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My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

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My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
Purple and pink rainbow over the words "my LiTTLE PONY" with the words "FRiENDSHiP iS MAGiC" underneath
Series' logo for the final three seasons
Genre
Created byLauren Faust
Based onMy Little Pony
by Bonnie Zacherle
Directed by
  • Jayson Thiessen (seasons 1–5)
  • James Wootton (seasons 1–3)
  • Jim Miller (seasons 4–5)
  • Denny Lu (seasons 5–9)
  • Tim Stuby (seasons 6–7)
  • Mike Myhre (seasons 7–9)
Voices of
Theme music composerDaniel Ingram
Composers
Country of origin
  • Canada
  • United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons9
No. of episodes221 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
  • Lauren Faust (season 1, "The Return of Harmony")
  • Beth Stevenson (season 1)
  • Stephen Davis
  • Kirsten Newlands
  • Blair Peters (seasons 1–2)
  • Chris Bartleman (seasons 1–3)
  • Meghan McCarthy (seasons 3–5, 8)
  • Jayson Thiessen (seasons 4–5)
  • Sarah Wall (seasons 5–9)
  • Asaph Fipke (seasons 6–7)
  • Nicole Dubuc (seasons 8–9)
Producers
  • Devon Cody (seasons 3–9)
  • Sarah Wall (seasons 1–4)
Running time22 minutes[7]
Production companies
DistributorAllspark (Hasbro)
Release
Original networkDiscovery Family[d]
Picture format
Audio format
Original releaseOctober 10, 2010 (2010-10-10) –
October 12, 2019 (2019-10-12)
Chronology
Preceded by
Related showsMy Little Pony: Pony Life (2020–present)
External links
Website

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (abbreviated as MLP: FIM[10][11]) is an animated children's television series based on the fourth incarnation of Hasbro's My Little Pony franchise. The show follows a studious unicorn (later an alicorn) pony named Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and her friends Applejack (Ashleigh Ball), Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), Fluttershy (Andrea Libman), Rainbow Dash (Ball), Pinkie Pie (Libman), and dragon assistant Spike (Cathy Weseluck). They travel on adventures and help others around Equestria while solving problems that arise in their own friendships.

Animated in Flash, the series aired on Discovery Family (formerly The Hub) from October 10, 2010, to October 12, 2019. Hasbro selected animator Lauren Faust to be the show's creative director and executive producer. Faust sought to challenge the nature of the My Little Pony line, and created more in-depth characters and adventurous settings; she aspired to create a show similar to how she had played with her toys and incorporated many elements of fantasy. Due to hectic production schedules and a lack of creative control, she left the series during the second season.

The series became one of the highest-rated productions in The Hub's broadcast history. Despite the target demographic of young girls, Friendship Is Magic also gained an unexpectedly large following of older viewers, mainly adult men, who call themselves "bronies". The series led to new merchandising opportunities for Hasbro. A spin-off franchise, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, was launched in 2013, and ran alongside the show for six years. A feature-length film adaptation based on the television series, titled My Little Pony: The Movie, was theatrically released in October 2017 in the United States. My Little Pony: Pony Life, a spin-off comedy series, premiered on Discovery Family in November 2020.

Premise

In the kingdom of Equestria, all three species of ponies—earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns—live in harmony. At the insistence of the ruler of Equestria and her mentor, Princess Celestia, a studious unicorn named Twilight Sparkle travels to the town of Ponyville to learn about friendship. Twilight and her dragon assistant Spike become close friends with five other ponies: Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie. The ponies find that they represent different facets of friendship with magical artifacts called the "Elements of Harmony". They travel on adventures and help others around Equestria and beyond while resolving problems that appear in their own friendships.

Cast and characters

  • Tara Strong as Twilight Sparkle, a socially naïve unicorn who loves to read but initially has difficulties making friends
  • Ashleigh Ball as:
    • Applejack, a diligent earth pony whose family owns a farm
    • Rainbow Dash, an egotistical, sporty pegasus
  • Tabitha St. Germain as Rarity, a glamorous unicorn who owns a boutique
  • Andrea Libman as:
    • Fluttershy, a shy and timid pegasus who loves animals
    • Pinkie Pie, a fun-loving earth pony who enjoys throwing parties
  • Cathy Weseluck as Spike, a small dragon who is Twilight's assistant

Production

Development

Hasbro, Inc. has produced several incarnations of the My Little Pony franchise, often labeled by collectors as "generations".[12][13] With many brands, including My Little Pony, the company uses a multi-generational plan as a template.[14] Hasbro was inspired by the Transformers film (2007), as it helped increase sales of the Transformers toy line; the company wanted to retool the My Little Pony franchise to appeal to the current demographic of young girls.[7] According to Margaret Loesch, CEO of The Hub, revisiting properties that had worked in the past was an important decision in televised media, which was somewhat influenced by the opinions of the network's programming executives, several of whom were once fans of such shows.[15] Hasbro's senior vice president, Linda Steiner, stated the company "intended to have the show appeal to a larger demographic"; the network was trying to create shows that parents and children would watch together.[16] Central themes that Hasbro sought for the show included friendship and working together, factors they determined from market research in how girls played with their toys.[17]

