For the record, the following rambling editorial is a recount of the very early days of the fandom. I call it a rambling editorial as its over 3000 words and was written in a not so sober state. While the spelling has been checked, there may be plenty of other mistakes lurking around that didn’t appear during my quick review of it.
This editorial covers the early days of the fandom, from its start on 10/10/10 with the show and the six months that followed. These months of course were very critical to the development of the community, its when the stage was set. While the title of the article sounds like fanfic, I discuss one topic of interest of mine with the community, namely the evolution of it all.
So in celebration, here is a boring essay on the early days of the fandom.
On this day six years ago a new television network known as The Hub hit the cable boxes. The channel was a joint venture between Discovery Communications and toy manufacturer Hasbro in an attempt to turn around the failing Discovery Kids channel. Hasbro had been in the process of producing several animated series for some of its franchises, such as My Little Pony, Pound Puppies, and Littlest Pet Shop, but needed a place to park them. So they partnered with Discovery to create this channel.
The Hub featured a morning animation block that featured these and other shows, and filled the rest of the day with some light original programming, and digging some really retro old shows out from the TV bone yard. Shows like Adam West’s Batman and Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. It was definitely an interesting channel. But interest was sparked elsewhere, namely with the new My Little Pony series. Even before the show aired, some animation fans took note of it due to the fact such well known animation names were attached to it, namely Lauren Faust & Rob Renzetti. Ms. Faust had been involved with the Powerpuff Girls and Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends and more, while Mr. Renzetti had been involved with Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack, and many others (Harvey Birdman).
My Little Pony is well known to be a 22 minute toy commercial for Hasbro, it was the successful 80s toy business model, a toy and a show to promote and create interested in said toy. The original animated series is what you’d expect from the classic 80s, its entertaining but they definitely weren’t given too much budget, like all the other Saturday Morning Cartoons. And it had several successful reboots in the 90s and into the 00s. But then came a partial generation and show known as “3.5”. In short the new toy line and show were aimed way way down on the age scale, with no foresight into the fact that the original fans were now entering adulthood. Hasbro itself was having some major internal problems during the 00s, a century old toy company trying to find itself in the 21st century. The show behind the 3.5 generation was probably totally and utterly shopped out to third party entities. But as the decade closed out and new management at the toy company began to turn things around, Hasbro went into the animation business for itself, and snagged some known names.
Most fans cannot say were the fandom comes from, and more probably do not care. The simple answer is that the pop culture fandom known as brony was birthed on the image board known as 4chan. If you have never heard of the site, then you might want to do a little research on it, and bring some sterilizing hand cream, and maybe some gloves or acid for your eyes. More specifically the fandom was birthed from the internal board known as /co/ or Cartoons & Comics. Its life began like any other show thread on /co/. An animated show airs, people gather to watch and talk about it, then after a period of time the thread usually dies out, and disappears per the typical nature of an image board. Several threads appeared in the months before the show, and even after the first episode, a discussion thread was spawned, lived for a day, and died out until the next episode. Unlike the rest of the series so far, the series premiere was split between two different days, the first on October 10th 2010 (a Sunday) the second almost two weeks later on October 22nd on what become its regular time slot, Friday Afternoon.
Between these two episodes, a match was thrown into the woods. The animation site known as Cartoon Brew on October 19th published an article titled “The End of the Creator-Driven Era in Animation” which talked about the bleak outlook tv animation had. If you do not remember or paid attention, the quality of shows were varying greatly from the late 90s and 00s era of cartoons, but you had things going on such as the executives at Cartoon Network pushing for more cheaper live actions shows and less costly animated shows. But there was also some hope on the horizon, as Adventure Time and Sym Bionic Titan had already began its runs. But the article cited Faust & Renzetti for being attached to a 22 minute toy commercial as a white flag in the industry. What this article did in the real of 4chan was spark a discussion that basically has yet to end, a never ending thread known as the My Little Pony General (MLPG). After the article was published, folks began to gather on the /co/ board to discuss it, and challenge others to watch the first episode and basically admit that it wasn’t crap, to prove the article wrong. The thread came to life and began to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The challenge to watch it and say it isn’t bad intensified of course with the second half of the series premiere, now that the first two episodes and story arc of the series had concluded. More and more people began to gather around the camp fires.
