Animals hold a strong appeal to many young people as they grow up. This is especially true of animals that many children will never have for their very own. Horses are a favourite, as are the mystical unicorn and pegasus, who hold their own appeal from the realm of fantasy. To bring these dreams of ownership to life, Hasbro introduced a line of soft plastic horses with brushable manes and tails – My Little Pony.
From their start in the early 1980’s, My Little Pony horses were immensely popular. Not only could young people finally have the horse of their dreams, but the dream for the “perfect” stable could finally be realized. Along with their wonderful hair, each pony had its own unique symbol on its rear, usually something to match its equally unique name. Every Pony had its own brush and ribbon, so even if it was the first in the herd, the new owner could enjoy brushing and braiding the hair.
The beginnings of the Pony family were modest, but soon became more flamboyant. Starting out in one pose, the first set of six were later labelled the “classic” Ponies for their simplicity in coloring, design and names. Subsequent Ponies were created in many different poses, including sitting, walking, trotting and rearing. For every possible horse attitude or gait, a Pony was made. The world of horses and myth were becoming more and more real.
The Pony family kept expanding to include every variation a child could want for their growing stable. After the initial ponies, unicorns, and pegasi, then came babies, big brothers, friends, sisters and sea ponies. With each new set, various colors and themes were introduced. Rainbow-haired Ponies were the beginning, but soon came twinkle-eyed, fuzzy, full-body symbols, scented and even glow-in-the-dark! Now there really was a Pony for almost everyone, and collecting was running full force.
As with any toy set, accessories were added to make playtime even more fun. Ponies had buildings to dance, play, live and sleep in. Outfits made beauty pagents or careers possible, for both adult Ponies and babies. Hair accessories for the Ponies were not in short supply, either, when the hair packets were produced. For the ultimate transition to fantasy play, two human dolls were created as companions to the Ponies–Megan and her younger sister Molly. Each came with her own pony, but could ride on almost any other. Collectors could pretend to be Megan, and ride and have their own Pony adventures.
As with other toys in the ’80’s, My Little Pony also had special mail-in offers for unique Ponies or prizes. For an extra treat, one could join the My Little Pony Fan Club, with a membership kit including a badge, stories and games for the collector. The Club and the exclusive Ponies could only be obtained by collecting and mailing the horseshoe points on the backs of Pony packages. Suddenly, mail was eagerly anticipated!
Even though it had been very successful, My Little Pony did finally experience the end of it’s popularity. After ten years, and the release of the anniversary set of Ponies, they were retired. Many young people that had grown up with them were now adults, and the younger collectors had many other toys to choose from. The beloved toys so many had cherished were now garage sale fodder and toys for the very young to play with.
However, all was not lost for the Ponies. In 1997, Hasbro tried to revive the flame that never quite died. They modernized the Ponies by making them smaller, using a harder plastic and giving them unique accessories for each Pony. Once again they tried the Pony market. Unfortunately, for those that were in love with the original Ponies, these smaller and more petite second generation Ponies just didn’t fill the same space. After only two years of production in the U.S, My Little Pony was once again discontinued. Their bright colors, symbols and brushable hair just weren’t enough to overcome the dramatic body style change.
Now that the Internet is firmly established and communication between collectors is no longer as costly, a silver lining has emerged for the world of My Little Pony. With worldwide access, many collectors were surprised to discover that some ponies were made only for foreign markets! Now not only were there domestic Ponies to finish collecting, there also was a whole new batch of foreign Ponies to find. In addition, with the discovery of foreign first generation Ponies came the discovery that second generation Ponies were still being made in other countries. The few U.S. collectors that did adore the littler Ponies could expand their collections from different markets. With the added boost to foreign production, the second generation Ponies may just have found a way to ensure success for several more years.
Through all the changes and the childhood years of many people, My Little Pony has managed to carve out a special place in the hearts of many. It’s not easy to forget their sweet little faces, pretty names and symbols, or the hours of fun playing with them. Their demand is still great, and hopefully, through work and determination, they can be saved from extinction for the next generation. All collectors, both old and new, find obtaining only a few of these ponies very difficult. With hundreds now to choose from, it’s too easy to find several that are just too adorable to pass up.
©Copyright 1999, all text and photos (by C. Kolleth). Thanks to Kim Shriner for her use of Dream Valley for reference, and to the other “Pony People” that helped with this page through their ideas and critiques.