Lauren Faust smiling towards her right at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con.
Lauren Faust, developer and initial showrunner of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Animator and writer Lauren Faust approached Hasbro to develop her girls' toys property "Galaxy Girls" into an animated series.[18] Faust, who had previously worked on Cartoon Network's The Powerpuff Girls (1998–2005) and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (2004–2009), had been unsuccessfully pitching animation aimed at girls for years, as studios and networks considered cartoons for girls unsuccessful.[19] When she pitched to Lisa Licht of Hasbro Studios, the latter was not very interested, but she showed Faust one of the company's recent My Little Pony animated works, Princess Promenade (2009). Licht thought Faust's style was well suited to that line, and asked her to consider "some ideas [on] where to take a new version of the franchise".[7][18][20]

Faust was initially hired by Hasbro to create a pitch bible for the show, which allowed her to get additional help with conceptualization.[7] Faust said she was "extremely skeptical" about taking the job because she thought shows based on girls' toys were boring and unrelatable.[19] My Little Pony was one of her favorite childhood toys,[18] but she found the television shows disappointing, in which the characters, according to Faust, "just had endless tea parties, giggled over nothing and defeated villains by either sharing with them or crying". While she was initially unsure what Hasbro's theme of friendship meant, she felt "real friendship", which she encountered during her teenage years, was similar to magic.[21] With the chance to work on My Little Pony, she hoped to prove that "cartoons for girls don't have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness" like the original series.[19] She incorporated many elements that contradicted stereotypes of girls, such as diverse personalities; the message that friends can be different and can get into arguments but still be friends; and the idea that girls should not be limited by what others say they can or cannot do into the design of the characters and the show.[19] Elements of the characters' personalities and the show's settings were based on her childhood imagination of the ponies' adventures, partly inspired by the shows that her brothers watched while growing up, such as Transformers (1984–1987) and G.I. Joe (1983–1986).[22] She considered that she was making Friendship Is Magic "for [herself] as an eight-year-old".[23] Faust aimed for the characters to be relatable, using "icons of girliness" (such as the waif or the bookworm) to broaden the appeal for the young female audience.[24]

Using her childhood as a guide, Faust imagined the three different types of ponies—unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies—having different cultures and living in various places. She pictured the unicorns in the mountains, pegasi in the clouds, and earth ponies, similar to real horses, on the ground.[25] She envisioned them as realistic horses who ate hay, lived in barns, pulled carts, wore saddles, and used their mouths to pick up things—qualities that were formerly avoided.[26]

Faust stated that as she provided Hasbro with more ideas for the show, the company's positive response to the non-traditional elements inspired her. Faust pitched the show to include "adventure stories" in a similar proportion to "relationship stories"; she trimmed on adventures and focused more on exchanges between the characters, however, as they were deemed too daunting for the younger target demographic and the schedule did not provide time to plan them. The show incorporated creatures intended to be frightening to children, such as dragons and hydras, but placed more emphasis on the friendships among the characters, displayed with a comedic tone. When the show was approved, Faust had developed three full scripts for the series.[7]

Pre-production

Faust drew concept sketches, several of which appeared on her DeviantArt page, entitled fyre-fly. These included ideas from how she envisioned the ponies of the original series—Twilight; Applejack, the cowgirl; Firefly, the "badass"; Surprise, the bubbly and enthusiastic one; Posey, the kind and shy pony who loved animals; and Sparkler, the fashion artist—which later provided the inspiration for the main cast of the show.[27][28][29] Hasbro approved the show with Faust as executive producer[30] and asked her to complete the pitch bible. She hired Martin Ansolabehere and Paul Rudish, who had worked on other animated shows with her. She credited Rudish for the inspiration of the pegasus ponies controlling the weather, as well as Nightmare Moon, a villain who appears in the season one premiere, "Friendship Is Magic". Afterward, she imagined the ponies as the stewards of their world who made their weather happen, flowers grow, and animals thrive.[31] Faust also consulted her husband Craig McCracken, the creator of The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Within six weeks, she sketched more than 40 pages that rendered "the universe that had existed in her 8-year-old mind".[21]

The visual collaboration brought a unique style to Friendship Is Magic. Pennsylvania Dutch design, steampunk fantasy art, European fairy tales, and Bavarian folk art served as influences for the original pony world.[25] When designing the settings, she sent photo references to artist Dave Dunnet: for example, Ponyville was based on German cottages to capture a fairy-tale quality and incorporated pony elements such as horseshoe-shaped archways, hay bales, and troughs,[32][33] while Canterlot was based on castles and cathedrals to convey a European feel. Faust stated she preferred Dunnet's first instinct to his later more "cartoony" drawings of Canterlot; subsequently, he went back to the way he first drew the location.[34] Canterlot's position on a mountain and its purple-and-gold palette signified royalty and aspiration.[35] The fantasy genre served as inspiration for many elements of the show that were modified and redesigned to fit the world, story, and target audience.[36] After seeing the initial version of the pitch bible, Hasbro requested more character designs, and hired Dunnet and Lynne Naylor to refine the background and character styles.[7]

