Hasbro’s My Little Pony, currently in its fourth or fifth iteration, rocketed out of the gate in 2010 with a fresh new look and a slick cartoon show – picking up an army of dedicated fans along the way. In a turn of events predicted by absolutely no-one, the new generation of pastel-coloured gee-gees had an amazing cross-market appeal, with everyone from young girls to twenty-something males clamouring for new toys.
So, in a bid to “express the My Little Pony brand in exciting new ways for fans” (or marketing guff to that effect) these fillies have suddenly found themselves humanised, dressed up and plopped in a high school setting. Why? It may have something to do with the fact rival toy company Mattel raked in a literal shedload of cash from its Monster High line of kooky fashion dolls last year, and it’s clear that Hasbro’s Equestria Girls have those lovely lovecraftian ladies firmly in their sights.
Question is, are Hasbro on to another winner?
After a brief moment to contact the young girl hidden inside – in a spiritual way, not a “call the police” way – we sat down with the two dolls Hasbro sent us for review* and got our play on.
*By which we mean “rushed out to Argos on new catalogue day”. Hasbro don’t like us. They swear at us when we walk past.
Straight out of the box, these dolls look great. Beaming, wide-eyed and funky, rocking garish cartoon hair and knee-high boots, they’re in a different class to Mattel’s macabre high schoolers. At first, we thought only their decidedly unrealistic skin-colours were the sole holdover from the MLP line we know and love, but each doll has some subtle equine features. All the girls sport tiny pony ears and a “cutie mark” – that is, the unique symbol branded on each pony’s haunch – splashed Ziggy Stardust style on the face. Cleverly, their tails are subtler still: suggested by an extra-long ponytail running down the back and stopping at the heels, rather than emerging from the rear in full-on furry animal fashion. Flying ponies Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle get cheap, hen-night fairy wings thrown into the package too. So there’s that.
Aside from some nifty headwear, we were shocked to see that every pack includes only one item of clothing: a nasty little skirt. Seriously, that’s it. These ladies actually have their high school duds painted on. What’s going on here? Isn’t dressing and undressing sort of a normal play feature on dolls like these? It smacks of a toy designed with economy in mind rather than play value. The look on our reviewer’s face when he pulled off Pinkie’s shoe to find nothing at all underneath was funny for us. But it probably won’t be as funny for you.
The official word may be that the Equestria Girls are intended for a wider audience (the expanded fan base instantly, probably automatically, humanised ponies after all) but if that’s the goal, they’ve fallen at the first hurdle. We demand much more of our toys. But we can imagine the conventional audience – girls five and up – having a blast with these. Since you’re probably not five years old, you’ll understand if we give these things our coveted two-star rating.