Derpy Hooves (aka Ditzy Doo) is a character in the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. She is a creation of the fans, which later in the series became a “tip of the hat” to the unusual fandom that developed around the show. In the pilot episode, she is seen in the background of Pinkie Pie’s welcoming party with “derp eyes” and a scrunch face. Typically called an “animation mistake,” Lauren Faust has pointed out that it was more likely an animator who had been amusing themselves during production (as it tends to be common). The character was originally deep within the crowd scene, but changes made to the episode caused her to be out in the open in front of the crowd.
The fans latched onto this nameless background pony, and gave her life, various in representation, from a complete “space cadet” who cannot speak and can hardly function, to a loving mother who sometimes is unable to speak correctly, to your normal pony who may just be clumsy or just a scatterbrain. She was declared to be a mail pony by short story writer Manefag, who created a short story about the gray pegasus working the job of mail delivery (in the story she is only referred to as “Bright Eyes”). In the months to follow, a slew of fanart and stories would be created for Derpy Hooves, and many other background characters.
During the airing of Season 1, Episode 15 (Feeling Pinkie Keen), Derpy appeared in a scene in which multiple objects are dropped on Twilight Sparkle. Afterwards the scene pans above to ponies unloading a moving truck, with Derpy and several others. Derpy gives a slight “whoops”-style smile to a male supervisor pony. During this scene, she had her “derp eyes.” Shortly later it was revealed that this scene was a shoutout to the newly formed adult community around the show. It has been stated that Derpy always appeared in this scene, but some of the producers had gone back into the episode and gave her her now famous eyes. From this point on, during Season 1, she is typically seen with her “derp eyes.”
During the months leading up to Season 2, it was announced that Derpy would become part of the storyboarding process. She would not be a major character, but more of a “Where’s Waldo”–style character that the crew had planned to plant inside the show. And as promised, most of Season 2 has random scenes of Derpy, ranging from common background appearances to specific scenes (fighting with the Mayor, popping out of the well, and most recently being seen inside a snow globe that Pinkie is looking at).
In the month of January, the episode The Last Roundup (S02E14) aired. This episode features a scene involving Rainbow Dash and Derpy fixing up a partially damaged Town Hall. Rainbow Dash calls Derpy by her name, while Derpy accidentally flies into a post on the side of the city hall, causing it to come loose. Rainbow Dash attempts to stop the post from falling, but is pushed through the outside floor of the hall. Derpy apologizes, and proceeds to sit down, causing another piece of floor to fall in.
The majority of fans celebrated at this, being the biggest shoutout to date to the adult community. A minority of people inside and outside the community expressed opinions about this scene, many claiming that it was making fun of people with disabilities. A very small minority cried with outrage, enough to begin petitions against Derpy Hooves and marching to Hasbro with their issue.
In the following week it was noted that The Last Roundup disappeared from iTunes. It has also been noted that The Hub stopped reruns of the episode, as it is common practice for the channel to repeat the new episode at least twice in the following week of airing.
On February 2nd, 2012, sources learned from a WeLoveFine employee that Hasbro was pressuring them to remove or rename their Derpy merchandise. The various media outlets of the fandom began to publish the story, and the community began a Save Derpy campaign, mostly on Twitter under the hashtag #SaveDerpy. Also in the works at the time was savederpy.com, an online petition and source of information on the whole Derpy ordeal. Sadly, in the following days, a misleading email from Hasbro UK lead the general population to believe that we had won. There, of course, were many doubters of this source, as Hasbro UK is just a branch office of Hasbro Inc., and The Last Roundup was still missing from iTunes.
On February 24th, 2012, The Last Roundup reappeared on iTunes, and much to everyone’s horror, the scene involving Derpy had been changed. Derpy’s voice had been redubbed, Rainbow Dash no longer said her name, and even her eyes had been changed to be less “derped.” This has caused a major outcry that can only be described as a mass mob forming in various parts of the community. The #SaveDerpy hashtag was brought back to life on Twitter, savederpy.com went live, and the original petition (with 30,000+ signatures) was revived, along with the formation of new petitions.
