» MLP Project 2012 – Event Trip Report

Last Saturday, the My Little Pony Project in Los Angeles played host to big events. The voice actresses, Hasbro employees, and many more were on hand for a live script reading and autograph session. The Round Stable was on hand too! I made a trek to this event, and I’m back with tons of pictures and words. Read about the event and my adventure behind the cut.

Hitting the Road

Last Friday morning I woke to the song Becoming Popular.  My cell phone had been set to wake me up so that I would not miss my rather early flight.  I picked up my phone and hit the ‘Dismiss’ button, noting that the time was 4:00 AM and remembering that my flight was to leave at 6:45.  I slowly sit up in bed and tell myself “This will be worth it.”

After parking my car at a DC Metro Rail station I waited outside the locked gates baring the way down to the platform.  I read that there would be track maintenance this weekend and wanted to make sure I caught the 5:00 AM train to the airport so I wouldn’t miss my flight. A worker approached the gates from the other side and noisily rattled the chains as he undid the padlock that held them in place. “Y’all are here awful early!”  he said, way too cheerfully for that early in the morning. “The first train today doesn’t leave until 8 o’clock!”  A collective groan escaped the small crowd that had formed a line at the gates. Nice joke.  I sighed as I walked past the iron bars and down the escalator.  The heated air of the train was a nice respite from the morning’s cool air.

As the train sped off from the station, I thought about what led me to even consider flying across the country for My Little Pony.  Just a little over a year ago I had not even known that the series experienced a Lauren Faust led reboot.  But much like many others, these small pastel colored horses dug themselves into my brain and refused to leave.  A few weeks ago, I heard about the My Little Pony Project 2012, a series of events spanning almost the full month of May that was dedicated to these tiny equines.  The events ranged from a display of some amazing custom painted eighteen inch pony figurines, to having many of the show’s voice actors appear and perform in front of an audience.

Poster for the My Little Pony Project 2012

The reason for my trip was the latter event which was scheduled to happen at both noon and 2 PM at The Cinefamily Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles, California.  In addition to this event there was also an autograph session scheduled to happen between 5 PM and 8 PM at the Toy Art Gallery, the same venue where the custom painted ponies were on displayed.  The whole thing looked to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger for the plane tickets, hotel, and rental car, burning up some miles and loyalty points in the process.

I arrived at Washington Reagan airport, at the U.S. Airways ticket kiosk.  I swiped my frequent flyer membership card and waited as the tickets spat noisily out of the machine into the till beneath it.  I scanned the tickets and found an unexpected surprise.  First class?  I won’t look an upgrade in the mouth.

I ran over the schedule for the day in my head during the uneventful morning flight.  According to the captain, the flight would be arriving a bit early, which was fine by me.  After landing I picked up my rental car and head straight to my hotel.  The rental car pick up went without a hitch, and the GPS in my cell phone guided me to my hotel, the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live.  After dropping the car off with the valet—$40/night parking, ouch—I headed inside to see if any rooms would be available.  The hotel representative at the counter told me that since it was so early that there probably wouldn’t be anything available, but luckily she was able to make something happen.

I sped off to pick up fellow forum user Crow and headed out to eat.  Dinner that night was at the amazingly delicious Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills.  Fellow forum user Crow and I discussed our interest in ponies and how great the food was, while blind bag Twilight Sparkle kept us company at our table.  Both of us were very excited about what would happen the next day and talk was of how awesome it would be to see the actresses do their thing.

There were no Hay Sandwiches for Twilight Sparkle

After leaving the restaurant—and walking past a very dressed down Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the process—I dropped off Crow and headed back to the hotel.  Fortunately, I arrived just before the traffic that would transpire as everyone would begin to leave the NBA playoff game that occurred earlier that evening.  That night’s rest was fitful in anticipation of the show that would be put on for us the next day.

Saturday Afternoon Ponies—Live!

The Silent Movie Theater

Crow and I decided that the 2 PM show would be the best one to attend.  For one, we thought that by the second show the actresses would be warmed up and rolling. Plus, sleeping in on a Saturday just felt like the right thing to do.  We did arrive early to The Silent Theater in time to see the last of the 12 PM show line making its way inside.  A sign out front of the theater informed us that parking was three dollars and across the street, but when we got into the lot there was no one there to take our money. It  ended up not being an issue, though we would have happily paid.  As we walked towards the doors of the theater our anticipation was reaching new levels.  This was it!

Because of when we showed up, we were pretty much the first ones in line for the next show.  The folks from WeLoveFine had a table set up selling various My Little Pony shirts. I ended up buying an event centered shirt.  These seemed to be rather popular and quite a few people picked one up.

As more and more folks started showing up, it was abundantly clear how diverse a group of people pony fans are.  Plenty of late teen and early twenties men were there, but there were also quite a few women in the crowd as well.    There was also a decent amount of older men and women there, myself included.  At various times one could hear someone singing a song, or someone else yelling a catchphrase from the show.  Everyone was rather well-behaved and courteous which was good to see as the crowd swelled.

