Sunday, August 31, 2014

Coming out of the Stable at Bronycon 2014

                                     Rainbow Dash playing Xbox with Noah.

I am not sure when it began; but I know it has been more than a year that Noah has had an interest in My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. Many of us grew up on a different kind of My Little Pony, this “reboot” of ponies was created by Lauren Faust (Powerpuff Girls, Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends) and is nothing like the ponies you may have grown up on.  And because of its sheer awesomeness and how it doesn't stick to gender stereotypes so began the creation of The Brony. A Brony, if you don’t know is either a male or adult person who is a big fan of the My Little Pony (MLP) Friendship is Magic Series. Noah loves Rainbow Dash, and the rebooted version of her is a more androgynous pony, she is loyal, brave and is in charge of the weather in Ponyville. She also has a tendency to fly around super-fast and sometimes a bit crazy-like, all of these things speak to Noah's "inner pony".  Noah's Cousin Gabby is also the human embodiment of Pinkie Pie, and in the show Pinkie Pie is often chasing after Rainbow Dash, which is much like real life.

These ponies are fierce, loyal, independent and full of love and tolerance. They tolerate and love the heck out of you even if you aren’t being so lovable. They have their own issues and battles to wage from time to time, but they have always found that through friendship they can achieve whatever it is they need to. At the end of every episode one of the ponies sends a letter about something they learned to their mentor Princess Celestia, who kind of run things and has her stuff in check. She has this constantly flowing rainbow mane, it may be hypnotizing me a little. Did I mention I too am a Brony? (or a Pega-sister, an alternate term for adult female fans).

We were invited to Bronycon 2014 in Baltimore (or Baltimare as they call it) Maryland to cover the convention and I was most interested in how this Brony culture and special needs community gels together to write about if for my examiner column.

Besides that aspect the show is one of the best children’s cartoons I have seen, between the animation, acting, story lines and backing up their beliefs of love and tolerance. Many Bronies found themselves enchanted by this cartoon by accident. “I was watching one, and then before you know it, I watched another then another.” The show also has a motif about "The Elements of Harmony" which are gems that keep Equestia in peace and harmony. More importantly they are the essence inside each of the Mane Six Ponies.  The elements are honesty (Apple jack), kindness (Fluttershy), laughter (Pinkie Pie), generosity (Rarity) Loyalty (Rainbow Dash) and magic makes them all complete (Twilight Sparkle).  Twilight is Lauren Faust’s creation for the show, the other’s you may recognize in name.

Now, since as a society we can make up silly rules that don’t make any sense, men and boys may feel slightly embarrassed they like a show that has a nearly entire starring cast of female ponies. So they created get-togethers to share their fandom. And what began as a small 100 person convention in New York in 2011, turned into a 9607 person convention August 2014 at the Baltimore Convention Center called Bronycon.

Noah and a fellow Brony who brought this super awesome helicopter with Rainbow Dash attached to the top to fly around the convention center.

The growth of the Brony community and Bronycon is growing at exponential rates.  During 2011 there were several small get-togethers and meet ups that grew to attract 1000 people. In June of 2012 the first official convention was held in Secaucus with over 4000 attendees. Each year has been bigger and more attendance has occurred. This year’s conference marked the second one at the Baltimore Convention Center; the first drew double the attendance of the convention in Secaucus.

Bronycon plans on keeping the Baltimore Convention center as their official annual convention home. And next year the convention is already booked for August 7-9, 2015

Like all conventions (and even concerts really) Bronycon serves as a place for fans to meet up with each and enjoy and celebrate their fandom.  The essence of a convention is for this and for people to learn how to do something better or different. So Bronycon had panels for discussion, and workshops on how to learn to draw ponies, digitally create them, write fan fiction and design plushies. They also had workshops on how to make your Minecraft ponified. There were also several lectures and panels about bullying, working with disabilities and embracing your inner Brony. 

                                                 Noah giving the thumbs up at Brony Con

Besides the panel groups there was an arcade set up with some Wii’s and gaming devices projected on small movie screens and people played various games like Smash Brothers Brawl, and Guitar Hero. There was a Cutie Mark Crusaders clubhouse for the little fillies and colts who wanted to draw, color, play with balloon animals or just have their faces painted. A room called Canterlot Cinema was designated just to air MLP episodes and fan made videos.  The fourth installment of fan made Ponies Anthology aired for the first time at the convention.

                                               Noah's art work at Bronycon.

And fan made is also what the whole convention is about. Besides the Cosplay aspect, fans could showcase their own artistic work, whether it was drawn, digital or created as a plushie.  There were trading rooms where people traded with each other, and a huge marketplace where over 200 vendors sold both licensed merchandise and fan made. Part of the Brony fandom is the creation of fan-fiction, artwork and video games such as Super Smash Ponies. Some of the fan made videos are hilarious (not all are for children) but some of them are fine like Ponies re-enact Star Wars . For total nerdgasm I like Ponies reenact Lord of the Rings.  “A Pony does not simply trot into Maredoor….Many ponies with friendship deserve haters and some that have haters deserve friendship, do not be too eager to hand out hatred or judgment.”

                                    Noah with Fluffle Puff

2 nights of the convention from 8pm-2 am was BronyPalooza an indoor concert that involved about dozen internet famous musicians who have created or can play music from MLP or their own. It was a nice dance fest full of glow sticks, and happy conga lines. People would give each other a “bro-hoof” which is like a fist bump. Noah collected over 152 during the two days we were at the convention.

                                                             Bro Hooves

Overall the convention was well organized and full of happy, pleasant people of all ages and genders.  Whenever the word "Fun" was said at the convention numerous people would start chanting "Fun! Fun! Fun!" (as opposed to fight, fight, fight) which is taken from the the Too Many Pinkie Pies episode . At the end I asked Noah, “what was your favorite thing about Bronycon?” to which he replied “Everything!”  he had a smile on his face the whole time.  One of the best aspects about being a Brony for him is it gives him this access to other kids just like him. The core beliefs of love and tolerance make it a very welcoming and non-judgmental environment, something all spectrum kids need-something most everyone needs.  

Friendship is indeed magic.