After the pitch bible was completed, Hasbro and Faust evaluated studios for the animation. Studio B Productions (renamed to DHX Media on September 8, 2010[37]) worked on Macromedia Flash-based animations and shows that featured many animals. Faust felt they would be a good selection and Studio B requested that Jayson Thiessen be the director, a choice Faust agreed with. She, Thiessen, and James Wootton, who later became a director, presented a two-minute short to pitch to Hasbro, who sanctioned the full production. Faust estimated that the time between being asked to develop the show and this point was roughly one year.[7] The foundation of the series was created in approximately two years.[26]

Crew

Jayson Thiessen, supervising director (left), and Shaun Scotellaro ("Sethisto"), the founder of the fansite Equestria Daily, at BroNYCon 2011
Jayson Thiessen (left), supervising director of the series

Hasbro Studios and a season's story editor employed writers.[38] Faust's initial writing staff at Hasbro Studios included several writers who worked with her on other shows and were approved by Hasbro, such as Amy Keating Rogers, Cindy Morrow, Meghan McCarthy, Chris Savino, Charlotte Fullerton, M.A. Larson, and Dave Polsky.[7] McCarthy, who had previously been on a hiatus and was struggling to "find the right path" for her career, joined the writing team following an invitation from Faust. According to McCarthy, she "jumped at the chance" due to Faust's dedication.[39] After being asked to submit for Friendship Is Magic, composer William Anderson presented a blind audition to Hasbro. The company admired his underscore and selected him for the position.[40]

After the first season's finale aired, Faust announced that she had stepped down from her role and would be credited in the future as consulting producer. Her involvement in the second season consisted mainly of story conception and scripts before she left after the season was finished.[41] In an interview with New York magazine, Faust stated her reasons for leaving were a combination of hectic production schedules and a lack of creative control.[42] According to McCracken, Faust's departure was due to the fact that, as a toy company-driven show, she was unable to do certain things she desired, and that there is "still some frustration" with being unable to bring some of her ideas to screen.[43]

Though initially slated to work on the show's fifth season, McCarthy departed from most of her work on the series to instead write My Little Pony: The Movie (2017).[44] After Thiessen also left the show to work on the adaptation, Jim Miller became the supervising director. In Miller's place, Denny Lu, who had previously led animation, became a director. During season six, Tim Stuby, a layout supervisor, also was appointed as a director to help Miller and Lu manage the capacity of their work.[38]

Writing

Writing began with the premise and "getting a nugget of a story to build upon" at Hasbro.[45] Faust and Rob Renzetti came up with broad plots for each episode. The two held a brainstorming session with each episode's writer to script out scenes and dialogue. Faust and Renzetti worked with the writer to finalize the scripts and assign some basic storyboard instructions. Hasbro was involved throughout this process and laid down some concepts to be incorporated into the show. Examples of Hasbro's influence included Celestia being a princess instead of a queen, making a pony focused on fashion, and portraying toy sets within the story, such as Rarity's boutique.[7][19] In some cases, Hasbro requested that the show include a setting but allowed Faust and her team to create its visual style and Hasbro then based the toy set on it; an example is the Ponyville schoolhouse. As Faust adhered to the educational and informational standards that Hasbro required of the show, she found creating situations more difficult; for example, Faust cited having one character call another an "egghead" as "treading a very delicate line", and having one character cheat as "worrisome to some".[7] When DHX Media went into the design phase for an episode, scripts were finalized.[45] Each episode also generally included a moral or life lesson but these were chosen to "cross a broad spectrum of personal experiences", and not just to suit children.[16] Because intellectual property issues had caused Hasbro to lose some of the rights on the original pony names, the show included a mix of original characters from the toy line and new characters developed for the show.[18]

Before the show was approved, Hasbro and Faust planned for each episode to be 11 minutes long, to which Faust conformed in her first full-length script, "The Ticket Master". However, Faust preferred 22-minute episodes, which Hasbro eventually agreed to. Scripts were written around the episode runtime; Miller stated that most things that were removed were supplementary dialogue and action or done to make ideas more concise.[38] The initial production stages were very tight, requiring a schedule twice as fast as Faust previously experienced, and remote communication between the Los Angeles writing offices and the animation studio in Vancouver. At times, the two teams held "writer's summits" to propose ideas for characters and situations, at which the animation team provided suggestions on visuals, body language, and characterization.[7] When describing his writing style, Larson said he often used "ridiculous shorthand" to explain things concisely and made references to other works.[46]

Music

Daniel Ingram giving a thumbs up at Everfree Northwest 2012
Daniel Ingram composed the series' songs.

