Being the main songwriter of a popular cartoon series means catering your music to an enthusiastic but often fickle audience of children. But when the show unexpectedly strikes a chord with an entirely different demographic, the job of crafting mass-singalong material gets more complicated.
Enter the world of Daniel Ingram, music composer of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
For those who haven't heard the story: along with the target group of three- to six-year-old girls, the cartoon, rebooted in 2010 by Lauren Faust (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, The Powerpuff Girls), has attracted a huge group of self-proclaimed "bronies," teens and adults (often male 20-somethings) who follow the cartoon with even more fervor than their younger counterparts. Through a bustling online fandom, My Little Pony has become one of the most unforeseen juggernauts in animated TV. The show, produced by Hasbro studios, concludes its second season this Saturday, April 21st at 1 p.m. on Hub TV.
Part of the series' allure is the show's songs, written by Ingram and performed by a group of voice actors and singers. The Vancouver native – like many involved in the show – may never have seen the bronies coming, but knew very early on that he wanted to make something, say, 20 percent cooler than the franchise's past.
"I think I must've had some ancient subconscious memory of what My Little Pony was as a child, but nobody knew what the new one was gonna be," says Ingram, 36. "I remembered the [theme], and that's about all I remembered from the old series. I did some research and went, 'OK, this is pretty dated.' I wanted to do something fresher for this iteration."
The result includes the remarkably catchy "Winter Wrap Up" and "The Heart Carol," the latter Ingram considered to be a "real brony anthem" when he wrote it.
"[The songs] became bigger and more epic, more Broadway and more cinematic over time," says Ingram, who currently lists cowgirl hat-wearing farmer pony Applejack as his favorite character. "We just realized the potential not only with our amazing cast of singers but with the world of MLP to create that kind of scale of song."
Since Season One's finale a year ago, many songs have received that treatment – the most popular being "The Gala Song," with its nod to Sondheim's Into the Woods, and Music Man-homage "The Flim Flam Brothers."
With songs containing references and words (nonpareil!) that might whoosh over the head of the show's younger viewers, is Ingram pandering more to the older demographic watching the show? No, he says. "I never forget about the original demographic of our show, which is six-year-old girls. Just because it's for kids... I don't think that influences me in terms of how sophisticated I want to make the music."
Ingram, who lists Randy Newman's Pixar work among his influences, has also inspired a vibrant fan musician community, with YouTube views of works by The Living Tombstone, Alex S., Eurobeat Brony and more rivaling those of label-signed musicians.
This Saturday, the show ends its second season with a royal wedding between two pony elite (marketed as a "bridle" episode, naturally). Ingram is mum on spoilers, saying merely that "Every season, we want to go out with a bang. With weddings, songs are usually involved… I can say that there will be songs, and I think that they make a good finale for the season.
"I keep wondering if the fan base is going to be a fad or trend, or if it's really going to survive. I hope it survives, because I feel like there's so much more amazing things to come. To have so many people's eyes on it is a privilege."
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