My Little Pony’s Great Big BroNYCon
Lauren Faust is the star of the show, of the weekend. When she steps onstage 4,000 bronies give her a cheering, standing ovation that brings her close to tears. Lauren wraps her arms around herself, brings her hands to her face… she’s comforted by Twilight Sparkle (in her human form as Tara Strong, Twilight’s voice.) She tries to talk. “I’m completely overwhelmed… thank you, thank you… I love you guys so much.”
A few hours later Lauren’s a bit more self-composed. She tells the audience about the origins of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and her desire to have an assortment of female characters with strong, distinctive personalities. “Most girls [in boy-oriented cartoon series] have the same character over and over again… I was looking for relatable characters. Usually the girl who wants to get good grades is usually the nerd – an unattractive stick in the mud. My own mom was [like the overly intellectual] Twilight Sparkle – she was too busy studying to make friends.” The bottom line for Lauren: “I wanted a respectable show for girls – not a girlie show.”
The animation that inspired and influenced her? “A sincere love of the classic Disney films and Warner Brothers shorts.” She outlines her career, beginning as an animator on Mark Dindal’s Cats Don’t Dance before moving onto Powerpuff Girls. (“There’s no way that wouldn’t work its way into my style.”)
Lauren reveals that husband Craig McCracken’s fondness for Margaret Keane’s kitschy big-eyed paintings of sad waifs manifested itself in the Powerpuffs’ design. We learn DVD commentary track-style tidbits: the taciturn Big Macintosh was originally Big Apple, the African-accented zebra Zecora was intended to be Twilight Sparkle’s mentor and fashion designer Rarity originally had a British accent…
And what about her dream project, the one she pitched to the Hasbro executive who instead asked her to reconceive My Little Pony? “The Galaxy Girls is the bane of my existence. It’s in stasis until I can do it right. I’m looking for the right partner who shares my vision for it.” Beyond her Super Best Friends Forever short for Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block, she and Craig are working on a project for the Disney Channel, Wander Over Yonder, “a surrealistic, fantastical space adventure comedy.
“I’m drawn to character” Lauren says as her session comes to a close. “A great story comes from the characters. In an adventure story the adventure is about them; the outside story is a reflection of their personal problem… the stories come from inside you.”
An electrical mishap adds a touch of drama to a Mane Stage event as an overhead light fixture begins raining sparks. The in-progress session is postponed, the building is cleared and 4,000 bronies bake in the sun (except for the ones who head for the shade where, to quote Rainbow Dash, it’s 20% cooler) while waiting for the Secaucus Fire Department to arrive.
Will a goodly chunk of BroNYCon go up in flames? Oh the ponymanity! It turns out a bit of faulty insulation is the culprit (and not the klutzy cross-eyed flying Pony Derpy Hooves), a minor problem which is quickly remedied; Bronycon resumes. (A hand-drawn sign of a wicker pony in flames and the words “I Survived! Burning Pony 2012” is taped to a wall near the stage.)
The most imaginative Pony fans – the artists, writers, videomakers and musicians who use the show as raw material or inspiration for their own creations – have their own fans, and their own BroNYCon sessions. (On Sunday I meet a brony who is ecstatic because the best known fan composers have all signed his poster under their pony likenesses.)