The series' background music and songs were composed by William Kevin Anderson and Daniel Ingram respectively.[40][47] The production team identified parts of the episode where they wanted music cues, which allowed Anderson to create music for each episode.[7] The score was composed after the initial animation of the episode and reviewed by Hasbro.[45] Ingram worked alongside Anderson's compositions to create songs that meshed with the background music while filling out the show's fantasy setting.[48] Ingram's songs usually began with a "simple structure" consisting of a piano and the basic melody. The creative team was sent the song and gave input. Non-principal voices and instrumentation were then layered before the lead singer's vocals.[49] Lyrics and overall musical themes were sometimes suggested by the writers; two examples include songs written by Amy Keating Rogers.[50] Music and song composition substantially preceded the broadcast of the episode; for example, songs for the show's third season, which began airing in November 2012, were composed in 2011.[48] Ingram thought the songs from previous shows of My Little Pony were "a little bit dated" and decided to bring more modern work to the Friendship Is Magic series.[51] Changes included writing songs with more emotional depth than those typical for children's animation that could also be enjoyed outside of the episode.[51] Ingram stated his songs had become "bigger and more epic, more Broadway and more cinematic over time",[47] and Hasbro blessed the effort to try "something groundbreaking for daytime television".[48] The song "The Art of the Dress" in the first-season episode "Suited for Success" was inspired by "Putting it Together" from the musical Sunday in the Park with George, while the first season's finale's song, "At The Gala", was based on Into the Woods.[47][52][53] A large musical number in "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" paid homage to the song "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man.[47]

Casting and voice acting

Voice casting and production was handled by Voicebox Productions,[54] with Terry Klassen as the series' voice director. Faust, Thiessen, and others participated in selecting voice actors, while Hasbro gave final approval.[7] Tara Strong was given the role of Twilight Sparkle after Faust, who had previously worked with her on The Powerpuff Girls, asked her to help pitch My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic by voicing Twilight, Pinkie Pie and "Applejack [or] Rainbow Dash". After Faust heard Strong as Twilight, she knew she wanted her to voice the role.[55] When Cathy Weseluck auditioned for Spike, she envisioned him as a baby with a high voice. The director later told her to "boy him up a bit", which "changed everything".[50]

The series was recorded in Vancouver.[56] Voice work happened after writing and before animation, while the animators provided direction; according to Andrea Libman, the voice of Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, this approach enabled the actors to play the characters without certain limitations; Libman stated she was allowed be as exaggerated as she wanted without the animators stopping her.[57] Regarding the songs, the actors received the music before recording and practiced it at their homes.[58] The songs were recorded with the dialogue.[59]

Storyboarding and animation

Completed scripts were sent to Studio B for pre-production and animation using Macromedia Flash Professional 8. Thiessen's production team was also allowed to select key personnel subject to Hasbro's approval; one of those selected was art director Ridd Sorensen. The Studio B team storyboarded the provided scripts, incorporating direction and creating scenes the writers believed impossible to show in animation. The DHX Media team went through the storyboard and design process, recorded dialogue, and created a storyboard animatic from the voice recordings.[60] The animators then prepared the key character poses, layout, background art, and other main elements, and sent these versions back to the production team in Los Angeles to be reviewed by Hasbro with suggestions from the writers. Hasbro received handfuls of art, beginning with black-and-white rough drawings, followed by colored and finalized character and prop designs, and then animatics and a rough cut.[60] Thiessen credited much of the technical expertise to Wooton, who created Flash programs to optimize the placement and posing of the pony characters and other elements, simplifying and economizing the work needed from the other animators.[61] For example, the ponies' manes and tails are generally fixed shapes, animated by bending and stretching them in curves in three dimensions and giving them a sense of movement without the need to animate individual hairs.[18]

Nine panels from a storyboard of "Twilight's Kingdom" depicting an action sequence between Twilight and Tirek.
A sample storyboard from the episodes "Twilight's Kingdom" depicting an action sequence, which has been cited as difficult to storyboard.

According to Timothy Packford of DHX Media, storyboarding action scenes was difficult because the stories' important points might be lost; storyboarding and intent needed to be clear. Episodes with large amounts of dialogue could "sort of slog and grind because there's so much talking".[60] A crucial point was to keep the shots interesting and have a good flow of one into another, but action sequences tended to have more cuts than dialogue.[60] The storyboard artists and animators also added unscripted background characters to populate the world. According to McCarthy, many of the acknowledgements to the fandom, pop culture references, or other easter eggs were added by the studio.[62] Filipino animation studio Top Draw also worked on the animations.[63][64]

