298. TMTF’s Top Ten Cartoons You Should Watch

I spend more time watching cartoons than any grown man should. Needless to say, I regret nothing.

The fact is that cartoons can be innocent, bright, smart, and funny. While the media is often jaded or cynical, cartoons are pleasant, and unapologetic about it. I appreciate them.

That said, some cartoons are much better than others. Today we’re listing ten of the best, because making top ten lists is what we do.

This is a list for Western animation. Anime (Japanese animation) is in a category by itself and deserves a list of its own. Someday, perhaps!

Discerning readers may notice that nearly all of the shows on this list are pretty recent, airing within the past decade or so. This is because I avoided cartoons until a few years ago. Growing up in Ecuador, I watched only the few shows my family had on tape. I mostly rejected cartoons in middle and high school, dismissing them as “too childish,” and only rediscovered them as an adult. (The irony has not escaped me.) Most of the cartoons I’ve watched are recent ones, which is why this list lacks any really old classics.

Let’s take a look, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Cartoons You Should Watch!

10. The Powerpuff Girls

The Powerpuff Girls

When an absent-minded scientist blends “suger, spice, and everything nice” to create perfect little girls, he spills an untested chemical into the mixture and produces the Powerpuff Girls: a trio of young superheroines who protect the innocent, defend their city from all evil, and attend kindergarten every weekday.

The show pokes fun at superheroes, monster movies, campy science fiction, and pop culture in general. Its playful tone and subversive humor are a blast. The Powerpuff Girls is full of charming little touches, from its hilariously incompetent mayor to the fact its greatest villain is a chimpanzee with an exaggerated Japanese accent.

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Beneath New York City, in some dark, forgotten sewer tunnel, dwell four fearless fighters. They emerge at night to patrol the streets and protect the innocent. So what if these heroes happen to be turtles?

Nickelodeon’s recent take on the Turtles is refreshingly lighthearted and self-aware. It mixes the whiz-bang style of comic books with the stylish action of old kung fu films, holding it all together with some really good writing. The show never takes itself or its story very seriously… but then its protagonists are nerdy mutant turtles, so that may not be such a bad thing.

8. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated

In Crystal Cove, a touristy town that proclaims itself the “Most Hauntedest Place on Earth,” four teenagers and their dog solve mysteries. These kids, who call themselves Mystery Incorporated, debunk the town’s “supernatural” phenomena as the tricks of frauds and criminals… much to the chagrin of Crystal Cove’s mayor, who wants the town to keep its spooky reputation. When Mystery Inc. is contacted by someone called Mr. E, they find themselves caught up in a bigger mystery than they can imagine.

I saw one or two older Scooby-Doo cartoons as a kid, and they were kind of terrible. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated astonished me with its excellence. It has character development, a story arc that stretches across the entire series, and an entire episode spoofing the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Best of all, Fred Jones—who was a bland stereotype in every version of Scooby-Doo up to this point—is reimagined as someone cheerful, well-meaning, slightly neurotic, and endearingly inept. I honestly don’t think Scooby-Doo will ever manage to be any better than this show.

7. The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra

In a world divided among four nations, a messianic figure called the Avatar arises in each new generation to maintain peace and balance. Each nation represents a classical element—water, earth, fire, or air—and certain people can control or “bend” one of these elements. The Avatar is the only person who can bend all four. This time around, the Avatar is a short-tempered young woman named Korra. She must master her abilities and navigate the political complexities of her world to keep things from falling part.

I’m bending the rules with this one. (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.) The Legend of Korra is neither Western animation nor anime, but something in between. Its characters are nuanced and compelling. The action scenes are wonderful, and the animation is some of the best on television. Best of all, the world of The Legend of Korra is a magical mix of Asian culture, steampunk technology, and beautiful scenery. Korra would be much higher on this list, but it never quite achieves its full potential, and an even better show steals its lofty place… but more on that later!

6. Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack

When a young samurai from feudal Japan is flung by a demon into a post-apocalyptic future, he sets off on a surreal journey to return to his own time. The samurai’s travels take him from futuristic cities to lonely jungles, and he meets everything from aliens to crazy Scotsmen. Wherever he goes, the legend spreads of a brave, kind, noble warrior: the samurai known only as “Jack.”

This show is probably the most artsy on this list, and also the most cartoony. It brings together the zany humor of The Powerpuff Girls with elegant action scenes and measured pacing. Samurai Jack uses dialogue sparingly; sometimes whole minutes go by without anyone speaking. The visuals tell the story. The show is strange, stylish, and thoroughly enjoyable.

5. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic

In a fairy-tale world populated by candy-colored ponies, a bookish unicorn named Twilight is sent to a small town to “make some friends.” After settling in and meeting the town’s eccentric residents, Twilight begins to understand the importance of friendship. She and her friends live, learn, and occasionally save the world together.

This is a show for little girls, and it’s kind of awesome. (Its fans are also pretty neat.) It has all the sentimental, sappy, twee nonsense one would expect from a show about magical rainbow ponies. It also has some great writing, solid characterization, strong moral values, upbeat humor, and charming innocence. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a much, much better show than it has any right to be.

4. Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb

It’s a beautiful summer day, and stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb know exactly how to spend it: building some outlandish, impossible contraption in the backyard. Their older sister, refusing to allow such reckless behavior, tries vainly to get them in trouble with their mum. Meanwhile, in another part of town, an evil scientist tries to conquer the world—well, that might be overambitious. He’ll settle for the tri-state area. All that stands between him and its innocent residents is an elite secret agent… who happens to be Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus.

Phineas and Ferb has been around for years, and it’s still finding ways to subvert its simple formula for each episode. It’s the most self-aware show I’ve ever seen, peppered with droll dialogue, clever gags, and catchy music. Among other things, the show’s evil scientist, the lonely and forgetful Dr. Doofenshmirtz, is probably the funniest character I’ve seen on television.

3. Dan Vs.

Dan Vs.

Dan is convinced that everything and everyone in the universe, from his neighbors to modern art, is out to get him. He won’t take it lying down! This jobless misanthrope will go to any lengths to get back at whatever or whoever he thinks has wronged him. Chris and his wife Elise, Dan’s only friends, are often dragged along on his madcap schemes for vengeance.

Dan Vs. manages to be sharp and satirical without ever resorting to vulgarity or profanity. Dan is hilariously unhinged. I wouldn’t want him as a friend, but from a safe distance his schemes are great fun to watch. One of the show’s creators compared him to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, saying “I think of the Dan character as Calvin as a grownup, if his life had gone horribly wrong somewhere.” Dan shares Calvin’s paranoia, intelligence, ill temper, and absolute lack of common sense. Dan Vs. is smart, biting, and a joy to watch.

2. Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls

Mabel and Dipper Pines, twelve-year-old twins, have been sent by their parents to spend the summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon. They stay with their Great Uncle (or “Grunkle”) Stan, who runs a shady tourist attraction called the Mystery Shack. Although Dipper is disappointed to be stuck in a small town, he soon finds a journal detailing the supernatural monsters and mysteries of Gravity Falls. As Mabel and Dipper begin unraveling the riddles of this sleepy little town, Grunkle Stan, a gruff skeptic and shameless shyster, does his best to swindle the tourists who visit the Mystery Shack.

Gravity Falls has been called “gently twisted,” and I think that’s a good description. The show is equal parts funny, intriguing, heartwarming, outrageous, and weird. I would call it just a good comedy, except that it’s also packed with riddles and ciphers for fans to solve, and held together by a really compelling mystery. I’m not sure what exactly is going on in Gravity Falls, but I can’t wait to find out.

1. Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar - The Last Airbender

Before The Legend of Korra, there was an Avatar named Aang. When one of the four nations, the Fire Nation, wars against the others, Aang and his friends must stop it and restore peace before the world burns.

It takes a few episodes to hit its stride, but once it does this show never falters. This not-quite-anime predecessor to The Legend of Korra creates a world as beautiful and fully realized as Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and populates that world with a ridiculous number of memorable characters. Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t merely a kid’s cartoon. It transcends its medium to become as deep and gripping a story as any I’ve seen… while never losing the gleams of humor and silliness that made it fun in the first place.

O people of the Internet, what cartoons have you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments!

262. Am I a Man?

Not long ago, I grew a beard. It was horrible, an utter disgrace and an affront to anyone unfortunate enough to gaze upon it. To put it in biblical terms, it was an abomination that caused desolation.

It’s a pity, because I like beards. I wish I could manage a better one. This one made me look like a stoner. In fact, a coworker went so far as to remark, “If I’d never met you before, I’d have assumed you smoked marijuana.”

The Abomination That Causes Desolation

I’m sorry you have to see this. I’m so, so sorry.

In the end, a couple of weeks ago, I euthanized my stoner-beard and got a haircut, restoring my deceptive resemblance to a civilized human male.