And then we made our first fan character. Canonically known as Muffins, Fanonically known as many different names but most famously as Derpy Hooves. She was born on October 25th 2010 when a resident of the /co/ MLPG known as Dr. Foreigner was watching the first two episodes on YouTube, and took note of comments pointing out a grey mare making a funny face during Twilight’s welcoming party. He posted it to the MLPG and ironically enough uttered the phrase “And so the legend of Derpy Hooves is born”. People began to create funny fan art of her, and cute and endearing stories, such as “Bright Eyes” written by a resident known as ManeFag which told the simple story of a grey mare with vision problems at her daily job as a postal carrier. With her the artwork and fanfics began to churn out from the community, and interests overall skyrocketed. From this point everything about the fandom began to snowball, but not yet hit hyper speed.
While there was definitely other groups forming on the internet, such as a group later dubbed the Ponygoons which began on the Something Awful forum boards before moving (kicked out) on, the MLPG was the catalyst of it all. Once founded the gears began to turn faster and faster. In November the first few new branches of the fandom formed. The MLPG expanded into an IRC channel (#MyLittlePony) on the IrcHighway network. And a really pink forum board was founded on “My Little Pony Friendship is Magic . com” (do not go there, after the original domain owners disappeared its been home to plenty of crappy stuff, from trolls to what appears to be possible malware adware crap).
It is also when the fandom made first contact with the MLP crew, namely Lauren Faust through her Deviant Art page. It was mostly praise for the show she had created, and random questions. Ms. Faust had already been aware of the new 4th gen adult fans (but just not that there was so many), and someone of course asked if she was aware of Derpy Hooves, and asked if she knew anything about her. Faust explained that she was aware of the character and said that her ‘creation’ was probably the result of a bored animator who created that scene asset. Derpy along with several other characters in that scene originally began at the rear of the crowd shot, but was moved forward. A bored animator entertained themselves by creating the funny face, thinking no one would see it.
The next three months and the event at the end of February 2011 would set the final stage for the entire online community to come. December was riddled with various events such as the first time the community made contact with the Studio B (DHX) crew, and that they became aware of the growing internet following behind the show. An incident occurred early on in the month when Daniel Ingram, the musical composer behind the show, posted a full finished clip of the Winter Wrap Up musical number from an upcoming episode to his personal Facebook account. He was unaware of the growing fandom, so when it was found, it was spread across the internet, and Mr. Ingram hadn’t exactly asked Studio B or Hasbro if he could post it. Thankfully he didn’t get into any major trouble, as it more alerted all parties of something growing online.
Its also when this site originally began. Originally parked on the domain “DerpyHooves.com”, my original intent for the site was a basic fan shrine built around the fan character, an archive of fan art and fanfics. Basically nothing more than a hobby to work on my (really crappy) website skills. As I was a resident of the /co/ MLPG and IRC channel, people encouraged me to do more. Since the site was self hosted, it gave us options to try various things. The site in general was used as a hub for links, information, where to find the current MLPG thread, where to find the episodes, and of course the growing locations spreading across the internet. A popular waste of time in the budding community was using those multiple person online paint websites to collaboration on fan art. Of course a month later our younger media site brother Equestria Daily would appear, but at this time its founder Sethisto was an anonymous MLPG resident dubbed “the Trixie Roleplayer” as the individual constantly wanted to roleplay as the character during the threads.
At the end of the December the show began its first hiatus of a whopping two weeks (Winter Break), and the /co/ MLPG got bored. A frequent activity on 4chan is one board raiding another, done for fun or purely annoyance. Its like the Football team bursting into a chess tournament and yelling a lot. One fateful night some of the residents of the MLPG got bored, and decided to go raid the /b/ or “random” board. Unlike the SFW blue board of 4chan’s /co/ Cartoon & Comics, /b/ was known only a Random, was a NSFW yellow board, and is basically the maelstrom that has fueled so much of the internet, good, bad, and bluntly stupid. The board itself runs at an incredible pace compared to the rest of the site, you can sit and punch F5 repeatedly at times and never see the same thread twice. So some folks at /co/ decided to spread the word of ponies to that swirling vortex of chaos, figuring it would get a rise out of some of the residents. What we did not expect was for people to actually like it, and its own fandom on the board to form, dubbed the /b/ My Little Pony General. It surprised the /co/ residents greatly, as some of the folks we’d probably called “elders” in that stage of the fandom knew what was to come.