Each of the main characters had expressions and mannerisms distinctive to them as well as general expressions they shared. According the DHX Media team, they "avoid[ed] certain expressions if it [went] outside [the ponies'] personality".[65] The creative team interpreted each character's personality into mannerisms, facial expressions, props, and home environment.[65] For example, Twilight's purple color signified royalty and mystical awareness, and her hard, angular edges personifies her as a tidy pony.[66] Other examples include Rainbow Dash's rainbow hair representing her ability to cause a Sonic Rainboom;[67][e] Fluttershy's hair indicating her bounciness, gentleness, and optimism;[69] Applejack's cutie mark[f] symbolizing her down-home simplicity;[71] Pinkie Pie's shape being similar to a bubble, balloon, or cloud reflecting her cheerfulness and buoyancy;[72] and Spike's design embodying his difference from the ponies.[73]

Half of the episodes were managed by a director and the other half by the supervising one, while the two worked together on two-parters. The supervising director also oversaw all episodes.[38] Faust estimated that the time to complete one episode was one year; at one point, the team simultaneously worked on various stages of all 26 episodes of the first season, and when the second season was approved, that number rose temporarily to 32. Episodes were aired approximately a month after completion, though the timeframe became six to eight weeks by the sixth season.[7][38] Thiessen explained that they had pushed to start work on the second season as soon as the first was completed to prevent staff turnover.[61]

Themes

A central theme of the show is female friendships.[74] Faust stated that the deeper message of the series is that friendship means being oneself and acceptance of others.[21] According to Ethan Lewis of Den of Geek, the show often "takes on very morally complicated situations [...] that don't seem to have easy answers as opposed to very cut and dried children's messages".[75] Lewis further stated that the show taught lessons of friendship that some adults would be unable to comprehend.[75] The A.V. Club's Emily VanDerWerff compared Friendship Is Magic to "an owner's manual to being a kind person", saying that making friends can be a difficult task for children. She opined that the series breaks it down to its most basic aspects, demonstrating to all how important a few friendly gestures are.[76] Alana Joli Abott, a Den of Geek writer, also highlighted celebrating differences, faith, and inclusion as prominent themes.[77]

Writing for Den of Geek, Megan Crouse described the series as "'serious' fantasy", drawing comparisons to many other works including The Lord of the Rings and The Sword in the Stone.[1] In explanation, she stated Friendship Is Magic's consistency and system of magic made it function well as a fantasy story.[1] The Cut's Lisa Miller argued that the show can be compared to almost any children's fairy tale or fantasy story.[21] According to Faust, the entirety of Friendship Is Magic is influenced by mythology and the fantasy genre.[78]

Several writers have called the show's setting a matriarchy.[79][80][81] Writing in OpenEdition.org journal Transatlantica, Isabelle Licari-Guillaume opined the series counters sexist portrayals that are common in media for children.[82] Lewis considered the characters one of television's "best representations" of females as they are neither stereotypically feminine nor masculine.[75] In analysis book Orienting Feminism, Kevin Fletcher asserted "Friendship is Magic exhibits a feminist sensibility rather than an individualistic post-feminist one."[83] Furthermore, he stated that by focussing on the value of community, the show abstains from post-feminism.[83] A study by Christian Valiente and Xeno Rasmusson, which sampled 13 episodes, found the series constantly has characters in circumstances that dispute gender stereotypes, with females in positions of authority, and primary and active roles.[84] They thought that while certain male characters possess abilities and authority, the focus of the show veers towards the females, who are often shown in positions of leadership while maintaining traditional feminine traits as well as strong ones. Valiente and Rasmusson analysed gender is "[no]thing more than an aesthetic story element" in Friendship Is Magic.[85]

Episodes

Series overview
SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
126October 10, 2010 (2010-10-10)May 6, 2011 (2011-05-06)The Hub/Hub Network
226September 17, 2011 (2011-09-17)April 21, 2012 (2012-04-21)
313November 10, 2012 (2012-11-10)February 16, 2013 (2013-02-16)
426November 23, 2013 (2013-11-23)May 10, 2014 (2014-05-10)
526April 4, 2015 (2015-04-04)November 28, 2015 (2015-11-28)Discovery Family
626March 26, 2016 (2016-03-26)October 22, 2016 (2016-10-22)
726April 15, 2017 (2017-04-15)October 28, 2017 (2017-10-28)
FilmOctober 6, 2017 (2017-10-06)N/A
826March 24, 2018 (2018-03-24)October 13, 2018 (2018-10-13)Discovery Family
Holiday SpecialOctober 27, 2018 (2018-10-27)
926April 6, 2019 (2019-04-06)October 12, 2019 (2019-10-12)
SpecialJune 29, 2019 (2019-06-29)

Distribution

Broadcast

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which is targeted at girls aged 4–7,[86] was one of several animated shows that aired on The Hub, a retooling of Discovery Kids owned by Discovery Communications.[87] The network was rebranded as Discovery Family on October 13, 2014.[9][88][89] All episodes are approximately 22 minutes in length.[90]