The following day, Kreoss, an animator with Top Draw Animation, published a response to the community, mostly asking for some sanity. Since the news broke about The Last Roundup, various people who had spoken out against Derpy had been bombed with hate mail and comments, and people were looking for Hasbro’s blood. Also at this point it appeared that Hasbro had placed spam blocks on the mass amount of emails flooding in from angry fans. Beyond savederpy.com and the petitions, many people wrote directly to Hasbro (including the foreign offices who were kind of WTF?, not knowing what was going on).
On Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, a spokesperson for Hasbro Inc. spoke with online magazine Gawker, which ran an article on the subject. In this article the spokesperson told Gawker that some viewers felt that aspects of the episode did not stay true to the core message of friendship, which is the heart and soul of the series. And that Hasbro Studios decided to make a slight audio alteration to the episode. Many have seen this as a major insult, as Gawker has a track record of poking fun at the fanbase, and this has been the only official response by a Hasbro Inc. employee.
On Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, former MLP writer Amy Keating Rogers (and author of The Last Roundup) posted an explanation about the situation, thanks to an email conversation created by the Save Derpy Tumblr. She was unaware that people were upset over this change, and explained the chain of events that had occurred. The episode script originally had a much longer scene between Derpy and Rainbow Dash, who at the time were stomping the lightning bolts out of the clouds. Unfortunately Derpy (who during the writing process was called Ditzy Doo) accidently stomped a cloud too close to the Town Hall, causing the damage. This scene was cut due to its length.
Upon request she was asked to change Derpy’s name to Derpy, as a “tip of the hat” to the community. She unfortunately didn’t understand the word Derpy, and upon her own investigation, seems to have found a source that said that it was another word for “retarded” (which by internet standards, it is not). When the episode aired, she began to receive email about the episode, mostly positive people thanking her for this gift. She said the hate mail was about 10 emails, versus about 200 positive ones.
Apart from the emails sent to her, both sides of the conflict also sent emails to Hasbro and The Hub. Someone from the Hub contacted her about the situation, as Ms. Rogers’s son is disabled, and they felt she would have a personal connection on the situation. Four options were put on the table.
- Do Nothing.
- Cut Rainbow saying “Derpy” but keep Derpy’s voice.
- Cut Rainbow saying “Derpy” and change Derpy’s voice.
- Find a creative way to change Derpy’s name in a future episode.
Ms. Rogers explains that she was torn on the issue, and that it was a no-win situation. Fans were going to be offended no matter what. She also said that she was not personally offended by the scene. In the end she did not make a decision, since she is just a freelance writer and not a network executive. The decision was made by Hasbro and The Hub. At the end of her letter she asks everyone to not be upset at anyone.
At this point it is not officially knows whether Derpy will be allowed to reappear in future seasons.
[ Save Derpy Petitions ]
- Hasbro Studio/The Hub: Do Not Change Derpy’s Name (original with 44,000 signatures so far)
- Save Derpy (and Hasbro’s creative process)
- Derpy Hooves: Name Change
- #savederpy on Twitter.
- Save Derpy Hooves Tumblr
[ Derpy Hooves News Related Articles ]
- [02/02/12] – Hasbro Pressuring WeLoveFine to remove Derpy Merchandise
- [02/02/12] – #SaveDerpy
- [02/06/12] – Derpy is Safe??
- [02/24/12] – Derpy’s New Voice
- [02/25/12] – Derpy Shot First & A Message from Kreoss
- [02/26/12] – DerpyGate 2012 – The Mega Article
- [02/28/12] – Hasbro Spokeswoman Nichole Agnello speaks on Derpy in Gawker Article
- [02/29/12] – Amy Keating Rogers on Derpy Hooves
- [04/14/12] – The Last Roundup Reairs with Derpy Censored