Ponies Do Sondheim

After I did a piece about the My Little Pony cult following and it later appeared online, I got some helpful comments and corrections from fans of the show. One point is that the viewer count of Equestria Daily keeps going up and up, so instead of ten million as stated it’s now in the 36 million range, and that’ll go on getting higher.

The other, more important thing, is that I stated that “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” doesn’t have as many pop-culture references and adult shout-outs as other cartoons that have become adult sensations. I felt that was true of most of the episodes I had seen, and I think its fans would agree – and like – that it doesn’t hit you over the head with “this is for the grown-ups” moments the way even Sesame Street does. But after writing the piece, I saw this segment, which is based on Stephen Sondheim’s “Putting It Together.” And an episode I haven’t seen, called “Swarm of the Century,” is a Trouble With Tribbles tribute.

So Lauren Faust and the other writers are not living in some kind of bubble, sealed off from pop culture of any kind. They incorporate some of their favourite pop-culture influences (or in the case of “Trouble With Tribbles,” stock parodies) What they don’t do is aggressively try to call attention to pop-culture references, or make them the main way of appealing to adults. I think adults and kids do enjoy the show on somewhat different levels, but they enjoy it on similar terms, whereas when Sesame Street does a TV parody, the adults and children are often laughing st completely different things. Still, this is unquestionably a pop-culture shout-out by any standard.

From comments on the original piece, here is a pony fan, Nissl, explaining the show’s popularity from the point of view of its fans:

As for why adults like it, let’s play spot the influence…
Good classic storytelling and likable but deceptively complex characters – Pixar
Well animated with a fairly unique, highly expressive style – Powerpuff Girls/Samurai Jack
Breaks with standard kids’ show irony/hipness – (classic Disney/Pixar – agree with author’s point)
Fairly deep world mixing high magic and daily concerns – Harry Potter
Good, creative slapstick bits – classic Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes
Suitably monstrous villains – Dungeons & Dragons, classic mythology.

I also have to give the show one more thing: as a child, I really liked the “My Little Pony” cartoon of the ’80s, but having watched a couple of episodes of it again, the endings seem to be really lame, something Lauren Faust herself has mentioned trying to avoid. (There is one episode where they literally just defeat a horrifying villain by singing about love. That’s it.) The plotting on the current cartoon is much better.

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