Have you ever wondered about the creative force behind the mega popular franchise of My Little Pony? This iconic brand has been a part of pop culture for over 30 years and has recently experienced a resurgence through its Friendship is Magic storyline. Since its inception in 1981, these rainbow ponies have encouraged creative play through toys, books, television series and movies. AND the ponies will once again hit the big screen on October 6 with the premier of My Little Pony: The Movie. (Can. Not Wait.)
Although I had a few beloved ponies during my 80s childhood, My Little Pony took over my home in 2009 when Eden received her first Pinkie Pie as a birthday gift. It was love at first site and we have been mega fans ever since. My home is covered with MLP toys, books, and comics. Eden has drawn countless MLP sketches of her own and created some of her own storylines. Which is why were were overjoyed to be invited to the recent HASCON 2017 Hasbro fan event in Providence where we got to meet the writers, voice talent, illustrators, and brand manager for the franchise.
In the photo above we met Meghan McCarthy who's official title is Head of Storytelling for Hasbro (how cool is that?!). She is a writer and producer for the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic animated series and the writer for the upcoming My Little Pony: The Movie.
I had to ask McCarthy how she got to be head of storytelling (since that's pretty much Eden's dream job) and she said as a child she was always, always, reading. And all the reading sparked her interest in writing which led to her career in writing for TV.
We also asked McCarthy about the universal appeal of the MLP cartoons. The show is translated into over 45 languages around the world. (In Pinkie Pie speak, 'Betcha Didn't Know THAT!') If you've ever been to a PonyCon, you'd see that there are usually more adults in attendance than children. And that male fans are known as Bronys. This is not a character set that only appeals to little girls.
"The problems you have at 11 years old are the same problems you have at 20 or 30 or 40," McCarthy said. "The problems don't change so at a basic level the show appeals to fans of all ages." The writers manage to keep the show age appropriate for the elementary school set, while throwing in pop culture references for those of us who don't necessarily eat PB&J for lunch daily. (Well, OK, I do that anyway...but have you even seen the bowling episode with a nod to The Big Lebowski?)
We also met with Tyla Bucher (shown below) who is Vice President of Global Brand Strategy & Marketing for My Little Pony. Her dream job is to oversee all of the super cool MLP merch we find in stores. It was fascinating to hear her talk about the 35-year history of the franchise and how Hasbro manages to keep reinventing the brand to keep it current.
There was one burning question I HAD to ask Bucher....how do the ponies get their names and cutie marks? (You know you've always wondered too). She said they often sit around a table and toss around ideas based on what the pony looks like and it's characteristics.
"Sometimes it's easy and a name just sticks -- like 'Big Mac' -- he's part of the Apple family and he's a workhorse," she said. "Other times we can be more creative." I was a little disappointed that there isn't a huge MLP Bingo cage somewhere in Hasbro's HQ full of bingo balls with words like "sparkle," "dazzle," "fuchsia," and "genius," that her team pulls from to make name combinations...but I guess their approach makes sense.
We even got to meet Mary Jane Begin, (shown below) who hardcore fans will recognize as the author and illustrator of the MLP books "My Little Pony Under the Sparkling Sea," and "The Dragons on Dazzle Island." She is actually a New England girl herself (Rhode Island) and teaches at RISD.
AND....(drumroll please) if you've ever wondered what Pinkie Pie or Spike look like in real life? Or, I should say...the voice actors behind these characters, look no further. The pic below shows (from left) McCarthy, Andrea Libman (who voices Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy); Cathy Weseluck (Spike the Dragon); and Rebecca Shoicet (Sunset Shimmer). It was really interesting to learn how these women are all trained actors who use their voices to make the characters come alive. I'm embarrassed to say I've never really thought about the vocal talent behind the animation before but I'll never watch a cartoon the same way again.
HASCON was an unforgettable experience. We were able to geek out over MLP like never before. And my girl received so, so much encouragement for her own creative endeavors from all of these amazing women. I couldn't have asked for a better example to show her of a team of kick ass, creative women who make their living collaborating on a project that brings joy to people all over the world.
In honor of our love for all things ponified and our excitement for the upcoming movie we're giving away a Hascon exclusive My Little Pony Mystery Box and a collection of movie posters. All you have to do to be entered to win is comment below with the name of your favorite My Little Pony character. (One winner will be chosen at random from all entries on Thursday, September 28 at 10 p.m. ARV of prize $30). Good luck to all who enter!