My Little Pony’s Great Big BroNYCon
It’s the last day of June and the first day of ‘BroNYCon,’ a gathering of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans. ‘NYC’ might be in caps, but the venue is in New Jersey: the Meadowlands Exposition Center, a cavernous building in the midst of an office park not far from Manhattan. In case you’re unawares, a brony (as in ‘brother pony’) is on the average a teen-age to 20-something (and mostly likely male) Pony fan.
The first BroNYCon took place a year ago in a mid-Manhattan rehearsal hall with 100 bronies in attendance. The second in September attracted 300 fans to a Chinatown loft; in January 850 bronies gathered in a cramped midtown hotel ballroom.
The sold-out attendance today: 4,000.
I’ll repeat that: four thousand fans of a show intended for pre-adolescent girls, based on a toy line targeted to the same demographic are here. They’re here to see series creator Lauren Faust, several of its voice talents – and each other. Some have travelled hundreds of miles, driven across several states or flown in from far-off countries. (I’m told a Finland brony is part of the throng.)
Human versions of the show’s ponies abound, many in exquisitely detailed costumes. There are numerous versions of show stars Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Rarity. Secondary ponies, crowd scene ponies and ponies that appeared in single episodes are represented as well. (Indiana Jones-style adventurer Daring Do, fashion snob Hoity-Toity and my favorite, the masked Mysterious Mare Do Well are particularly impressive.) There’s also a couple of full-body, mascot suited ponies on hand, courageous enough to venture outside the Exposition Center into the 90-degree heat.
The Center itself is a vast, echoing space – a big box. A floor to ceiling black curtain physically (but not aurally) separates the “Mane Stage” at the back of the hall from the rest of the building. (The stage’s malnourished sound system is occasionally overwhelmed by competing audio from the nearby “Tail Stage.”)
Before you can reach either stage you must run a gauntlet of dealers’ booths. Most of them are occupied by bronies selling fan art, jewelry, posters and the like, but the largest and most crowded one belongs to “Welovefine,” the numero uno creator of pony T-shirts, shoulder bags and etcetera. (Their screaming graphics loot bag is so enormous you could hide a baby elephant – or full-size pony – inside.)
Welovefine produces dozens upon dozens of Pony tees, many designed by the fans and all approved by Hasbro, owner of the Pony brand. The tees highlight individual ponies, sport show catchphrases or replace pop culture icons with Pony characters. (One can find the winged Rainbow Dash in place of Led Zeppelin’s Icarus or generating Dark Side of the Moon’s rainbow in her wake.)
A lanky fellow named Aaron is working the Welovefine counter singlehandedly. He’s stuffing currency into an already overstuffed waist pouch bulging with Jacksons and Hamiltons. “We sent eight people to the anime con and I’m here by myself,” he says while dancing between the emptying cartons behind him and the clamoring bronies on the other side of the counter. “I had 5,000 shirts this morning; right now I’m down to my last hundred.”
And BroNYCon is still in its opening hours.