Franchise: My Little Pony

"My Little Pony, My Little Pony, what will today's adventure be?
My Little Pony, My Little Pony, will there be exciting sights to see?"
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 toy line published and developed by Hasbro in 1982, following their 1981 My Pretty Pony toys. The copyright was finalized in 1983, which is probably why Hasbro counts it as MLP's birthyear and not 1982. The different incarnations of My Little Pony are commonly separated into "generations", as classified by collectors, based on the toy line. It is a history of friendships, of cartoons of varying degrees of sweetness, of little girls achieving their dreams and of grown men defying gender roles.

"Generation 1" started humbly with the release of six pony toys in 1982. Very soon, the toy line became a hit of absolutely enormous magnitude, and quickly became a highly recognizable part of pop culture. To this day, even after all the relaunches and re-imaginings of the franchise, the original 1980's toys remain what most people among the general population immediately picture when they hear the phrase "My Little Pony". The toyline 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 cancelled in 1987. These cartoons all took place in Dream Valley, part of Ponyland (or Ponyland, part of Dream Valley – no two writers agreed on this point) where the ponies – with the help of a young girl named Megan – often have to fight off some Monster of the Week. Contrary to what one might expect from a work of fiction based on the sugary sweet toys (and contrary to the perceived image of the franchise that the public seems to hold), these cartoons were mostly based around the theme of adventure, and featured some surprisingly dark and lethal villains, especially in the earliest episodes. There were also comics released in the UK that used the same characters but had their own canon. The toys themselves often had short stories pertaining to the ponies in the box.

In 1992 Hasbro released My Little Pony Tales, a Slice of Life series which was set in its own continuity and ran for a single season. Often mistakenly referred to as "G2", it's technically still part of "G1", even though it has nothing to do with the various Dream Valley/Ponyland cartoons. The show took place in a universe pretty much identical to our own with the obvious exception that everyone is a multicolored pony, and focused on things normal kids deal with. It notably set the trend of having the main setting be a town called Ponyville.

"Generation 2" actually began in 1997 when Hasbro gave the toys a major redesign. The toys were now taller, slender, and more "horse-like". The new designs were not well met, and this version only lasted a year in the US, though it continued for a few more years in Europe. In addition to being the shortest lived toy line, "G2" is notably the only one without an Animated Adaptation, though there were comics and a video game.

Hasbro went back to the stockier builds in 2003, marking the beginning of "Generation 3". Instead of a TV series, Hasbro opted to release a series of Direct-to-DVD movies and shorts. The setting is once again Ponyville, but this time with a slight fantasy element to it. "G3" is known for being the lightest and "pinkest" of all the incarnations. No villains, conflicts are rare, and there's, well, lots of pastel colour, but it had a certain charm to it. Regardless of the quality of the animated adaptions though, "G3" proved to be a well needed financial success after the poor reception to "G2". In 2007, Hasbro made the controversial decision to reduce the number of characters, in a franchise long known for Loads and Loads of Characters, to seven. This led to a "soft reboot" which retained the original "G3" look and was called "Core 7" by fans. Another "soft reboot" a year so so later, which fans call "G3.5", featured the "Core 7" ponies in forms similar to Ponyville plastic molds. The reboot was not well received, and the cartoons in particular were met with criticism. The era finally came to an end in 2009 after the release of Twinkle Wish Adventure of "G3.5", and Once Upon a My Little Pony Time which is linked to the "Newborn Cuties" variant of Core 7. At this point most casual observers had written Ponies off, but it wouldn't be the end of the franchise.

Not by a long shot.

The most recent, and insanely popular incarnation of the franchise is classified by collectors as "Generation 4", which started in 2010 with the release of the TV series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic developed by Lauren Faust. The ponies, far influenced by the modern and prevalent Anime subculture of the Internet, were redesigned to be Animesque – large eyes, tiny muzzles, bodies that are proportionally small for their heads, and Moe quirks – but generally considered adorable nonetheless. At its core, Friendship is Magic is something of an Adaptation Distillation for the previous cartoons. It has the fantasy and adventure elements of "G1", the Slice of Life stories of Tales, and much of the cast are re-imagined "G3" ponies. More importantly, Friendship is Magic never shied away from conflicts of often dark, disturbing and even controversial natures, but in the end, these Conflicts also feature life lessons about friendship. Faust developed a new setting called Equestria, a Fantasy Kitchen Sink with its own growing mythology and history, with the town of Ponyville being the home of the series' mane six heroines. Stories are the most varied here and can be anything from Slice of Life comedy to a family-friendly adventure epic, all Depending on the Writer of course. In any case, the cartoon became an unexpected hit with a colossal Periphery Demographic. Hasbro seems happy with the success of Friendship is Magic, and is giving Friendship is Magic a growing Expanded Universe with assorted comics and books. See also the Friendship is Magic page.

