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"My Little Pony, My Little Pony, what will today's adventure be?
—Theme song for the ads and almost all incarnations.
Long-Running multimedia franchise that started humbly with a large horse doll with a brushable tail and mane made of doll hair.
Originally created by Bonnie Zacherle, My Little Pony officially started out as a toyline published and developed by Hasbro in 1982, following their 1981 My Pretty Pony toys. The first run of figures (called G1 by collectors) was eventually followed by two Television specials, one in 1984 and another in 1985, and a feature-length movie in 1986. A TV series, My Little Pony'n'Friends, was released later the same year and ran for two seasons before being canceled in 1987. In 1992, a strange new series, My Little Pony Tales, was aired. Other than being based on the same very general "Talking Animals get into adventures" idea, the new series had nothing to do with the old series (even the tie-in toys were only released in Europe), and had a genre change to Slice of Life and the stories were significantly milder compared to the original series. In the mid-2000s, a few Direct to Video movies were produced alongside the revival and anniversary of the beloved toy line. Currently, a new animated series (subtitled "Friendship is Magic") is airing, and, interestingly, it and its toy line follow an Alternate Continuity from the previous cartoons and toy line. The early incarnations of the My Little Pony cartoon are set in the same world, with the same (very loose) continuity: The ponies are magical creatures living idyllically in Dream Valley, part of Ponyland (or Ponyland, part of Dream Valley - no two writers agreed on this point). Originally, the ponies resided in Dream Castle, but after The Movie (and the creation of that playset) they moved into Paradise Estate. My Little Pony Tales, the direct-to-video movies, and Friendship is Magic have their own separate continuities.
Ponyland is a Magical Land "on the other side of the rainbow" populated by Bushwoolies, Sea and Flutter ponies, Grundles, bee-people, talking pigs, giant terriers, and monster weeds, among other, weirder things. The ponies are assisted in their adventures by a teen named Megan; her siblings Molly and Danny; Spike the Baby Dragon; and the Moochick, a gnome wizard with a thing for mushrooms. Being a fantasy-esque weekday afternoon cartoon, the episode plots are adventures, normally focused on a Victim of the Week requiring the ponies' help to defeat some Big Bad. The weirdness—and the overt scariness of some of the villains—kept the show from being as dangerously cute as one might naturally assume.
The later series, My Little Pony Tales, does away with the fantasy universe and gives us a cast of Ponies who are little more than not-quite-anthropomorphic animals in a world like our own. Exactly like our own. These plots generally deal with such (ahem) exciting stuff like exams, sleepovers, football and baking cookies — but with small horses! Suffice to say, the series only lasted for one season, however it has gained a cult following online.
- My Little Pony TV Specials: These are a pair of half-hour TV pilots that started it all. Fair warning, they are both Darker and Edgier than one might expect of this subject matter. In one, the ponies face an Evil Overlord who happens to be the trope namer for The Night That Never Ends, and in the other they face a violent drug addicted mage. Yes. Really.
- My Little Pony the Movie: After the pilots, we have this. In this movie, a trio of semi-competent witches cover all of Ponyland in the Smooze, a living wave of concrete which blankets the lands. Will the ponies be able to stop it? Oh. There's also a subplot about Baby Lickity-Split and Spike being on the run after they ruin a ballet recital.
- My Little Pony and Friends: This is a direct sequel to the movie. This series featured the ponies going up against more villains and other life-threatening situations.
- My Little Pony: Two unrelated sets of comics ran throughout G1. They followed their own canon based on the toy line.
- My Little Pony Tales: My Little Pony meets Slice of Life. Take 1. Different continuity from the previous four.
- My Little Pony Friendship Gardens: A Raising Sim in which you get to raise a little pony. Surprisingly addictive and fun.
- My Little Pony G 3: My Little Pony meets Slice of Life. Take 2. Not very well received in general but it has its fans.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: My Little Pony meets Slice of Life, Take 3, with occasional adventure. This time, well accepted on levels far surpassing everyone's wildest imagination.
- Equestria Girls: An Human-Focused Adaptation centered around Earth's counterpart of the Mane Six, as well as Sunset Shimmer, a former villain who redeemed herself and become the seventh member of the team (and unofficial leader).
An extensive guide to the toy line and a detailed episode guide for all the pre-G3 series can be found at (naturally) Dream Valley. Etherella's Scrapbook has info on the Ponies, along with info on them in the cartoon and comics.
You can see the My Little Pony Fandom page here.
The My Little Pony franchise provides examples of
- Adaptation Expansion: The cartoons and comics.
- Adult Child: Most of the Ponies are adults, but a majority act barely more mature than the Fillies.
- All Girls Like Ponies and Cool Ponies: Well, duh.
- Alphabetical Theme Naming: The franchise's three (unrelated) zebras: Zeb, Zig Zag, and Zecora.
- Alternate Animal Affection: Mainly only used in the G1 series and pilot. The ponies would nuzzle and lick each other for comfort, as real horses do, which comes off as a Les Yay since most medias compare that to romantic kisses.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Traditionally, the only colors to not be used for ponies (odd variations aside) are black, brown and grey. Friendship is Magic is the first to truly incorporate these colors as well, though somewhat limits it to its male ponies, who aren't nearly as colorful as the females.
