Over the course of two seasons, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has emerged as the kids cartoon with a far greater audience than just children. Adult fans of the show — known primarily as Bronies, as well as the less common Pegasisters — have created their own online forums and fan conventions. Some even show up to events dressed as human versions of their favorite ponies. These fans aren't just watching the show, they're buying the merchandise. Not surprisingly, Hasbro, the company behind MLP, has noticed.
“The amount of press and fan excitement over the brand has grown exponentially,” says Erin Comella, brand manager for My Little Pony. “They are literally dressed in the brand.”
Hasbro has licensed images for cool apparel. It also just announced a new MLP comic book, to be released by IDW.
But toys are still big, even with the older demographic, and Hasbro has stuff that will appeal to Bronies as well as the little ones. It has gone beyond the core group of ponies on the show and it bringing characters with much smaller roles to toy store shelves. In fact, Hasbro even had a pony design contest this year. The winner, a beautiful blue unicorn with an airplane Cutie mark, was on display at the Hasbro booth.
The company's primary toy line this year, containing the items that you will be able to find pretty much anywhere, focuses on characters from the two-part episode “Royal Pony Wedding,” which ended the last season. These include major characters like Twilight Sparkle, as well as the couple at the center of the episode, Princess Cadence and Shining Armor.
Beyond that, there are exclusives, most of which will be found at Toys R Us. The exclusive lines include noncore characters with large followings in the Brony world. At Hasbro's Comic-Con booth, we caught a glimpse of Applejack's family and Rainbow Dash's Cloudsdale cohorts. Also, party-rockin' pony DJ Pon-3 — so named by fans — appears in the Favorite Collection boxed set. And Princess Celestia, the toy, has been remodeled to match her on-screen persona, a move based on comments from fans. Her misguided sister, Nightmare Moon, also turns up in the booth.
So has Hasbro found the balance between older and younger fans? The 2012 Comic-Con exclusive certainly suggests so.
This year, Hasbro's Comic-Con booth is a happy accident of a pony who became an Internet phenomenon. Fans call her Derpy Hooves, although, technically, she doesn't have a name. This gray Pegasus has a blonde mane, bubbles for a Cutie mark and big googly eyes. Friendship Is Magic lore has it that the eyes were actually a mistake — but it was one that inevitably distinguished this semi-anonymous character from every other pony in the background of the series' first episode. My Little Pony's online fan base latched onto the Pegasus, and when the team behind the series caught wind of that, she popped up in more and more episodes.
“They have embraced her for her differences, for what makes her fun,” says Comella. “The same way that the ponies have embraced her in Ponyville, the fans have embraced her as their own.”
While you may never hear anyone from Hasbro refer to the character by her Internet-bestowed name, fans frequently pop by the booth proclaiming, “Derpy!” They're stopping by to find out how they can get tickets to the Hasbro Toy Shop, which they will need to purchase the Pegasus. Sales of the toy have been extremely strong. Comella anticipates that the exclusive will sell out by Friday evening.
But the Internet's beloved Pegasus wasn't the biggest hit of San Diego Comic-Con's first full day. That honor goes to Zecora. Fans will recall this gorgeous zebra character from the episode “Bridle Gossip.” She's a wise pony whose unconventional lifestyle leads other ponies to spread rumors, yet she teaches Twilight Sparkle and her pals a thing or two about not making snap judgments. The small Zecora toy, part of the MLP Toys R Us line, was sold through Entertainment Earth at Comic-Con. By Thursday morning, all of the figures were gone.
My Little Pony fans have obviously taken the messages of Friendship Is Magic to heart, championing characters who don't quite fit the standard pony model. That Hasbro has picked up on that, and incorporated those characters into its product line, is proof that sometimes companies really do listen to fans.