And I swear, I asked why, and they said that /b/ being the general online popularity catalyst as it was, would probably cause the fandom to explode. And they were right.
January gave way and the show returned to the greetings of now two tribes of fans. The /co/ MLPG and the /b/ MLPG. As an online community, the two tribes were polar opposites of each other. The /co/ fans were about the show and discussing it, along with creating fan art, fan fics, and by the end of the month, music. Personal life was not talked about, and most people remained anonymous. Those making the art or stories sometimes took on nicknames. The /b/ fans on the other hand were about the fandom and fan works, sometimes more than the show itself. Everyone had a nickname, and they discussed their lives and what they loved about the fan works. They began to run with ideals behind the community, a community built on friendship.
The name “Brony” and the phrase “Love and Tolerate” were born from the /co/ crowd in the very early October days of the fandom. Brony was a joke name, much like the use of ‘brosef’ that once occurred around 4chan, and “Love and Tolerate” was actually a code phrase. The /co/ MLPG had of course its various share of trolls and haters. And as always there is at least one person who feeds into their lures. Instead of outright telling them to shut the **** up, we would say you must “Love and Tolerate” the trolls or, you know, stfu you idiot. The /b/ side quickly adopted both as an identification for themselves, and a general motto to live by. /b/ronies were born.
Towards the end of the month, fan music and fan gaming would join the ranks of the community’s creative side with Eurobeat Odyssey (aka Eurobeat Brony) releasing his first few tracks. He’d be quickly join in the coming month by various other musical artists and genres, such as musician Alex S, chiptunes, and dubstep. A flash programmer known as Timesoda would begin one of the first known fan made MLP games, simply known as the My Little Pony Flash Game. The general concept was a platforming adventure game built in flash. It would later become known as “Fiends from Dream Valley”. And with the constant churn of the fan works on the /co/ MLPG, the Trixie Roleplayer decided it was time to hang up his Trixie hat and attempt to capture all of that work into one place. And thus Equestria Daily was born on January 19th on Google Blogger.
Threads on 4chan have limitations before they are destined to die. I forget the exact numbers. Boards have 15 pages of threads, each thread is only allowed something like 250 to 300 images to be posted before it becomes “necro”, as all the threads on the board when posted to, move to the #1 position on those 15 pages. When it becomes necro, it no longer moves up, and will slowly drop to page 15, before being deleted altogether. Thanks to one individual in the /co/ MLPG known as Archive Pony, a system had been created to track and record the /co/ MLPG, known as the MLPG Archives. But by this point the community was producing anywhere from 5 to 10 threads a day, making it hard for people to keep track of all the fan works.
Equestria Daily was originally started as Sethisto’s personal MLP blog, with the aim to feature as much of the fan works that he could track. So instead of having to pick through the MLPG Archives and various recorded threads for your fan works fix, you could just go to his blog. With the two tribes quickly growing in numbers, but more so the /b/ tribe, EqD became a catalyst that would shift this fandom into overdrive. February would become a very critical month for this new community, and the actions of at least one bored moderator on 4chan would end up spreading this fandom across the entire internet like the exploding reactor core of Chernobyl.
Trolling and general hate, while always present on 4chan, was being slung pretty hard at both tribes during the month of February. In the realm of /b/, it was just general hatred, while in the real of /co/, it was a little more logical. Other residents on the /co/ board did not believe such a show had so many followers or how we could talk about the show 24/7, enough to always have a thread going. Others claimed it would just be a ‘fad’ that comes and goes. This has happened before in /co/ in what was known as the Avatar community. It swept over the board like a tsunami before quickly disappearing again. And other boards were getting annoyed, as people posted images and memes of the show all over the site. The /b/ side had taken up an almost religious stance with Brony, Love & Tolerance, and now spreading the word of the show to other boards and sites. Things got uncomfortable.
Several people from various sides of the fence began looking at alternative options, such as our own image boards. Several were started but the most significant one would be Ponychan which started during the month. It would become the lifeboat for many during the Great Moderator War of 4chan, when the general population of 4chan finally got fed up with the ponies.
While the /b/ tribe had been ‘spreading the word’ of the show by sharing it with everyone, a group of bored trolls began posing as them, and more or less blasting the other boards with colorful equines. By the end of February pretty much everyone was fed up with ponies, so a moderator began a online genocide of the group from 4chan. Its neither the first or last time the site has done such a thing, such as when they grew tired of furries yiffing on their board and banished them to the maelstrom of /b/, so most of them left. So the moderator took aim towards the /b/ tribe on the evening of February 25th, and began purging. The fans faught back, but since /b/ has no rules, anything goes.
