Friendship really is magic in Sioux Falls.
The classic cartoon My Little Pony came out in its fourth iteration, “Friendship is Magic,” on cable network on The Hub last fall. Since then it's developed a surprisingly sizable, male adult online following. These fans call themselves Bronies (think pony bro).
The latest Pony is directed by Lauren Faust, who previously worked on Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls, another cartoon with an all-ages appeal. The show focuses on teaching kids interpersonal and civic skills, but also slips in references to things like anime, The Benny Hill Show, and 2001: A Space Odyssey
Sioux Falls actually has a strong Brony presence, and its center is Dark Matter Anime. The store hosts a live video stream called PonyCast once a week, and even hoted a “My Little Brony Day” party over the Fourth of July weekend this year (pictured). To the Bronies, it’s about creating a positive environment to counteract the skepticism and “trolling” you see in the world.
“The motto is ‘we will embrace the s*** out of you,’” Dark Mater employee Martin Weld says.
Listen to a brony talk about why they love “Friendship is Magic” and you will be amazed, not just because someone loves My Little Pony, but HOW MUCH they love it. To hear Dark Matter’s Jessie Owings talk about it, the show becomes a way of life to its fans.
“There’s actually a culture around this. People are using the messages of the show to better their lives,” he says.
Owings first checked out “Friendship” during Superbowl Sunday when a friend put on Episode 9, “Bridle Gossip.” He says he watched the entire season and was hooked. From that first viewing eventually came PonyChat, a weekly live Internet broadcast about bronie life. The stream is hosted by Owings, Icarus Garza and Sarah Rico. The crew also puts out a podcast on iTunes called “Yet Another Pony Podcast,” and hosted three bronie-centric panels at this year’s SogenCon anime convention at the Convention Center.
The brony community, locally and nationally, has embraced the crew at Dark Matter. When the store held their “Bronie Day” party, one fellow brony came from as far away as Ames, Iowa. The PonyChat stream brings in about 200 viewers on average, and archives of the stream have generated almost 5,000 views. The YAPP podcast gets downloads in Germany and Australia.
“We’ve gotten letters from soldiers in Iraq, we’ve gotten messages from people in Kahzakstan,” Owings says. “We’re minor celebrities in Taiwan.
“The miracle of this whole thing is that in all these countries where a story about ponies, unicorns and Pegasi, and friendship should seem irrelevant, some people are sticking to it because it’s actually a really beautiful thing.”
The PonyCast crew is waiting for the eventual DVD release before Season 2 comes out, and expects it’ll help create more bronies. “It’s going to be bigger than PowerPuff Girls,” Owings predicts, “just give it time and you won’t be able to go anywhere without seeing My Little Pony.”
If you want to check out the Pony craze yourself, The Hub is only available on satellite TV services locally, but episodes are available to view online. Dark Matter also has a viewing area where you can watch “Friendship”or any of the anime available. PonyChat happens at the store every Monday on 7:30 and is viewable on Icarus Garza’s stickam page, stickam.com/icarus2152. You can also see PonyChat Mobile on stickam.com/midnightdreamsforever and PonyChat After Hours on stickam.com/manasphere.