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: Inverted, when you compare the series to those issued by Takara in Japan in the 80s.
- Animesque The redesign of the G3 series, which some fans disliked initially, since the series seemed like a return to form.
- The original two specials were this, especially the Catrina one (it showed with the humans, who looked Shojo), since they were made in Japan.
- Anime Hair: Lightheart is one of the few ponies to have tri-color hair.
- Chest Insignia: The franchise's trademark "cutie marks" are possibly the only example of hip
- The Dark Age of Animation
- Depending on the Writer: The UK comics/cardback stories and American cartoon/cardback stories contrasted each other most of the time, and so most personas were very different across the ocean. A noteworthy case was Wind Whistler. In the UK, she's a scatter-brained ditz, in the cartoon she's The Spock and The Stoic.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: In the eighties, we had the Princess Ponies. There was a grand total of twenty princesses released in the toyline, and that's excluding the queens Majesty and Rosedust. And excluding the many, many, many royal non-pony characters that showed up in the fiction. The early G3 line held off on Princesses for a few years. And then, according to the card backs, it turned out that every Pony is a Princess.
- For the curious, this was a case of Loophole Abuse. In the ending of The Princess Promenade it is declared in song "We're glad that everyone's a princess. That's you and you, and yes it's true, that you (the viewers) are a princess too!"
- Something Positive had an interesting take on it...
- Friendship Is Magic has Princess Celestia, whose title actually understates her role which in practical terms is God-Empress. She was going to be a queen, but Hasbro didn't want that because Disney's use of "queen" has made that title sound evil.
- The second episode brought us Princess Luna, who shares the same sort of powers and responsibilities as Celestia, and the second season finale gave us Princess Cadence, who... is a bit of a letdown in terms of power, when compared to the first two.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: The Ponies' main weapon is a magical item called the Rainbow of Light. There's also a rainbow connecting Ponyland and Megan's home.
- The current series has a great visual shout-out to the Rainbow of Light in the pilot, when the Elements of Harmony are activated.
- Also, Rainbows are actually manufactured in factories in G4 by the Pegasai that control the weather. In addition, Rainbow Dash's mane is rainbow colored, and leaves behind a streak of rainbow light when she travels from place to place.
- Expy: Characters are often brought over from previous generations (sometimes with slightly changed names), colors are reused often (especially in G2) and Name's the Same is very common.
- Flat Character: Varying characters to various degrees. The toyline bios don't help, ever since G2 they've been saying less and less about the characters.
- Generation Xerox: The "Baby" Ponies in general. They share their parents designs, a lot of their personality, and their names.
- Well, the original Baby Ponies were born from an adult pony's reflection on a magic mirror, therefore the "baby" was just a younger version of the same pony.
- Heel Face Turn: Happens with roughly half the villains.
- Improbably-Female Cast: As a brand aimed at girls, there aren't all that many guys around. They don't exist at all in G3 and only two or so exist in G2. G1 has about fifty male ponies (which is nothing compared to the number of female ponies) and quite a large number of non-pony male characters. G4 has its pony gender numbers around 50/50 (The Friendship is Magic pilot even established that Equestria has more male Ponies).
- Merchandise-Driven: No. Kidding. The current series tones this down. But from the original series there an episode where Galaxy is dressed in a Cheerleader costume apropos of absolutely nothing at all—except making us aware that there are such costume sets available in the store.
- The Night That Never Ends: More than once, a villain has had eternal night as the goal. The first TV special, "Escape from Castle Midnight," is the Trope Namer.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: In other series than G3 there's the occasional romance, but other than that it fits this trope.
- Off-Model: In both the toys (endless regional variations) and the Marvel Animation Studios cartoon (endless animation mistakes; see Drinking Game below). Though to be fair, it occurs in every version of the franchise.
- Our Dragons Are Different: In-verse Spike finds this out in Spike's Search, where he meets dragons that aren't like him; they're large, green, round, and mean. In the pilot special Tirek had dragons which were different from Spike. In the comics for G1, there were other baby dragons like Spike. Apparently dragons can also be pets in G1, and such as Spike is a pet to Majesty in most medias other than the cartoons. In G3 Spike is over 1000 years old but still looks like a baby.
- Rule of Glamorous
- Shout-Out: The idea that unicorns can teleport was borrowed from Dungeons and Dragons.
- Sugar Bowl: The setting could not be more magical and happy—normally. And then the Big Bad of the Week shows up...
- The Millennium Age of Animation
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Title Theme Tune: The infamous one, which has undergone endless variations to its lyrics over twenty-five years; plus four other theme songs created for the "Friends" part of My Little Pony 'n Friends (see below).
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted with surprising frequency; dragons, Grundles, Crab Nasties etc.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The series is typically full of Loads and Loads of Characters that change every episode, so this is bound to happen. It's especially bad in the Pilot to the whole franchise; the Ponies in that pilot are never seen again in animation, even the ones that just run around and don't speak.