The guest roster for the annual Bay Area Brony Spectacular (BABSCon) was filled this past Easter weekend with people directly involved with the hit Hasbro series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” The full guest list in turn resulted in a BABSCon full of attendees who loved “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” whether for its positive messages aimed at children or its clever writing.
Casual fans and Bronies alike packed the panels rooms of BABSCon for their chance to hear various behind the scene anecdotes while working on “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” from the voice actors, the show writers, the show directors, and the comic book creative team. Bronies also got to ask questions to the guests about the show or about the guests themselves. As long as they weren't spoilers, pretty much everything involving the adventures of Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, and the rest of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” cast & plot lines were fair game.
The writers panel included M. A. Larson, and Amy Keating Rogers, season 4 additions Josh Haber & Natasha Levinger, and head writer Meghan McCarthy. As the ones who create most of the situations in the world of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” they have developed the characters and the show's direction. Though Hasbro themselves have some pull in direction such as introducing new toys (which is the intention of the show) and which characters can die (none of them; it's a kid's show). They admitted puns have played an important role for episode titles and character names. To the approval and/or dismay of some Bronies, Meghan has stated that Rarity and Spike will never be a canon couple.
Another writer guest to mention was G.M. Berrow, who is the author of the official “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” books. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts made it impossible for me to attend her panel.
While the writers set up the groundwork for “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” directors like Big Jim Miller and Jayson Thiessen bring the writers' scripts to life as they supervise the storyboards and animation. During their directors panel, they talked about directing animation to make sure the ponies animated like ponies (for the most part), getting the voice actors to emote properly, and working with guest stars like Weird Al. Jayson marveled at how a fan effort from Bronies that created a music video using “My Little Pony” footage with Weird Al's music led to Weird Al and Jayson discussing via Twitter to do an episode, which led to “Pinkie Pride.” Being Canadians, Big Jim and Jayson did have to make obligatory comments about poutine and how Canadian beer is better than American beer.
While the cartoon is aimed at kids, the IDW “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” comic series (the #1 independent comic book in the world) creative team (Heather Breckel, Tony Fleeecs, Heather Nuhfer, and Andy Price) talked during their panel about how they could gear their stories towards more mature audiences with more intense plots and pop culture references. There is a still a limit to their work as the cartoon is top tier canon in terms of story and character development. Some comics had to be canceled due to the cartoon doing them first. Andy mentioned how someone from the mainstream comic industry dismissed “MLP” and other licensed comics for lacking innovation and not being “real comics.” But you can tell that there is just as much work and effort that goes into these licensed comics as “Batman” and other comics.
The most popular panels with the most populated panel rooms of BABSCon were the voice actor panels on Saturday and Sunday. BABSCon was the first convention to feature the Mane 6 Andrea Libman (Pinkie Pie & Fluttershy), Ashleigh Ball (Applejack & Rainbow Dash), Tara Strong (Twilight Sparkle), and Rarity's Tabitha St. Germain (who was present via Skype on Saturday). Joining them were fellow voice actors Peter New (Big Macintosh), Cathy Weseluck (Spike), Nicole Oliver (Princess Celestia & Cheerilee), Brian Drummond (Mr. Cake & many others), and his daughter Brynna (Babs, which BABSCon is almost named after). Knowing how they bring the Bronies' beloved characters to life, the voice actors took a barrage of questions about how they got their roles, requests to say things in character, and questions about character & story developments better left answered by the writers or directors (who both occasionally sneaked into the panels).
In addition to meeting the guests during panels, attending BABSCon Bronies could pose for photos and get their autographs for a reasonable fee. It was a chance to spend some more personal time with the guests and coming off with a personal memory of them. Some of the autographed items were sold during the charity auction.
Whether it was listening to how the creative and production team works in getting each episode finished, being a young child escorted by Nicole Oliver to the front row for a better view of the voice actors panel, or sharing sketches with professional comic book artists, the guests of BABSCon had ways to make each attendee leave the convention with a fond memory and renewed adoration for a charming cartoon series. My personal memory came from hearing Cathy Weseluck do her Shampoo voice from the anime series “Ranma 1/2,” where I stood frozen in my tracks as I remembered 20-odd years ago at a local comic book shop where I bought my first anime VHS and discovered this geeky yet wonderful world of fandom.
Be sure to check out the BABSCon website for its plans for 2015. Who knows what guests will be coming next year.