Stuff We Love: Why the original My Little Pony series is still the most magical

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Ponyland seems to have all but vanished. Next to the electric rainbow that is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the epic fandom of Equestria that spawned its own kaleidoscopic convention, the pastel skies and cotton-candy clouds of the original My Little Pony series may feel like forgotten magic.

While it had no legion fandom—unless you count all the little girls in the ‘80s and early ‘90s parading ponies the color of Easter eggs around a plastic castle—there was something dreamlike about a place where talking ponies with special powers frolic under a glittering rainbow. And through glittering grass, and by glittering water, and around glittering cacti that are actually enormous pink and purple crystals. Glitter animations were contagious in My Little Pony, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little mesmerized by the digital fairy dust.

From the Paradise Estate to Flutter Valley to Dream Castle, the show was so whimsically weird that it easily cast a spell on the fantasy-obsessed kid version of myself who still believed in fairies and monsters under the bed. This was a place where gems that grew like flowers and the most powerful magic in existence, aka the Rainbow of Light, could defy evil but still fit in a heart-shaped locket. There were unicorns, pegasi, dragons, trolls, good and evil sorcery, powerful talismans, and mythical creatures so bizarre they didn’t have a species. Sea Ponies were Hasbro’s answer to mermaids. If those googly-eyed pompoms which you often see as pencil toppers could jump around and blabber nonsense, you'd have the Bushwoolies. The wizard Moochick and his mushroom house were enchanting if not somewhat trippy. Flutter Ponies spent dreamy afternoons hovering around a New-Agey Sun Crystal that glowed in the middle of something vaguely resembling Stonehenge. There was even a certain pony named Knight Shade who was the equine cartoon incarnation of Prince if there ever was one. Of course, his hair was purple.

Strange and slightly morbid child that I was, what drew me to Ponyland even more were the things that lurked in its shadows. The place was infested with trolls and shapeshifters and creatures with too many horns or tentacles not to be considered dangerous. Villains ranged from the hysterically bumbling witches Hydia, Reeka, and Draggle to shadow-eating sorcerer Morpheus to the oozing purple Smooze that even had its own theme song. Cthulhu-esque Squirk slinked around the bottom of the ocean with a charm that could plunge everyone and everything into a submerged doom. Midnight Castle was where warped centaur Tirek, the most metal of them all, reigned. He had the power to turn innocent little ponies into dragons to pull his Chariot of Midnight, because he had the impenetrable Rainbow of Darkness in his possession. It doesn’t get more badass than magic that will forever have the associated mental soundtrack of Dio’s Rainbow in the Dark.

While the Ponies seemed like innocent creatures on the surface, and sometimes too naïve to notice they were about to be herded into a dungeon by bat-winged Scorpan, those candy colors could be deceiving. Threaten to steal their magic or their shadows and you could be facing the wrath of unicorns shooting laser beams with scary precision, or an entire flock of Flutter Ponies flapping their fairy wings to smother you in rainbows or shower you with burning sparkles. Even revenge had to sparkle.

I’d like to think of Ponyland as a sort of parallel universe to Equestria, somewhere you can wink into and out of like a unicorn when you feel a shimmer of nostalgia, or just want to exist in a mystical refuge where there may be no app for that, but there is a crystal. Because sometimes you just need to hang out in a mushroom or ride a rainbow.