Guys. I have a confession to make.
I like My Little Pony.
A few years ago, that statement would have been met with a mildly confused raised eyebrow. Years before that, it was met with playground teasing - My Little Pony, skinny and boney, indeed. Nowadays, I'm one of many, many people who enjoy the colourful toys. The 'Friendship is Magic' revival brought cult status to the brand, with a fantastic new cartoon that captured the hearts of children and nerdy adults alike, and with that came a whole slew of new fans, from all corners of the globe. It's not really unusual at all to like My Little Pony anymore.
But it sure used to be.
My 'herd' never started as a 'collection', of course. When I was a little girl, My Little Pony was par for the course, the iconic girls toy of the 1980s (yes, I'm that old.) I'm reliably informed by my parents that my first pony was Sunshine, with rainbow hair and a glittery symbol. I'm also reliably informed that I wasn't at all interested in her, and into the cupboard she went.
I've never been one for dolls (my rant about Megan, the human companion Hasbro introduced to MLP, or the latest 'Equestria Girls' reboot, are blog-posts for another time!), so I grew up with animal toys and boy was the 1980s full of them. Carebears, Gummi Bears, Wuzzles, Popples, Sylvanian Families, Glow Worms, we had tremendous variety for pretty much anything your heart desired, and through my childhood I had a bunch of 'em. But one day, I went into my cupboard, and found Sunshine. The other toys just didn't cut it. I realised quite certainly that Sunshine 'needed a friend'
And that's where the madness started. Her one friend (Posey) became two friends, and soon became twenty friends, and then two hundred friends...
The funny thing is, during my childhood I remember very clearly wanting 'a collection'. I collected thimbles for a while (did I mention I was the coolest kid in school?), but it never occurred to me that the growing mass of plastic horses devouring my shelves and cupboards was a collection in and of itself. I was bought ponies, given ponies, and bought pony things myself. Long forgotten were the Wuzzles and Popples and Carebears. It was all about the ponies. I had MLP wallpaper, MLP bedding, a MLP lampshade. I owned MLP roller-skates, walkie-talkies, headphones, clothing. I had every video released and watched them over and over, learning every lyric to every song. I had hundreds of ponies as a child and knew every one of them by name. I was a member of the MLP Fanclub.
My Little Pony was such a huge, fundamental part of my childhood. I used to write letters to the pony queen, Majesty, asking if I could visit Ponyland. I remember very clearly how my dad tried teaching me how to dive in our local swimming pool, telling me he'd write to Majesty if I did it, and how she'd be so impressed she's bound to let me visit Ponyland. Hah! I remember mum telling me to go outside and wish upon a star (wishing on the first star at night remains my only superstition, and one that so far has never let me down). I wished for a Big Brother Pony, and sure enough, one appeared at the door. Magic!
And that's really what My Little Pony was. It was magical. I had a very special childhood full of love and magic and fantasy and everything a child should believe in, and My Little Pony was so very much a part of that. As I grew older, my love of the toys never really went away. I was given second hand ponies from my classmates who had long moved onto makeup and boybands. I slowed down buying them, absolutely - in the mid 1990s I discovered video gaming and my heart turned to Sonic the Hedgehog and other, expensive, pursuits, but ponies remained a very important part of my life. It hurts to think that I actually stopped buying new ponies often right around the time the UK got a bunch of exclusive ponies nowhere else in the world had, making them rare and, of course, valuable now. Typical, really!
And then The Internet happened. Back when the internet was new and scary (and here I further cement the fact that I am a Dinosaur), our school was the first place locally to get access. We had one PC dedicated to the internet, and I'd pretty much spend every lunch and after school on it. I don't even know why MLP entered my mind, but I remember searching "My Little Pony" and finding 'Dream Valley', one of the first MLP websites that ever existed. I couldn't believe it. There were other people who liked My Little Pony? Grown ups? Adults, mostly American, it seemed, who collected them. And had hundreds of them. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I was suddenly, after years of being 'the weird kid who liked My Little Ponies', thrown into a community that was made entirely for me. It was unreal.
I found The MLPTP - The My Little Pony Trading Post - a guestbook dedicated to trading, selling and discussing all things My Little Pony. Eventually it became a forum, and I made a bunch of friends there. We'd chat nightly in Dream Valley's Chatroom, and eventually even started meeting up IRL (once we realised that British collectors existed, too!) I was even contacted by the BBC to talk about my collection on a show called 'I Love Toys' - here's that clip in all its embarrassing glory:
Eventually UK Ponycon existed, a convention dedicated to My Little Pony! I actually avoided the first few conventions because a few attempts to get the con going in the past had bellyflopped, so my first Ponycon wasn't until 2006. I actually went on to be a part of the committee for a few years and Ponycon became a really important part of my life, mostly because it introduced me to some of my now very best and absolutely craziest friends (hi guys!)
When the 'Friendship is Magic' revival hit with a brand new cartoon and a new line of toys, it was very strange for us oldschool collectors, because suddenly it wasn't just ours anymore. Suddenly hundreds of new people loved MLP as well, and they were incredibly passionate and dedicated in their love. Fanfic, fanart, animation and songs started pouring out from the fans. Sure, we used to write pony fanfic back in the day, but that community got smaller and smaller as the years went on, the focus turning almost entirely to just collecting the toys. The oddest part I suppose was that guys fell in love with the show, too, calling themselves Bronies, and a whole new line of conventions, events and communities grew.
There's some animosity between Bronies and oldschool collectors, from both sides. I can understand why there is, I suppose, but it annoys me that so much of it is down to sheer ignorance. Some Bronies figure all oldschool collectors to be 'elderly' (actual word used to describe us!) and boring, only interested in the original generation of toys and not given to the new fandom. Some collectors, meanwhile, distrust the Bronies because they're unsure of their motives, because they've made My Little Pony their own and some older fans don't like the direction they've taken the fandom in. I think this is all probably a blog-post for another time, so I won't dwell on it here, but personally I think the Brony movement is the best thing to happen to the MLP world, and I've only good things to say about it.
My Little Pony is more than just a collection or a hobby. It's a community. It's a lifetime spent around colour and magic and friendship and yes, My Little Pony is also awesome silly little toys, daft cartoons and empty pockets. Sure, some of the new fans will dwindle away when the fad and hype wears off, but there will be those who stick around for the long haul.
I don't think my parents ever imagined, when they picked up Sunshine for the very first time, that I'd still own her, and over a thousand like her, over twenty years later. But I do, and there's no sign of this stopping any time soon.
And that's pretty damned awesome, really.
Hey there! I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and video gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a geek, travel and Disney lifestyle blog dedicated to my nerdy little life! If you'd like to learn a little more about me, click here.