Charming Activities: My Little Pony

Charming Activities: My Little Pony

My Little Pony was my first love. Before I started wearing lolita fashion, that was where my money went. The newest generation of the collectible plastic horses was released while I was in high school, and for years any spending money would be promptly converted into ponies at the nearest Target, Toys R Us, or Wal-Mart. Even when I wasn’t collecting, I still measured money in terms of the quantity of $5 ponies it will buy; this habit even rubbed off on my husband!

So Softs and Sundance
Several ponies from the first generation; the ponies with white bodies belonged to me when I was a little girl. I’m not very fond of this style of pony, but I love the So Softs because they’re fuzzy.

For a while, My Little Pony was my only hobby. My bedroom was like a shrine to the plastic toys, which peeked out of every nook and cranny. I collected related paraphernalia, as well, so my walls were occupied by My Little Pony posters, my desk filled with My Little Pony pens and notebooks, and my bed topped with My Little Pony plush toys. It really overwhelmed most visitors, but it made me very gleeful to see the brightness and glitter of so many things that I enjoyed.

The first release of My Little Pony occurred in the 1980s before I was born. The focus was on brightly-coloured toy horses released in sets that little girls would want to collect. As was the custom at the time, the toys were promoted with a cartoon. For years, Hasbro came up with new “types” of ponies to enchant little girls–from the rainbow-haired, glitter-symboled Rainbow Ponies to the jewel-eyed Twinkle Ponies to the scented, three-dimensional-symboled Sundae Best Ponies to the slender, iridescent-winged Flutter Ponies. Every year there was something new and special! Despite the updates, the production ended after 1992.

In 1997, the concept was redesigned and brought back into production. These ponies were smaller, slimmer, and came with lots of accessories. The line didn’t last long in the US, as these ponies were discontinued after 1999, but they continued to be sold in Europe for many years after.

In 2003, My Little Pony was redesigned yet again. These were the ponies that caught my eye. Although larger and less delicate than the second generation of ponies, they bear only slight resemblance to the first generation of My Little Pony toys from the 80s. Their releases, however, followed the protocol of the first generation–the ponies were released in sets, with few accessories, based on themes. As the years progressed, more ponies were introduced and playsets became more common. Although there were many duplicates, re-releases, or somewhat unimaginative ponies, I still loved them all and sought to find them.

The Pony Kingdom
My ponies aren’t terribly organized–I ran out of shelf space very quickly! Even when they’re in disarray, the cheerful colours make me smile~

My interest never waned, but my collecting died down when the toy line underwent more changes. In 2008, Hasbro stopped releasing new ponies and instead began “Core 7.” Focusing on seven ponies, in an attempt to form characters that children would recognize and identify with, these ponies were released and re-released in different sets with slight changes. At this point, I stopped paying too much attention. Although one of these ponies was my favourite pony, Pinkie Pie, the others didn’t interest me.

I focused instead on second-hand purchases of other ponies I had missed out on over the years, but as the gaps in my collection narrowed it became more and more difficult. At this time I my interest in lolita fashion was quite strong, so I was more willing to purchase a new jumperskirt than pay $50+ for one particularly hard-to-fine toy horse. I also didn’t have much spending money. Additionally, I was living away from home due to university, and I couldn’t bring my collection with me to the places I stayed. I no longer focused on my pony collection and constantly contemplated selling it off.

Despite my thoughts of exiting the hobby I had invested so much time and effort in, I couldn’t do it. As much as wearing lolita fashion made me very happy, seeing and fussing my collection made me happy, too. ♥ I started bringing a few ponies with me to the places I was living, and it reminded me why I had started collecting them in the first place: they were cute, small, inexpensive, and made me smile. ♥

Pinkie Ponies, Roll Out!
Pinkie Pie is my favourite pony–even in the “new” style, which I’m not terribly fond of. I collect all of her variations.

My heart even warmed to the newest redesign of the ponies, although their large heads and small bodies had initially confused and dismayed me. Another redesign looms on the horizon, to correspond with the upcoming My Little Pony cartoon “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” The new artwork and toys don’t look much at all like the ponies from my childhood, but I’m curious to see how the line continues to evolve. Best of all, I’ve found a friend who shares my pony-related passion; so I have someone to express my excitement (or outrage) with!