I grew a beard for two reasons. First, it was a rebellion against shaving. Shaving is tedious and painful. My beard was the symbol of a revolution, and a remind that rebellion can be an ugly thing. My second reason was a little more serious. A beard—even a hideous stoner-beard—was a reminder that I was a man.

At least, I’m supposed to be a man.

There are certainly times I feel old. The jungles, mountains and beaches of my youth seem very, very far from the quiet town of Berne, Indiana. Much of the time, however, I feel pretty young. I occasionally feel like a kid playing at being a grownup.

I’ve spent nearly a quarter-century knocking about God’s green earth, but I sometimes don’t feel it—and I hardly ever look it. Heck, I was often mistaken for a high school kid during my student teaching. (I was even told by fellow teachers to leave the office or teachers’ lounge because students weren’t allowed!) Many people want to look younger. I want to look older. At the very least, I want a proper beard.

Many of my high school and college chums are getting married, having kids, building careers and watching Breaking Bad. As I play video games, watch cartoons and write silly blog posts about exploding tomatoes, it’s a little scary for me to see how effortlessly responsible and grown-up everyone else seems to be.

I tried watching Breaking Bad once. (It was recommended to me by the same coworker who told me I looked like a weed addict.) The show was brilliant, but also painful to watch. My life was dysfunctional enough without watching Walter White lie to his wife and scream at his boss.

Right about the time [spoiler alert?] Walter and his accomplice tried dissolving a corpse in acid, I realized I wasn’t enjoying the show. It was too grown-up—by which I mean, rife with grown-up problems like lies, unfaithfulness, greed, murder, drug use and nihilistic hedonism. I gave up watching Breaking Bad and went back to the Edenic innocence of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Am I some sort of man child, refusing to grow up and take responsibility, chasing fading gleams of childhood simplicity?

Am I… dare I say it… a Peter Pantheist?

I think I am a man.

Admittedly, I am a man who enjoys the wit and silliness of Phineas and Ferb over the gore and drama of The Walking Dead, but still. I would like to think I’m childlike, not childish. There’s a difference. At least, I’m pretty sure there’s a difference.

“When I was a child,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

I talk like a man, I think like a man, I reason like a man—most of the time, anyway. I would like to think I’ve followed Paul’s good example and left behind childish ways.

All the same, I want to hope like a child, to trust like a child, to dream like a child. After all, the Lord Jesus himself said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

The Ability to Pull Stuff from Nowhere

Art by iangoudelock on deviantART.

Art by iangoudelock on deviantART.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. As you watch a movie or play a video game, a character pulls out something from nowhere. Bugs Bunny and Wakko Warner reach behind their backs and bring out anvils or sledgehammers. Solid Snake and Link produce an endless assortment of gear and weapons from thin air. As Link demonstrates in the clever picture above, actually carrying around all that stuff is a physical impossibility.

The ability to pull stuff from nowhere is sometimes called the back pocket, a wry suggestion that the things characters pull from behind their backs were in their pants pockets the whole time. (This concept is particularly amusing in the case of characters that don’t wear pants.) In anime, the concept is called hammerspace. A comedic trope in Japanese animation is for characters to express anger by hitting something (or someone) with a large hammer produced from nowhere, making hammerspace the hypothetical place where all those hammers are kept.

The back pocket concept is usually played for comic effect in animation. Pinkie Pie, an exuberant character from a surprisingly awesome show about ponies, produces a wide assortment of items (including freaking cannons) from nowhere. Other characters know better than to question Pinkie’s defiance of physics.

In fact, when back pockets are used in any show or film, no one ever seems surprised.

In video games, back pockets are utilitarian rather than comedic in nature. The fact of the matter is that Link from the Legend of Zelda games needs his gear—all of it. Limiting his inventory would be a hindrance to the player, who would have to backtrack every time she needed something Link didn’t happen to be carrying at the moment. Constantly retrieving items, or plodding slowly under their weight, would be horribly annoying.

Thus Link carts around enormous shields and heavy explosives and iron-shod boots without any trouble. (Humorously enough, the iron boots only weigh down Link when he’s actually wearing them.) Solid Snake somehow sneaks through enemy territory burdened with cardboard boxes, sensor equipment and an entire arsenal of weapons (including massive rocket launchers). Every Final Fantasy character carries up to ninety-nine of every kind of weapon, armor and potion.

Where is all that stuff kept? Where does it come from?

Some questions, dear reader, are simply beyond answering.

198. The Art of TMTF

Today’s post highlights some of the great artwork this blog has been privileged to share. Prepare to be dazzled!

