About a week ago I spent a day at my very first convention that was not centered around anime – Equestria LA, a fairly large My Little Pony convention here in SoCal. Not only was it my first time going to any kind of group gathering for MLP after I got into the show several months ago, but it was also the first big event I went to that was not about a Japanese franchise. So I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Would meeting bronies in real life weird me out? Would I find the kinds of events there too childish? Well, after going to the con, I’m happy to report that I had an awesome time and didn’t find it much different from an anime convention…
Ponyfied map of the hotel
Equestria LA took place at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel very close to Disneyland. Despite taking place in a hotel and not having the space that an actual convention center would offer, it managed to have a decent amount of events going on. Since the convention is only focused on one series rather than multiple ones like an anime convention, each of the convention’s three days had autograph, voice actor, and writer’s panels for the same handful of guests (which were voice actors and writers for the show of course). So even if you couldn’t go all three days, as long as you went for one day you’d get a chance to see them. There was also a fairly large room for all the artists and vendors to sell their stuff. And of course, each day had its own unique events going on too…but it seemed like the vendors’ room and meeting the guests were the biggest attractions ;)
My badge, pamphlet, and free con poster
Shopping at the various vendor booths is usually the first thing I do at Anime Expo, and Equestria LA was no different. What was different though was the kinds of items they were selling there. One thing that makes the Pony fandom so interesting is the fact that so many of its fans are dedicated to making their own merchandise, anything from fan-made pins and jewelry to professional-level figures and plushies. Since the only kinds of Pony products Hasbro makes are things for its original target audience of little girls, adult fans have taken it upon themselves to make their own, better merchandise.
The above plushies are all fan-made and look way better than anything Hasbro has released. The downside is that they’re extremely expensive since fans can’t mass-produce them. These ones cost $300 and up! The Celestia and Luna ones were even autographed by their respective voice actresses, so that made the price go up even higher XD
These smaller fan-made plushies were a bit cheaper, $55 and up
More fan-made goodies…
…including adorable 8-bit ponies made out of beads
And like anime conventions, there was certainly no shortage of Pony fan art being sold at the con. Since it’s so hard to find nice Pony images geared towards adult fans, I’m assuming Pony fan art sells better as a whole than anime fan art.
One artist’s booth had a big white board under it for people to draw their own pictures XD
The above booth was one of the only ones selling official Hasbro products
I didn’t buy a ton of things at the vendors hall, but I did buy the above fan-made pins. It’s not hard to tell that a lot of bronies also like anime and Pokemon, and those Eeveelution pins that one artist drew herself were too adorable to pass up!
Another thing that made the vendors hall great was that there were a lot of people interested in the My Little Pony trading cards, which I started collecting a while ago. Thanks to trading and buying from people, and from one awesome guy who was just giving his extra cards away, I managed to get all the common and rare cards I was missing! Now all that’s left is the super-rare gold foil and promo cards XD
The few gold foil and promo cards I have – got a long way to go!
Speaking of the Pony trading cards, the company that releases the cards, EnterPlay, had a booth at the con and were giving away free promo cards and other exclusives. The two villain posters below I got for $10 each and they came with a free Derpy promo card :3
Like I said, besides shopping in the vendors hall, the other big to-do at the con was getting guest autographs and seeing their panel…again, not much different from an anime convention. Obviously Equestria LA is a much smaller con compared to Anime Expo, so there was no need to worry about not making it in time to get an autograph. I arrived just 15 or so minutes before the autograph session was about to start and the line moved fairly fast. What was different compared to an anime convention though was the fact that each autograph cost $20 (at anime conventions I’ve been to, they’re always free). I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that Hasbro is a larger and more strict company than the small and underpowered anime companies, but whatever the reason, I decided to get one autograph at least.
Got Andrea Libman’s autograph (voice of Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie)
All the voice actors who came to the con had a panel later in the day, which was pretty much just a Q & A between them and the fans. What they did before the Q & A however, amazed everyone: apparently someone from the Equestria LA staff wrote a ponyfied Star Wars script for them to act out in their characters’ voices…and it was hilarious! Spike was Luke Skywalker, Pinkie Pie was Darth Vader, Zecora was Obi-Wan Kenobi, Apple Bloom was Yoda, Rarity was Princess Leia…it was great XD
Even though photos and videos were prohibited at the voice actor panel, they were nice enough to let us have a few moments to take one group shot of them. I hastily took this not-so-good photo with my phone XD
And of course, what convention would be complete without cosplay?
So overall, how was my experience at my first Pony and non-anime con? Well, as you can see from what I said above, it was very fun and not much different from the anime con experience. Besides a few things like having to pay for autographs and having mostly fan-made merchandise in the vendors’ hall, there was pretty much the same kinds of events going on – meeting voice actors and staff, cosplay, dedicated artists and their fan art, buying rare collectibles, etc,. The vibes at Equestria LA were the same as any anime con I’ve been to. Even though the con had to keep a family friendly atmosphere, so the voice actors couldn’t swear in their characters’ voices or anything, they were still as entertaining as ever XD And as for the bronies themselves? All the people I talked to there when I was trading cards, complimenting their artwork, or just striking up a conversation seemed like cool people…nothing glaringly creepy about them. Again, Pony fans don’t seem much different from anime fans – you have your vocal, opinionated fans, your quiet, artistic fans, your squealing fangirls, your ardent fanboys…and all others in between. There are plenty of creeps among anime fans and I’m sure bronies as well, but you just stay away from them and concentrate on the good people =P Being an adult that likes My Little Pony as opposed to the more general anime already shows a level of open-mindedness that the average person doesn’t have, so it’s all about celebrating that. There were some little kids at Equestria LA, but again, not much more than what I see at Anime Expo. And what was funny was that just about all the adults I saw accompanying the little kids had Pony T-shirts or other apparel, so I had to wonder, who was taking whom to the convention XD
In short, my first experience being among a real-life event for a fandom that doesn’t hail from Japan, was extremely positive. I’m happy to know that I felt totally at home among Pony fans the same as I do among anime fans. Even though they have their small differences, they’re both ultimately about sharing and celebrating a passion for an animated show no matter what its country of origin is =)
And as a side note, don’t forget that a month from now we’ll be getting humanized ponies in the theaters…for better or worse: