So it’s been four years since that Sunday afternoon when My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic debuted on a new channel called The Hub at 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT. Who would have suspected that the show would become the Hub’s biggest hit and arguably the most unexpected hit in the history of TV animation? This show was supposed to be an afterthought since Transformers: Prime was groomed to be the flagship show. In fact, people were already dismissing it before it even aired. That infamous article by Amid Amidi would make its way to 4chan and the rest is rock and roll. The show went from Fridays at 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT during Season One to a plush Saturday morning spot where it would become the Hub’s flagship show.

I can’t possibly list all the ways the show has made an impact in pop culture, the ways it has inspired people of all ages, or inspired all types of fan works. You can’t adequately describe how a gathering of a 100 fans in Midtown Manhattan in June 2011 would soon become a gathering of 9,607 last August at the Baltimore Convention Center. How a show becomes the subject of two documentaries (three if you count Saberspark’s Ballad of the Brony) in such a short time is beyond anyone. There are also the MLP comic books that are some of the best selling outside of DC and Marvel Comics and the Walking Dead comics. And of course, the various merchandise tie-ins from Hot Topic to Toys R Us to Bulid-A-Bear Workshop that has generated $650 million in retail sales for the brand.

We’ve had our ups and downs over the past four years. What’s most admirable is how the fandom overcame the reaction to Twilight becoming an alicorn and a princess, the disaster that was Las Pegasus Unicon, and then the reaction to Equestria Girls. I could mention other controversies, but this was the toughest time on top of a not-as-spectacular Season Three. It was a good season, but it didn’t have that standout episode that enjoyed near-unanimous praise (Your mileage may vary).

Then, Season Four came and it was well-received and the show grew its audience. Before Season Four, just three episodes (two of which were “The Crystal Empire”) drew over 500,000 viewers on the Hub. In Season Four, 18 out of the 26 episodes would cross that mark. “Pinkie Pride” and “Twilight’s Kingdom” are widely considered among the best of the best of the series. Just a few weeks ago, the Equestria Girls sequel, “Rainbow Rocks” opened in select theaters and the consensus is that it is better than the first movie. Despite the negative reaction to Equestria Girls at the beginning by the fandom, it’s become successful in its own right.

The future appears bright as it continues its march towards history. No Hasbro animated series has had a fifth season. No Hasbro animated series has had 100 episodes (The original Transformers had 98 episodes). Friendship is Magic is set to have a fifth season (an accomplishment in its own right) and will become one of the few Western Animation shows in history to reach the 100-episode milestone. The comics are still ongoing and people actually want to see a third Equestria Girls movie if not a full series. BronyCon is a go for at least the next two years and there are still conventions both in the US and overseas to come in 2015.

About the only bittersweet thing about the anniversary is that it will be the last for the Hub Network as it will become Discovery Family on October 13th. However, MLP will be on the new channel and be one of the anchors and are very much in the new channel’s plans.

This October 10th is a good time to reflect on how far the fandom has come and how far the franchise has gone and how the show has emerged the so-called “Girl Show Ghettoand the previous generations of MLP. Indeed, as we celebrate the show’s fourth anniversary, it can be said that throughout all the experiences, the show and the franchise indeed are “Better than Ever.” Long as it may run.

  • MK15

    Yeah, the show is better than ever, I just feel sorry for the people that came to watch it just because it was made by Lauren Faust and then from Lesson Zero on (the first episode that wasn’t directed by her) they have become very harsh on it…. nevermind, It’s just a small vocal minority anyway, thanks to a fantastic S4 and a really good Rainbow Rocks, the future of the show is really bright. My only worry for the S5 is that some new writers have been hired, I hope they wrote good episodes.

    • “Lesson Zero on (the first episode that wasn’t directed by her)”

      Well, she never ‘directed’ any episodes. It was left to Wootie Wooton and Thiessen. She just served as the creative producer. Still an important role though. And technically she stayed on the show after Return to Harmony until the half of S2.

      “I just feel sorry for the people that came to watch it just because it was made by Lauren Faust..”