A Reasonably Accurate Depiction of the Typewriter Monkey Task Force

This is my blog’s header, the picture that started it all, generously provided by my old man at my request (read: nagging insistence). I recommend opening this image in a new tab or window in order to bask in its full majesty.

A Wes Molebash original!

Wes Molebash, web cartoonist extraordinaire, has generously allowed me to feature some of his comics and artwork (such as this impressive picture of Link) on my blog. Wes even wrote a guest post about creativity and Legend of Zelda games!

There ought to be a law against selling pyrotechnics to monkeys.

Monkeys and pyrotechnics are a bad combination.

Wait, which way to the future?

As I considered changes to my blog, my old man provided yet another lovely sketch.

Not many people know this, but I'm actually a pony.

This is a picture of me working on this blog, except that I’m a cartoon pony. I don’t really have anything else to say about this one.

Besides being brave and noble, Link has a great fashion sense.

Little known fact: My blog attracts cool pictures of Link from the Legend of Zelda games. This one’s from my younger bro, whose deviantART page is awesome.

“I don’t always write posts for other blogs, but when I do I write them for Typewriter Monkey Task Force.”

This image, a close-up from my blog’s header, might be my favorite picture from the entire blog.

The Appalling Scandal of a Cross-Eyed Pony

Derpy Hooves

Offensive?

I work in a group home for gentlemen with mental and physical disabilities. I am also a fan of a pleasant, cheerful cartoon called My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Mental disabilities and rainbow ponies are hardly subjects I expected to overlap, and I was right. They didn’t overlap.

They collided.

These subjects crashed together in a train wreck of censure and indignation, a firestorm ignited by a few innocent words from a cross-eyed pony. This strange controversy set me thinking generally about scandal, censorship and the absolute impossibility of pleasing everybody.

In an early episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a character in the background—an unassuming gray mare nearly lost in a crowd of brighter ponies—had unfocused eyes. Her derpy expression was a mistake, which the supervising director thought was funny and kept in the episode.

Well, the show’s fan base, which is equal parts ridiculous and awesome, immediately fell in love with this mysterious, cross-eyed stranger, whom they christened Derpy Hooves.

Derpy and the Monkeys

Derpy even made an appearance on this blog! Her visit was… memorable.

The show’s creators, amused by the incredible popularity of this incidental character, began drawing her with crossed eyes as a tip of the hat to fans.

Over time, those fans developed persona for Derpy. This mute background pony became a bumbling, cheerful, well-intentioned mail carrier with a passion for muffins. Derpy became a mascot for fans of the show. Without them, Derpy Hooves would not have existed. The cross-eyed gray mare would have been just another silent, cardboard-cutout character in the background.

Then—wonder of wonders!—Derpy Hooves spoke.

Derpy was given a minute or two of screen time and some dialogue alongside a major character, who very clearly addressed her as “Derpy.” In this brief scene, everyone’s favorite background pony was established to be friendly and klutzy and eager to help. “I just don’t know what went wrong,” she admitted sheepishly, having nearly demolished town hall in her attempts to be useful.

Fans were wild with excitement. This was their character. Derpy had a voice!

Then, shortly after the episode’s release, the scene was changed—censored, according to some fans. Derpy’s voice was less… well… derpy. Her eyes were not so acutely crossed, and her name was no longer mentioned.

The scene was altered due to complaints that the character and her name were offensive to persons with disabilities.

A few fans commended the show’s creators for their sensitivity. Many responded with indignation, and several went out of their way to insult the people who submitted complaints. Some claimed the “censorship” of Derpy Hooves was a slap in the face to fans: a misguided attempt to “fix” the quirks of a character beloved for her quirkiness.

In the end, the show’s creators kept the alterations to the scene. The controversy faded away. Derpy has stayed out of the spotlight, resuming her modest appearances in the background and retaining her immense popularity among fans.

Looking back at that strange, messy incident, I can only echo Ms. Hooves and admit sadly, “I just don’t know what went wrong.”

Personally, I wish the scene had not been altered. Even if Derpy were interpreted as a pony with disabilities, she was cheerful and kind. She wanted to help, and other characters obviously respected her enough to let her try.

At the same time, I think the show’s creators did the right thing by altering the scene. It was edited, not censored, to show respect for a group of people who are often disrespected.

The whole business reminds me that some controversies have no easy answer, and many concern things infinitely more important than rainbow ponies. How do we settle political differences? What about conflicts within churches? If so much strife can be provoked by a silly cartoon, how do we resolve really significant controversies?

