The Toys That Made Us (2017) s03e03 Episode Script

My Little Pony

1 [narrator Donald Black.]
When you think of one of the best-selling dolls of all time, you think of a generation-spanning legacy an icon adored by children around the world, you think of an elegant, golden-maned horse? Pony is not a horse.
This was a doll you played with like a human doll.
Beautiful.
[DB.]
My Little Pony was the half-pint hoofer that redefined the modern doll in an era of Barbies and Berries.
We didn't have a girl's brand.
[DB.]
The toy that went from dark horse It didn't feel like girls were really gonna like it.
They like to cook and clean and iron.
- [DB.]
to prized pedigree - [Maurene Souza.]
80 million in sales.
- It was phenomenal.
- [DB.]
boasting millions of fans - The collecting never ends.
- [DB.]
and almost as many creators.
I am the creator of My Little Pony.
Oh no.
[DB.]
Though at times it lost its stride They abandoned the simplicity.
This was not My Little Pony.
[DB.]
Pony has continued to evolve with tastes in a changing industry.
They were very interested in story first, toys second.
[DB.]
capturing the hearts of the young and not so young.
20-year-old guys watching a show intended for eight-year-old girls.
- Why? - [DB.]
The only way to find out is to hear it straight from the horse's mouth.
- I'm Twilight Sparkle.
- And these are the toys that made us.
The continuing series About the toys that we all know Plastic creations That last for generations And we still cannot let go Little molded figures That gave us big dreams We'll go back in time And behind the scenes It's the toys that made us Toys that made us The Toys That Made Us is here [DB.]
In the mid-1970s, America was in a recession.
The Vietnam War was over, and at Hasbro Toys, their number one soldier, G.
I.
Joe, had gone from the front lines to the infirmary.
The large G.
I.
Joe was in death throes at that point, and that had been one of the major breadwinners for them.
Hasbro was on the verge of bankruptcy.
You had to come up with the next big thing and grow.
[DB.]
Well, Stephen Hassenfeld had.
Growing up in the family business, as Hasbro's new bigwig, he was looking to mobilize a comeback.
They really gathered the troops and they were gonna do great things.
[DB.]
But not these troops.
There was a new management brought in, in sales and marketing.
The new management team said, "We need to set up advanced R&D.
" Which means, you know, coming up with ideas.
[DB.]
Of course, Hasbro already had a strong stable of idea people, but It wasn't normal R&D.
It was advanced R&D.
It was a big deal.
[DB.]
But who would run this big deal? George Dunsay, who was from Ideal Toys.
[DB.]
An ideal choice.
I was the product manager of the boy's toy division.
I did the Evel Knievel motorcycle and Mighty Mos.
[DB.]
That is until he left Ideal, due to Less than pleasant circumstances.
[DB.]
You could say "less than ideal.
" [GD.]
You probably had to be out of your mind to take a job with Hasbro at the time, but I desperately needed a job.
[DB.]
And with that, George began desperately structuring his advanced research and development department.
And then he needed to step up.
[DB.]
Thankfully, normal R&D had a vast pool of talent to choose from.
It was a design pool of about 18 people.
People sewing, sculptors.
[DB.]
Dunsay was looking to pick the best and brightest.
We had excellent people.
- [DB.]
And so - He picked me.
Mike Cartabiano, a great industrial designer.
[DB.]
And for his second pick, George chose - nobody.
- So it was just he and I.
- We were the only two.
- As long as we came up with a product, - everybody was happy.
- [DB.]
Well, almost everybody.
Why did he have to come up with his own little group? Didn't he think the designers were doing a good enough job? Uh Think about it.
What can I tell you? I don't wanna create a situation.
[DB.]
But there was a situation.
Things were starting to change when these guys were coming in from other companies.
Boy's Division started working on the G.
I.
Joe reintroduction.
They were also working on games and at that time, Hungry Hungry Hippo was introduced and did very well.
[DB.]
As for Hasbro's Girl's Division Um, there really wasn't a Girl's Division.
G.
I.
Joe was the core product, so that's where their comfort level was.
We didn't have a girl's brand.
We couldn't go up against a Barbie that was, you know, a powerhouse.
[DB.]
But that's not to say they didn't try sometimes.
We came up with the Fresh 'n Fancy idea, that girls could make their own cosmetics.
Fresh 'n Fancy - It was a chemistry set.
- [boom.]
[DB.]
Although their attempts at a girl's line had blown up in their face, Hassenfeld's grand plan for Hasbro was coming together.
So, with the Boy's Division brewing up a real American hero, that left one more division to step up their game.
Preschool category.
[George.]
We had a brand called Romper Room, which was a wholly-owned brand of Hasbro.
We did three Romper Room toys every single year that were promoted, and we didn't have a third one.
