Sorry about the delay on these. It actually takes a pretty good chunk of time to research and dig up the huge amount of stuff that has gone on in the past. A lot of pony actually happens behind the scenes, and it isn't always pretty. Because of the sometimes year-long time frames some of this stuff took up in 2012 (Hiatus) - 2013 (Season), this post will be split into sections as opposed to chronologically.
Season 2 was officially over, and the finale spawned an endless supply of fan content. This Day Aria was probably one of the most remixed songs ever, and we already covered how incredibly popular Queen Chrysalis was in the last post. Hasbro had fully noticed us at this point, and the next year was going to be absolutely insane because of it.
Unfortunately, we had a huge wait ahead of us. No one expected it to be as long as it ended up being, and by the end of it, we were all absolutely starved for new episodes. Season 2's Discord release in September spoiled us more than anything, and it would be long past that point this time around until we actually saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
Even with the mysteriously absent 3rd season release date, we thrived more than ever. Expect that, the merch, the conventions, as well as the behind the scenes story of Las Pegasus Unicon down below! It's a long one, so make some time.
And if you are new to these, get part one here and part two here!
The Era of Twitter and Media Attention
As season two was coming to a close, an interesting little world was starting to spark over in the land of Twitter. While most show staff were usually only visible via interviews in the past, the incredible popularity of Tara Strong's tweets coerced others to either create accounts or publicly announce that they have one. While Tara was busy teasing us with Twilight Sparkle in suggestive positions, Meghan McCarthy joined and became the go-to place for all sorts of neat insights into behind the scenes pony.
Of course, this wasn't the only thing happening over there. Quite a few companies and media organizations started hopping on the pony bandwagon. Throughout the majority of the year, pretty much everyone did some form of article on the brony phenomenon, from the positive to the not so positive. For whatever reason, 70% of them would be headed with a G1 pony image. To this day, that is still a thing that happens. I know, it confuses me too. You really need hard to Google search a G1 pony.
Regardless of how well the reporting was going, we were heading into the mainstream, and things grew to astronomical levels because of it!
The Rise of the Convention, And Hasbro Runs for the Hills!
Remember that convention mentioned last time around? The one hovering at around 300 members? Yeah, that wasn't going to stay that way for long. Pony didn't just slowly become a thing and trickle in new members. We were an unstoppable waterfall at this point.
The 4th BronyCon (moving away from that almost bi-monthly schedule madness to a yearly con) was set for June of 2012, and completely filled up it's 4000 member cap. Yes, we went from 300 to 4000 in less than a year. Of course, the big announcement that Lauren Faust herself would be in attendance probably helped a bit. Not to mention the swarm of other voice actors and show staff also in attendance.
It didn't just stop there though. With a now yearly schedule, and somewhat limited reach, meetup groups across the country began forming their own smaller scale conventions. From the east coast all the way to southern Texas, the year of the convention had officially begun!
It wasn't all sunshine and daises on the inside though. What does a multi-billion dollar company do when 30 conventions are requesting show staff to attend all of their completely unproven first year events? And why were they all pointed toward a show that was technically for little girls, but filled with adults? They lock it down, that's what. Hasbro had no idea at all how to handle the madness that was bronies. As a relatively old fashioned company, their only other major convention experience came from Transformers, and that was tame in comparison.
None of this was publicly announced, but there was a period of time at the beginning of 2012 where things were extremely rocky in regards to show staff visiting conventions, and nearly axed entirely. Hasbro had to deal with the fact that this new brony thing could potentially damage their My Little Pony name. A trip to Google with safe search off for any of the ponies would usually result in less than favorable images appearing only halfway down the page, and our recent media attention wasn't always something they were proud of. They also weren't too sure if they could actually make any money on us to offset the potential PR nightmare.
In the end though, hatches were battened down and they sailed on into the storm after months of discussion behind the scenes. Of course, it helped that the agents who worked for show staff were more than persuasive when said conventions started tossing around dollar signs for appearance fees. Tara strong ain't cheap!
As the 2012 convention season came to a close, a new one was announced at the start of 2013 in a city that everyone expected to be absolutely insane for ponyland. Las Vegas is a prime location for something like this, as hotels are incredibly cheap and outside entertainment is abundant and relatively close together. Boy were we wrong.
