Episode [1.11] – “Winter Wrap Up”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“Come on Spike, this is serious business. Winter needs to be wrapped up, and I’m determined to do my part. Somehow…”
TThe episode begins innocuously enough: Twilight rises early to prepare for her first experience of a traditional Ponyville community event, and in her usual adorkable fashion overprepares nearly to the point of absurdity. Spike, in his usual baby dragon fashion, would rather just sleep. Eventually they make it to the town center where Mayor Mare kicks off the day’s activities with some rousing words of encouragement, and everypony goes to work in their assigned roles. Twilight, still quite new to town, begins frantically wondering where she fits into the picture.
Then the scene blacks out. All is still. The spotlights appear. And the music begins.
This is the magnum opus, the crown jewel, the tour de force of Season 1. Perhaps even the entire series.
This is Winter Wrap Up.
Many a brony can probably remember reaching Winter Wrap Up and thinking, “Sweet Celestia, I just finished watching the first 10 episodes in one sitting. Might as well continue on to this one!” Anecdotally, Winter Wrap Up is the point at which most viewers either realize that they have become fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (welcome to the herd!) or they decide that it’s really not for them and they shift gears to something else. The love and passion and dedication that went into the making of this episode really shines through, and if MLP:FiM “clicks” for you then you really can’t help but be absolutely enraptured and feel that you’ve participated in something truly special.
Part of me wants to say that Winter Wrap Up would have been a wonderful first episode, as it does a fantastic job at crystallizing what the series is truly about: friendship, teamwork, and finding your place in the world. That these virtues comprise the primary focus of the show is not particularly clear in Episodes 1 and 2 with the whole adventure story and all, which is fun but can lead to misaligned expectations of what the show is supposed to be about. However, without the opening adventure to throw the Mane Six together and a healthy number of episodes after that to let them grow a bit, this episode wouldn’t be nearly as strong as the relationships between the characters would be very weak or entirely nonexistent. So at the end of the day its location in the series is actually pretty spot-on, and the first time you reach it you are absolutely blown away. But when you’re trying to introduce the show to a friend and you want him or her to see Winter Wrap Up, getting through the “prerequisite episodes” can be maddening; you get a sort of giddiness similar to when you prepare a wonderful surprise for your friend and just absolutely cannot wait to make the big reveal.
And speaking of a big reveal, HOW ABOUT THAT SONG? Sweet Celestia. Up to this point we’ve had a few Pinkie Pie ditties of varying length and orchestration, but really nothing that felt particularly substantial. The Winter Wrap Up song, however, totally just came out of left field and impacted like a meteorite (a wonderful, wonderful meteorite). Actually, “came out of left field” isn’t quite the right word, since it had been leaked well before the official air date and the community went nuts trying to figure out what was going on lacking the context provided by the rest of the episode. Regrettably I wasn’t part of the herd at that point, so I missed out on the crazy. But in any case, this song is just fantastic. It’s upbeat, it’s catchy, it’s fun, and it’s oh-so-remixable; props to Daniel Ingram for making one of the most enjoyable of earworms. It’s clear that a substantial amount of extra effort went into making the visuals for this thing equally huge, what with smooth and detailed animation, clever camera shots, and so many smiles. Heck, the animators even made sure the pegasi were flapping their wings at different offsets to prevent it from looking like they just copy-pasted and recolored everypony (which, actually, is clearly what they did, but at least they made the effort to shake things up a tad). While we do get a decent number of songs in this series, extremely few rise to the level of majesty as Winter Wrap Up in my books.
The remainder of the episode largely comprises of Twlight trying to find out how she can lend a hoof in the wrap up, only to find that she’s apparently not cut out for any of the activities. Weather duty? Nope, no wings. Nestmaking? Outhouse. Ice-scoring? Do you even skate bro. Waking up the animals? SNAKES. Pushing a plow? Only with forbidden magic, and even then only enough to create an Applejack-Spike katamari. Poor Twilight: she spends the entire episode trying to help out doing things she’s not good at because she knows what she is good at — magic — is not allowed. Of course, she completely overlooks what else she’s good at, though there are several subtle hints throughout the episode (namely the checklist at beginning and the above freaky-fast material-arranging) that point to Twilight’s organizational prowess. To be honest, I missed those cues the first time I watched the episode and had relegated Twilight to the “Winter Mess-Up” bin as she put it; but then, I’m a pro at overlooking the obvious.