We needed this one, we needed it quickly, because the president of the company was very unhappy.
[DB.]
With the clock ticking, advanced R&D dusted off an old, rejected pitch.
The original presentation that Mike and I made was a smaller pony that girls would play with like a doll.
But it didn't go over well.
[DB.]
Hasbro didn't wanna horse around with the idea as a girl's toy.
But maybe it could work for toddlers.
So the idea was to take that toy, blow it up and make it bigger, and turn it into a preschool toy.
Just like the guy you see here.
[DB.]
Which does look like My Little Pony, but this almost life-sized toy was called My Pretty Pony, as in "pretty big.
" My Pretty Pony was the precursor to My Little Pony.
[DB.]
Which, by default, would make George Dunsay - the father of My Little Pony, right? - Yeah.
Uh [DB.]
Well, not according to regular R&D designer Bonnie Zacherle.
I am the creator of My Little Pony.
Huh.
Never knew that.
When I was little, the only thing I ever wanted was a horse.
So I pitched the horse idea to R&D.
I thought it should be small and soft and played with [both.]
like a doll.
[DB.]
Oh boy.
And I would say, "Little girls love horses.
" My boss's boss said to me, "Little girls aren't like you.
They like to cook and clean and iron.
" And I had no desire to cook and clean and iron.
He's just called me a freak of nature.
[DB.]
Uh George? What can I tell you? I don't remember her pitching it to me.
- Oh, really? - I would have been in her camp.
I mean, after all, this is what we wanted to do.
[DB.]
And ultimately, it is what they did.
Now Bonnie is clearly the person who designed the toy.
- [DB.]
She is? - Yeah.
- [DB.]
George's toy? - Sure.
I presented it.
They said, "Yes, give it to Bonnie.
" Bonnie designed it, and there we were.
I drew it, but, clearly, it was a different version of what I considered to be my idea.
I was not aware that she had come up with those ideas, quite frankly.
[DB.]
Okay, well, what did everyone around the office think? I always thought it was Bonnie's idea.
- [DB.]
Oh yeah? - Oh no.
- [DB.]
Oh no.
- The primary person was George Dunsay.
[DB.]
Is there anyone who can answer this definitively? Mike Cartabiano.
[DB.]
Finally.
Mike, set the record straight.
I'm the father of My Little Pony.
Uh Oh.
I guess a good idea has a lot of fathers and mothers, doesn't it? Not that it matters either way.
[DB.]
It probably matters to some people, but the simple fact remains [George.]
If we hadn't needed that toy, I doubt My Little Pony would have ever happened at all.
[DB.]
But it did happen.
My Little Pony [DB.]
Just a little later.
First, the boys had to successfully lead Hassenfeld to the promised waters of preschool with My Pretty Pony.
So, My Pretty Pony was a brown horse.
[DB.]
But not just any horse.
You never rode this horse, you never put a saddle on this horse.
This was a doll you played with like a human doll.
[DB.]
And as any little girl can tell you, when it comes to dolls It was very important to have a lot of hair play.
- Hair play.
- Hair play.
- Hair play.
- [DB.]
It's practically woven into our DNA.
With grooming, it's a core behavior to human beings and to all primates.
You see little girls combing their best friend's or sister's hair.
Even with Barbie, there are lots of Barbie dolls that get their clothes taken off, and the clothes are never put back on, and the girls just play with combing the hair.
If you can incorporate that in a product, you probably have something that's going to do very well.
[DB.]
Well, lucky for Hasbro, hair play was the pony's main draw.
Except - It's so heavy.
- [thud.]
Gosh.
It was very large.
It looked like a giant doorstop.
And it was made out of styrene plastic, or some people used to call it tap-tap plastic, because it's [tapping.]
hard.
You know, really cuddly.
[laughs.]
And it didn't feel like girls were really gonna like it.
[clinking sound.]
This isn't like a little girl's toy.
I think this was something that maybe the guys came up with at Hasbro.
I don't know.
[DB.]
Well, despite its shortcomings, My Pretty Pony still moved a modest 500,000 units.
This is not the toy that people clamor for at Christmas, but it's okay.
It did prove that there was some appetite, but maybe it was in execution.
[sighs.]
Maybe.
[DB.]
What this plastic pony really needed was a little feminine intuition.
Steve Schwartz, who was the VP of marketing, he took this home to his wife.
[clinking sound.]
She said, "You know, this is okay, but if you want appeal to little girls, they should be small and soft.
" Which, hello, was Bonnie Zacherle's idea in the first place.
[DB.]
And this time, the men were ready to listen.
So he came back to me, and he said, "Bonnie, I want you to take this drawing, only much smaller.
So I reduced it and presented it again, and of course, because he thought it was his wife's idea, which it was, it got made.
