My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an animated television series based on the My Little Pony toyline, created by American toy and game manufacturer Hasbro. It features characters and settings developed by Lauren Faust, who sought to create more in-depth characters than the stereotypical "girly" icons used in previous iterations of the franchise. The series began airing on October 10, 2010 in the United States on the Hub Network cable channel, which was re-branded as Discovery Family in October 2014. The show follows a studious unicorn pony named Twilight Sparkle as her mentor Princess Celestia guides her to learn about friendship in the town of Ponyville. Twilight becomes best friends with five other ponies: earth ponies Applejack and Pinkie Pie, pegasus ponies Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, and unicorn Rarity. Each represents a different facet of friendship, and Twilight discovers herself to be a key part of the magical artifacts, the Elements of Harmony. The six ponies—collectively known as the "Mane Six"—share adventures and help out other residents of Ponyville, while working out the troublesome moments in their own friendships, eventually leading to Twilight's ascension as a winged unicorn known as an alicorn. Several episodes focus on the exploits of Spike, Twilight's baby dragon assistant, and a younger trio of pony characters (Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle) who call themselves the "Cutie Mark Crusaders" and share adventures trying to discover their talents in life and receive their "cutie marks"—a central theme of the show—until the season five episode "Crusaders of the Lost Mark". Beginning in season six, the reformed villain Starlight Glimmer also becomes a focus character. The characters have been well received by critics, and are cited as one of the reasons the series' older fans, called "bronies", became attracted to the show.
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