I think the only thing that kind of tweaked me this episode was the little bit where Fluttershy explains hibernation, which seemed oddly forced and out of place. Now contextually I could see it making sense, what with Spike being a baby dragon who conceivably may have never heard of the term before (the massive naps that adult dragons do are probably called something entirely different), but for some reason it just sounded like something that the network execs demanded so they could check a box and keep the “e/i” watermark. At least they were able to cleverly roll it into Spike’s fixation on getting back to sleep. Or maybe that’s why they brought it up in the first place, anyway.
The twist toward the end of the episode was absolutely wonderful. Everypony seems so happy and cheery participating in Winter Wrap Up, but once it’s clear that they’re all just a disheveled mess lacking any clear coordination, you have to wonder if the smiling faces were all just a communally-accepted facade to try and forget about the previous years’ failures to wrap up winter on time (THE SCANDAL!). Even though everypony knows his or her place and they are clearly giving it their all, they still run into problems trying to keep all the moving pieces in sync on their own. How true this is in real life: you can have a room full of the brightest minds in various fields, but without the proper coordination everyone ends up going in all different directions. And thus Twilight turns a particularly unlucky bird into her puppet discovers her place in Ponyville society. As somepony who had a chance to participate in (nearly) every activity, she sees how all the cogs fit together into the big picture and is able to orchestrate a startling comeback.
And how about that weather team? We’ve gotten a few hints here and there thus far about their ability to control the weather, but this one really takes the cake. Seeing something like this in real life would certainly be a sight to behold. I suppose the residents of Ponyville wouldn’t think much of it because they’re used to that sort of thing, but still, such power.
One final interesting tidbit: at the beginning of the episode, Spike drowsily calls Twilight “Mommy” but then asserts that she’s not his mommy. While “officially” Spike is Twilight’s assistant, the way she treats him throughout the series does have strong motherly undertones. The yet-to-be-revealed Spike origin story only further lays credence to this, and many a fanfic develops on this relationship in great (and oftentimes very heartwarming) detail. That said, he’s also an extraordinary butt to her this episode as well. Let’s see… “That nest needs to be condemned.” “You are a natural, Twilight. A natural disaster!”, “The nerve! Can you believe her?!” Ah, good ol’ Spike.
So that’s Winter Wrap Up. While Dragonshy is my personal favorite episode of Season 1, Winter Wrap Up comes in an arbitrarily close second place due to its masterwork and sheer enjoyability. You can tell that the writers, the animators, and the voice actors really dug in to make this episode radiant.
While the Winter Wrap Up song spawned a bazillion remixes, the one that has graced my ears more than any other is undoubtedly the amazing Winter Wrap Up (DJ Amaya vs Groovebot) (music only at higher bitrate: http://youtu.be/jee_Ekz9ivc). I can’t begin to count how many miles I’ve driven with this blasting through my car speakers, both with the windows up and the windows down.
P.S. Fluttershy is a beast at DDR; Twilight not so much. Music related. 😛
The song didn’t do much for me, I’m sorry to say. It’s a very catchy toe-tapper, the animation is spectacularly well boarded and animated, bringing Flash to the level of a Disney production number. It’s really sweet and a lot of fun. But there’s no meaning behind it. It doesn’t expand on thoughts or feelings beyond how they’ve already been simply expressed, it doesn’t show us any more of the winter cleanup than we get throughout the remainder of the episode, and most importantly of all – and this is a big stickler for me when it comes to lengthy production numbers – it doesn’t drive the story forward. We’re still in the first act of just 20-22 minutes of run time, the story is still waiting to get started, and this song comes, yes, completely out of left field, and then just keeps going on, and on, and on, for minute after minute. It doesn’t setup songs throughout. When there’s a reprise montage (WHICH ACTUALLY FURTHERS THE STORY AND SHOWS THE CULMINATION OF EVENTS) it’s just an instrumental. Why is this song here beyond “Hey, let’s put a song here!” ? It’s a good number, but bad use of narrative tool.