      While it is true that there are people who came and stayed with the show because of Lauren, I don’t think they are the majority of people who may have fallen out of favor with the show. With me, I discovered the show without knowing Lauren Faust was behind it until months later and while I do think Lauren’s departure personally and objectively affected the show’s production and direction, to my mind I feel that either the (story) direction of the show under McCarthy or the writers in S4 were the reason why I wasn’t a fan of S4.

      “My only worry for the S5 is that some new writers have been hired”

      It happens with a lot of shows that have more seasons than expected. Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents, THe Simpsons, Adventure Time, Powerpuff Girls, and so much more where after 3-4 years, they begin getting new writers, animators, directors, etc.

      So yeah, it will be interesting how the other new writers fare….

      • MK15

        Cobbler, Cobbler, Cobbler… why do you keep to be annoying toward the show if you don’t like it anymore and most of all in a post like this where we are celebrating the anniversary of it? Heck, I didn’t even mentioned you in my comment this time, I was just being calm for once and then you came being annoying as ever. You see it’s you the problem and not me? Please stop.

        • “why do you keep to be annoying toward the show if you don’t like it anymore”
          Sure i’m not AS much of a fan of the show anymore, I still like discussing it and I will watch the show’s S5 when it comes out. And I’m actually kinda looking forward to it. I hope as a ‘lesser’ fan of the show, I might go into Season 5 with less of a baggage thanks to Season 4.

          “Heck, I didn’t even mentioned you in my comment this time”

          And a sincere thank you for that. I just thought I wanted to correct and add to certain things you said, like Lauren Faust ‘directing’ or how it’s not uncommon for new writers to jump aboard. I wrote that with the least amount of contention in regards to the past between the two of us.

          • MK15

            You know, if I don’t visit this site so much anymore…. it’s your fault. Make the things clear: just because YOU didn’t like the S4 doesn’t mean it was BAD OBJECTIVELY. I left Roundstable exactly beacuse of you, and then you came here, the most peaceful site of the brony fandom. I cannot say anything anymore here without you contraddicting me. I know that you come here for WOY news (so do I actually) but we can make another agreement if you want: maybe I can’t stop you to talk (or better, to throw garbage…) about the show but please can you at least avoid to talk about the show on this site and most of all AVOID TO REPLY MY POSTS IF I’M JUST EXPRESSING AN OPINION OF THE SHOW SINCE I’M A FAN OF IT MORE THAN EVER AND I CARE TO REMAIN UNTIL ENDS OR I SEE SOME DISGUSTING THINGS ON IT PLEASE?!

          • “You know, if I don’t visit this site so much anymore…. it’s your fault. ”

            I thought you said you were gonna leave anyway.

            “….. That’s it. I’m out of here. If I have to choose I prefer Seth’s stupidity to the cruelty of the people that consider the first season the only good one and the others bad. Your negativity is really terrible.”

            Look, I don’t want you to leave. Far from it. I wish we could discuss like reasonable minded people without overreacting or creating more drama. You can write up good posts like the initial one and I was drawn to it because I found it interesting.

            “just because YOU didn’t like the S4 doesn’t mean it was BAD OBJECTIVELY.”

            I never said it was objectively bad. I said it has objectively changed from what is has been. You can’t argue that. Things will always change and whoever is in charge will never be totally identical to the previous one. Now whether it’s good or bad is all subjective and I have never said S4 is objectively bad. In fact, while I am far from a fan of the writer behind ‘Flight to the Finish’ and ‘Three’s a Crowd’ since he tends to write an excessive amount of dialogue, I still read other people’s opinions and I can see why they would like it.

            ” I won’t reply your posts on WOY (even thought I never did this) and you won’t reply my posts on MLP. Ok?”

            While I wish we could reasonably discuss things without the baggage of our past… fine. I apologize for replying to you and I won’t in the future.

          • This shall be filed under “keep your hands to yourself”, especially given that you guys have a past. We don’t get a ton of comments, but Cobbler, this is the second time I’ve seen ya semi-shitting up a post on here. Would rather enjoy the silence. Two points though for keeping it civil though.