179. Of Pink Ponies and Civil War Nurses

I like making top ten lists. (You may have noticed.) For whatever reason, I enjoy organizing the best (or worst) things together in groups.

I once made a list of my top ten favorite books. The Bible was there, of course, along with classics like The Lord of the Rings and The Innocence of Father Brown (because J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton are awesome). In fact, there was only one surprise: a very short, very impromptu series of autobiographical sketches by a nurse who called herself Tribulation Periwinkle.

Hospital Sketches

Tribulation Periwinkle may be the best name ever.

Tribulation Periwinkle was really Louisa May Alcott, who is best known for her novel Little Women. When the American Civil War broke out, she enlisted to care for wounded soldiers in Washington D.C. as a volunteer nurse: an experience she described in a cheerful little book titled Hospital Sketches.

War is horrible. I’ve never been in a battle, but I’ve seen and read and heard enough to understand that armed conflicts are unspeakably dreadful things. General Sherman, who fought in the American Civil War, famously declared, “I tell you, war is hell!”

Written from such tragic circumstances, Hospital Sketches is unexpectedly hilarious. It may not be very accessible for modern readers—the book is crammed with old-fashioned words, archaic idioms and references to classical literature—but I find it hysterically funny.

What really impresses me is how Alcott found humor in the bleakest situations. When confronted with an unappetizing meal, she cheerfully compared the bread to sawdust and observed how much the stewed blackberries looked like preserved cockroaches. Listening to her injured patients snore late at night, she declared them a “band of wind instruments” and restrained herself from breaking out in John Brown’s favorite hymn: “Blow ye the trumpet, blow!”

This incredible optimism and humor in the face of difficulty reminds me of something G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “Always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?”

It also reminds me of a certain pink pony.

Pinkie Pie

I’m pretty sure real ponies don’t come in pink, but whatevs.

Pinkie Pie is a character from a popular cartoon called My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, of which I am a fan. She breaks the fourth wall, blurts out non sequiturs and generally does things that make me laugh.

Pinkie also finds humor in miserable circumstances. Surrounded by horrific demon trees? She giggles at their twisted expressions and makes faces at them. Trapped in a surreal nightmare by an ancient spirit of discord? She points out the advantages: “Eternal chaos comes with chocolate rain, you guys! Chocolate rain!”

I’m a pessimist. A pessimist is not a fun thing to be. Louisa May Alcott and Pinkie Pie seem to have discovered a brighter outlook: finding glimmers of hope and humor in dark times.

Perhaps I should try to be positive, even when my circumstances are not.

161. A Conversation with Myself

Hello, Adam.

Go away. Trying to write a blog post here.

Ah, yes. A post for your typewriter monkey blog—the one that’s read by tens of people. Some of them may even be mildly interested in what you have to say.

I happen to like my blog, thank you very much.

Of course. I suppose you must. I mean, who else will?

Seriously, go away.

Why don’t you take a break from your blog and work on your novel? Oh, that’s right. You’re still stuck on that chapter. The one you started six months ago.

Hey! The past six months have been crazy and busy and stressful. Survival comes before creative writing. To quote Louisa May Alcott, “First live, then write.”

Ah, it was only a matter of time before you quoted somebody. You really, really enjoy quoting people, don’t you? You think it makes you seem smart and bookish. I think it makes you sound like a pretentious twit.

Yes, I like quoting people. So what? I haven’t given up on my novel, by the way. This is the year I finish the deuced thing.

We don’t use words like deuced in America, son.

I like dated British idioms.

I know, and I think it’s really cute that you use them. Wait, did I say cute? I meant annoying.

Do you know what? I kind of hate you.

That’s funny, Adam, because you and I happen to be the same person. Therefore, if you dislike me, who is it you really dislike?

I wouldn’t mind so much if you were… you know… cooler. A shadow version of me with glowing red eyes, maybe. The Shadow Adam. The Anti-Adam. My evil doppelganger. But you’re not any of these things. You’re just annoying.

The truth is sometimes annoying, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I’m here to give you healthy doses of realism when you get drunk on excitement and optimism. I’m here, Adam, because I care.

You’re twisting the truth and you know it. You’re exaggerating the nasty facts and hiding the good ones and generally making things seem much worse than they are.

Just listen to you! I know you like big words, so here’s one for you to chew on: pontificating. More to the point, stop pontificating!

Would you kindly go away? I need to finish this blog post.