Remember that part up above about Hasbro being worried that one of these cons would implode? Welcome to Las Pegasus Unicon! Announced at the end of 2012 with a swarm of show staff right off the bat, things were looking good from a con-goer perspective. Unfortunately, when you invite and comp half the show staff along with a slew of community guests, and only end up with half the attendees you expected, budgets don't balance. Romney would hang his head in shame.
The second night in, while everyone was off having a good time, a meeting was called for the media groups within the fandom by the actual show staff and agents. Apparently all hell was about to break loose. The convention was deep in the red, and absolutely no one was getting paid. You could say "But Sethisto! The show staff are cool, why don't they just suck it up?". That's not really how it works. While they could do that, Hasbro would also see it. They are already leery and only recently opened the doors for stuff like this to even be possible. If all of these people ended up getting shafted, it was almost guaranteed that they would step in and shut it right back down.
And so, Las Pegassist was formed. The convention did end up collapsing the next day, and the head of it disappeared. Musicians and other community guests who were promised comped rooms and flights woke up to 300 dollar auto-charges in their bank accounts, many of which were nearly empty to begin with. Overdraft fees happened, and several of them were stranded without a way home.
Through the collective assistance of the entire brony community online, and Lee Tockar heading it all, we were able to, for the most part, repair the damage. To this day, we still have the looming shadow of Unicon showing what NOT to do, and painting a picture of a convention scene that isn't immune to failure just because the pony fanbase is massive. These days things are much more heavily regulated.
Did I mention that the Rivera has really bad pizza? Yeck.
Brony Focused Merchandise Becomes a Thing
Back to positive stuff! While drama behind the scenes was a thing on the convention side, the concept of Brony was still growing incredibly fast everywhere else.
For the longest time, we were pretty much stuck brushing manes and buying tiny little blindbag ponies, many of which were endlessly recolored. It was almost embarrassing seeing the packaging on some of them. Blossomforth may be awesome in the show these days, but a green and red Rainbow Dash was not something any of us were happy about back in the day.
It took a while, but Hasbro heard our pleas for more show-accurate merchandise. The collector series ponies were some of the first on the "TAKE MY MONEY" block, covering characters like Gilda and Photo Finish. These guys were near impossible to find early on, as stores were only getting eight per shipment and Hasbro still didn't really consider us a market worth investing heavily in.
Stores like Toys R' Us had to convince them via exclusives, and the collector series continued to release periodically. Hasbro wasn't the only company that wanted to test the waters though. Licensors everywhere joined We Love Fine's apparent success directly targeting us and started busting out merch left and right.
And thus began the rise of the Funko Figurines, starting with the pony that only a year ago was the center of one of the biggest drama storms the fandom had ever seen. We finally had a company focused on producing high quality molds. Derpy and Rainbow Dash joined a slew of other brony-focused merchandise at Hot Topic stores around the USA.
We also saw a boatload of plushie manufacturers join the crusade for our wallets. While companies like Funrise with their spaghetti maned Walmart mass produced ponies targeted the desperate among us, smaller manufacturers went for a more Funko style approach. 4DE dropped the Twilight Sparkle above for pre-order at the beginning of 2013, surprising us all with what appeared to be a really good mass-produced version of those 300 dollar custom made ponies we see on Ebay all the time. As a smaller company, they are sort of a premium at the moment, only being offered online and at comic shops. If the polls are any indication though, we want more.
Figurines and plushies weren't the only big push toward us though. Something else was on the horizon...
During Comic Con 2012, a brand new professionally produced comic series was announced. While largely staying true to the show, the My Little Pony comics were able to explore storylines and drop crossovers that would usually have all sorts of Hasbro boundaries to punch through in the actual show. Fan favorite ponies were constant, and the mane 6 immediately set out to battle Queen Chrysalis and join Luna for all sorts of wild shenanigans.
And how did we respond to this? By throwing truckloads of money. 90,000 issues of the first one were pre-ordered long before release. In the comic world, this is pretty much unheard of these days. We were beating titans like Superman, Spiderman, and Batman. It was so successful, that a second series of character specific micro-comics were announced to go along with them. While a few of those are hit and miss, there really isn't a better way to get the infusion of pony canon between seasons.
The Fandom Becomes More Complex!
As things continued to grow, and with it the talent. "Famous" musicians were raking in thousands of subscribers with every song, while artists and writers grew huge followings on both Deviant Art and Fimfiction. With the incredible amount of stuff flowing from every corner of the internet, it was starting to look like we wouldn't even need the 3rd season to keep going. Major projects, far greater than what we had seen in the past were popping up like rabbits. Episode length animations were announced in the form of Snow Drop and Double Rainboom, and gaming projects like Fighting is Magic were being teased almost daily.