Friendship Is Magic premiered on October 10, 2010.[87] In March 2011, less than two months before the season finale aired, the show was renewed for a second season which was broadcast from September 17, 2011, to April 21, 2012.[3][91] A month before the previous season's conclusion, the series was renewed for its third season.[3][92] It premiered on November 10, 2012, and concluded on February 16, 2013.[3] One month later, The Hub renewed the show for a fourth season to air during the 2013–2014 television season.[93] On May 7, 2014, the series was renewed for a fifth season.[94][95] From August 4 to August 8, 2014, The Hub aired a 50-hour marathon called "My Little Pony Mega Mare-a-thon" that featured every episode from the first four seasons of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and specials from the third generation of the toy line.[96][97] The fifth season premiered on April 4, 2015, and concluded November 28, 2015.[3] A month before its prior season's airing, Discovery Family renewed the series for a sixth season, broadcast from March 26 to October 22, 2016.[3][98] In October 2016, the show was renewed for its seventh season[99] which aired from April 15 to October 28, 2017.[3] An eighth season was broadcast from March 24 to October 6, 2018.[3][100] On March 8, 2019, Discovery Family announced the ninth and final season, which premiered on April 6, 2019.[3][101] Before the show's finale, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic — A Decade of Pony, a behind-the-scenes view of the making of the series, was aired on October 11, 2019.[102] The 90-minute finale was broadcast on October 12, 2019.[3][103]

Home media and streaming services

In the United States, episodes of Friendship Is Magic are available for digital download through the iTunes Store.[104] Along with several other Hasbro properties, Friendship Is Magic was added to Netflix on April 1, 2012, in the United States.[105] In 2015, the series was planned to be dropped from the streaming service along with several other shows based on Hasbro properties.[106] However, Hasbro and Netflix later decided to keep the shows on the latter.[107] In 2011, a two-episode DVD, "Celebration at Canterlot", was sold at Target stores as an exclusive, packaged with certain toys from the franchise.[108]

Shout! Factory has the DVD publishing rights for the series within Region 1. Twenty-three five-episode DVDs and three six-episode DVDs have been released to date.[109] The first seven seasons of the series have been released in complete DVD box sets.[110] United Kingdom-based Clear Vision has the publishing rights throughout Region 2, including most of Western Europe and the Middle East;[111][112] however, the company entered administration in December 2013.[113] Madman Entertainment has the license for publishing the series via DVDs and digital downloads in Region 4.[114]

Reception

Critical reception

The series has received critical acclaim, with praise for its animation style, stories, characterization, and discussions of feminism.[115] Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of 10 critics gave the show's first season a positive review, with an average score of 8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Smart and sweet, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic's [sic] proves that children's entertainment can be fun for adults, too."[116]

Critics responded positively to the show's characters, messages, and morals. In a review by Emily Ashby on Common Sense Media, an organization focusing on the parenting aspect of children's media, she emphasized the show's themes of loyalty, friendliness, friendship, tolerance, and respect.[117] Den of Geek's Anna Dobbie commended the ponies' differing personalities, which she believed worked well together to achieve stability, and the focus on self-discovery and acceptance.[118] Writing for Screen Rant, Carly Olsen found the show developed major and minor characters well;[119] the elements of growth, learning, and social skills were similarly applauded by Jamie Spain on BuzzFeed, which she considered uncommon in children's television.[120] The characters, messages, and morals have been lauded as "super cool",[70] relatable,[21] "absolutely genuine",[121] inspiring, positive, and enjoyable.[122] However, Kathleen Richter of Ms. disagreed, believing that Friendship Is Magic promoted sexism, racism, and heteronormativity; for example, she suggested that Rainbow Dash's character encouraged the stereotype that "all feminists are angry, tomboyish lesbians".[123] Faust responded to these claims and said that while Rainbow Dash is a tomboy, her sexual orientation was never referenced. She further stated that the fact Richter assumed that tomboys are lesbian is "extremely unfair to both straight and lesbian tomboys".[19]

The visual designs and references have also been subject to plaudits. VanDerWerff found the show to be "blessed with great looking characters and brightly colored backgrounds";[70] IndieWire's Liza Shannon Miller and Hanh Hguyen and Entertainment Weekly's Hillary Busis credited the style and homages as contributing factors to the broad audience and the show's success as a pop culture phenomenon.[124] Lewis agreed, naming the "vintage" style and "geek references" as one of the best things in the series.[75] Similarly, Wired writer Matt Morgan thought that the easter eggs provided a more in-depth experience.[125] The ponies' designs have also been compared to anime and manga.[21][126] However, Ashby and Amid Amidi, the latter writing for Cartoon Brew, expressed concern over the show's embedded marketing. Ashby warned parents to be wary of the effect Friendship Is Magic could have on their children's wishes;[117] Amidi believed that assigning a talent like Faust to a toy-centric show was part of a trend towards a focus on profitable genres of animation, such as toy tie-ins, to deal with a fragmented viewing audience, and overall "an admission of defeat for the entire movement [of creator-driven animation]" and a "white flag-waving moment for the TV animation industry".[127]

