville figurines are fully molded plastic and smaller than the main "G3" line. Although they have their own playsets and accessories, many of the characters are the same as their larger counterparts.
The tie-in merchandise has been released for the third generation. The characters can be found on bedding and home decor, clothing, dishware, stationery and school supplies. Plush ponies have been given away as theme-park prizes and used in crane machines. There is a 3-foot (0.91 m) plush-pony line which was first available for sale in Australia; the characters include Rainbow Dash, Minty, Sweetberry, and the special Kimono, which was used as a prize by Red Rooster restaurants and Target. McDonald's has also featured ponies in its Happy Meal promotions, as have other fast food chains. Eight characters were used in the first U.S. McDonald's promotion, while other countries' chain restaurants had four.
Direct-to-video animated features
Between 2003 and 2009, the ponies appeared in a series of direct-to-video shorts and feature-length films. Most of them were produced by SD Entertainment. These are set in yet another milieu, and feature the "G3" ponies:
Once Upon a My Little Pony Time
Once Upon a My Little Pony Time was produced by Kunoichi, animated in Adobe Flash. It included two 10-minute episodes, "Over Two Rainbows" and "So Many Different Ways to Play". It features the "Core 7" characters as Newborn Cuties, but Starsong and Toola-Roola are not seen in either videos.
My Little Pony Live: The World's Biggest Tea Party (2006)
My Little Pony Live: The World's Biggest Tea Party is a 90-minute musical produced by Hasbro and VEE Corporation, first announced in June 19, 2006 and stars Pinkie Pie, Minty, Sweetberry, Sew-and-so, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Spike, Thistle Whistle, Zipzee, Tra La La, Tiddlywink, and Wysteria. The show opened later in October 2006, and was released on DVD on September 16, 2008.
My Little Pony Crystal Princess: The Runaway Rainbow (2006)
My Little Pony Crystal Princess: The Runaway Rainbow is an adventure/puzzle video game developed by Webfoot Technologies and published by THQ under license from Hasbro. It was released for Game Boy Advance on September 13, 2006 in North America. The game recreates events from the film of the same title, featuring mini-games and puzzles.
My Little Pony: Pinkie Pie's Party (2008)
My Little Pony: Pinkie Pie's Party is an adventure/puzzle video game developed by Webfoot Technologies and published by THQ under license from Hasbro. The game was released for Nintendo DS on September 22, 2008. Similar to "Crystal Princess: The Runaway Rainbow", the game also features puzzles and mini-games utilizing the Nintendo DS's capabilities.
The current incarnation of My Little Pony, unofficially known as the "Generation Four", was launched in 2010. It is set in a fictional location named Equestria, and the main characters include Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy. Television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, upcoming theatrical film My Little Pony: The Movie, as well as other related media accompany the current line-up. This era generated a fandom among grown-ups with the success of the television series.
My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, the anthropomorphic spin-off, was launched in 2013.
Collectors and customizations
A feature of the pony-collecting scene is the making and selling of custom ponies. This is an art form in which common or poor-condition ponies, called "bait", are redesigned according to the vision of the artist. Customizers may paint new symbols on the pony, change its body color, paint its eyes, re-thread its manes and tails with a different color of nylon hair, or dye faded hair. Some custom ponies are elaborate, using sculpted parts, specially made wings, unicorn horns, rhinestones and/or detailed painting. Some websites dedicated to My Little Ponies offer advice on customizing. Although this is typically not a profitable enterprise, artists are occasionally commissioned by collectors and non-collectors to make a unique pony, with some custom ponies having been sold for over $170.
Several books have been published for My Little Pony collectors:
Friendship Is Magic fandom
Despite Hasbro's target demographic of young girls and their parents, the fourth incarnation of the franchise has become a cultural and Internet phenomenon as the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic television series generated the unexpected fandom, with many male fans between 13 and 35, creating a large fanbase and a multitude of creative works, fan sites, and conventions. The fanbase has adopted the name "brony" (a portmanteau of "bro" and "pony") to describe themselves. The older fanbase had come as a surprise to Hasbro and staff members involved with the show. They have appreciated and embraced the fandom, adding nods to the fans within the show and the toys.
