Guys, there is something on the My Little Pony Wikipedia page that is causing some wide-spread confusion. It lists the ponies from Friendship is Magic as being the fourth generation of My Little Pony (G4) and that info is spreading all over. But it’s wrong. They are still third generation (G3).
Generations of any toy refer to the years of production, not the design. Yes, FiM ponies look different but that is actually completely irrelevant to what generation they are in. A new generation starts when the toy company ceases production for a significant amount of time and then relaunches the brand. This applies to all collectibles, it’s not something specific to MLP. The fact that most G3 ponies are still in production (such as So-Soft, Newborn Cuties, Ponyville, etc) should have been the big hint that we didn’t switch generations. Until Hasbro completely ceases production on all MLP items for a few years and then completely reboots the entire line, we are still on the third generation, especially since most G3 items are still in production. G3 and G4 can’t overlap, that’s impossible. A logo change and molded hair does not a new generation make.
Let me put it this way. Let’s say, like whoever wrote that note on Wikipedia thinks, the generation changed every time the style of the ponies changed. Well, then wouldn’t a new generation have started with each new set with a new look, such as Flutter Ponies or Sea Ponies? By that logic, wouldn’t Petite Ponies, Dream Beauties, So Soft Newborns and Ponyville each been their own private generation? We’d be on generation 25 or something if we just allocated generations with that loose logic. Hasbro has only rebooted the brand twice which means we are still on the third generation.
I’m not a Wikipedia editor so I can’t fix the note that causing all this confusion but I’m hoping this post will make the people who are spreading this incorrect info take pause and realize that what they are saying doesn’t make sense. I’m also hoping that informed collectors will start speaking up and clearing up this confusion before it gets out of hand.
Let’s spread sense.
In Europe there was no break in production between G1 and G2, but they’re still considered separate generations. Thus, many European collectors don’t see a time break being a defining factor in having a different generation. However, clearly looks alone are not enough to define a new generation of toys, as evidenced by “G3.5s”, those ponies that were a completely new look but which Hasbro considered to be a continuation of the G3 generation.
I think why most people consider G4 to be a new generation is that there is a significant shift in the approach to the line. While G3s were intended to be more like little girls, G4s are a return to a more equine set of characters. The characters that have been repeated between generations are different, like Rainbow Dash being more of a tomboy than a shopoholic.
Perhaps the most important thing though, is that the generational tags aren’t really anything official – they’re a fan term. And there seems to be something of a consensus amongst fans (at least on the MLPTP and MLP Arena) that this new design is G4. Sure, there will be dissenters, and some people will call them FiM ponies or whatever. But I don’t think the true universal appropriateness of the term is nearly as important as whether or not it’s a shorthand that other pony collectors will understand and use. G4 is already in fairly common usage, and I don’t think it’s likely to go away.
With G1/G2, there may not have been a break in distribution but there was definitely a break in production which is what counts. It’s because the G1 ponies were produced by an in-house Hasbro division and the G2’s were distributed by their Kenner arm.
This is going to become one of those things where years later we’ll be saying something like, “When FiM ponies first came out, some collectors affectionately dubbed them G4’s as they were so different from previous styles” but they can never “officially” become G4s because of all the reasons above. Even if Hasbro were to come out and say, “These are G4” it wouldn’t matter (especially since many Hasbro MLP team members didn’t even know there was a G2). If we call these G4, we’d have to go back and retroactively renumber every generation for every time the “look” changed which is ridiculous. Also, in the minds of people who think we are in G4, what do you call all the G3 items still in production? Do they morph into suddenly being a part of G4? Are the generations still someone going on simultaneously? Do they stick their fingers in their ears and go LALALALALA! I can’t hear you!!! Whenever someone brings those up? 🙂
I agree that this has become pretty ingrained in people’s heads on the forums at the moment but I think, with time, the more they think about it the more it will slip into disuse. And remember, I know the forums sometimes feel like the whole MLP world but not all collectors are on the forums, many never visit there.
Over at the MLPArena the term “g4” has been used since before the FiM toys were released… since, as previously posted, it is a significant switch in approach & design.
I was on eBay the other day and people are posting listings now with G4, G5 and even G6 so it’s clear people are confused. I’ve also seen people retroactively call some G3 from years past G4 most likely for the same reasons above (If they came out the same year as these things people are calling G4, doesn’t this make them all G4?). The forums have their own language for collecting and are a strong community but they aren’t everyone.
I think it boils down to the cell phone culture is what confusing everyone. With a cell phone, the newest generation is a good thing and people are used to a new generation coming out every year. With toys, starting a new generation is a bad thing: it means the last generation was a failure and then line had to be scrapped and redone. A successful toyline usually only has a couple of generations.