          • As DS implied, a nice and civil discussion of an editorial is just fluffy, whether you agree with it or not. But MK, we set your posts to require mod approval to show up because you tended to be insulting towards DC. That setting got lost when we switched to Disqus. I trust that we don’t have to reinstate it. Please prove me right. (Your solution of not commenting on each other’s comments will hopefully take care of that.)

  • Frith.dreamwidth.org

    Nice write-up with fun stats. ^_^

    I think that what has encouraged Hasbro to extend the run of MLP:FIM as much as it did is the following:

    — Hasbro provides programming for a channel they own in part. This encourages them to keep a winning show fresh.
    — Keeping it fresh has been Hasbro’s strategy with the MLP toy line since the year dot. That usually involved dumping old ponies for new ones every year and mixing it up with different poses and paint jobs.
    — MLP:FIM continues to be both a cash cow and a viral marketing wet dream come true, justifying the investment of further episodes for what was supposed to be a cartoon for preschool girls.
    — MLP:FIM has supplanted the pony toy line as driving force behind MLP, as can be seen by the persistence of the mane six on store shelves and the dearth of variant ponies, except in the blind bags. The tail is wagging the dog.

    I hope Hasbro will continue to be invested in a specialty channel like The Hub/Discovery Family because if syndication becomes Hasbro’s sole means of broadcasting MLP:FIM, there will be no further seasons. Why:

    — To the suits looking to buy rights to broadcast MLP:FIM, it’s a show for preschool kids. Usually, preschool kids switch to something else after a few seasons which means viewership is maintained by new preschoolers but doesn’t grow. The older viewers won’t be there to watch new seasons and the old seasons will be fresh for the new viewers. Money spent on new seasons will be money wasted.

    — It will be quite difficult to convince the suits that MLP:FIM will attract anything but preschool girls, or to convince them that they will have an easy time convincing advertisers that a lucrative 20-something demographic will be hooked on this show. Look how hard it was to get a white Celestia figure on store shelves (the 2011 Toy Fair prototype Celestia was white, the Gift Set Celestia was pink).
    — If Hasbro ends up going back to making direct-to-video and syndicated cartoons only, they will not make new seasons they can’t sell.

  • Hear, hear!!

    Indeed, it’s amazing to think what a phenomenon has taken place over the past few years thanks to a “little girl’s cartoon” and toy line. I count myself very fortunate to have been a brony/Pegasister from the day it premiered, which allowed me to watch its popularity growth–from handfuls of us watching each new episode on YouTube, to more and more people recognizing your pony pictures on other sites, to an all-out explosion of inescapable pony everywhere!–and the development of the most groundbreaking fandom since Trekkies. (And thankfully, Star Trek & MLP now go hoof in hoof! I’ll be waiting on that crossover, at least until Hasbro Studios realizes that they NEED to hire me…;)

    Imo, the show started out strong and has overall gotten better and better with each season. As a frequent Target customer whose favorite department is still the girl’s toys, I too have noted that other than the blind bags, they’ve pretty much stopped making non-show-character ponies and concentrated on pushing variation after variation of the mane six and other significant characters. Clearly, MLP is their most successful franchise thanks to viewers and fans of all ages.

    I anticipate continued enjoyment and sustained quality…being only dismayed that they’re changing “The Hub” to “Discovery Family.” Hopefully it won’t affect the channel’s content, as they’ve been one of the best on the air since October 2010. Their choices of original and completed cartoons, classic sitcoms and family films, cool new live-action programming, etc., have been truly excellent, and they’re more in sync with their fans than any other. I’m sure I’ll still call channel 294 (in my area) “The Hub” out of habit and nostalgia despite the change of name and logo. (Not to mention that “Hub” is easier to say than “Discovery Family.” What’re we gonna shorten it to, Disco-Fam?!)

    • Frith.dreamwidth.org

      Hee hee! Disco-Fam! Perhaps when they start showing reruns of The Partridge Family, The Hair Bear Bunch or The Mod Squad! New logo: a mirror ball.

      • Oh my word, that would be so awesomely Discord-approved! B-D

  • SweetShop209

    Yes, this show is getting better. Here are my ranks for the seasons.

    1. Season 4
    2. Season 3
    3. Season 2
    4. Season 1

    • Ulrik Raben

      My same ranks.