You’ll never be Jon Acuff, you know.

Go away.

You’ll certainly never be C.S. Lewis.

Go away!

You won’t make a difference.

That’s it. Listen here! I will make a difference. It may not be a big difference. It may be a very small difference, but even a small difference can cause a whole lot of good.

Why do I get the feeling I’m about to hear another one of your fancy quotes?

Well, you are. “Sometimes you can feel like what you have to offer is too little to make a difference, but today I learned that every pony’s contribution is important, no matter how small.”

Wait. Wait. Are you quoting that stupid cartoon about rainbow ponies? That’s pathetic, Adam.

Hey! You can’t blame me for being pretentious, and then fault me for being childish.

I can, because you’ve somehow managed to be both. Congratulations.

Dash it, at least I’m trying to do something worthwhile!

Yes, yes you are. Trying and failing.

“Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.”

Ah! Do you never stop quoting people?

Shut up and listen. In the vast scheme of things, I might not have much to offer. Individually, few people can change the world. But what if everybody tries? What then?

What if everybody fails?

God used a little boy’s lunch to feed thousands of people. What might he do with a person who tries to be useful?

Fine. Keep trying. See how little difference you make.

I will. Now tell me something. What are you doing to make a difference?

That’s a stupid question.

You don’t have an answer, do you? That’s what I thought. Now go away. It’s too late for me to finish this blog post, so I guess I’ll have to improvise… or maybe not.

You’re going to post this conversation on your blog, aren’t you?

Yup.

Your readers will think it’s an awkward confession or a plea for attention or something. Besides, this has been a really lame conversation.

Hey! That’s as much your fault as mine! I have to post something today. This conversation is better than nothing. Who knows? Maybe it’ll encourage someone to make a difference—or at least to try. Now go make us some coffee, will you?

151. Bronies

As much as I like cartoons, I never expected to become a fan of a show about magical rainbow ponies. It’s strange that I did, I suppose, but something far stranger happened.

I became a fan of its fans.

The community inspired by My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, though often regarded with suspicion or loathing, is the most creative, quirky, compassionate group of fans I’ve ever seen. Combining bro and ponies in a portmanteau word, these weird, wonderful people are known as bronies.

There is a ridiculous number of artists in the brony community. Besides creating art inspired by the show, they sometimes reimagine real or fictional peopleincluding bloggersas ponies.

Not many people know this, but I'm actually a pony.

Not many people know this, but I’m actually a pony.

The artwork produced by bronies takes innumerable forms: comics, sketches, paintings, woodcuts, stained glass and more. Name any kind of visual art, and bronies are guaranteed to have used it.

I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to buy a fedora. And to grow a mustache.

I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to buy a fedora. And to grow a mustache.

There are nearly as many musicians in the brony community as there are artists, and their music is no less diverse. Besides remixing music from the show, bronies have produced a staggering number of original songs in every style imaginable. Classical? Electronic? Classical remixed as electronic? Progressive bluegrass? Symphonic rock? Bronies have them all covered.

Brony musicians even cover music by other bronies. “Discord,” a catchy Eurobeat song about a villain from the show, has been arranged for orchestra, jazz, electronic and other genres.

I won’t even begin to cover the animations and video games created by bronies. While some are amateur efforts, others are literally of professional quality.

Even my typewriter monkeys (Thanks again to # of deviantArt!)

The Typewriter Monkey Task Force can’t handle the incredible creativity of bronies.
(Special thanks to Derpy Hooves for making a guest appearance!)

The creativity of the brony community seems to know no end, but the thing that impresses me most about bronies is their compassion.

Through fundraisers, auctions and special events, a charity called Bronies for Good recently paid for the construction of an orphanage in Uganda. Bronies for Good is currently funding clean water projects in Uganda and Tanzania. Another charity, the Brony Thank You Fund, is working to endow a scholarshiptentatively titled the Derpy Hooves Scholarship in Animationto the California Institute of the Arts. (Tim Burton, John Lasseter and many notable animators graduated from CalArts, which was founded by Walt Disney.) Various brony initiatives have raised many thousands of dollars for Kiki Havivy, a little girl diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The list of charitable projects goes on and on. It’s ridiculous.

Nothing is perfect, of course. The brony community has its share of conflicts, problems, crude artwork and tasteless fan fiction. In the end, though, it remains the most amazing group of fans I’ve ever seen.

I am, I admit, slightly embarrassed to be a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. It’s a cartoon for little girls, after all.

I am not, however, embarrassed to be a brony.