A large crowd awaits

At various times while we were outside waiting, staff would open the door and cheering could be heard from inside.  This got everyone excited, and the anticipation was growing by the minute.  At one point several folks came out with a rather nice camera set up and began to film the crowd from across the street.  Murmurs and whispering could be heard from the crowd. “Who are those guys?  Are they with the news?  Maybe they are with Hasbro!”  We never did find out their affiliation.  Shortly before the doors opened, letting out the earlier show crowd, the folks from WeLoveFine handed out ten percent off coupons for their merchandise to the grateful crowd.  Finally, the doors opened and the early crowd streamed out. Everyone looked very happy and we were told that the show was amazing.  This was it—we couldn’t wait any longer!

The doors open and the previous session attendees exit

Pre-Show Pondering

Being the first ones in line, Crow and I gravitated to the best seats we could find.  There were two rows of couches in the very front that were marked reserved, but our seats were just behind those and offered a great view.  As we took in the inside of the venue, one of the first things we noticed was the music playing from the show.  Both background music and music from the songs—vocal free—were playing.  I found this very interesting, because even though I knew that these assets had to exist, here they were being broadcast in high quality for an event.  We can only hope that these tracks are released to the general public at some point in the future.  The next thing we noticed was the table where the actresses would be sitting.

The view from the best seats in the house—apart from the ones on stage.

We knew that the attendees would include Meghan McCarthy, Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, and Cathy Weseluck.  Six microphones lined the table, but there were only five actresses that we know about. This certainly piqued our interest.  The theater filled up rapidly, and quite a few people were starting to sing along with the songs playing.  There was a side door through which we could see the outlines of people walking past, but still no sign of the actresses.  Then, all of a sudden, someone walked up onto the stage while the crowd was singing!  This was a man, and not one that we recognized.

Mike Vogel is not a name that I immediately recognized. it turns out that he was recently made the VP of development for Boys, Action, Girls and Preschool Programming at Hasbro.  Mike really did seem to be excited about My Little Pony, but one of the things he said elicited a quiet groan from myself and Crow.  “No pictures or recordings allowed.”  We were both prepped to catch every second of the proceedings, but now that was no longer on the table.  Fair enough—Hasbro didn’t even have to organize such an amazing event for us. Since this was an event which we were exceedingly grateful for, we were more than happy to follow their rules.

Finally—the moment we had all been waiting for!  Mike announced that the actresses would perform a reading from the script for Hearth’s Warming Eve. We imagine this episode was chosen specifically so that all the actresses in attendance would get a decent amount of coverage, especially for Cathy Weseluck as Spike. The actual episode itself would be shown on the theater’s screen afterwards.  Then the introductions began!  First up was Meghan McCarthy, then Tara Strong, followed by Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman and then Cathy Weseluck.  Raucous applause followed each introduction and all of the actresses looked very excited to be there.

A full house

A Fan’s Moment to Shine

But there was still the issue of the extra microphone.  Crow and I already had a feeling that Tabitha St. Germain would not be there and this was confirmed by Mike.  What surprised us was that he then asked for someone from the audience who could really “feel and channel Rarity” to come up and sit on the stage and read Rarity and Princess Platinum’s lines with the other actresses!  This really surprised me and the crowd must have been caught off guard as well, full of gasps of surprise.  Many in the audience tried to jockey for this place of honor, but Mike ended up picking a fan which we had chatted with before the show.  As he took his place on the stage, loud applause erupted from the crowd as the show began.

Hearth’s Warming Eve

Meghan McCarthy started out by reading the actual screenplay from the episode, setting up the environment and mood that the actresses would work within.  I can’t really describe how amazing it was to actually see the voices of our beloved ponies come to life before my very eyes.  One could almost imagine the characters themselves on the stage, as every time Tara spoke you could almost see her channeling her inner Twilight Sparkle.  It was so amazing to see Ashleigh Ball switch from Rainbow Dash and Applejack effortlessly.  I also couldn’t help but laugh to myself every time Andrea Libman performed as Pinkie Pie and how delighted I was to hear her speak in Fluttershy’s sweet voice.

Spike as performed by Cathy Weseluck

But I think that Cathy Weseluck really stole the show with an amazing rendition of Spike.  The first time she recited his lines she received loud applause.  The fan that was doing Rarity’s part also did an amazing job, keeping up effortlessly with the script and capturing her mannerisms.  It was very obvious that the other VAs were impressed with him as they were constantly turning to him, smiling, and clapping for him.

The audience was utterly transfixed on this spectacle.  Each of the cast brought their own special energy to the performance.  From Tara Strong’s very Twilight-like level-headed performance to Andrea Libman really feeling Pinkie’s frenetic energy.

