"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," which is in its fourth season on cable television, quickly gained the attention of "Bronies" – male fanatics of the toy-turned-cartoon that live by the show's mantra, "Friendship is magic."
It may seem surprising that millions of young men have become fans of a show that's geared toward girls under the age of 10 – and they will be the first to tell you it was a very unexpected obsession.
"It's weird," Mike Bernstein, 29, of Minneapolis, who is co-chair of the convention, admitted to the Pioneer Press. "I would've never expected myself to be involved in this."
“First we can’t believe this show is so good, then we can’t believe we’ve become fans for life, then we can’t believe we’re walking down the pink aisle at Toys R Us or asking for the girl’s toy in our Happy Meal,” Bronie Luke Allen said in an e-mail to Wired.com. “Then we can’t believe our friends haven’t seen it yet, then we can’t believe they’re becoming Bronies too.”
Fans will also admit that critics make snap judgments about Bronies, assuming that there must be something inappropriate going on if a grown man is a fan of a show about ponies. Critics have also accused Bronies of being pedophiles, Wired.com notes.
"It's not about sexuality," Bernstein told the Pioneer Press. "Most times, I tell people, yeah, I'm a fan of the show. It shouldn't be a moral judgment call."
There are an estimated 3 million Bronies around the world who range in age from 14 to 57 years old – 85 percent are male and 84 percent are heterosexual Metro UK reports. Fans have varying backgrounds, and include soldiers, physiologists and students.
The movement has inspired academic research and a documentary, "Bronies:The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony," which details the lives of several Bronies from around the world and how the show has changed their lives for the better.
So what is it about the cartoon that has so many adults obsessed? Fans say they appreciate the show's animation, its music and overall storyline that stresses themes of friendship, loyalty and kindness. Bronies also say the show isn't just made for children; it makes pop culture references that adults can appreciate.
Bronies say that they've found acceptance within online fan communities, which are helpful and kind, as opposed to other fan sites that can be hostile and insulting. Some have even found that it's helped them with their depression.
Click here for photos from this weekend's convention.
There are about 30 conventions around the world every year – including BronyCon, which attracts over 8,000 fans.