So we were gonna make My Pretty Pony into My Little Pony.
[DB.]
My Pretty Pony didn't just get smaller, it expanded as well.
By making My Little Pony smaller than My Pretty Pony, it really promoted collectability.
[DB.]
Fortunately, the men at Hasbro were already experts at shrinkage.
This is coming off the reintroduction of G.
I.
Joe in 1982.
Miniaturization from the 12-inch Joe to the three-and-three-quarter-inch Joe was all based on collectability, and we learned the lesson.
Let's do small horses that have differences among them.
I mean, Christ, a kid could have 50, 60, 100 of them.
[DB.]
But ponies are just tiny horses, prone to biting.
How do you make them all different? Well, let's see, horses can be [neighing.]
- palomino color.
- Appaloosa.
Grays and browns.
There must have been a white one, probably a pinto.
You know, colors found in nature.
[DB.]
Which quickly presented a new problem.
Once we're done with six realistic colors, where do we go from there? Um Gosh.
[DB.]
But senior designer Mo Patterson saw a pony of a different color.
She said something like, "Why aren't you doing pastel colors? Why aren't you doing fantasy colors?" Girls love pink and purple and blue.
You need pink ponies with blue hair.
You need blue ponies with pink hair.
And we just kind of stopped.
And I said, "Yeah, that's a really good idea.
" [DB.]
And that's when the marketing team came up with another good idea.
I remember that as this pivotal moment in shifting us from, "This is a preschool line" to "This a girl's line.
" It just made sense.
[DB.]
To most people.
I don't like it.
Yeah.
Bonnie was not on board.
Maurene said, "Little girls like pink and purple.
" I said, "I don't care.
They're not real pony colors.
" [laughs.]
And she said, "Well, why don't we test it?" "Why don't we get some more models made in pastel colors, and see what the girls had to say?" - [DB.]
But what did Bonnie have to say? - "Get out of my office.
- Go.
" - [DB.]
So they did go.
- "Get out.
" - [DB.]
Without Bonnie.
What are they gonna do? [DB.]
They went back to the model shop to make two sets of test ponies.
One neutrally natural, and the other pretty and pastel.
And it was not a question.
The children loved the pastels.
[frustrated groan.]
They were adorable.
It makes perfect sense, because once you introduce the fantasy color, these horses can become anything.
They're not stuck being horses.
[scoffs.]
You know, you can't fight with what children want.
But I would have played with it as a real horse.
- [DB.]
Well, you know what, Bonnie - "Little girls aren't like you.
" [DB.]
And although Bonnie found her marching orders beyond the pale, she swallowed her pride and set about designing the original six ponies.
I gave them all of the numerous rump designs.
- [DB.]
Rump designs? - Rump designs.
[DB.]
We'll come back to those rump designs.
I gave them their names, and they weren't that snazzy.
[DB.]
We wouldn't say that, Bonnie.
In fact, they were quite charming.
Take for instance Cotton Candy, Blossom.
Actually, it was named after one of my cats.
[DB.]
Butterscotch.
Minty? It looks kind of refreshing.
Don't you just wanna lick it? And children did, believe me.
[DB.]
Blue Belle and Snuzzle.
She's actually the only gray My Little Pony.
Maybe Bonnie snuck something in with that one.
If I gotta give it pink, I might as well give it gray.
Oh, she's very sneaky.
For sure.
[DB.]
With units beginning to ship to retailers in 1983, the sky was the limit for Hasbro's rainbow of new ponies.
Surely they were the company's top priority.
Actually uh no.
What really was happening was, we had just launched Charmkins.
Charmkins, Charmkins They love hanging around Charmkins looked like the little charms you used to be able to get out of gumball machines.
They could also be put on a necklace or a bracelet and worn.
Basically, combine jewelry play with figure play.
They had all these elements, you know, the formula of what would make a good girl's toy.
- [DB.]
Girl's toy? - [boom.]
Yes.
We thought it was very important.
We had poured a lot of resources and time and energy into it.
Everybody thought that was gonna be the big hit.
[DB.]
But what about Pony? Pony was just this totally new thing.
It's like what You know, nobody really understood how girls would react.
You never know.
You never know until it hits those shelves.
[DB.]
Hasbro had pitted its own two toy lines in a horse race.
But with Charmkins primed for the winner's circle, Pony looked bound for the glue factory.
But then We were starting to get calls from our sales people.
[DB.]
And they reported That something was happening with My Little Pony.
[DB.]
And that "something" was - They were flying off the end caps.
- [DB.]
Or more appropriately Galloping off the shelves.
My Little Pony, My Little Pony I comb and brush her hair It was just a total synergy.
Everything came together.
The colorations were fantastic, and the whole packaging concept was great.