So Gerf, I still fall completely outside both halves of those “most people”, oddly. I’ve neither become a fan, nor decided the show isn’t for me. Huh. Still just propped up on my fence, shouting in both directions.
Now, everything about the song said, it’s still an absolutely magnificent episode. The animation is top notch throughout. The characters are all spot-on, without any of the forced, over-exaggeration that has plagued past episodes of characters getting themselves sorted out. There’s wonderful visual gags throughout. The biggest laugh of the series so far has been, “The nest designer is horrendously behind! We need several hundred, and she’s only made one!” cut to Rarity as Twilight’s nest completely destroys her.
I really like Twilight’s arc here, and how it reminds us that she’s still an outsider trying to find her place in this community. Like you, Gerf, I tried fiddling with the logistics of where this episode could be placed, but I think it’s just right. I would never put it first, but could almost see it working as our first post-pilot episode carrying us into the main series, but I think it needed the build of what came before, as this would be too much, too soon and make those others feel much lesser if they came after. It also needed the sense of having settled in and gotten comfortable, before seasons change and local ritual behaviors give Twilight a big wakeup call that she’s still new and there’s still things to surprise her. And I like that nothing she fails at comes as a result of poor writing altering her character, but because she – as Rarity was a few episodes back – is out of her element, and is being forced to restrain what she considers to be one of her greatest assets. Only to be reminded that, hey, nobody has just one great asset, and I love how they layered her organizational reflexes into things.
A few other thoughts:
- Love the reveal of just how disorganized and flustered all the happy people are.
- I like this Rarity, who has too much grace to tell someone their nest is ugly. Wish we’d gotten her in some of the last few episodes instead of the openly judgey and vain version she can sometimes be.
- Love that, instead of “waking Spike up” being on her checklist, it’s “Spike refusing to get up”. He’s such a teenager. 🙂
- How do they tie the laces of all four skates? Also, ice doesn’t melt that way. Nits, you have been picked, now flee like the nits you are!
It’s a wonderful, charming episode all the way to the end as the weather squad Brodyquests the snow away. I may not yet call myself a fan of the series, nor am I sold on the song, but I had an absolute delight watching this.
Ask any brony about their love of the show, and he or she will more than likely mention the music. It’s absolutely no accident that musicians make up a pretty hefty chunk of the fandom’s creative streak, and this episode is in a large part responsible for, if not kicking that off entirely, being the catalyst for whipping up excitement over the songs within the series to the extreme that it reached. We’ve gotten little ditties from Pinkie prior to now (and I love them all), but this is the first full-on musical number the show did, and there’s a reason why it became the behemoth within the fandom that it did. Even four seasons in, Winter Wrap Up remains one of the most popular go-to songs for sing-alongs.
I’m going to disagree with Noel here, the song does serve a narrative purpose, and does its job fairly well, giving us a very neat bit of exposition to lead us into the concept of the ponies wrapping up winter. In the course of the song, we get told exactly what each of the teams that Twilight’s about to try to help out does, and get a feel overall for how the process is supposed to work. The pathway through the episode is pretty cleanly laid out, both in regards to the tasks being attempted as well as Twilight’s anxieties over trying to find a place within the process she can fit in and help with. I have no doubt that this could have been done without the song, but it would have been tricky to do without either dragging out the pacing or feeling like an information dump. By virtue of being a musical number, the song gets the liberty of just running through all the points relatively quickly without needing to set up a proper conversational tone to deliver that information. And in addition to that, it’s just an awesome song overall.
Shannon Chan-Kent is back singing for Pinkie again, of course, but in addition now we have Kazumi Evans singing for Rarity and Rebecca Shoichet for Twilight (we’ve technically heard her many times before now – she sings the main theme). The casting for the singing is incredibly well done, as the characters all sound completely like themselves in song despite having different people singing for them.