Even with this flood though, we were still growing more and more desperate for a season. Comic Con teased an entire song to keep us going, but where was our release date? As the clock kept ticking down, it wasn't until October when we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. 23 days before season 3 would air, we finally had a date of November. Finally, more pony!
On the other side of the fandom coin though, something awful began happening to a few of the projects mentioned above, the biggest of which was probably the takedown of Fighting is Magic. Hasbro had already kicked the year off with ContentID on Youtube blocking various pony related things, but nothing beat the biggest blow to fanworks we had seen yet. Fighting is Magic received a Cease and Desist on February of 2013, and the pony world exploded... again. With Twilacorn (more on her in the season 3 section below) already rustling some people's jimmies around the same time, we really didn't need an event like this, especially after how hyped everyone was during EVO to play it.
There was good news though! Lauren Faust stepped in on this one and offered to do art for a brand new game. Mane6 continues to work with her to this day.
Season Three and the Rise of Twilacorn!
Princess Candybutt and Shining Armor needed a place to stay that wasn't Celestia and Luna's basement, so the Crystal Empire became a thing. We started off season 3 with a two-parter and a brand new villain. Unfortunately, he wasn't too well received. With only Cryyyyystaaaals and Slaaaaves as lines, Sombra was much less fleshed out than some of the previous pony bad guys. The episodes themselves were fun enough though. Will we ever see him again outside of the currently running comic arc? Who knows! He was quickly forgotten thanks to the leaks and teases of something that would once again rock the fandom to it's core.
I am of course talking about the RETURN OF THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE. YAY. BEST EPISODE Wheels/10 UNMATCHED. Was there ever any doubt?!
Alright alright fine. Have the real thing.
Throughout season three, there was a running theme of Twilight Sparkle's growth. Celestia seemed to be prepping her for something, and thanks to a few leaks and Hub commercials, we already knew what it was long before the final episode. Yes, everyone's favorite nerdy waifu pony was about to go alicorn mode. It didn't stop there though, oh no. She was going to be a princess.
Yes, that is apparently how government in Equestria works. Grow wings and a horn and they pop a tiara on your head regardless of job qualifications. There were quite a few reasons why a lot of people were up in arms about this change. While Twilight was always meant to go this route as per Lauren Faust's original design, many felt it was rushed for the sake of selling another alicorn now that Cadance's "newness" was dying off. The season may have built up to it, but Magical Mystery Cure having such a massive impact on a pony so well loved in just 22 minutes was a bit too much of a culture shock for some people.
This was compounded by the fact that season three was only 13 episodes total, ending at the very beginning of the year. We had to wait a whopping nine months to see how this would actually impact the show.
And just in case people were worried about their Twilight Sparkles turning into royalty, Equestria Girls was announced at the end of season three. They were humanizing the ponies and putting them in a high school setting, something that the majority of the fandom collectively groaned over at first glance. It was a pretty massive one-two punch on the drama scale, and something we weren't prepared for at all after the pinnacle of happy bronies following season two. Many wondered if this was the reason why season three was so short. It took until 2014 for that to be cleared up and debunked at BABScon. Luckily, EG was actually pretty good all things considered, and people enjoyed it. Sure, we would have preferred a fully pony movie for our first round of theater releases, but DHX once again pulled it off. That story is for a future post though!
In the end, the third set of episodes for MLP was somewhat shaken by these changes, but still had some of the most memorable stories yet. While Magical Mystery Cure was hit by a drama bomb in the end, the episode itself was loads of fun with the very first full musical of G4. Don't lie, you got the goosebumps when Celestia started singing.
The fandom as a whole stepped out into the world of 2013's pony hiatus in a weird position. Between Fighting is Magic being taken down, Humanizing the ponies, and turning Twilight into a princess, relations between the fandom and Hasbro tanked pretty hard. While the guys DHX did a great job running around putting out the fires as best they could with the limited time-tables they had, faith in Hasbro as an all-powerful overlord was at an all time low.
Since season four and the haitus before it is so recent, I wasn't sure if I should do a part 4 of this series. It's all pretty fresh! Feel free to recommend another topic you want to see us cover via the comments. Thanks to everyone for following along! Hopefully you all learned something interesting out of it!