The Friendship is Magic series may be riding off into the sunset, but My Little Pony is saddling up for a new era with Entertainment One. Hasbro has big plans for the franchise, including consumer products tied to the upcoming feature film and a new animated series, My Little Pony: Pony Life.
Following Hasbro’s December 2019 acquisition of Entertainment One, the toymaker appointed eOne as its global entertainment arm just in time to help launch Pony Life. The 2D toon bowed in late 2020 on platforms like Disney Channel and Cartoon Network.
The upcoming CG-animated movie, meanwhile, is slated for a September 2021 release and will mark the start of the brand’s transformation—now under the purview of eOne. Not only will new pony characters be featured in the film, they will also boast a new CG look. The introduction of new characters and a departure from designs featured in Friendship is Magic and Pony Life is intended to shift the brand’s focus to more modern themes like diversity and inclusion.
“The final season [of Friendship is Magic] brought that storytelling to a satisfying conclusion, and it felt like the right time to close that chapter of Pony history,” says Emily Thompson, VP of global brand management for eOne (previously VP of entertainment production and development for Hasbro). “Generation Alpha has a higher emotional intelligence, and they expect a lot more from their entertainment. We know it’s important to Gen Alpha that they see their peer groups represented in their entertainment, and that shaped how we built our core cast.”
The movie’s main character, for example, is an activist working to make the pony world a better place. My Little Pony will be one of Hasbro’s biggest initiatives in 2021, says Casey Collins, SVP and GM of global consumer products.
Upcoming toys will be informed by the feature’s updated animation style, and in addition to launching classic offerings like toys and apparel, Hasbro will focus its consumer products program on categories that saw significant growth in recent months, including food, health and wellness, puzzles and games, publishing, personal care and home goods. The first SKUs are set to hit shelves at major retailers around the world in August.
“Consumer behaviors have changed so much due to COVID-19, and we’re taking a look at categories that have been spiking in terms of sales,” says Collins.
This strategy of focusing on trends while still paying tribute to the classics also applies to eOne’s upcoming approach to content.
“With the movie, we started development and made the decision to expand the world of My Little Pony, rather than starting from scratch with a total brand reinvention,” Thompson says. “We found ourselves with this whole decade of storytelling and really rich lore, and it felt wrong to walk away from all of that.”
Friendship is Magic premiered in 2010 and ran for nine seasons. The series inspired a kid-hosted online after-show, as well as a live stage show. Instead of abandoning the franchise’s characters and stories, the movie will take place in the same world featured in Friendship is Magic and Pony Life, but jump ahead in time to focus on a new generation of ponies and unexplored corners of Equestria. This creates opportunities to include nods to the property’s previous iterations, both in upcoming content and consumer products offerings.
“If you’re brand-new to the franchise, I think it will grab you and pull you in,” says Thompson. “And existing fans are going to be picking out Easter Eggs for months and years to come.”