In the United States during the 1990s, other toy companies desired to benefit from the success of the My Little Pony line; imitations were produced and sold after the discontinuation of the "G1" toys in 1992 and before the "G2" incarnation was produced and sold in 1997.
When Hasbro discontinued the "G1" My Little Pony line in 1992, some pony molds fell into the hands of other toy companies, who made their own "pony" toys. The second generation was not popular in the United States, and there are few imitations; however, "G3" imitations exist. There are websites to help people identify genuine My Little Pony toys manufactured by Hasbro, and recognize imitations. Many, but not all, imitations are sold at dollar stores.
Of many imitations, the four listed below were popular with young girls in the early to mid-1990s and were available at toy stores. These toys had similarities to both the My Little Pony and Dream Beauty lines. In the My Little Pony collecting community, these are known as "fakies" or "bootlegs"; however, some are sought after by collectors:
Secret Wish Horse
Released by Tyco (now a division of Mattel), Secret Wish Horse was a toyline of colorful, plastic horses with rooted eyelashes and a bejeweled saddle that would open up to reveal a surprise such as earrings, a bracelet or a ring. They also came with a necklace similar to a magic 8-ball that was said to make a girl's wishes come true.
Fantasy Fillies was a line of colorful plastic horses that were produced by Empire/Marchon. The designer of this line also designed Fashion Star Fillies released in 1987 by Kenner (which was, together with Tonka, later acquired by Hasbro in 1991). They came as pegasi, unicorns, horses and mini-fillies. One, called Princess Growing Hair, had hair that could grow, and a filly was sold with a carriage.
Magic Touch Pony
Magic Touch Pony toys were made of plastic and came in different colors. They had symbols on their flanks, like My Little Ponies and Dream Beauties. Some had hooves that would light up, a necklace that lit up, plastic flowers in their manes that would light up, and some played music.
Cabbage Patch Ponies
Cabbage Patch Ponies toys were made by Hasbro, which had a license to manufacture Cabbage Patch Kids from 1988 until 1994. They were made of rubber and came in different colors; some had glittery bodies. Some had hair that could be combed, while others had yarn for hair. There were unicorns, pegasi and regular ponies.
In popular culture
My Little Pony is referenced in a variety of media. The ponies have had cameo appearances in movies and TV shows, including two Robot Chicken shorts, several appearances in the TV shows Dexter's Laboratory and Veronica Mars. My Little Pony toys appear on The Cosby Show, G4's show Action Blast!, Cartoon Network's The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Boy Meets World and The OC. In the 2007 Transformers film a My Little Pony toy appears as a reference to Hasbro, which owns the licenses for both My Little Pony and Transformers. The toys are also mentioned in the films Meet the Robinsons and Nickelodeon's movie Spectacular!, which includes one actor, Venus Terzo, who does voice-overs on the My Little Pony TV series. References to My Little Pony also appear in the Backyard Sports series of video games. In the music video of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's song "PONPONPON", an unopened "Friendship Garden Ponies" My Little Pony Toy is seen in the background. In the 2014 film Transformers: Age of Extinction, a Rainbow Dash toy appeared briefly.
Nicknames and gags related to My Little Pony have been created for prominent people. Radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham referred to former Senator John Edwards as "Silky Pony" and plays the My Little Pony theme music when discussing him. Jonathan I. Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, was nicknamed "MLP" by Daniel Lyons. In 2005, when US President George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, political cartoonist Steve Sack drew a cartoon depicting Bush brushing a pony toy with false eyelashes with the title "My Little Crony" shortly after the dismissal of Michael D. Brown for failing to handle the Hurricane Katrina crisis.
Wizards of the Coast, Something Positive, Slashdot, Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, and Sister Claire have all referenced My Little Pony in gags and April Fool's jokes. A Nick at Nite ad for Mister Ed says he's no "My Little Pony". In the seventh book in the Artemis Fowl book series, The Atlantis Complex the antagonist (Turnball Root) refers to the centaur Foaly as "My Little Pony". In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, it is referenced as "My Little Binky", which Death bought as a present for his granddaughter Susan (Binky, in this case, was Death's horse). A June 2011 article in Wired.com focused on "bronies" ("bro ponies"): adult men or boys who are fans of the 2010 television series.