The '80s 'My Little Pony' Cartoon Was A Toy Tie-In That's Way Weirder Than You Remember

If you're familiar with My Little Pony as it exists today, you probably love the show's heartfelt lessons and colorful characters. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is by no means the origin of those adorable characters though - the first series, which aired back in the '80s, was much weirder than you might recall. Cartoons from that period were all about selling toys, and while that hasn't changed much in the ensuing decades, Hasbro was particularly adept at toy-focused marketing strategies at the time.

Looking back, the series' concept, presentation, characters, and tie-in products were kind of strange. Sure, the show had cute ponies frolicking, telling adorable stories, and embarking on countless adventures, but peel back a layer or two, and it's all rather odd. That said, it did inspire a revamped television series, several movies and specials, highly collectible toys, and a group of devoted, adult male followers called "Bronies," so it's clearly had a lasting impact.

Here are some of the stranger aspects of the 1980s My Little Pony TV show you may have forgotten.

  • The Ponies Are Named Things Like 'Heart Throb' And 'Whizzer'

    The Ponies Are Named Things Like 'Heart Throb' And 'Whizzer'
    Photo: Hasbro

    The names picked for these adorable ponies were pretty weird. In fact, they're so bizarre that there are quizzes online asking players to choose whether a name belongs to a character from the series or an adult performer. That's not incredibly surprising when you look back at some of the names that debuted in the first generation of toys and the cartoon.

    Applejack, Bon Bon, Bubbles, Cotton Candy, Heart Throb, Lickety-Split, Moondancer, Sparkler, and Whizzer are all names that entered into the franchise early on, but far stranger names later spread throughout the series, films, and toys.

  • Baby Ponies Are Born From Their Mother's Reflection

    Baby Ponies Are Born From Their Mother's Reflection
    Photo: Hasbro

    A television series aimed at entertaining young children obviously wouldn't delve too deep into the details of the birds and the bees, but the manner in which My Little Pony handled reproduction was strange, to say the least. In order to explain where baby ponies came from, the series reveals a pony only has to gaze at her own reflection, see her beauty, and a wonderful newborn pony will arrive.

    Without delving too deep into the inscrutable nature of this reproduction cycle, it does offer a serious problem for any child paying too much attention. What happens when the pony inadvertently sees herself in a mirror or pool of water? Does that mean she accidentally has a baby every time she glances at herself? Perhaps the true magic of the show rested in how there weren't fresh hordes of infant ponies being birthed every day.

  • One Of The Villains Is A Demonic Centaur

    One Of The Villains Is A Demonic Centaur
    Photo: Hasbro

    The very first television special, originally titled My Little Pony but later retitled Rescue at Midnight Castle, features a seriously nasty villain. The premise of the special is surprisingly dark, seeing as it involves several ponies trying to rescue their friends from Tirac, who is, in essence, Satan as a centaur. 

    The premise of the special - the first animated feature meant to serve as a pilot episode for the series that aired in 1986 - centers around Tirac capturing several ponies, transforming them into dragons, and forcing them to pull his chariot. Why a centaur even needs a chariot isn't exactly clear, but this is one scary monster for a children's show.

  • The Characters Idolize A Pony Version Of Prince

    The Characters Idolize A Pony Version Of Prince
    Photo: Hasbro

    While children all over the world loved the MLP toys and television series, the characters themselves cultivated a fandom of their own. Within the world of the series, the ponies idolize a rock star who's essentially an animated version of Prince - as a pony. The character's name is Night Shade, and while he's entertaining, he's also kind of metal.

    Initially, he's just a regular pony. But after a Cloud Demon named Arabus offers to make him a star, he gets involved in a demonic plot to take the ponies' shadows so Arabus can become even more powerful - lending a sinister edge to this seemingly innocent character.