Friendship Is Magic was included in multiple best-of lists. TV Guide (top sixty), IndieWire (forty-fifth), and Rotten Tomatoes (sixty-fourth) listed the show as one of the top animated series of all time,[128][129][130] while readers of Television Without Pity voted it the best animated show on television.[131] IndieWire also ranked the show as the twentieth best animated series of the 21st-century.[132] Other rankings the show has been included in are Time Out's list of the best kids shows (twenty-fourth) and the ranking of Netflix's best children's shows by Paste (eighth).[133][134]

Ratings

Friendship Is Magic premiered with an average viewership of 1.4 million per month but further increased to 4 million per month by the end of the first season,[135] making it the highest-rated show of any Hasbro offering at the time.[125] Advertising Age reported that the audience doubled between the first and second seasons.[136] According to Vox, its peak years were between 2012 and 2014.[137] In March 2013, The Hub reported the series had triple-digit and quadruple-digit year-to-year growth in all demographics.[138] In September of the same year, it was the second most-watched show on The Hub for girls aged 2–11 and women aged 18–49.[139] A month later, Friendship Is Magic was one of the most co-viewed television series and the best-performing show on The Hub along with Littlest Pet Shop.[140] In the first three months of 2014, the show had an American viewership of over 12 million.[21] Ratings began to decline after 2014.[137]

The show reached many milestones. The Hub Network reported that "Hearts and Hooves Day", which aired on February 11, 2012, was the show's most-viewed episode and the second highest of any program of the Hub network: its audience exceeded 150% of that of the previous year.[141] It was surpassed by the two-part season two finale, "A Canterlot Wedding", in April 2012, which marked the broadcast as the highest viewership for the Hub Network to that date.[142] The full two-part third-season premiere, "The Crystal Empire", was watched by approximately 601,000 people aged 2+ and marked the third consecutive year of growth in season premieres.[143] "Magical Mystery Cure", the third-season finale, became the highest-rated telecast for the network for girls aged 2–11.[139][144] The fifth season premiere, "The Cutie Map", became both the series and Discovery Family's most-viewed premiere in many demographics.[145]

Awards and nominations

Awards and nominations
Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2012 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Original Song – Children's and Animation Daniel Ingram (for "Becoming Popular (The Pony Everypony Should Know)") Nominated [146]
Daniel Ingram (for "Find a Pet Song") Nominated
Leo Awards Best Animation Program or Series Sarah Wall, Chris Bartleman, Blair Peters, and Kirsten Newlands Nominated [147]
Best Direction in an Animation Program or Series Jayson Thiessen and James Wootton (for "Party of One") Nominated
Best Overall Sound in an Animation Program or Series Marcel Duperreault, Todd Araki, Jason Fredrickson, and Adam McGhie (for "Read It and Weep) Nominated
2013 Leo Awards Best Musical Score in an Animation Program or Series Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews (for "Magical Mystery Cure") Won [148]
Best Overall Sound in an Animation Program or Series Marcel Duperreault, Todd Araki, Jason Frederickson, and Adam McGhie (for "Sleepless in Ponyville") Nominated
2014 Leo Awards Best Musical Score in an Animation Program or Series Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews (for "Pinkie Pride") Nominated [149]
Best Overall Sound in an Animation Program or Series Marcel Duperreault, Todd Araki, Jason Frederickson, and Adam McGhie (for "Power Ponies") Won
2016 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Original Song Daniel Ingram and Amy Keating Rogers (for "The Magic Inside") Nominated [150]
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form "The Cutie Map" (directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller; written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy) Nominated [151]
Leo Awards Best Musical Score in an Animation Program or Series Daniel Ingram (for "Crusaders of the Lost Mark") Won [152]
Best Sound in an Animation Program or Series Marcel Duperreault, Todd Araki, Jason Fredrickson, Kirk Furniss, Adam McGhie, Christine Church, and Roger Monk (for "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?") Won
Best Performance in an Animation Program or Series Ashleigh Ball (for "Tanks for the Memories") Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Voice-Over Role – Young Actor (12–21) Graham Verchere Won [153]
2017 Leo Awards Best Musical Score in an Animation Program or Series Daniel Ingram (for "A Hearth's Warming Tail") Nominated [154]
Best Sound in an Animation Program or Series Todd Araki, Christine Church, Marcel Duperreault, Jason Frederickson, Adam McGhie, and Roger Monk (for "28 Pranks Later") Won
UBCP/ACTRA Awards Best Voice Andrea Libman (for "Rock Solid Friendship" as Pinkie Pie) Nominated [155]
Best Voice Nicole Oliver (for "A Royal Problem" as Princess Celestia / Daybreaker) Nominated
Best Voice Vincent Tong (for "Hard to Say Anything" as Feather Bangs) Nominated
2018 Leo Awards Best Sound in an Animation Program or Series Marcel Duperreault, Todd Araki, Jason Frederickson, Adam McGhie, Christine Church, Kirk Furniss, and Roger Monk (for "Shadow Play – Part 2") Nominated [156]
Best Voice Performance in an Animation Program or Series Vincent Tong (for "Hard to Say Anything") Nominated [157]
UBCP/ACTRA Awards Best Voice Vincent Tong (for "Marks and Recreation" as Rumble) Nominated [158]
2019 Humanitas Prize Children's Teleplay Brian Hohlfeld (for "Surf and/or Turf") Nominated [159]
Leo Awards Best Voice Performance in an Animation Program or Series Ashleigh Ball (for "Non-Compete Clause") Nominated [160]
UBCP/ACTRA Awards Best Voice Sunni Westbrook (for "Frenemies") Nominated [161]
2020 UBCP/ACTRA Awards Best Voice Performance Sunni Westbrook (for "The Ending of the End – Part 1" as Cozy Glow) Nominated [162]
Leo Awards Best Voice Performance in an Animation Program or Series Sunni Westbrook (for "Frenemies") Nominated [163]