    Adaptations 

1st Incarnation ('N Friends)

  • 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 Lickety-Split and Spike being on the run after they ruin a ballet recital.
  • My Little Pony 'n 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".
  • My Little Pony Tales: My Little Pony meets Slice of Life. Take 1. Different continuity from the previous four.

2nd Incarnation

3rd Incarnation

  • My Little Pony G3: Direct-to-DVD movies and shorts. My Little Pony meets Slice of Life. Take 2. Not very well received in general but it has its fans.
  • Once Upon a My Little Pony Time: The two animated shorts starring the Newborn Cuties (in this case, the babyfied version of Core 7 ponies). Wasn't well received.
  • Numerous books seemingly set in a separate continuity from the cartoon.
  • Several comic books based off the toy canon.

4th Incarnation (Friendship is Magic)

See also My Little Phony for parodies and pastiches.

An extensive guide to the toy line and a detailed episode guide for all the toys before "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.

The My Little Pony franchise provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The cartoons and comics.
  • All Girls Like Ponies and Cool Ponies: Well, duh.
  • All There in the Manual: The "G2" ponies' personalities (G2 as opposed to Tales, which is the second show but still considered part of "G1" because it's before the first overhaul of the toyline.) The toy packaging goes farther than any other line to tell what the characters are like because it is not supported by a TV show. Even "G1" and its longer packaging stories, between describing some adventure and mentioning another pony in hopes you'd buy her, sometimes ended up telling you very little about what the pony in your hands is like. "G2" packaging bios may have been shorter but they were all about telling you who this pony was as if it were the only chance there'd be to do so - because for the most part it was. (For the most part. Some ponies appear in the "Friendship Gardens" game, and there was a comic series, in the vein of the "G1" comics and just as cracktastic but sadly nowhere near as long-lived.)
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: The franchise's three (unrelated) named zebras: Zebnote , Zig Zagnote , and Zecoranote .
  • 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 little 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: Friendship is Magic is basically what happens when you throw the previous generations, Anime Tropes, and Moe into a blender, and then bake it in an oven made of the Internet. Some of the characters in Friendship is Magic were modeled after specific Anime Character archetypes. For example, Fluttershy is from the Moe archetype, Pinkie Pie is a Genki Girl, Rainbow Dash is a Tsun Dere, etc. However, despite their origins from Anime archetypes, Faust managed to avert the Flat Character archetype and develop them into well-rounded characters with their own personalities.
  • Artifact Title: The title really only makes sense for the toys, given that the ponies in the cartoons are not little, nor do they belong to anyone. There have been some efforts to fix this, however:
    • "G1" sometimes has villains use the phrase mockingly, and in some episodes it was implied that 'Little Pony' was their species name.
    • Friendship is Magic occasionally has characters use the phrase as a term of affection by Princess Celestia.note 
  • Babysitting Episode: An early episode, The Ice Cream Wars, has a group of ponies babysitting for the First Tooth ponies. They even sing about it!
  • Chest Insignia: The franchise's trademark "cutie marks" are possibly the only example of hip insignia.
  • 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. Even moreso Lickety-Split/Baby Lickety-Split: In the movie she introduces herself as "I'm Lickety-Split, a baby pony" and is called by name with and without the "Baby" prefix. In the show, her cutie mark changes between three and six ice cream cones at times - sometimes from one shot to the next - but she doesn't act or get treated like a different character. Near the end, she is drawn with an overbite to match the "First Tooth Baby Pony" toy of her out at the time. In the comic, Lickety Split is depicted as Baby Lickety Split's mother as the toyline intended, and First Tooth Baby Lickety Split is her near-identical cousin.
  • 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 refers a case of Loophole Abuse in one of the DTV movies - not wanting to be her friends' ruler just because she found a flower that was the symbol of office, "Princess" Wysteria ended up coronating everybody so they'd be equals again. And everybody means everybody - 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 [pointing at screen] 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 (according to Lauren Faust) 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 Cadance, who... was a bit of a letdown in terms of power in her debut, when compared to the first two. Her role is eventually better defined - The Power of Love personified, she's basically Pony Cupid and when she combines her magic with that of her true love, Shining Armor, their power increases exponentially and a major Heart Beat-Down is in order. The third season finale gives us Princess Twilight Sparkle. (Stronger with Age is also in effect - Twilight just ascended, and Cadence was noticeably smaller in flashbacks to when Twilight was a young child. They're not up to the level of the millennia-old Royal Sisters, but Twilight is steadily becoming stronger.)
  • 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 whenever the Elements of Harmony are activated. The Equestria Girls movies and the Rainbow Power upgrade in the season four finale show that the element-bearers no longer need the actual trinkets to summon it if they're in, well, harmony. It still has to be earned, though.
