"Call me Mitch" Larson wages battle against
lifeís insidious cynicism, finding allies in cartoon
ponies, in a community of fans known as Bronies and in
feisty princesses in a quest to let kindness reign
throughout the kingdom.
Larson left Burnsville after high school ó first to
New York City, then to Los Angeles ó he found actual
employment doing what he always wanted to do: writing.
it was writing episodes for "SpongeBob SquarePants,"
but it was writing. And, like many who write for that
genre, he wrote with the obligatory winks to the
grown-ups, with a sense of parody, with a confidence of
knowing just how cool to be in school.
life now is pretty cool, mostly because he made an
about-face into sincerity. The result is his first
novel, "Pennyroyal Academy" (Penguin, $16.99),
which the New York Times has called "ridiculously
Academy" is a fantasy written for middle-graders,
which is "on the young end of young adult."
Evie, his heroine, attends an academy where princesses
and princes train to fight witches and knights. This is
not your usual Sleeping Beauty.
is Larson, 37, your usual princess fantasy author. He
grew up playing "football, baseball and basketball
in the greatest hockey state in the country," he
notes in his website bio at www.malarson.com.
PARODY TO SINCERITY
snarky reference to "princess fatigue" made
him wonder about making a parody of the pop cultural
obsession with all things glittery. He set about
pitching a TV show about a princess boot camp ó to no
takers. Stymied, he began researching princesses,
delving into "The Uses of Enchantment," a 1976
book by a disciple of Sigmund Freud that analyzes fairy
amazing," he said. "It analyzes Grimmís
fairy tales and the positive benefits of reading these
dark, violent stories. You go through these horrific
things, but you come out OK on the other side. Whatís
lost when ó for lack of a better term, you Disney-fy
this ó you lose those coping skills."
isnít sure how princesses became so prissy and so
bizarre because there are plenty of princesses who are
more interesting than that stereotype, princesses who
are heroes, or who are evil," he said, then
chuckled. "But yeah, there are lots who sit in
towers and wait to be rescued."
not even fair to blame Disney, he added, "because
when you watch those old movies, thereís a real
kindness and genuineness in the princesses, not what Ďprincessí
means now with the word written in glitter on the back
of someoneís sweatpants."
OF THE BRONIES
"Pennyroyal Academy" will raise Larsonís
profile, heís legendary for his writing among Bronies:
adults, particularly young men, who are huge fans of the
animated TV series "My Little Pony: Friendship Is
Magic." If you harness "bro" to
"pony," you get "brony."
the global media company with an intense youth vibe, has
called Larson the "Brony king."
uh, whatís up with that?
had to stop laughing before he answered: "I
honestly donít know. If I had to guess, itís that
these guys grow up in a media environment so saturated
with the horrible events of the world on a daily basis,
with a media that is so cynical and postmodern, that
theyíre watching these episodes ironically at first,
but then find that the show is actually kinda nice. Itís
sweet. Itís gentle and good."
a discovery curve not unlike Larsonís own: "We
were a ĎTransformersí household."
gone to a lot of their conventions, and thereís just a
joyous spirit there," he added. "Itís just a
bunch of friends getting together over a cartoon they
second "Pennyroyal" book is done, but draws on
the Brony ethos. "I want to show that genuine
earnestness, to show that kindness is a good