My Little Pony Rewatch Project

Deconstruction is Magic

Episode [2.12] – “Family Appreciation Day”

This week, on My Little Pony

“Magic is as magic does. Just funny that way.”

Tarnation! Whippersnapper! Uh... high falootin!
The Zap Apples are in bloom, tying up all of Apple Bloom’s relatives except Granny Smith… unluckily coinciding with Family Appreciation Day.


Weston

Who hasn’t been embarrassed by their parents? Or grandparents, or weird uncles, or any other family member? They’re weird, they use antique words and try to use modern slang, sometimes they smell funny, there are so many ways for old folks to embarrass you.

Sometimes we even do it on purpose.

Little Apple Bloom has been looking forward to helping make Zap Apple Jam her whole life. Zap Apples are super special as apples go, with a weird set of signs and rules associated with their harvest. The timing is very specific – four signs forewarning, followed by a single day to harvest the entire crop. It’s not as large a harvest as Applebuck Season, but it’s far trickier to do right. Granny Smith is very very specific about what has to be done, how to do it, and when. It’s actually weirder than her normal behavior, which is really saying something.

Diamond Tiara specifically points out Granny Smith’s oddities to Apple Bloom, throwing out false sympathy for an embarrassment that she doesn’t feel. She was having fun bouncing around in a bunny suit until she was made self-conscious. After that, anxiety does the rest.

Okay, anxiety does MOST of the rest.

“You bite it, you buy it!”

And then, oh then, Diamond Tiara puts forward Granny Smith’s name for Family Appreciation Day. Apple Bloom is aghast, but Cheerilee loves the idea. The Cutie Mark Crusaders immediately begin working on a way to get Apple Bloom out of her predicament: Faking illness (Granny Smith is too smart for that), harvesting the Zap Apples early (nope), faking Granny Smith (Granny Smith is too awake for that), sending Granny Smith off to visit a relative (he’s already in town), none of it works.

Granny Smith makes it to the school less than a minute late, and starts telling her story. Way back in the day, Princess Celestia pointed out some prime farmland to the Smith family. They had a rough first year, and she saved the day by discovering Zap Apples. Turns out, all that weird stuff Granny Smith does is a kind of magic. Singing to the water, banging pots, wearing a beard of bees, talking to the glass jars, painting dots all over the kitchen, it’s all a vital part of the Zap Apple Jam process. Granny Smith figured the whole thing out from scratch by testing innumerable variables.

Unicorns have regular magic. Earth Ponies use the magic around them. The trees, the water, the bees, everything has its own power. Equestria is a magical place, and the Earth Ponies tap into that. It’s pretty awesome.

Worldbuilding! Two episodes in a row! I am most pleased. The founding of Ponyville, and its growth from a single apple orchard into the town we’ve grown to love over the series. The longstanding families have their origins here, starting with the Smiths and the Rich’s.

Applejack is the only Pony from the Mane 6 to appear in this episode. That’s astonishing. It’s really neat how the Cutie Mark Crusaders are taking a greater role this season. I love the squeak in Sweetie Belle’s voice. Goodness gracious, that’s adorable.

Tessa

Tessa disappeared shortly before her writeup was due. People in the area reported seeing two small bear-like creatures growling and muttering about “delicious smell” just before her disappearance.

In the place where she vanished, a small scrap of paper with the following notes was found.

  • I love the layers of this episode. The world building is a big part of its appeal, but that doesn’t even come until the very end of it. This is an episode first and foremost about the importance of family, and discovering the stories about the lives of our elders who at one point were our age and had their own experiences and adventures.
  • On that same note, while it’s very much on the nose, the title of “Family Appreciation Day” as both the title of the episode and the event is really fitting. It starts as just the name of an event that Applebloom is dreading, but by the end the purpose of the event is really clear : Applebloom learns something she didn’t know about her ancestry and her grandmother before, and is much more appreciative of her quirks and the life she led.
  • One more bit on that note is that I really like how subtle the delivery of the moral is in this episode. This is one of the first non-season opener episodes that doesn’t include a friendship letter spelling out what the moral is, rather the episode kind of just lays things out there. The moral itself is self-evident, there’s no real need to recap it. I wish more of the episodes would go this route.
  • Granny Smith is amazing.
  • No seriously, she makes up the best bits of the episode, with the one exception of the single best moment being the Weekend At Bernie’s gag that the CMC pull while she’s asleep.

    “No doubts about it! I gotta shear the flowers and water the sheep! I mean, I have to water the flowers and shear the sheep!”

  • This happens :

  • Getting to know the origin story for the town is just fantastic. Interesting in part because it means that Ponyville is only three generations old, making it still a relatively new town, and the fact that it grew organically out of the Apple Family farm in general and the Zap Apple trade in particular is neat (and kind of realistic).
  • Also interesting in Granny Smith’s story was getting to see old Canterlot. Also more evidence towards Celestia either being immortal or just ridiculously long lived in comparison to normal ponies considering she looks exactly the same.

This is a challenge from the Wall of Severance. Is your love the real thing? Give yourself over to the bears, and your writer shall be returned.

Gao Gao.

Gerf

Welcome to the club of folks who love Sweetie Belle’s squeaky voice, Weston! 😀 She absolutely does have the most adorable outbursts; something I know probably can’t last forever as her voice actress, Claire Corlett, continues to age along with the rest of us, and thus can’t help but appreciate all the more. Squeaky Sweetie Belle is best robot CMC.

And Scoots is best lantern.

