A Hearth's Warming Tail, Applejack, Flutterholly, Fluttershy, Hearth's Warming Eve, Mareity, My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, opinion, Pinkie Pie, Princess Luna, Professor Flintheart, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, review, Snowdash, Snowfall Frost, Spike, Spirit of Hearth's Warming Past, Spirit of Hearth's Warming Presents, Spirit of Hearth's Warming Yet To Come, Starlight Glimmer, Twilight Sparkle
Hearth’s Warming Eve has come again, and it’s Starlight Glimmer’s first one in Ponyville. However, she plans on skipping it, thinking it’s just an excuse to get presents, eat candy, and otherwise be materialistic. On hearing that, Twilight Sparkle takes her to the library to tell her “A Hearth’s Warming Tail”:
Once upon a time, there was a powerful yet cold and friendless unicorn named Snowfall Frost who hated Hearth’s Warming Eve; thinking it was an excuse to waste time goofing off on frivolity when she believed all ponies should be working hard to increase their talents and use them to better Equestria instead. As a result, she plotted to use her power to erase Hearth’s Warming Eve from existence. In doing so, however, she aroused the attention of three spirits. The first one, the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Past, revealed that Snowfall used to love friendship and celebrating Hearth’s Warming Eve but was turned against both things by her heartless professor when back in magic school, eventually leading her to grow as cold and friendless as he was. The second one, the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Presents, exposed all of the good things and relationships Snowfall missed out on by devoting all of her time to studying magic and that she ironically failed to experience the “better Equestria” she claimed to wanted to make. The third one, the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Yet To Come, revealed that Snowfall’s act of erasing the holiday would doom Equestria to a frozen wasteland by allowing the Windegos to maintain dominion over it. When the spirits left, Snowfall was a changed pony and learned to appreciate those in her life who cared about her as well as the opportunity Hearth’s Warming Eve presented to be with those she cared about.
On concluding the tale, Twilight wishes Starlight goodnight, but as it turns out Starlight reconsiders her decision. She instead decides to join in the festivities and wish everyone a Happy Hearth’s Warming as well.
It’s something of a bad sign that the best episode of the season is not only so awkwardly timed (a Christmas episode in May?) but is concerning a story within a story, but who cares. This episode is a real treat.
It’s probably one of the oddest friendship lessons so far, but it’s relevant for the times. As a Christian, one of the things I’ve noticed is that there’s been a real “bite back” against the commercialization of the holiday. While it’s true that it’s been over-commercialized, I also don’t like the response going to the opposite extreme and trying to remove all celebration both from it and other holidays because one doesn’t agree with it. The truth is there’s some value in any holiday or occasion that gives you the opportunity to build memories and good times with friends and loved ones, and you shouldn’t cheapen that by thinking it frivolous.
Yet that’s a pretty basic and none-too-poignant lesson. The real fun in this episode is how it’s presented. “A Christmas Carol” is as timeless and perennial as the Christmas season itself. It’s small wonder so many other animated programs have already done their own spin on the tale, and now MLP:FIM joins the ranks. And all in all, they manage to do it pretty well. While it’s a short story, it’s still an achievement to condense it into a less than 22 minute time frame, especially with making it a musical. The various art designs, the “Victorian era takes” on the ponies, the style and imaginative look at the spirit versions of the ponies, and having all of the characters we know and love “play the parts” similar to how they did for the original “Hearth’s Warming Eve” episode…all of it is great.
The music in this episode is fantastic. Again, another brilliant take on making a 22 minute episode a musical. “Luna’s Future” is one of the best songs in the entire series and was immediately covered multiple times, but the truth is all of the songs in this episode are rather nice. It’s a crime this episode didn’t get Emmy nominated.
But probably the best part of this episode is that it was the writers “throwing the Starlight Glimmer haters a bone”.
The truth is Snowfall Frost is more of a parody of Starlight Glimmer herself rather than Ebeneezer Scrooge, right down to having her Season Five appearance. By making her the subject of the three spirits’ visitations, they in turn managed to, in some way, actually give Starlight Glimmer an episode where she was faced down by the other members of the Mane Six. Moreso than that, if you’ve read my review of “The Cutie Re-Mark”, there’s a rumor that the original ending of that episode was rejected for being too dark, but the writers managed to work it in to this episode by making it a story-within-a-story. The Starlight Glimmer haters managed to get something they wanted to see: Starlight faced with an apocalyptic future of her own creation, and left groveling and tearfully apologizing for her thoughtless action. So although Starlight plays a big role in this episode, her portrayal of Snowfall Frost actually gives people some of the “heel-turn-face” that we wanted to see.
