Hasbro's My Little Pony franchise, started in the 1980s, has had several animated television series and direct-to-video movies to help promote and sell the associated toy line collection; over the years, there have been four "generations" of designs and associated characters and settings. In 2010, Hasbro aimed to relaunch the My Little Pony line, following the success of the re-envisioning of the Transformers franchise, and brought in animator Lauren Faust as the creative developer for the show; in addition to developing the looks and characters to be featured in the toy line, Faust was also tasked with creating a new tie-in show to provide programming for its new cable network, The Hub (jointly owned with the Discovery Channel). Faust's previous experience on shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends led to her developing a show that would have cross-generational appeal to young girls and the parents that would watch the show with them. Her characters were designed to challenge the norm of female stereotypes while still keeping the archetypes as familiar figures, and put the pony characters into more adventurous situations than previous My Little Pony works. Faust worked with several former co-writers from her previous shows (including her husband and animator Craig McCracken), and with the directors at DHX Media (formerly Studio B Productions) in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the show would be produced.
The resulting show, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, was well received by parents, but found another unexpected target audience through the Internet photo-board, 4chan in adult males from 13 to 35 years old. Quickly expanding through the Internet, the fandom came to use the term "brony" (a portmanteau of "bro" and "pony") to describe themselves. The brony fandom is attributed to Faust and her creative team for including strong characters, cross-generational appeal, cultural references, the show's expressive Flash-based animation, and the ability for the showrunners to communicate and reciprocate with the fandom, such as including fan-derived elements within the show. Hasbro was initially caught off-guard by this surprise demographic but have since come to embrace it, leveraging licensing deals to market clothes, media, and other merchandise beyond toys to the older audience.