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These 'Little Ponies' Draw Out The Bronies

Jason Saul

Bronies — members of an unexpectedly vibrant culture celebrating the animated series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” — will tell you that New Orleans got 20 percent cooler this weekend thanks to DerpyCon South.

Why 20 percent? Because that’s how Rainbow Dash, a character in the Hasbro toy company’s animated series, would describe it. The show has spawned an Internet phenomenon.

Bronies are a fan base like no other, and one that is that’s growing exponentially, said Kevin Kezz, a brony organizer from New York who traveled to New Orleans this past weekend to attend the convention.

“I have been in this fandom since 2011,” Kezz says. “One night, I went out for Chinese food in Houston and I opened up a fortune cookie. It said, ‘A charming friendship is in the magic.’ And on the back, it had: ‘Learn Chinese: Horse.’ And after that I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to watch this.’”

Kezz is a community manager for Bronies NYC. He said he’s seen his band of bronies grow from a few hundred members to thousands.

Credit Jason Saul / WWNO
Kezz, a Brony organizer from New York who traveled to New Orleans this past weekend to attend the convention.

“In the first BronyCon 2011 we had 100 people in Manhattan. The second one we had about 400 people… The next one, we had over 1,000 people. We had to turn away hundreds, because it was just too full,” he says. “Can you imagine that kind of growth in any other space? People are just jumping on this bandwagon and riding it for all it’s worth.”

The television show “My Little Pony” began in the 1980s, and saw resurgence when it was relaunched in 2010 and gained an unexpected adult following. Members of a subset of the Internet photo-board 4chan — known as /b/ — took to the show, and the term “brony” was born... though some say “brony” also happens to be a collision of the words bro and pony.

This year at the convention here in New Orleans, the featured speaker was actress Ingrid Nilson. She voices the character Maud Pie — a pony who had a hard time becoming friends with the show’s Mane Six.

“I think that the idea of being on the outside is something that people can get really into — especially a group like the bronies, who I also identify with. I am a self-declared brony,” Nilson says.

Credit Jason Saul / WWNO
Ingrid Nilson, the voice of "My Little Pony" character Maud Pie.

Nilson, a voice actress and yoga teacher in Vancouver, has acted in other television roles, such as Raspberry Torte in the show “Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures,” and a role in the live-action series “Supernatural.” But her role in “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is distinctive for her because of the fans.

“This is completely different from anything I have experienced,” Nilson says. “It is so encouraging to see my work as Maud Pie being related to. I think that to relate to someone who is maybe a bit of an outsider feels good to me because I am that, and to receive that reciprocation, I am very grateful for it.”

The reciprocation comes in all forms from fans. Bronies pride themselves on the art they create based on the show.

Cameron Klinzman, from Michigan, creates art for fans to purchase at DerpyCon South. He said he started with buttons and grew into making other forms of art — dog tags, stickers and original drawings.

He prefers to draw the characters based on Hasbro’s cartoon and stories rather than fan fiction, which is another draw.

Credit Jason Saul / WWNO
Cameron Klinzman, an artist from Michigan selling his work in the DerpyCon South dealers' room.

"I stay in how Hasbro has developed the characters. I like the primary source of what’s established,” he says.

Other vendors explore different mediums. Jeanette Garey creates art and candles.

“Each candle represents a character from the show. Derpy likes muffins, so her candle smells like a blueberry muffin,” Garey says.

Bronies also expand the Ponyverse with their own fan-created music. Music creator Yoav Landau, The Living Tombstone, was featured in the documentary “Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.” His YouTube channel has more than 54,400 followers. A music video the “Smile Song (Remix)” has amassed more than 1.2 million views and most fans know every word and sing it proudly.

But beyond the merchandise and panels, it all comes back to the bronies, Kezz says.

“It’s all about getting together really. The show helps teach socialization to people who otherwise would have never left their parents’ basement. It’s just miraculous that it’s done that, and I want to maximize the power that works in,” he says. “A lot of the true bronies keep what’s going on by doing things like this in here. It doesn’t matter what Hasbro says. We’ll keep coming up with ideas. Even if there is no more show, I think we’ll be set for a brighter future.”

With additional editing and reporting by WWNO's Jason Saul.

The article above has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Ingrid Nilson, the voice of My Little Pony character Maud Pie, lives and works in Vancouver, not Los Angeles.