    • Also, Rainbows are actually manufactured in factories in Friendship is Magic, 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 versions (sometimes with slightly changed names), colors are reused often (especially in My Little Pony Tales) and Name's the Same is very common. However, it isn't quite Transformers: name reuse is quite often throwing a name that was still trademarked at a new character. (For example, "G3" Rarity is an irresponsible filly and "G3" Rainbow Dash is The Fashionista and calls everyone "Darling." FIM Rarity is basically "G3" Rainbow Dash, while FIM Rainbow Dash is an athlete whose personality is nothing like her namesake; "G1" Firefly and Tales Patch are seen as her counterparts.) A character is often neither named or colored like her true counterpart from a past incarnation. However, certain archetypes keep turning up. You'll find your bookworm, your daredevil and prankster, and someone who's so kindhearted that sometimes being too soft is a problem. She just won't be under the same name or in the same colors.
  • Flat Character: Varying characters to various degrees. The toy line bios don't help, ever since "G2" they've been saying less and less about the characters.
    • Friendship is Magic heavily averts this, contributing to its popularity amongst critics.
  • Generation Xerox: "G1" had baby ponies that were expies of adult ponies with "baby" added to the name. They were nigh identical in both design and personality and (somewhat simplified) cutie marks, just a bit smaller. You'd think they were simply the same characters but younger, but they were marketed as the daughters of the adult ponies, with a couple of them shown in this role in the cartoon. A UK comic gives their origin as younger versions of the adult ponies, created from a magic mirror, and shows all of them with their adult counterparts much more often.
  • 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. Only five or so exist in "G2", and there is one male pony in all of "G3", a background pony from the "3.5" Twinkle Wish Adventure. "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, but in actual media, we get one male pony guest star early on and one episode with the Big Brother Ponies late in the game. Friendship is Magic has at last a larger male-to-female ratio, but even so they'll be mostly background ponies, with Spike and Big Macintosh the only guys who are seen with regularity - even if the fandom's love of Recurring Extras means that to us they're more than crowd filler. Tales averts it entirely, with the main cast female but male classmates and two-parent families as secondary characters.
  • Manchild: Most of the Ponies are adults, but most act barely more mature than the Fillies. The maturity levels of the cast go back and forth, as one day it'll be about Rarity traveling to another city herself to further her career as one of Equestria's premier fashion designers, and another will have her and Applejack having a sleepover. Only Tales nails down how old the characters are and has them act like it.
  • Long Pants: A variation since they hardly wear clothes. They do this trope with hooves, with legs being the same color all the way down to the bottom of their feet. Certain male ponies in Friendship Is Magic are exceptions however.
  • Merchandise-Driven: No. Kidding. The current series however is far more independent from toy lines. 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."
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: In other series than "G3" there's the occasional romance, but other than that and one post-wedding kiss in G4 it fits this trope.
    • Romance is especially rare in this franchise due to the Improbably Female Cast. Same-sex romance won't fly in a kids' show, so there's nobody to pair characters with outside Tales for the most part; even FIM tends to keep male characters outside Big Macintosh and Spike (who'd like to avert this trope with Rarity, but it's not happening) strictly as crowd filler. It's to the point that when Hasbro wanted to produce wedding toys, they used Glory and Moondancer, and just referred to Glory with male pronouns on the packaging (she's a girl in all other media and merch.) Cue the jokes about gay marriage having been legal in Equestria since The Eighties.
  • 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, though at the end, the "Stratadons" and other monsters were transformed back into the harmless animals, ponies, and human they'd once been by the Rainbow of Light. 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. (However, in the comics he's just as fully sentient, and treated more as a child than a pet, basically having the same relationship with her that he has with Twilight Sparkle in FIM. "G1" Comic Spike also has other dragon relatives he sometimes visits, whereas every other Spike is the only dragon around.) In "G3", Spike is over 1000 years old but still looks like a baby.
  • Pegasus: Pegasi are one of the three main pony races.
  • Rule of Glamorous
  • Shout-Out: The idea that unicorns can teleport was borrowed from Dungeons & Dragons. In the original cartoon, it was something all could do (not so the specials, where it was Twilight's thing only.)
  • 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).
  • Unicorns: They can use magic, but it's not as super-effective as you'd think: most unicorns have one power based on their special talent. In G1, where the Sugar Bowl is always under threat of doom, this falls under When All You Have Is a Hammer, with the amazing power to make bubbles shown to be more useful than you think.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted with surprising frequency; dragons, Grundles, Crab Nasties etc.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The 80s cartoons are 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. Sometimes a main-character pony will have the baby version of her (see Generation Xerox) shown once ever, or a main-character baby pony will have the adult version shown once ever - if they're really supposed to be mother and daughter, it's clear Social Services Does Not Exist in Dream Valley.