It may be hard to believe, but the "My Little Pony" line's beginnings started with a toy horse that really wasn't all that little. In 1981, Romper Room, a division of Hasbro, introduced "My Pretty Pony", a 10-inch tall model horse with synthetic hair, many accessories, and a mechanism which enabled her ears to twitch, eye to wink, and tail to swish from side to side. The original version was a classic brown horse, but later on that year Hasbro introduced a second version of the toy. My Pretty Pony was now a light pink shade with a darker pink mane and tail. She also had heart symbols painted on her hip (which would become a main feature of her smaller descendants) and her accessories were now softer, more feminine pastel shades.
In 1982, Hasbro decided to expand on this idea and introduce a line of smaller My Pretty Pony-style toys called "My Little Pony". These petite ponies stood just 5" tall and were available in various pastel colors, each with a different coordinating symbol on their hips. The company originally released six different ponies, Cotton Candy, Butterscotch, Blossom, Blue Belle, Minty, and Snuzzle. Butterscotch was also available in a set with the brown "My Pretty Pony" that year, as MPP's baby. In many ways, one might think of MPP as the "mom" in the My Little Pony collection, though she was never officially deemed so. The MLP collection was off to a great start, which triggered Hasbro to introduce more ponies to the family. Not only did they add new "Earth Ponies" (or classic-style horses) like Applejack and Bow Tie, but they also added Unicorns and Pegasus to the mix, such as Glory and Firefly. Additionally, ponies were now available in different poses such as sitting (Seashell and Bubbles are the only two ever made in this position), "prancing", and the front legs of the Pegasus were up as if they were "flying". Other additions to the MLP collection followed, including Rainbow Ponies, Sea Ponies, and Baby Ponies.
Like most popular toys of the 1980's, eventually its success spawned a cartoon to coincide with the collection. In 1984, a half-hour television special about the ponies was produced by Marvel and Sunbow Productions (who are also famous for their work on the Jem and the Holograms cartoon series). The story revolved around a young girl named Megan who was brought to the magical world of "Ponyland" to help the ponies in time of need. The following year, another special about the MLP clan debuted, called My Little Pony: Escape From Catrina. With the continued success of the toy line and the two television specials, it didn't take long for the ponies to be featured in their own feature-length movie. In 1986, My Little Pony: The Movie made its debut and a TV series soon followed. The series continued to tell tales of Megan's adventures with her animal friends, and eventually introduced her brother Danny and sister Molly, who also had the privilege of visiting Ponyland. Soon, Hasbro produced a Megan doll and various other toys based on the cartoon series.
The show lasted for about three years, but MLP toys continued to be manufactured despite the series' end. In 1992, a new cartoon debuted on the Disney Channel. "My Little Pony Tales" was quite different from the previous series--Megan and her siblings were no longer featured and the ponies now had the ability to walk on just two legs. The ponies now embarked on more human-like adventures instead of the mystical, magical ones that preceded. This series was not nearly as popular as the first, possibly for the above-mentioned reasons, and was canceled after only 26 episodes. The line of toys was also discontinued that year, a decade after their introduction, due to decreasing sales.
In 1997, the toys were re-introduced, but this time the ponies received quite a makeover. They were now thinner and more petite with longer legs. Several new ponies and playsets were manufactured; however they were not as successful in the United States as the first MLP line. They were only available in the U.S. for about a year, though they remained quite popular in other countries. In 2003, Hasbro made another attempt at bringing back the MLP collection. These newer ponies were more like the originals, except with a few minor changes, such as their symbol being printed on only one hip rather than both. This third line of toys seemed to be just what Hasbro was looking for, with new ponies continuing to be produced to date.
Collectors of My Little Pony can find all sorts of additions to their assortments, from vintage first-generation toys, to t-shirts, stickers, accessories, and more. Little did the world know that Hasbro was onto a good thing when they first developed their idea for a toy horse over 20 years ago.