When Fan Productions Are Better Than the Official Stuff…


This week I tried to find a picture of Pinkie Pie’s hilarious ”Forever!!!” moment. I was writing a document for The Geek Anthropologist editorial team. It was totally relevant.

In the search result I discovered this beauty: a Pinkie Pie stained glass vector by Akili-Amethyst.

Pinkie Pie Stained Glass

Of course, I had to look at her Deviantart profile! It turns out she created a ton more of these stained glasses. I particularly like Princess Luna‘s and Doctor Hooves‘. One of these would look really nice in my geek room office!

Even better, Akili-Amethyst created this absolutely beautiful coin representing Princess Celestia on one side and Princess Luna on the other! How pretty it would look in a nice frame, right next to my desk. It would be a constant inspiration and would remind me to always strive to be the best person I can be! I would have to buy two to see both sides though…

So where can I purchase these? Oh…Well it turns out that I can’t. Because of copyright infringement, Akili had to stop selling on Etsy and her Kickstarter project was shut down. I guess I won’t be able to work on my self-improvement. Oh well.

It makes sense, you might say. Well sure, it does. And yet, not so much.

Hasbro, the owner of the MLP (My Little Pony) franchise, does not produce such coins. In fact they don’t produce anything I am interested in buying. They have yet to create an official MLP FIM (Friendship Is Magic) soundtrack despite the fact that the show features excellent songs. Most of the great products bronies and pegasisters can find online and at conventions are created by smaller companies who purchased rights to create apparel or figurines, and by others who didn’t bother to do so, fans included.

In Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, we learn that Hasbro has a  history of shutting down fan initiatives and alienating their fans by doing so, despite Lauren Faust’ recommendation that they regard fan creations not strictly as copyright infringement but rather as an important aspect of fandom. Their attitude needs to improve drastically.

They need to better understand their adult fans, to create products that they are interested in or at least make it easier for others to do so. 

Other businesses understood a long time ago that fan creations aren’t going anywhere and that trying to put a lid on them will only alienate their clients. George Lucas always had a pretty liberal approach to Star Wars parodies, references and fan creations, and he explains why in this interview with Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy creator*.

Blizzard allows Carbot Animations creator Jonathan Burton to run his hilarious and adorable StarCrafts series as well as Diablols and Wowcraft. All three are based on Blizzard games. He accepts donations on his website. He has a Patreon page where fans can support his work financially. You can even find his gear on the official Blizzard store.

Why does Blizzard allow this creator to make a bit of money out of fans creations which can technically be considered as infringing on their copyrights? I suppose it’s because they know StarCraft fans enjoy the series. They probably appreciate the opportunity to air some episodes during their own events, and understand that these will be featured in many StarCraft tournaments. More importantly, Blizzard does not produce such a series, they probably don’t intend to do so in the future, and I’m guessing they themselves enjoy it a great deal. And who wouldn’t: have you seen how cute these zerglings are?

In other words, Burton doesn’t take any money away from Blizzard, his creations provide StarCraft with even more visibility and they make everyone happy.

Of course, we don’t know for certain what the deal is between Burton and Blizzard. Still, Hasbro could learn a great deal from Blizzard’s attitude towards fan creations. If some of MLP FIM fans are extremely talented and  know what bronies and pegasisters want to purchase, Hasbor could hire these fans or strike a deal with them. At the very least, they should take some advice from them: had they done so when developing the new Rainbow Ponies toys, a major disaster of ugliness might have been avoided.

I do not need to collect mountains of figurines and other products to enjoy My Little Pony FIM or any other franchise I love. Many geeks would laugh at what I consider a very reasonable collection, but I am against mindless consumption, I like hunting for treasures at garage sales, and last but not least, I am cheap. So I am not advocating for the rights of fans to buy products.

What I am talking about is the importance of fostering creativity and happiness in fandoms. I am talking about allowing fans to access the occasional product that could make their day a little brighter, like my ”Keep Calm And Pony On” t-shirt I wear when I need to find motivation, or the Star Trek First Contact figurine of Picard (signed by Sir Patrick Stewart, thank you very much) which inspires me to act with integrity, patience and intelligence… Or the Pinkie Pie bag that reminds me to stay positive and to lighten up.

So, what do you say Hasbro? Will you give Akili-Amethyst a call?

 

*It’s worth watching the interview just to see MacFarlane totally geek out and blush in front of his hero.

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