And with even that to please the Starlight Glimmer haters, that’s more than enough for everyone. Christmas in May? Pass me the cider. 🙂
Oddly enough, the setup for this episode is suspiciously like the setup for Kirk Cameron’s infamous (for all the wrong reasons) “Saving Christmas”. That movie also features a character thinking that a holiday is overcommercialized with no special meaning and another character trying to convince them that the celebration is as much a natural part of the holiday as the more somber elements. The story-within-the-story itself is, quite obviously, a knockoff of “A Christmas Carol”.
Five of the songs from this episode were added to ten existing songs to create the “It’s a Pony Kind of Christmas” album. Interestingly enough, on the songs on that album, the ponies specifically use the word “Christmas” rather than subbing Hearth’s Warming Eve. (In Spike’s song, St. Nicholas is also mentioned.)
This episode originally aired in May, which is fairly awkward for a Christmas episode. Much more so than Season Five’s “Hearthbreakers”, which aired the week before Halloween. For me personally, I almost think this indicates that in Equestria winter is “brought out” just for Hearth’s Warming Eve rather than waiting for the normal season
Octavia Melody is conducting the pony chorus in the beginning.
Berryshine is, of course, hitting up the cider early. 😛
Spike gift wrapped a candy cane. :X
This episode first introduced a concept of pony mythology. While in a land full of magic and monsters like Equestria one would expect that every magic story would be taken as history and fact, this episode showed that some individuals at least consider parts of Equestrian history to be pure myth and fable.
The one character noticeably absent playing a “role” in the story universe is Twilight Sparkle herself.
Yet another notch on Starswirl the Bearded’s notoriety. Like I’ve said before, he’s come a long way from an “obscure unicorn” in Season Two’s “Luna Eclipsed”.
Snowfall Frost has Starlight Glimmer’s original mane style from Season Five. She also has many of her “mean” facial expressions.
The initial spell Snowfall performs appears to be trying to transmute a substance into gold, which was one of the goals of the Philosopher Stone.
There appear to be pony versions of Sherlock Holmes and Watson in the story universe. More so, in that part of the song where Snowfall sings: “No more…”, there appears to be a pony version of Professor Moriarty hiding from them.
Just as a side note, in the original “A Christmas Carol” story, Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past never “flew” into the past. What happens is they stepped out the window and were immediately in the past. However, it’s often portrayed in media that they flew into the past, and this episode knocks off of that.
Professor Flintheart is (if it’s not painfully obvious) a knockoff of Severus Snape from the Harry Potter franchise. While this in and of itself is nothing new to the series, oddly enough this is one of the few times in which they’re actually made a character to interact with having a voice.
Doctor Whooves is in the story universe. Assuming this story is an event that really happened historically, it’s entirely plausible that that is Doctor Whooves rather than him playing a character in it like the others, especially since he’s identical to how he appears at the party later.
The Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Presents is able to tap dance without shoes. 😛
While all of the “story versions” of the Ponyville characters are nice, who takes the prize for me is Octavia playing a fiddle while DJ-Pon-3 works a phonograph.
The second commercial break breaks the fourth wall, interrupting the episode so that Spike can refill his cocoa.
Snowdash mimics Rainbow Dash’s imitation of others, right down to changing her mane style as appropriate.
Something I never noticed until a couple viewings of this episode is that when Snowfall turns away from the curtains closing on the Hearth’s Warming Eve party, she’s crying again.
Similar to Trixie back in Season Three’s “Magic Duel”, if you have a good enough television, you can make out Luna’s face beneath her hood when she first appears. It’s unclear if the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Yet To Come is a giant or is just “hovering” there. Either way, her design is amazing.
“Luna’s Future” has a clever play on words. The lyrics are “I see a cold wind blowing through… I see days neither fun nor free… I see a future caused by you… I see a path not meant to be…” “I see” = “Icy”. The lyrics could just as easily be: “Icy: a cold wind blowing through… Icy: days neither fun nor free… Icy: a future caused by you… Icy: a path not meant to be…”
Kazumi Evans normally does the singing voice for Rarity, who is voiced by Tabitha St. Germain. Although St. Germain also voices Princess Luna, Aloma Steele provides her singing voice in this episode.
One of the few episodes to feature both Rarity’s parents and Rainbow Dash’s father, who only appeared in one other episode (Season Three’s “Games Ponies Play”). The Pies are noticeably absent.
Again, no normal ending theme.
4 Stars out of 5