My Little Pony
One of the most infamous toy franchises out there, My Little Pony is hard to sum up in a sentence or two. Starting in the early 1980s, My Little Pony is an utterly massive franchise that consists of TV shows, films, comic books, manga, stage productions, video games, novels, and basically everything you can think of a franchise of this scale consisting of, and most of it stars cute little ponies doing daring deeds, though some star humans too!
Early brand history
Bonnie Zacherle is often considered the creator of the My Little Pony brand. Alongside Charles Muenchinger, she created My Pretty Pony in 1981, the 'zeroth generation' of the franchise. Zacherle made the series to appeal to both girls and boys, but by Generation 1 rolled around, the brand became much more female orientated in contrast to Hasbro's 'male-centric' brands like G.I. Joe and Transformers.
Generation 1 rolled out in 1982, with its Year 1 line lasting until, shockingly enough, 1983. This was the only wave of toys that Zacherle worked on and she cut her ties with Hasbro in around 1983. This toyline was, of course, a huge success, and soon new lines were created, some regional to various different countries, such as Greece or Argentina.
Aside from commercials, My Little Pony would become a mass-media franchise in 1984 with My Little Pony: Rescue at Midnight Castle, which expanded the world and scope of the series, now introducing human characters such as Megan Williams and fan-favorite villain, Tirac. An early press release recently discovered indicated that the original premise of this movie was to considerably different, having both Megan and Danny act as co-stars, with a more fantastical looking world, featuring strange planets in the distance.
The series would see numerous film releases in the early 1980s, with the release of My Little Pony: The Movie and My Little Pony: Escape From Katrina, as well as a television series, all of which helped expanded the setting into a surreal high-fantasy world where anything could happen. Interestingly, this show was initially set to be in the same continuity as the Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoon shows.
A lesser known but still huge aspect of the brand would also debut during this time, with the first comic series launching in 1985. Comics would becoming a defining aspect of many Hasbro franchises, My Little Pony included, with the original run lasting for over 220 issues and being reprinted in several countries, making it one of the most successful licensed comics of all time despite its obscurity today.
This era of the franchise was sadly known for not properly crediting its creators. As of 2022, only a handful of artists from the first generation were ever identified. These include Ruth Bush, Cathy Beylon, Sharon Lisman and Julio Herrera, the former being an artist of various toy artwork and the latter three all being storybook artists.
Although the toyline would last until 1992, the canon of the early releases would be much more short lived. The TV series only lasted two years from 1985-1986, with approximately 65 episodes, a not unimpressive achievement. However, it was followed up by My Little Pony Tales in late 1992, though that series would prove unsuccessful and only lasted a season. In contrast to the fantastical nature of the previous canon, the Tales continuity was far more grounded, taking place in a modern town and generally dealt with reasonable issues such as young romance, bullying, family, and poverty. Notably for the time, Tales often sought out to tell the tales of those who were often underrepresented. Many of its characters came from single-parent households, low-income families, lived with an absurd amount of relatives, or were orphans who didn't know their biological parents. Despite its lackluster reaction, one could very much argue the show had considerably more well-defined characters.
Though it only lasted a season, the two comic books inspired by it (the aforementioned ongoing which was rebranded as a Tales book, which also happened too My Little Pony and Friends) lasted a bit longer, ending in 1994.
Despite being characterized by the fandom as the 'realistic' series, Tales had its fair share of supernatural elements such as dragons, ghosts, and magic. Unfortunately, due to its short run, it didn't get the chance to explore its unique take on My Little Pony.
Generation 1 was often criticized for being a cynical, sexist product created for the sole intention to sell toys to kids, however, many fans fired back by stating that the show, for its time, had a strong, nearly fully female cast who were all independent and had defining characteristics beyond simply being 'the girl', a common element in children's media of this time.
With Generation 1 dwindling out in the Americas, Generation 2 was released upon the world in 1997. The initial line consisted of Berry Bright, Clever Clover, Morning Glory, Petal Blossom, and Sky Skimmer. Unlike any other generation, Generation 2 was almost exclusively a toy-based franchise, with extremely limited media releases. Notably, a comic series which lasted at least fivee issues and a video game, My Little Pony: Friendship Gardens, were released.
In North America, the series would only last for a single year, ending in 1998, however, it saw much more success in Europe, lasting until 2003 with seven waves. A not unimpressive amount of toys, even by todays standards.
Generations and franchises
- Generation 1
- Generation 2
- Generation 3
- Generation 4
- Generation 5
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