An Open Letter to Lauren Faust


Dear Ms. Faust:

My name is Sean Shannon. I’m an English teacher and aspiring author from Toledo, Ohio. More importantly, I’m a longtime fan of your work; I still carry around the same Powerpuff Girls purse I bought more than a decade ago during the height of the show’s popularity. and last year I finally found the time to watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and quickly became hooked. Few television shows have had as profound an effect on my life, and I have made efforts in both my personal and professional lives to spread the show’s messages, not just to increase the show’s popularity, but because I believe the show can be an effective tool in working to make the world a better place. I will even be buying copies of Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony for friends this year to help make up for the sales revenue lost by piracy of the film, something I have used my humble online soapbox to rally against.

However, like many of my fellow bronies and pegasisters, I have been dismayed at some of Hasbro’s recent decisions regarding the show’s direction. From the “unnaming” of Derpy Hooves, to the cease and desist letters that shut down both Shards of Equestria and Fighting is Magic, to the nonsensical change in one of the main characters in the finale to season three that aired this past weekend, there is a growing fear that not only is Hasbro swiftly moving away from the elements of your vision of the show that made it such a huge crossover success, but it is also making it harder for the artists in the brony and pegasister community to feel secure in producing work based off of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic without receiving threatening letters from Hasbro’s lawyers.

You yourself tweeted your disappointment when Mane6 was forced to shut down production of Fighting is Magic and scrap the game’s website. Shortly after that, though, you tweeted Mane6 and offered them original characters of yours that they could adapt to Fighting is Magic so that their years of work on the game would not have been completely in vain. I’m not aware of where this offer stands in regards to what Mane6 can do with the characters, but I am writing you to make this request, on behalf of the fans of all your work past, present and future: Please develop these original characters and license them for not-for-profit derivative works under a Creative Commons license, so that the artists among us can continue to develop your visions without fear of litigation from the company that owns the characters.

To be clear, I am not asking these new characters to become a substitute, or replacement, for your My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic characters. Even amidst the deep disappointment among some members of the show’s fanbase, I highly doubt that very many fans, despite current rumblings, will abandon the show, and even if they were to do so, Hasbro’s existing market power and distribution channels mean that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic will more than likely continue to be a robust franchise for a long time to come. Not only would “Friendship is Magic with teddy bears” or “Friendship is Magic with slugs” be largely pointless, but would also invite litigation from Hasbro since they own the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic characters.

However, these new characters would provide a safe venue for artists, both from inside and outside the brony and pegasister communities, to explore the creation of stories, music, videos, and all other forms of media, without the threat of litigation from the owners of the show and characters being used in this new work. As many have pointed out, even posting a fan drawing you make of Rainbow Dash to your blog, or a fanfic you wrote, could be grounds for Hasbro to send out a cease and desist order, and given how litigious Hasbro has been lately, I have to believe that many fan artists are now stymied by the threat of them becoming the next target of Hasbro’s lawyers. By licensing a new cast of characters for not-for-profit derivative works, these artists would have truly free reign to develop and promote their art, regardless of any future decisions Hasbro makes about the derivative works based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that are currently being made.

In addition to these new characters, I would also ask you, as you did for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, to create a production bible, giving potential writers for this new cast of characters (such as myself) a base from which to work, an idea of the world these characters inhabit and where you would like to see these characters go. As with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I think it will be important to base the new characters and their world on an optimistic view of the future, using life lessons to make their stories as educational as they are entertaining. Given that this will be an ensemble cast, many of these lessons will likely be based on friendship, but as I’ve said before, the last thing we need is a clone of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. There are certainly lots of character archetypes left to be explored in these new original characters; for example, as a writer and artist of many stripes, it’s always kind of bothered me that the creatively-minded ponies, like Rarity and Photo Finish, are depicted as being eccentric, reinforcing one of the lingering stereotypes of we creative types. Why can’t we have an artist character who “normalizes” creativity the same way Twilight Sparkle worked to help normalize braininess? If the new characters are as deep and well-developed as your ponies were, then this should easily lead to stories that significantly depart from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but can still convey the same vision that helped make your ponies so successful and treasured.

(I should also add that no one would, or should, expect you to license Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls this way. We know how long you have worked on that project and how dear it is to you, and you deserve as much compensation, monetary or otherwise, as you can get for all your hard work on it.)

As my unpublished novel The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon is currently advancing in the rounds of this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I am presently unable to shop the novel around to agents. (I can’t win an award for an unpublished novel if I get a publishing contract.) My work and personal commitments right now are low enough that I would be able to lend my assistance as a writer to you in developing this production bible and fleshing out the new characters. (I cannot offer my skills as a visual designer because I have no such skills to offer. Seriously, even my stick figures look puzzling to most people.) I am sure there are many others who would offer their services up as well if you were only to ask.

It is true that we ourselves could come up with these new characters and world and production bible and such. However, it was your vision that made My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic the cultural force that it is, and it’s been the lack of your vision in recent episodes that has led so many to wary of the show. All those thousands of bronies and pegasisters you see at convention after convention are there because of you, and if you were to offer them a new universe to explore freely, without fear of litigation, I am sure you would see another new phenomenon rise up in short order. I don’t know if the unfettered creativity of so many artists could compete with Hasbro’s vast wealth and expansive distribution networks, but I believe that you could help create a new “show” that would complement and coexist with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and help give the fan community a truly limitless vista on which to expand on your vision and help make the world a better place.

I hope you will give this opportunity some consideration. Not only would it help liberate so many artists from current concerns about developing works derivative of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but I think something truly magickal would result from creating a new world, and cast of characters to inhabit that world, that could be developed freely by anyone.

Take care and be well,
Ms. Sean Shannon

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