Unicorns, ponies, magic, princesses and singing are just a few examples of common traits found in television shows for young girls. Disney has included these in their films, which have hit home to the aforementioned intended audience. There is one show that uses the same ploys, however, it misses the mark on its intended audience: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. While the show is intended for young girls, a majority of its fanbase is grown men, who are known as “bronies.” The question is, why would this particular show, which is intended to advertise for the Hasbro toy line of the same same, gather such a huge fanbase, while other shows for young girls stay stagnant when it comes to their fan bases? The simple way to put it is that it is simply a high-quality show, with higher quality creative development, animation, voice-acting and character development than other shows of similar character.
The former head of creative development for FIM is Lauren Faust, whose style and intentions for the show are still carried out today. Faust is best known for animating and developing Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls, the latter of which, according to SodaHead, is very comparable to FIM, because it was also more popular with male fans while it was on the air. One ability that Faust has as a creative developer is the ability to attract a broad fanbase. Both Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls had a large unisex pull, rather than pulling just one gender and/or age group. But what separates these two shows from FIM? How come these two shows never garnered the same attention that FIM is receiving? It was the “wow” factor of it all; while Faust was already respected for her work on other shows, no one expected her to make My Little Pony good, let alone great. There are many shows that are meant to advertise toy lines, such as Littlest Pet Shop, Transformers and Bakugan, but they come off as “glorified ads” to some, including wiseGeek. Faust’s interpretation of My Little Pony does not come off that way, rather, it feels like an actual cartoon with a plot that was well thought out.
The animation of FIM has received high praise from fans. All animation for FIM is done with Flash, a very simple animation tool that is was popularized by Newgrounds in 1995. Flash is usually used for amateur computer animation, and is almost never used on national television. The animators of FIM, however, have used this tool to their advantage and have become a big fish in a small pond. The animation of FIM is full of detail and color, and combines the already popular styles of Foster’s Home and The Powerpuff Girls, while adding some new touches as well. Because Flash animation is common online, and the brony fandom started online, the fandom is familiar with this animation style and can appreciate the hard work that was put into using such a simple tool to make such a complex product.
Another thing that separates FIM from other shows of similar character is the voice-acting cast. Tara Strong, who voices the main character, Twilight Sparkle, was already famous for voicing Timmy Turner in The Fairly Oddparents and Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls before she joined the cast of FIM. Other notable voice actors involved with FIM include John de Lancie, best known for his role as Q in Star Trek, and Andrea Libman, who has voiced countless characters during her career. In most shows for young girls or boys, the voice-acting is horrendously phoned in. Examples include Dora the Explorer and The Backyardigans. FIM diverts from this path and put together a talented cast of voice-actors who put together a quality performance in the eyes of many. Of course, little kids aren’t exactly old enough to appreciate such a thing yet, but the older audience certainly does appreciate the effort and talent involved.
Finally, the character development seen in FIM is on par with, or even better than, some shows intended for adults. FIM, like other TV shows for kids, teaches simple lessons in each episode. FIM focuses on lessons about friendship (because, of course, friendship IS magic) and teaches them in a similar fashion during each episode. A certain pony, or ponies, makes a mistake or does something wrong at the beginning of the episode, which eventually leads to a lesson learned about why it was wrong and what is right.
What separates FIM from other shows, however, is that the characters who go through these events and learn these lessons individually develop permanently as a result. For example, Rainbow Dash, a pegasus who can fly at extremely fast speeds, starts out very cocky in season one, but in season three, she learned that being humble is important as to not alienate her friends. Ever since, she hasn’t been nearly as cocky as she was for the first two seasons. Even some adult cartoons don’t use this mechanic; they stay on an episode-to-episode plot basis, which features separate, unrelated plots for each episode. FIM has canonized episodes where the characters and plot develop and progress.
FIM’s strong points are all points that are more noticeable to adults than children. Children who watch the show don’t care about the voice-acting or character development, and besides the pretty colors, they don’t appreciate the animation style; they just watch it because it’s fun. Bronies have many good reasons to watch their beloved show, and those reasons separate it from every other cartoon out there.