It was great value.
For $2.
99, it was a lot of fun.
[DB.]
And even at that cheap price, it was a lot of money for Hasbro.
I think that year we did maybe 80-million-plus in sales.
That was the first time that we really were looking like a girl's toy company.
[voice-over.]
From Hasbro.
[DB.]
My Little Pony had taken the industry and Hasbro completely by surprise.
Their little dark horse had come from behind for a first-place finish.
As for Charmkins Charmkins sadly rode into the sunset.
[bang.]
It never did what we thought it was gonna do.
[DB.]
But there was no time to mourn Charmkins.
Hasbro had a hoofed hit on their hands that now needed all of their attention.
You gotta start next year's designs, I mean, you have to follow success with success.
[DB.]
And so to do that Management decided we were gonna reorganize the teams and had a girl's team.
[DB.]
Which of course would be led by Bonnie Zacherl Bonnie? Yeah.
So, Bonnie left Hasbro.
- [DB.]
She was gone.
- I was gone.
[DB.]
Well, it turns out Bonnie got a pretty sweet offer from Parker Brothers right before Ponies hit the shelf.
And of course, we didn't know how big it was gonna be.
I mean, I'd been there for five years and nothing had really hit the market.
[DB.]
Well, until My Little Pony Yeah.
And here I am, getting no credit, no accolades, no promotion, no raise.
[DB.]
Don't worry.
Bonnie surely would go on to make Parker Brothers' next big hit.
It was Nerfuls.
[Donald Black coughs.]
[laughs.]
Like, I missed the boat, you know? I really did.
I thought, "Well, whatever.
" [DB.]
While Bonnie's boat sailed, for Hasbro and the newly assembled girl's team, it was full steam ahead.
It was a good team, because we each had different skill sets.
[DB.]
Well, Khipra Nichols' skill set certainly wasn't cuteness.
No, actually not.
[laughs.]
[DB.]
With a background in car design, Khipra was so manly that the Hasbro team made him into a G.
I.
Joe character.
This is Doc.
He is buff.
[DB.]
So this buff bloke had the challenging task of putting together the first Pony playsets.
I had to work really hard to get that chunky, cute aesthetic.
- Our product manager, Maurene Souza - Yeah.
would stand behind me, I could kind of feel her presence there.
She would just say, "Khipra, it's not feminine enough.
" [Khipra thinks.]
It's not feminine enough.
I probably told him to pink it up.
Okay.
I'm doing my best, here.
[DB.]
Eventually, Khipra found his feminine side.
It was a huge transition for him, and he did great.
- [DB.]
In fact, the whole team did great.
- That's right.
[DB.]
But with anything great, - there's always a - But [DB.]
But in this case, quite unique.
- Butts.
- Rump designs.
[DB.]
Oh yes, rump designs.
When I was little, I called them butt symbols.
[laughs.]
[DB.]
This half-thought-through branding of sorts quickly became one of the brand's biggest selling points.
That was what drove the collectibility of the toy.
Girls are really detail-oriented.
You know, "I have the one with the shamrocks, I have the one with the butterflies.
" [DB.]
Butt butterflies, butt apples, butt clovers.
Like almost an identity for the pony.
[DB.]
Either that or It just gives them more reason to have more ponies.
[DB.]
And more ponies meant more work for designer Liz Knight, - because with Bonnie gone - I was gone.
[DB.]
the task of rearing these patterned posteriors fell on her.
[laughs.]
As designers, we made models, so there were three of each pony, and I have to paint this design on both sides.
She was doing all this tedious rump design.
Hand paint.
She said, "Bonnie, I do it all day long.
Every day.
" I was not happy.
[DB.]
And though Liz's new assignment - didn't leave her head over heels - No.
[DB.]
the ponies themselves were, literally.
So the first six, they like to fall over on their noses.
The head was so heavy.
The pony would sort of fall forward.
So they had to put metal washers in their tail.
[DB.]
Aw, cute.
It's to counterweight it, so they wouldn't end up [DB.]
And now with a balanced behind, there was no end to possible pony poses.
This was the pose of the original pony, very straight, and then this was one of the poses of the second year.
We turned the head, the legs have a little more motion to them, and you connect with them a bit more.
[DB.]
Well, some were easier to connect with than others.
These were kind of limited, because they were sitting.
[DB.]
Which for some kids led to some unique play patterns.
- I made up that - They were either sick or they had some kind of disability.
They were differently abled? [laughs.]
[DB.]
But these perfect little ponies were still gaining momentum as the second wave was unleashed.
From the whole barnyard world into fantasy.
[DB.]
Along with Pegasus Ponies, Unicorn Ponies, Rainbow Ponies, and Sea Ponies.
We realized we had to start developing some new species.