I’m hoping that I’ll soon be able to set up my collection in my home–at least partially. I need to find space for the bookcases so that I can get the ponies into order. It’s fun to visit my mother’s house and walk into the pony-topia that is my former bedroom, but it would be even better to have that sort of atmosphere on a day-to-day basis. (Plus all of those colours make a really fun, vibrant background for lolita fashion!)

All of the things I like represent me in some way. I used to be worried about that kind of thing. “What will people think if they see my room is full of these toys?” “What will she say if she sees my closet is full of frills?” “What might he tell others if he sees my kitchen is full of teacups?” Those kinds of worries only make me unhappy with being myself. Rather than focus on something so negative, I want to enjoy being who I am. Even if collecting toys is childish, I should be allowed to make that choice for myself. I don’t want someone else to dictate how much fun I’m allowed to have! ♥

Charming Activities: Calico Critters

Charming Activities: Calico Critters

I have a soft spot for toys. Before I started wearing lolita fashion, I spent quite a bit of time and money collecting toys. I didn’t necessarily go after things that were collectible or high-value, just anything I thought was cute. When I went away to university and moved out of my mother’s house, I donated the bulk of my collections due to space restraints. Since I now live in an even smaller place, I hadn’t given those collections-of-the-past even a passing thought.

Then, in mid-June, I attended a meetup where we visited a cute toy store…and spotted Calico Critters! My husband was sweet enough to buy me a family of bunny figures while I stared at the shelves and displays with dreamy-eyed nostalgia. ♥ I didn’t have many Calico Critters when I was a child, only a few, but I loved anything pocket-sized that involved animals. I would make little homes for them in tucked-away spaces, furnished with all sorts of re-used tidbits to form furniture and accessories.

Little Happinesses
I adore the details of these little figures! Whenever I spot them, I feel a bit more cheerful.

Calico Critters are the US-versions of Sylvanian Families. They’re small animal figures, usually under 3 inches tall, with jointed arms and legs. Their hands lack fingers, but have a separated thumb that allows certain playset accessories to be “held” when they’re eased into place. The figures are hard plastic, but they’re covered in flocking to make the animals fuzzy. The figures are anthropomorphic, so sometimes they don’t look much like actual animals, as the focus is on cute humanoid-types living a quaint life and wearing clothing. They’re marketed as both collectibles for adults and toys for children. (Although there are many small pieces, so they’re not for very young children.)

At the Faire
I had lots of fun taking these pictures–this playset is just adorable!

What has always fascinated me about these toys is the level of detail put into the playsets and accessories. When we spotted Calico Critters at My Favorite Toy Store in Downers Grove, my husband was amazed at how realistic the furniture looked. Most doll furniture that I grew up with was made of thin neon pink plastic with little detail. These accessories use a slightly marbled dense brown plastic for “wood” furniture, with other colours as necessary.

The smaller accessories are carefully sculpted and painted with detail. Perfume bottles in a dress shop have a coloured translucent “bottle” to resemble glass, with gold metallic paint on the “cap.” Small swatches of muted floral fabric are used to upholster couches and chairs. Everything is carefully in scale with the figures, who often have very short legs compared to similar-sized dollhouse dolls. It’s very charming! ♥

At the Faire
It was slightly difficult to make sure the critters stayed upright on the carpeting, but usually luck was on our side.

A friend of mine bought a set of gray bunnies and a “hook-a-duck” carnival attraction, so a few days later she came over and we had fun setting up little scenes. If I had more space, I’d probably want something ridiculously large, like one of the houses, and try keep it set up as a display. (Particularly because my family of bunnies is the “Chocolate” family, who run the “Courtyard Restaurant” on the patio of their home. It’s a very quaint building!) I also had a chance to find my set of guinea pigs, which were a gift from another friend when she went to Ireland. They don’t bear much of a resemblance to guinea pigs, but they fit right in with the families of brown-eared bunnies and gray bunnies.

Since acquiring my bunnies, I’ve seen Calico Critters in other retail stores! I’ve spotted them in Toys R Us, and there was a very large display in FAO Schwartz when I visited New York in June! I wonder if they’ll catch on with children–they haven’t been updated to be “more modern” or “hip,” but they’re certainly cute. I certainly hope they have some appeal, so that someday I can stare at the large playsets in an actual store and try very hard not to bring home a cottage or manor. …But those manors are very tempting.