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 Ghetto” and 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.