Unicorns, and there's Pegasus, you know, standing up on three legs.
That was tricky.
- [DB.]
Wait.
Didn't they fix that? - [crash.]
Well, at any rate, it didn't really matter because Now My Little Pony can fly, and now My Little Pony has magic.
[DB.]
One of those magical unicorns, Majesty, came included with Khipra's now legendary Dream Castle.
But this playset came with a horn and a spike.
Spike was my first and only character that I designed.
He's a dragon, but he's too young to fly.
Clearly, Khipra had worked out how to give these playsets - a feminine touch - Oops.
[DB.]
as he also conquered the cute with this one.
[Khipra.]
This was the first Pony playset.
My Little Pony Pretty Parlor.
[Lauren.]
It was this adorable little stable that opened up and had brushes and combs.
And different hats that can be used, depending on where the pony is going that day.
Then a little orange cat named Twinkles.
[TV.]
Just $10.
87 for Hasbro's My Little Pony Pretty Parlor.
- Another notch on my cuteness belt.
- Ah! [DB.]
And with the addition of clothes for the Pony, something was becoming very clear.
It made you understand, little girls are treating them like dolls, and children will play with it.
[both.]
Like a doll.
Yeah.
And they will play with the tail, comb the hair.
I love to brush her beautiful hair Girls combing ponies.
Combing ponies.
Collecting ponies.
It was like my goal in life every year to get the whole line.
[DB.]
But how were little girls to make any sense of this expansive equine everything? A lot of dolls.
A lot of dolls.
[DB.]
There needed to be some sense of order, - or even - Storytelling.
[DB.]
And what story exactly were they telling? The idea was you know, learning how to - [DB.]
There's no story? - Right.
[DB.]
By now, the nation's TV sets were oozing with bears and battle cats.
I mean, even the Rubik's cube had a show.
[kid on TV.]
You can't stop my whole evil army.
[DB.]
If the Ponies didn't wanna get knocked out by the competition, they'd have to keep up.
Hasbro was definitely evolving into this understanding that part of the marketing package for the product lines was going to be entertainment, and for the kids to identify with them, these toys had to take on a personality.
[DB.]
Who better to give real personalities to these ponies than a pair of middle-aged men? [Maurene.]
Joe Bacal and Tom Griffin are advertising agents, and were very gifted in terms of creating programming for a lot of our products.
[DB.]
And so the guys that would also bring us this - and this - [screams.]
got to work crafting adventures in animation for the Ponies.
But until the show was finished and ready for air, the best story the ponies had was a set of golden rules.
You never treat a pony like a horse.
You would never put a saddle on a pony.
You'd never put a person riding a pony.
- [DB.]
Hey, but what about - This is a saddle.
[DB.]
Well, as per the Pony rules After this first playset, things like this went away.
[DB.]
These rules were forged in iron, like a horseshoe.
We never call a pony a horse.
[DB.]
Okay, maybe a pony shoe.
Complete with little shoes, hats and accessories.
[DB.]
And the most important rule of all A Pony is like a little girl.
A Pony is the character.
[DB.]
And what character is that, then? They are They're not Um [DB.]
Yeah.
They had no idea.
[DB.]
Luckily the girls of America knew exactly who these ponies were.
- And the key was in those - Rump designs.
[DB.]
Yep, those rump designs unlocked an endless world of play unique to each and every girl's imagination.
Something about those little symbols on their butt inspired me.
You know, it's like Applejack Well, she obviously liked nature.
[DB.]
Obviously.
What about Surprise.
The perky, excited one.
- [DB.]
Or - Firefly.
She had lightning bolts.
So immediately she was kind of a badass to me.
[laughs.]
- [DB.]
With a name - [Lauren.]
Posey.
- [DB.]
and a rump design - The gentle one who loves animals [DB.]
Girls had all they needed to build limitless fantastical scenarios.
kind of lived in a fantasy world these grand adventures and they fought monsters [DB.]
Limitless, indeed.
It could really be anything.
[DB.]
But by spring of 1984, the Griffin-Bacal brain trust delivered on the promise of bringing My Little Pony to the small screen and freeing kids from the burden of using their imaginations.
With the animated special, "Escape from Midnight Castle.
" [whinnies in fear.]
Ah! What's going on? - [crash.]
- [squeals.]
You are all doomed! Silence! It was kind of scary.
Well [Liz.]
The story they were creating was really not so much what we were thinking about.
We were very disconnected.
Behold the power of darkness! [roars.]
I don't know why that was really aimed at little girls.
[demonic laughter.]
I was not a big fan of the show.
[DB.]
But it wasn't all dark and fearsome.
Characters from the first two years of Ponies were brought to life.
My name's Firefly.
She had a really fun personality.
