I Remember You!

What's With The Endless Appeal Of My Little Pony?

The pony franchise is 40 years old. Adults and kids are still obsessed.

Getty / Scary Mommy

Geriatric millennials (sorry) spent their childhoods coveting everything from Barbie dolls to Teddy Ruxpins. We loved them; we had to have them. So, because we’re nostalgic like that, we wanted to take a look back at some of our most beloved, extremely popular ‘80s and ‘90s toys and explore why we obsessed over them and where they are now. We turned to veteran toy expert Jessica Hartshorn, who has spent her career writing about all things parenting and toys, to do her due diligence and get to the bottom of some of our most-wished-for favorites. Behold, Scary Mommy’s nostalgia & toys extravaganza. All week, we’ll be looking at the toys that made us. You’re welcome.

Have you ever stopped to wonder, Why is My Little Pony so popular? Let's sum up the sparkling Equestria universe with one simple sentence: My Little Pony is wholesome. It involves mythical creatures with whimsical names living out storylines aimed squarely at kids. It is not ironic or snarky or subversive or stupid. It's reassuring. And though the lyrics of the original catchy song from the '80s keep morphing for new versions of the show, that sickly-sweet, nostalgia-inducing chorus remains in our head.

The Toys And Shows Have Evolved Over Generations

I learned some interesting My Little Pony history. The toys came first, as "My Pretty Pony" in 1981, and flopped. Hasbro relaunched the line in 1982 as "My Little Pony" with candy colors, silly names, and tiny designs (like brands but called "cutie marks") on pony haunches. The toys took off. The cartoon didn't air until 1986. But the toys and the shows have been running pretty much ever since, meaning that kids from the '80s, '90s, aughts, teens, and now the 2020s have had My Little Pony collections.

Cotton Candy is an OG pony

Basic Fun

The cartoon first had typical '80s plots about escaping bad guys. Here's an actual storyline from November 1986: "Posey finds some sentient flowers wandering around her garden and offers them shelter and water, but she has no idea what they have in store for her to repay her kindness. After the Flouries have taken Masquerade hostage, they are on their way to sucking the life out of Dream Valley unless the ponies can stop them." Geez!

The show morphed into more simple but relatable themes, and it really hit a stride with the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series that ran for nine seasons starting in 2010. Storyline from October 2010: Twilight Sparkle must decide who to take to the gala since she has an extra ticket. When the other ponies catch word, they pull out all the stops to convince her to take them. The resolution: Twilight Sparkle returns the tickets, saying she'd rather sit out the gala than disappoint anyone. She's rewarded by Princess Celestia with enough tickets for everybody. Yay!

Season one, episode one of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. A classic!

The newest movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation, bravely covers prejudices by depicting ponies who have absorbed preconceived notions about each other. Earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns have segregated themselves and want to make their way back to understanding each other, recreating harmony in Equestria. That "celebrating everypony" theme continues in the current Netflix series, My Little Pony: Make Your Mark. Wow.

There's Something About Learning All Those Ponies

Interesting and evolving storylines aside, I find the pony phenomenon to be a bit like Pokémon in that there are a lot (lot!) of characters, names, and characteristics to memorize. And each generation has signature ponies. The My Little Pony '80s era had Minty and Blossom; the My Little Pony '90s era added Sun Sparkle and Ivy. The aughts saw the introduction of my child's all-time fave, Pinkie Pie. And in 2010, the world met Rainbow Dash. Today's #1 is Sunny Starscout, played on the next-gen show by Vanessa Hudgens.

If you haven’t met her yet: Here is Sunny Starscout, in toy form.

Hasbro

Having a whole crowd of ponies keeps the nostalgic toys super collectible. It also makes the books and shows somewhat engaging even for us parents still forced to read and watch. Getting to know the characters is nerdily satisfying.

Different, But Always The Same

The enduring power of ponies lies in the fact that they are familiar to all of the parents while continually fresh for the kiddos. Babysitters who grew up with Twilight Sparkle and aunties who remember Applejack want to see what the ponies are up to in 2022. And yes, come holiday time, those of us who loved our pony collections will probably be psyched to buy Princess Petal’s golden castle.

The combination of something our kids love and our own nostalgia always gets us!