And, of course, a huge nod has to go towards Andrea Libman and Ashleigh Ball for doing the singing voices on a regular basis for their own characters. Ashleigh Ball in particular has an incredible singing voice, and it’s sort of a bummer that she happens to play the two characters out of the Mane Six who do the least singing (Applejack will eventually get some VERY good songs, and Dashie has a particularly great part in one and a duet with Fluttershy in another, but has yet to have one to herself), but in the occasions that she does, she manages to nail both despite the two being very different vocally.
While we certainly aren’t done getting Pinkie’s brand of silly tunes (we go right back to one next episode), this does mark the beginning of the end of her dominance over the soundtrack, as going forward from here we’ll wind up with more songs like this one with more variety in the characters taking part in the songs. It’s also the point where Daniel Ingram starts branching out a bit more in writing the songs, and we’ll get a bit more variety in the sound of them. While I don’t quite agree with Gerf that this is the “make or break” moment for the series, it might be one for the songs. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this the best song of the series (it’s definitely up there towards the top of the list, though), it does set the mold for the best of them down the road, and a lot of times they’re just there for fun. If you come out of this song not feeling particularly impressed, then it’s possible that the music of the series may never really be a high point of the series for you. On the flip side, if you come out of it completely in love… this is just the start of a bunch of really awesome numbers to come.
Of course, there’s an actual episode attached to this song also, and it’s one of the best of the season. From the world-building standpoint, we get a good look into the idea of how the ponies interact with their world, taking responsibility for setting things in motion to transition between the seasons. We also get a bit of background information on Ponyville specifically, namely that it was founded by Earth Ponies (we’ll get more specifics on that further down the road, but let’s just say for now that Applejack is a stickler on the traditions for a reason), and therefore they still hold to the traditions as a town of a group that can’t rely on magic to do the heavy lifting for them. Spike’s comments about the whole thing imply that Canterlot (which has a population that leans towards unicorns a bit more heavily) just has a system to do all this same stuff by magic. The idea that the three types of ponies have their own approaches towards these events is interesting (and hints towards the possibility that they may not have always intermingled).
A couple more points before I wrap up:
- Spike’s a total butt in this episode, to Twilight specifically, but it kind of seems appropriate. He’s a little kid who got dragged out of bed early by his mother figure (regardless of whether or not he considers Twilight “mommy” she does fill that role for him) to go and help with the grown-up chores, and he’s going to be a stubborn pain in the rear in response.
- This is very much a Twilight episode. I love that we get to revisit the idea of her being brand new to the town and trying to work out her place in the whole mix of things. I also really like that she does manage to find the perfect role for herself in working with the town as a whole, and that it has nothing to do with her magic. Like Noel said, nobody has just one great asset.
- I do like that while Twilight’s goof-ups with each team contributed towards the mess that the town is in towards the end (poor Rarity), she’s definitely not the sole cause of it, and the reveal that this isn’t the first time they’ve had problems.
- The Hedgehog’s Dilemma.
- Maybe a slightly odd tangent to go on, and it’s something I’ve meant to bring up in past episodes and keeps slipping my mind, but I really like how this show treats crying. The ponies get emotional a lot, but it’s often rather subtle (save for the few times when it’s done intentionally cartoonish for comedic effect). It’s far more common for them to tear up and shed a few tears than it is for them to break down into full on sobbing, and it usually doesn’t have a lot of attention drawn to it. I really, really like this, both from the angle that it’s a turn away from a rather old trope in girls shows (crying had a tendency to be a superpower of sorts with female characters that would suddenly fix a situation because someone would start to feel bad for making them cry. Among quite a few other shows, older generations of MLP made rather blatant use of this.), but also because to be honest, it feels kind of real, and brings across the message that it’s okay to have those emotional overwhelming moments (both good and bad). Tearing up isn’t ever treated like a weakness or a hindrance, and in the cases of characters crying in response to a particular hardship, they also don’t stop them from being able to carry on and deal with their situation.
- I got through this whole list before just now realizing that I used the words “wrap up” to describe the end of my post entirely unintentionally.