- She was all into danger and adventure.
- [DB.]
That's lucky.
And there were still a lot of pink.
Thanks, Khipra.
Spike was my first and only character.
You know, this is special.
[DB.]
And there was definitely a lot of cute.
And it didn't get cuter than The Sea Ponies, they sing the popular Sea Pony song.
Shoobedoo, shoop-shoop be-doo When I'm taking a bath She's so much fun [DB.]
But the show wasn't just those ponies that we already knew and loved, there were new characters.
Here's Megan, everybody.
Megan, the little girl who was lucky enough to ride the Ponies.
[DB.]
Wait a minute.
She was what? - Lucky enough - Hop on.
to ride the Ponies.
- [DB.]
But - [Steve.]
There are rules [DB.]
Golden rules? Especially among the female designers.
I don't know if we had rules.
[DB.]
How convenient.
Completely throwing their rules - out the window - Shut up, Steve.
[DB.]
Megan was an abomination of the golden rules.
She was created to accommodate the animation.
- Hello.
- A talking pony? So that we would have a narrative.
[DB.]
A narrative that continued with the introduction of Molly in the theatrically released My Little Pony: The Movie.
This is Megan and her younger sister Molly.
They follow the rainbow to Ponyville.
And only Megan and Molly can ride the Pony.
- [DB.]
They may have broken the rules - Let's fly.
but they certainly weren't breaking box office records.
There's always another rainbow - Search until you find it - [audience member coughs.]
[tuts.]
Uh It was kind of I wouldn't say it was a success.
It wasn't big.
[DB.]
Here's what the critics said.
It seemed that the market had worked out the toy industry's trick.
But despite taking a heavy loss with the movie It made the toys sell more.
- [DB.]
Well, that's the main thing.
- Yeah.
[DB.]
My Little Ponies continued their stampede across the toy industry, kicking up new toys and new gimmicks, at a pace even Hasbro struggled to keep up with.
The challenge is harder and harder every year.
What's the next thing? My Little Pony waterfall You had to feed the beast.
[DB.]
Those beastly little girls were starving for Ponies.
These are Tropical Ponies.
This is a Little Brother Pony.
They all had boyish designs.
Here's one that sips a soda.
This is definitely not Crack-Pipe Pony.
- These were fun.
- [DB.]
The market devoured whatever Hasbro put in their lunch box.
We would do 100-million-plus in sales every year.
- [DB.]
'86.
- Feed the beast.
- [DB.]
'87.
- Feed the beast.
- [DB.]
'88.
- Feed the beast.
[DB.]
The hunger was insatiable.
Pony was so successful, we got knocked off.
[DB.]
There was the Pretty Pets.
Talk to Me Pony.
Or Kenner, they introduced Fashion Star Fillies.
Here's a lacy garter.
I love your wedding dress.
They were really horses.
And there was concern about that because Little girls love horses.
- But - [DB.]
There's always one of those.
the knockoffs are always just the knockoffs.
And Fashion Star Fillies went away.
[DB.]
Having swallowed their competitors whole, - Hasbro continued - Feeding the beast.
- [DB.]
'89.
- Feed the beast.
- [DB.]
'90.
- Feed the beast.
- [DB.]
'91.
- [Roseann.]
Feed the beast.
[DB.]
But in 1992 the beast was full.
[voiceover belches.]
Hence, there were no more Pony toys on the shelves.
[bell tolls.]
[DB.]
In other digestive news, during the early '90s, under the new leadership of Stephen Hassenfeld's brother, Alan, Hasbro swallowed Tonka whole.
And with that deal came Kenner, maker of the original Star Wars figures and those Fashion Star Fillies.
[kid on TV.]
There.
Her hair is perfect.
[DB.]
So Alan put their old competition from Cincinnati to work.
Not on long-legged fillies, but on reviving the dearly-departed Ponies.
Don't worry, kids, she's just sleeping.
Kenner took over that and they decided to have a new look for Pony.
Those designers out there wanted to put their mark on it.
- Great.
- [DB.]
And so in 1997 We got this.
It looked very harsh.
You could see, the body's really thinned out more.
It was insect-like.
This was not My Little Pony.
Didn't have any emotion anymore.
Look at this.
This is like nightmare fuel.
[DB.]
The G2 Ponies were not a success and were discontinued in 1999.
So with their reboot failing to garner much buzz would Hasbro dare - to take another stab at Pony? - Oh, yes.
These are what we called Generation Three Ponies right here.
[Gretchen.]
You can see more similarities to the original, where it's a little more of a rounded-out, more animated feel of a body.
[DB.]
While not as popular as the Ponies of the '80s It just wasn't up to my standards.
[DB.]
big surprise, G3 far outperformed these things.
But when sales began to sag, Hasbro decided "Let's revamp the body style.