As crazy as Granny Smith can be sometimes, who doesn’t love her? Oh, right: Diamond Tiara. Diamond Tiara is seriously the worst. It’s one thing to be mean to kids your age (not that said thing is in any way good, mind), but it’s another to also be mean to your elders. Even as her father is doing business with Granny Smith, DT just goes on and on with “Your granny is stupid, her little games are stupid, her face is stupid, and you’re stupid.” Her douchebagginess knows no bounds, yet it seems the only ponies who can see this are the CMCs, as further evidenced by Diamond Tiara deftly manipulating Cheerilee into having Apple Bloom bring in Granny Smith for Family Appreciation Day. You keep your dirty hooves off Cheerilee, you pathetic pink punk!

Ahem.

NUCLEAR SCRUNCHFACE DETECTED.

Now, as much as I absolutely loathe and despise her character, I do have to give the writers props for quite vividly portraying what many of us who were routinely bullied and picked on as children had to deal with (or perhaps continue to deal with) on a daily basis. What we see is a pretty accurate picture of what sometimes goes on when the adults aren’t looking, and while this picture certainly does not bring back fond memories (no, really, those were the worst times), hopefully some of our younger viewers and/or their parents will recognize it as well and be more mindful of the reality that is bullying. I know this isn’t a Diamond Tiara episode, and I dislike spending any more time than I need to thinking about her, but if she does one thing well it’s demonstrate that being a bully is being a butt. Don’t be a butt kids.

So, back to where this conversation belongs: Granny Smith. Sometimes she’s written as an old bag that creaks about in the background, but that is certainly not the case this episode. Yes, she’s perpetually off her rocker, but she’s got a razor wit and one heckuva backstory that is an absolute joy to hear. No, really, that zap apple story was great. Not only did it provide some excellent worldbuilding, it also put meaning to the crazy things that Granny Smith was doing all throughout the episode. It’s interesting to learn how certain traditions (crazy or otherwise) come to be, and interesting still to wonder how many of those traditions actually have meaning or are just done for tradition’s sake. Or, for that matter, whether some of the traditions we follow and rituals we perform here in the real world have practical meaning. Does shaking a Polaroid really make it develop faster? (Bonus points if you can get your hands on a Polaroid these days, come to think of it.) Does knocking on wood really protect you and others from the misfortune about which you just spoke? Does having your best friend kiss your lucky worry stone before you place it in your back pocket really ensure your bungee cord will not break? Doubtful. Perhaps Granny Smith’s bizarre rituals have similarly dubious merit, but maybe the point is not so much to influence the unknowable but rather to bring together friends, family, and community. Now that’s something one can appreciate.

This whole flashback sequence was top-notch, and those Timberwolves were /scary/!

That said, given that there’s all sorts of weird magic floating around in Equestria, I for one wouldn’t be so quick to question the assertion that singing the alphabet to water while hopping about in rabbit costumes was necessary to produce a successful zap apple crop!

This episode was one of those “sleepers” that I had largely forgotten about over the years but was pleasantly surprised to find quite enjoyable in its long-overdue rewatch. Season Five is in full swing as I type this, yet it’s old slice-of-life episodes like this one that remind me why I got into the series so long ago and have continued to stick with it ever since.

To be honest, no songs came to mind for this episode, so I went out to discover something new and came across Zap Apple Jam by LeafRunner. It’s a fun acoustic jam that is completely original yet still sounds like something the Apple family might listen to or even play themselves. When you’re done listening to that, go poke around the rest of LeafRunner’s channel: his music is very laid-back and awesome to listen to. Can’t believe I haven’t heard this guy before!

4 thoughts on “Episode [2.12] – “Family Appreciation Day”

  • Weston says:

    Say, I just finished Winter Roundup (I’m getting through season 1 I swear), and Twilight says that Ponyville is hundreds of years old. Is that a continuity error, or is Granny Smith also hundreds of years old?

    I lean towards the latter.

    • Tessa Tessa says:

      I’m a bear now. Bears are cool. Gao gao. This will totally still make sense when I eventually change my avatar again in the future. Yup.

      Uh, so anyways, I kinda completely forgot that little tidbit from Winter Wrap Up, but there’s a couple different explanations I can think of for it.

      1) Twilight’s spouting hyperbole in the episode and doesn’t literally mean “hundreds of years” but is exaggerating to get her point across. Unlikely given the tone, but not impossible and she’s not a total stranger to that kind of thing, especially when she’s frustrated with Spike.

      2) Twilight’s talking about earth ponies in general and not Ponyville specifically when she says it’s a several-hundred year old tradition. Makes the sentence read awkwardly but still not impossible.

      3) Granny Smith just is that old. We don’t actually know her age and/or what the typical lifespan of FiM ponies are, so even though I dunno how likely it is, it’s a possibility.

      4) Twilight just flat out has her facts wrong. As unusual as that would be, it wouldn’t be the only time she wound up with faulty info that she confidently ran with as fact.

      5) The writers forgot about that line in WWU too and it’s just a continuity hiccup.

      It’s likely #5 and we’ll probably never know for sure (unless they decide to talk more about old Ponyville again that pins down a more definite age to the town), but we can take our pick from the other four for purposes of fanon and fun.

      • Gerf Gerf says:

        Yeah, my boring/practical vote would be for #5; it’s not the last time temporal anomalies will crop up in the series. That being said, temporal anomalies would be awesome. Hmm, I wonder if we’ll ever see any of those deliberately injected into a script…

  • Noel says:

    I love this episode. It’s beautifully constructed and delivered, with so many wonderful moments – timberwolves, folksier backstory, revelation of roots, how the Riches really play into things, limp grandmother puppet squick. I’ve also got a soft spot for stories like this because I lived with my grandmother the last two years of her life, and had similar moments of looking past the disquieting elderlinishness to seeing the rich, inspirational life this was at the tail end of.

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