The /co/ tribe watched, but being on the Cartoons & Comics were a cartoon discussion belongs, there was little concern. With the fighting back from the /b/ tribe, along with the added annoyance of trolls fueling the fires with even more ponies, on the night of the 26th the moderator took aim towards the /co/ tribe, and began another purge. The outcry was even louder considering the /co/ tribe was on the correct board and obeying the blue board rules, and the fact that there was little crossover between the two tribes. I’ve always assumed the moderator probably did not realize the extent of the /co/ population, and figured it was the same /b/ fans, as how can so many people actually like this show?
Sunday, Feburary 27th was the day of true chaos on the Cartoons and Comics board of 4chan. Everyone has their morning routine. Get up, use the bathroom, check the internet. The /co/ board might as well been on fire when I loaded up the page. The trolls which had spammed the rest of the board had landed on /co/ and begun acting like everyone else who was upset, spamming the board to the point all 15 pages were about ponies. Most people avoid the site, and began to explore the alternative options that had sprung up in the last month. In general, the /b/ tribe migrated to Ponychan, which many of the /co/ tribe mirgrated to site behind the MLPG Archives, FiM.413chan.
Later in the night some of the folks on /b/ decided to gear up for a virtual attack on several non-4chan locations where “the pony fans gather”, namely Equestria Daily (which was on Google servers, good luck with that), Derpy Hooves (we just turned ourselves off for the night), Lauren Faust’s Deviant Art account, and Ponychan. The influx of traffic to Ponychan and some possible DDOS shots, combined with the fact Ponychan was hosted on an almost free, really weak and cheap server, fell like a ton of bricks for the night. I think Faust may have gotten a couple of nasty messages, but if you know Ms. Faust, she’s obviously aware of 4chan, and probably was well before MLP. And like many do called attacks, nothing really came of it.
On Monday morning, February 28th, a set of rules were pinned to the top of the /co/ board. Ponies were allowed to stay, but only in the confines of the Cartoons & Comics board. During Saturday and Sunday, the moderator on 4chan had gone as far as banning the word ‘pony’ from the entire site. That of course was reversed, I’m sure the equine board needed to use the word. But all images and discussion were to take place on /co/, in the My Little Pony General thread. This of course did not set well with the /b/ tribe. Some attempted and successfully joined the anonymous ranks of the /co/ MLPG, though the majority moved to an alternative location, Ponychan. The /co/ tribe on the otherhand lost a good portion of its creative residents to FiM413chan, and many others found other places to discuss the show.
March 1st was the dawn of a new era for a fandom that was only 6 months old, but the pointless events of that weekend changed the landscape forever. If I was nostalgic I would call that original community a utopia, but in the end it is what it was, which was pretty innocent in comparison. In light of all the negative bullcrap that took place over the weekend, Equestria Daily declared March 1st Derpy Day, where you honored the now symbol of the new community, and eat a muffin.
As the old saying goes, what does not kill you, only makes you stronger. This held true with the fandom, because while the original tribes and basically original G4 fandom was blown out to the winds of the internet, it was of course only the beginning of a very long and never ending ride. A gold rush like population boom would occur over the Summer of 2011, as friends told friends about the show and its popularity spread. Season 2 would start in the fall and the landscape had vastly changed, for the better or worse.
The biggest key feature of this time era was the catalyst effect that the image board Ponychan and Equestria Daily had. Ponychan being founded mostly by the /b/ side of the fandom retained that “fans of the fandom” mentality, and with Equestria Daily featuring all the fan content you could imagine, the two fed off each other. I’m just a professional commercial driver by career, but it makes sense that brony would become dominate over what I used to dub as Ponyfans.
But of course that is one of many other stories this fandom has within itself.
At the six year mark, things are not so bright and chipper as they once were. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the community in general has climaxed. It Doesn’t mean the end is around the corner neither, but we have definitely seen the peek of what this community is going to do. People change, and so do interests. Its human nature. So if you actually worry about what will happen in the future, don’t. Take a page from what I’ve done on this long and entertaining ride. Sit back, relax and enjoy what you can from it. Nothing is ever perfect, and nothing ever remains the same.