There was a great comment from the discussion on this on Facebook where someone pointed out that G1 had the same redesign with things like the Bride Pony and that thinner design later in their run. If you think about it, that change happened right around the same time in the toyline as this and that didn’t represent a change in generation (even though, in that case, packing also changed drastically) so there is definitely a president. That was an angle I hadn’t thought about, it was a good point.
Again, I think history will bear this one out. But, boy, is it causing confusion. 🙂 Damn Wikipedia, confusing people!
G1/G2/G3/G3.5/G4 are all terms collectors and fans use, if I’m remembering rightly.
A quote from Vertefae from the G4 discussion on the mlparena:
“At the Fair Hasbro said they follow suit of the collectors, but even they asked if we were going to call them G4s. I think they consider them a new line.”
Reading this in 2019 with a sense of irony as there are currently similar discussions about whether a new reboot of the FIM franchise in a different form will constitute a G5 or not.
Commenting on an article from 7 years ago with hindsight is not wholly fair, but there was never any chance that FIM would not be seen universally as G4. The reason is that it’s not to do with Hasbro, it’s how collectors define the collectable. Understanding how the G terms are used means understanding how G1 and G2 only inherited those descriptors when G3 came about. Whether we would have seen them differently had we thought about those terms from the start is unclear – but there are still bronies who think G2 is MLP Tales, so there are still levels of confusion about how the G terminology works.
In essence, while a toy line, it isn’t entirely about production dates. To denote a new generation means to denote a separation between those generations. Not just in terms of style but packaging, canon, advertising, and most importantly, interaction between characters.
For example, all the different styles mentioned under the umbrella of G1 may look like different sizes, poses, etc – but there isn’t a valid argument to consider any of them a separate generation. This is because they all were advertised on the same inserts, in the same photo comic ads, and often interacted in the same stories outside of the US, where there was a continuous narrative canon up until 1994ish. The idea of ponies who shared story space, who appeared on each other’s backcards at times and who were all marketed through the same yearly inserts demonstrate a connective between all the ponies in G1, despite style changes. Even Petite Ponies interacted with normal size ponies in comic stories. Thus G1 includes everything from 1982-3ish to the 1995 Netherlands release.
G2 also was self-contained. The terms relating to where the ponies lived also changed in this generation to Friendship Gardens rather than Ponyland, or Dream Valley, or any of the other familiar G1 terms. This is probably the easiest generation to see in isolation, but if you look at the inserts and adverts etc again, they’re also entirely G2-centric. No G1 ponies or G3 ponies appear on these inserts, although the end of G2 in France overlapped with the start of G3.
G3 was when the terms first came into being. G3 also includes Breezies, but they interacted with the other G3 ponies in the animation, were sold with them, etc. And again the name of the overall setting changed here to Ponyville as well. G3.5 is 3.5, not G4 (although that was discussed), largely because the design of pony change took second place to the retention of “Ponyville” and the cross-promotion of the same characters in new forms. Thus not quite a new generation, but not quite the same as the old.
For G4 to be part of G3, they would have to have retained the original setting Ponyville (but they don;t, it’s Equestria). They would have to have had an interacting canon (which they don’t). They would have had to have been collectively advertised as part of the same production (which they never have been). I can say this now most clearly having seen years of G4 release. No G3 pony is ever on a G4 insert, or vice versa. No G3 ponies are part of the G4 narrative, except those which have been reinvented for G4 itself. No G3 pony item is pictured on the back of a box or a backcard. Thus FIM is G4, not G3.
The change of logo and such matters too, although there are some nuanced changes to those within generations as well. But the overall reboot of a generation is about an entirely self-contained entity separated from previous releases in both narrative and advertisement/promotion. Because different countries had different start and end dates for G1, G2, etc, there has to be a more universal way by which generations are separated.
Now, as we come to the end of G4, the discussion has begun again about whether a redesigned FIM cast could be G5 or whether, because they look likely to retain the features of the FIM Mane 6, they will ultimately be G4.5. This will again be for the fandom to decide, not anybody else.
G3 was on shelves at the same time as G4 only because they didn’t sell quickly enough. I could still buy G1 playsets in TRU in 2000, when G2 were on shelves, and in 1997, at least one store was selling clearance G1 alongside brand new G2 ponies as well.
In conclusion, and after 7 years of observation, G4 is clearly G4, and will always be defined as such by the community. Those views seem to have been also adopted by Hasbro – but since the G terms were put in place by the collecting community, their criteria are the only ones that matter in defining a generation.
The bigger question is whether the reboot of G4 into something new, if it happens, is really “G5.”