Fandom

Smiling woman cosplaying Twilight Sparkle while wearing a purple and pink wig with light purple ears and a horn
Cosplay of Twilight Sparkle

Despite Hasbro's target demographic of young girls and their parents,[164][165] My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has become a cultural and Internet phenomenon, with many male fans, who are often between the ages of 13 and 35.[166][167] The response from the Internet has been traced to cartoon and animation fans on the Internet board 4chan,[164] responding to Amidi's negative essay regarding the show and current trends in animation.[127][168] As a result of the discussion on 4chan, interest in the show spread throughout other parts of the Internet, creating a large fanbase and a multitude of creative works, fan sites, and conventions.[166] The fanbase adopted the name "brony" (a portmanteau of "bro" and "pony") to describe themselves.[169][170] The older fanbase came as a surprise to Hasbro and staff members involved with the show,[47][166][171][172] who appreciated and embraced the fandom, adding acknowledgements to the fans within the show and the toys.[18] When the show was first released, bronies were a meme, but their popularity across the internet gradually faded despite the show's continuation.[173]

Other media

Friendship Is Magic is associated with the 2010 relaunch of My Little Pony toy line, with figurines and playsets based on it.[164] Due in part to older fans, Hasbro saw My Little Pony as a "lifestyle" brand, with over 200 licenses in 15 categories of products, including clothing, houseware, and digital media. The brand grossed over US$650 million in retail sales in 2013,[174] and US$1 billion annually in retail sales in 2014[175][176] and 2016.[177]

Friendship Is Magic offered Hasbro several opportunities for spin-offs and works based on the series. It released games such as My Little Pony: Twilight Sparkle, Teacher for a Day, a video game by Gameloft, and a collectible card game.[178][179][180] Beginning in 2012, IDW Publishing printed monthly My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comics that ended in September 2021.[181] The comics were replaced by My Little Pony: Generations the following month.[182] A crossover comic between Friendship Is Magic and Transformers was released in 2020 and 2021.[183][184] Hasbro observed from the brony fandom that some of the art the fans produced were humanized versions of the show's characters; the company took inspiration from that to develop the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls spin-off series of movies and shorts that ran alongside the Friendship Is Magic show for six years.[185] My Little Pony: The Movie was released on October 6, 2017, in the United States.[186] Hasbro and Discovery Family announced a subsequent animated series, My Little Pony: Pony Life. The new series is based on the same characters, while most of the voice actors returned, but features a new animation style and depicts more stories relating to mundane experiences.[187]

Fifth generation

After the show's finale aired, Hasbro began working on a fifth generation that began with a feature film, My Little Pony: A New Generation.[188][189] Like Friendship Is Magic, it is set in Equestria, the production team wanting to further explore the lore and worldbuilding established by the fourth generation. However, the fifth generation is set in after the events of the fourth, focusing on different ponies and unexplored parts of Equestria. For Hasbro, this gave them the opportunity to include Easter eggs to the previous generations.[189] The feature film was released on Netflix in September 2021 to positive reviews;[190] it will be followed by a sequel television series, which will be released on the streaming service in 2022.[191]

Notes

  1. ^ Main composer for the episodes "Magical Mystery Cure" in season 3, "Pinkie Pride" in season 4, "Crusaders of the Lost Mark" in season 5, and "A Hearth's Warming Tail" in season 6[4]
  2. ^ Main composer for the episodes "Magical Mystery Cure" in season 3 and "Pinkie Pride" in season 4[5][6]
  3. ^ Previously known as Hasbro Studios[8]
  4. ^ Known as The Hub/Hub Network before October 13, 2014[9]
  5. ^ Combination of a rainbow and sonic boom[68]
  6. ^ A symbol that appears on the ponies' rumps once they have found their purpose or special talent in life.[70]

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Works cited

External links