" They shrunk them down, huge heads, big eyes.
Little more human proportions in the head.
And that is known as G3.
5.
[DB.]
And so Hasbro downsized - with a trip to - Ponyville.
[Summer.]
Ponies became small figures that they could develop playsets and accessories for, that maybe they couldn't manufacture on a large scale.
It was successful for a while and then it slowed down.
[DB.]
And by 2010, Hasbro was ready to refresh the line once again.
But after 3.
5-and-a-quarter generations, what was the missing piece of the Pony puzzle? Hasbro decides, "We really need to work on our storytelling.
" [DB.]
Because, while there were TV shows throughout all of Pony's generations Pony hadn't really had a story, even all those years.
[neighs.]
It got a little bit weird.
[DB.]
For decades, Hasbro had struggled to find just the right characters and just the right stories to attach to My Little Pony.
It was pretty clear.
They need to bring in outside help.
[DB.]
And help would come from a young animator with excellent credentials.
[Tara Strong.]
I met her on Powerpuff Girls.
She was a big part of why that show was so special.
[DB.]
And this mysterious talent also happened to be - a My Little Pony fan.
- Yes.
[laughs.]
[DB.]
Lauren Faust was an old hand with a pencil.
[Lauren.]
I had been working in animation for quite a long time.
But I was actually trying to launch a doll line and an animated series of shorts.
So I had this opportunity to pitch to an executive at Hasbro.
She wasn't too into my pitch, but she pulled out a DVD of My Little Pony.
She said, "Can you take a look at it and see if there's something you think you could do with it?" [DB.]
Rejecting all of those previous Pony plot lines It's just seemed like a lot of bickering.
- Mine.
- No, mine.
They were a little shallow.
It just wasn't resonating with me.
[DB.]
Instead, Lauren simply delved deep into the green pastures of Pony past.
[thinking.]
I took them on these adventures and they fought monsters.
[DB.]
Because Lauren had imagined her Ponies differently.
I imagined them in this grand world, not just this meadow, where there was a nursery made out of a baby bottle or little houses made out of cupcakes.
I didn't want it to be cute and adorable.
Shoobedoo, shoop-shoop be-doo I want it to be huge.
I want it to be epic.
I went, "So, I'm just gonna pitch them really truly what I think it should be.
" Pitching her reimagined Ponies to Hasbro, Lauren waited.
Her drawings were amazing.
Her castle was Oh my God, it was magnificent.
- [DB.]
But - Is it gonna work? You know, it was a big risk.
[DB.]
Well, guess what.
And the next thing I know we were making a show.
[DB.]
And overnight, Lauren Faust turned from My Little Pony enthusiast to creator of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
And for the second time in My Little Pony history My Little Pony It was like a runaway train.
It started up the hill and you're like, "Oh, I kind of like this show.
" It gained momentum and it just took off.
[DB.]
kids fell in love with Lauren's characters.
But why wouldn't they? These ponies weren't created by grown-up advertising guys.
In Friendship is Magic, you have six main characters.
They have the personality she had given her own Ponies when she was growing up.
- [DB.]
All thanks to those - Rump designs.
Which by now had been rebranded as Cutie marks.
It took me forever to figure out that it was a play on "beauty mark.
" [DB.]
So it is.
But back then, to Lauren, they were just inspiration.
Something about those little symbols on their butt just inspired me.
[DB.]
And there's no buts about it.
There was Rainbow Dash, based on Firefly.
She was kind of badass.
Firecracker, the adventurer.
[DB.]
There was Pinkie Pie, based on Surprise.
The perky, excited one.
I've never been so excited.
- [DB.]
Rarity, based on - [Lauren.]
Sparkler.
- [pony.]
Sophistication.
- [Lauren.]
The fashionista.
She's an artist.
She's not a shopaholic.
- [DB.]
There was Applejack.
- [Lauren.]
Applejack, look-wise, remained completely unchanged.
And I roped in the idea of this sort of cowgirl, just to like play with the horse themes.
[DB.]
And Flutter Shy, based on Posey.
The gentle one, who loves animals and was kind of shy.
- [DB.]
And finally - Twilight Sparkle.
- [DB.]
Based on: - Spike.
Twilight, the inspiration for Twilight Sparkle.
[DB.]
And with that, Lauren's inner ten-year-old had completely revitalized the franchise.
It was really, uh just a miracle dream opportunity.
[DB.]
But while Lauren's dreams did come true, - a little bit of nightmare crept in.
- [squeals, gasps.]
- [DB.]
No, not Nightmare Moon.
- [pony.]
Nightmare Moon! [DB.]
It was grown-ups.
I was a little worried that older people might watch it and laugh about how bad it is.
[demonic laughter.]
