When my wife first told me about ‘Bronies’, I was shocked and a little disgusted. I asked Lisa “You mean there are actually grown men who are fans of My Little Pony?” I remembered the cheesy My Little Pony cartoons that my little sister used to watch in the 80s/90s. They, like most Saturday morning cartoons of that era, were horribly animated and sometimes a little creepy. Lisa informed me that this was a new iteration of the franchise, and not the old ones that I remembered on TV. I was undeterred in my skepticism.
That was a few years ago. Fast forward a couple years and Delaney starts watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and loves it. As any parent knows, you end up sitting through endless hours of children’s shows. The show Yo Gabba Gabba has become the yardstick that I use to gauge the level of quality for any particular kids show. That show is just about as preachy and dumbed down for kids as any one you will ever see. When I first saw this current iteration of My Little Pony, my first impression was that it was not annoying like Yo Gabba Gabba. It wasn’t painful to watch, and it wasn’t trying to sell my kids on saving the earth if you can just recycle enough plastic bottles. The themes were simple and were usually tied to characteristics espoused by one of the main characters; those characteristics being honesty, loyalty, generosity, laughter, and kindness.
After watching a few episodes, I decided that not only was this show not incredibly annoying; it was actually kind of entertaining. For a Saturday morning cartoon, it is surprisingly well produced. The voice acting is very good, as is the writing and animation. It wasn’t long before I started watching episodes I liked when the kids weren’t watching them. That was a first for me. There is no other kids show before MLP or since that I have actually watched by choice when the kids weren’t watching it. It wasn’t unusual for me to put on an episode of MLP on Netflix when it was getting close to bed time. This eventually led to Lisa realizing that she had went to bed after watching Arrested Development on Netflix, and woke up to an episode of MLP being on there instead. Of course, she was endlessly amused by this, knowing it was me. She called me on it, which I tried to half-heartedly deny before admitting that I liked the show.
It was strange; realizing that I enjoyed something that was so obviously marketed to young girls. This got me trying to figure out what it was that I found so entertaining. Basically, I like MLP for the same reason I like Frozen, Wreck it Ralph, and Tangled. The animation is done very well, the writing is good, the voice acting is good, the songs are catchy and memorable, and there are pop-culture references throughout the series. A long time ago, Disney realized that they could target the adult demographic by throwing in these references for the adult viewers. For instance, Frozen had a reference to an Arrested Development episode that Lisa picked up immediately when we watched it for the first time. She was extremely amused. I’m not the Arrested Development fan that she is, so it went completely over my head. MLP uses the same references to appeal to a wider demographic than their target audience. My kids have never seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or The Big Lebowski, yet there are those references and a lot of others interspersed throughout the series including a reference to one of the old My Little Pony cartoons from the 80′s (seen in the “Too Many Pinkie Pies” episode).
Another thing that I appreciate about the series is that it does not try to dumb itself down for kids. For instance, Yo Gabba Gabba has DJ Lance Rock who talks in this comically (not in a good way) slow and annunciated deadpan voice throughout every episode. Kids aren’t stupid. They don’t need to have people talking to them like they are drooling idiots in order to get a point across. Something else is that the series sticks to some core principles throughout. Everything in the show revolves around friendship. There’s no ‘hey, lets save the earth by recycling’ or ‘I have two daddies’ nonsense. The show focuses on 5 main tenets of friendship. Honesty, kindness, loyalty, generosity, and laughter. Each episode has a story that illustrates one of these traits. It’s the simple idea that a good core set of values is what is most important. Teaching kids about the difference between right and wrong, good and bad does not need to be more complicated than that. Me and Delaney look forward to every new episode on Saturday. Friday night, I’ll tell her “Guess what’s on tomorrow?” Her response is always one word; “Ponies!”. Then I look up the synopsis for the episode that will be on and read it to her. I thought my Saturday morning cartoon watching days were long gone. Apparently not.
The animation style also impressed me. Being a life-long computer geek, I remember flash animation when it was the new cool thing on the internet. There was no video streaming on a 56k modem. If you saw something moving on a web site, it was a pixelated video clip or a gif. Then Flash came along and you started seeing cool animations when you went to web sites. MLP uses a heavily modified version of Flash 8, and does a very good job animating the show.
Another interesting draw for me in the series is the appearance of mythological creatures in the world. There are appearances of a minotaur (named Iron Will, and hilariously modeled after Rex, the karate teacher in Napoleon Dynamite), cerberus, manticor, hydra, chimera, cockatrice, and a gryphon (named Gilda). Of course, several of the main characters are pegasi, unicorns, and alicorns.
So, in summary, yeah, I like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. My favorite character in the show is Pinkie Pie, maybe followed by Apple Jack. I also liked Frozen very much…which is a princess story, when you get right down to it. Olaf cracks me up. I feel like because I mocked when I first heard about Bronies, I am due a little mocking myself..so bring it on But don’t bother questioning my sexuality. First of all, I’m not gay. Secondly, calling someone gay just isn’t the insult that it used to be. All you have to do is turn on the news and it’s celebrities coming out of the closet and gay marriages. It’s the “in” thing now. Beware, though; if you want to mock me, you better watch the first few episodes of season 1 before you do. You might just turn out to be a Brony too.