A rare glimpse at the script

It was also fascinating to me to hear the actual screenplay from the episode being read aloud.  Each scene was set up before the characters would act their parts.  There were also a few times where the screenplay deviated from what we actually saw in the episode,such as the hungry Pegasus taking a bite of his own wing instead of the plume from his helmet.   We later caught up with the lucky fan who had kept the screenplay while we were in line for autographs later that evening.  This is how we were able to take snap the above picture which we then immediately tweeted across the fandom.  A true Round Stable exclusive!  Thanks so much to Mr. St. John for letting us take the picture!

Lyrics for 'The Heart Carol' by Meriwether Williams and Daniel Ingram

As the episode reading came to a close, the crowd sang along with the Heart Carol song, thanks to provided lyric sheets.  After the final lines of the reading were over, Mike came back up on stage and presented the lucky fan with a very pink gift bag.  Its contents included the My Little Pony Friendship Express DVD from Shout! Factory, a MLP:FiM blind bag, a giant MLP:FiM carrying bag from WeLoveFine and the MLP:FiM train toy.  The table and chairs were taken down and all of the people on stage posed for a photograph, including the lucky fan.   A photographer also snapped a picture of the ladies all together taking a bow. I really hope these shots are released soon, they looked like they turned out well.  After they left the stage the actual episode was shown on the theater screen.  My Little Pony looks great on the big screen—we can hope that one day Hasbro will give us a real MLP:FiM movie.

The After-Show After-Special

After the show, Crow and I stuck around for a while and chatted with the WeLoveFine folks and told them how much we enjoyed the experience.  We also asked about the giant posters that were placed at the entrance to the theater and what was to become of them.  They let us take them—how lucky were we!

With nothing left to do at this venue we jumped in the car and zipped down the street to find a parking spot for the Toy Art Gallery to get in line for the autograph session.  It was pretty easy to pick out the TAG as it was the only shop with a line three hundred strong snaking down the street and around the corner.

A long queue for the voice actor autographs

That’s a lot of people!  Crow and I jumped in line and waited.  By this time the word circulating through the crowd was that the autograph session would last from 5 PM to 6 PM and a reception would happen from 6 PM to 8 PM, which the VAs would not be attending.  We wanted to make the autograph session to get our giant posters signed, but the length and speed of the line plus the ticking of the clock made us nervous.  While we were in line we talked to quite a few people and checked out what others had brought to get signed.  One fellow had a wonderfully done painting of Twilight Sparkle and someone else had an amazingly detailed wooden pipe carved with the likeness of Rainbow Dash.

Finally, the WeLoveFine folks walked down the street, letting us know that the VAs would be leaving at 6PM sharp and that almost all of us would not get any autographs this evening.  Our disappointment was somewhat tempered by the blind bag ponies and Derpy key chains they were handing out—a very classy move by WeLoveFine.  We stayed for a short while longer, hoping for some amazing luck, but it was apparent that we would not be getting inside the TAG for any autographs this night.  Crow and I jumped in the car again and headed out to see The Avengers—a great movie, by the way.

When It’s All Said and Done…

What a bittersweet day.  The gleeful joy of seeing our favorite characters acted out in real life, and the disappointment of not getting to see them up close and in person for an autograph.  Our discussions later that evening centered on how much fun we had and that the ticket price to get in was such a steal.  After the movie, I bid Crow farewell and headed back to the hotel for a few hours sleep before my very early flight the next morning.  I called the front desk at around 1:30 AM asking for a cardboard tube to protect the giant posters on the way home and was very surprised to have one delivered to my room fifteen minutes later—thank you, Marriott!

As I sit here writing this report on the plane ride home in seat 29D—no first class on the return trip—I reflect upon the events of the past two days.  I flew twenty-three hundred miles just to see voice actresses for My Little Pony:  Friendship is Magic and for the chance to get their autograph.  The live show itself was beyond my expectations and all the organizers did a great job making sure things went smoothly.  Again, it was disappointing that so many people failed to get autographs, but we can understand that the actresses’ time was limited.  I just don’t think that anyone could have imagined the huge number of people who would attend this event, so thank you Hasbro and thank you WeLoveFine for putting on such a great show!

Leaning back in my coach class seat as far as I could, I took a moment to rest my sleep deprived eyes.  The captain chimes in and says that it will be about one more hour to go before we land.  The fellow to the left of me is rocking out to music that I can actually hear due to the ultra-high volume of his headphones. The fellow to the right of me knocks his cup of soda over, spilling all over my leg, and soaking my sock.  I rub my temples and sigh.

“Yeah, it was worth it.” 

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  2. I will never forgive myself for not reading this sooner. Absolutely phenomenal article, EP.

    • Me too. Sounds like such a blast. And say what you will about the fandom, but the amount of people and the level of the enthusiasm involved to make events like this happen is pretty remarkable.

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