[DB.]
But why would they? It's a cartoon for little girls.
[DB.]
Exactly.
Isn't it? Somehow this cartoon about pastel ponies has developed a cult following among seemingly normal, grown men.
- They're called - Bronies.
- Bronies.
- I mean, really, the Bronies? You should see the looks on your faces.
20-year-old guys watching a show intended for eight-year-old girls.
Why? [DB.]
Well, after a scathing review online People started to do what I was afraid of, "Let's watch this and laugh about how bad it is.
" Don't you know who I am? Oh! More guessing games.
How about Queen Meanie? No, Black Snooty.
Black Snooty! But then they kind of went, "Dudes, I kind of liked it.
I kind of wanna watch another one.
" [demonic laughter.]
For anyone that thinks it's weird, I don't disagree but it's fun.
And there was this lull with quality cartoons for a couple of years.
And all of a sudden there's this show.
It reminded us of why we loved cartoons when we were a kid.
[DB.]
The world and Hasbro might be a tad befuddled by Bronyism, but when you think about it, the early signs of these pink, cute, Pony-loving men had been there since the very beginning.
I might have been the original Brony.
I mean, it's possible.
[DB.]
It certainly is.
But listen, it's not just the Bronies who are superfans, My Little Pony is seriously big with all kinds of grown-ups.
I'm dressed as Rarity from the episode "Testing, 1, 2, 3.
" [DB.]
And it's fandom that's pushed Pony into a pose that nobody could have ever predicted.
[crash.]
[all.]
Twilight? Uh yes? Fans were designing human versions of the Ponies.
Easier said than done, darling.
I remember looking at this first piece of fan art I saw, and I was like, "Whoa.
" I'm like, "That's Pinkie Pie, but she's a human.
This is amazing.
" And so that led into our Flying Equestria Girls.
It's been a good beat for us.
Good for Hasbro, that they have a brand that proved to have such legs.
[laughs.]
[DB.]
As far from the original Ponies as they may seem, in many ways, Equestria Girls are the very embodiment of those golden rules.
You never treat a pony like a horse.
[DB.]
Well, you can't now.
You would never put a saddle on a pony.
[DB.]
That's anatomically impossible, isn't it? A Pony is like a little girl.
[DB.]
In this case, mature-aged students.
But for 33-year-olds, they're looking pretty good.
And so is the future of My Little Pony, which is lucky, because we might not see the likes of My Little Pony again.
You don't see those great products that have stood the test of time.
Nobody's making those anymore.
It's much easier and much cheaper to take a proven hit and keep it alive than to create a new toy, spend all the money on development, spend all the money on tooling, create the TV shows, and try to launch something that's absolutely brand new.
Back then, we introduced new things, and new things excited people.
You don't see new things anymore.
It doesn't happen like that anymore.
[DB.]
By taking risks and creating, the team at Hasbro stumbled onto something wonderful.
In the toy industry, you never know what's gonna come from things.
- And many things fail.
- [DB.]
But But this was one of the things that didn't fail.
The toy business is hell.
But when you're in Ponyland, it is pink and purple and rainbows, - and sweetness and light.
- [girl.]
I love you, My Little Pony.
The people who sat there and did hundreds of ideas and designs and drawings and models, and blood, sweat and tears Honestly I loved my job.
[Bonnie.]
I could have been a zillionaire.
But truthfully, you know, the spirit of the toy has lived on way longer than I ever thought.
[DB.]
And now for three decades and counting, this Little Pony has run through thick groves of magical bedroom carpet, or wherever you wanted them to go.
My dresser was a mountain they had to climb or my bed was the cloud kingdom with [DB.]
But as always, it's the ten-year-old Lauren who seems to understand Pony best of all.
[Lauren reads.]
Dear Hasbro, My name is Lauren Faust.
I am ten years old and I am wild over My Little Pony toys.
I wanted to get the entire collection.
I only had six more My Little Pony figures to go.
But you made new My Little Pony.
I said, "It isn't that bad.
" But it was.
You weren't making Bubbles anymore.
I didn't have Bubbles.
I was doomed, so I made up this: I'm giving you these ten ideas if you give me Bubbles and maybe a few more.
But I just want a Pony for a Pony.
Please don't use my ideas if you don't give me anything.
A Pony Pal, Lauren Faust.
[DB.]
From Lauren to almost every little girl since, My Little Pony has given kids the chance to make their own stories of magic and wonderment.
My Little Ponies really are just that: Your little ponies.
My Little Pony is just childhood all wrapped up in one little toy.
It's just a good thing.
I hope it goes on forever.
Ponies forever.
That's my wish.
[DB.]
What happened to wanting a horse? Okay, fine, I won't have my horse.
[crash.]
I got many of them.
Many of them.