|"A Canterlot Wedding"|
|My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episodes|
|Episode nos.||Season 2|
Episodes 25 and 26
|Directed by||James Wootton|
|Written by||Meghan McCarthy|
|Original air date||April 21, 2012|
|Running time||44 minutes (combined)|
"A Canterlot Wedding" is the name for the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth episodes of the second season of the animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, as well as the fifty-first and fifty-second overall. The episodes were directed by James Wootton and written by Meghan McCarthy, and premiered on The Hub on April 21, 2012, as an hour-long event. Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) learns her brother Shining Armor (Andrew Francis) will be marrying her foalsitter Princess Cadance (Britt McKillip). Twilight is excited by the news of this royal wedding but becomes concerned about the marriage when she notices Cadance is not behaving like the friendly, caring individual she remembered her to be.
"A Canterlot Wedding" was the last time series developer Lauren Faust had any involvement in the show. She was involved in the inception of the story and helped develop the villain Queen Chrysalis, who was designed by Rebecca Dart from DHX Media. The episodes are a direct reference to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, and deal with themes that have been considered serious and complex for a children's television series, and have been subject to feminist analysis.
Before the premiere of "A Canterlot Wedding", The Hub began a major marketing campaign involving interactive content on the network's website, promotional events, and a print advertisement in The New York Times in the form of a ceremonial wedding announcement. The episodes' debuts attracted nearly one million combined viewers and were positively received by critics, who praised the ambition, music, and visual sequences.
Twilight Sparkle is surprised to learn her older brother and Captain of the Royal Guard Shining Armor is to be married, and that Princess Celestia has requested Twilight and her friends from Ponyville to help organize the ceremony. Twilight is resentful; she considered Shining Armor as her "Big Brother Best Friend Forever" ("B.B.B.F.F") but had only come to learn of the marriage at this late date, and because he only sent a letter rather than visiting. Twilight and her friends arrive in Canterlot; they are surprised to find security has been increased, and that a magic shield-shell cast by Shining Armor now protects the entire city from an unknown threat.
Twilight berates her brother for not informing her sooner and only sending a letter; he apologizes and asks Twilight to be his "best mare". Shining Armor reveals he is marrying her "foalsitter" Princess Cadance, cheering Twilight up further. When Twilight meets Cadance, however, she finds her to be cold and distant with no memory of a special rhyme they had shared when Twilight was young. As Twilight observes the preparations for the ceremony, she further doubts Cadance's purpose; the latter criticizes every aspect her friends are planning. Twilight's friends dismiss her claims as pressure from the ceremony mounts. Twilight approaches Shining Armor with her concerns but Cadance interrupts and takes him aside, casting upon him a spell that she says will help him deal with the migraines caused by the casting of the shield spell around the city. Twilight thinks Cadance is evil.
During the wedding rehearsal the next day, Twilight barges in and decries Cadance as evil. Shining Armor is furious with Twilight and explains the apparent reasons for Cadance's behavior. He, Celestia and her friends refuse to believe her claims and leave her alone with Cadance. When Twilight tries to apologize to her, Cadance casts a spell around Twilight that transports her beneath Canterlot.
Twilight is in the long-forgotten crystal caves beneath Canterlot. An image of Cadance appears and taunts her, saying the marriage will continue without Twilight's interference. Using her magic to shatter a crystal wall, she finds another Cadance, who is disheveled and battered. Twilight attacks her but she proves to be the real Cadance by reciting the shared rhyme from their youth. She explains she was abducted by an imposter in the castle who wants to marry Shining Armor. The two escape from the caves and try to stop the wedding. Meanwhile, the fake Cadance secretly plots against Shining Armor and the others.
Just before the ceremony is completed, Twilight and the real Cadance arrive to expose the deception. The fake Cadance is enraged and reveals her true image is Queen Chrysalis,[a] ruler of the shape-shifting, insect-like Changelings who feed on love. She has been usurping Shining Armor's power, weakening the shield to allow her Changeling army to invade Canterlot and take over Equestria. Celestia attempts to stop Chrysalis but is overpowered, and implores Twilight and her friends to recover the Elements of Harmony to stop the Changelings. They fight their way through a group of them and go to the Elements' vault but are soon outnumbered and returned to Chrysalis as her captives. With no further resistance, Chrysalis gloats that everyone has been too caught up in the wedding to realize Twilight was correct. Twilight uses the distraction to free Cadance so she may be with Shining Armor. Cadance's magic and love break the spell on Shining Armor and he recasts the shield, expelling Chrysalis and her army from Canterlot.
Princess Celestia commends Twilight for her instincts and conviction that saved the day. The real wedding goes on as planned; Twilight, who becomes best mare again, eagerly oversees preparations for a much happier and appreciative Cadance. After the latter and Shining Armor are married, a celebration with Twilight as the wedding singer ensues.
"A Canterlot Wedding" was series developer Lauren Faust's final involvement with the show. Faust had served as executive producer during season one, as consulting producer during season two, and did significant work on the inception of the story. Series musician Daniel Ingram wrote three songs for the episodes; he wanted to make "This Day Aria", a duet sung by Princess Cadance and Queen Chrysalis, darker and more emotional than previous work he had done for the series. The episodes are a direct reference to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
Faust, writer Meghan McCarthy, and story editor Rob Renzetti developed Queen Chrysalis, who was designed by Rebecca Dart from DHX Media. The character was originally envisioned as damp, hunched over, weak and rotten-looking; and she looked "like she crawled out from under a log". Hasbro, however, found her design non-intimidating; Dart reared her upwards and made her more upright, making her appear more commanding. Due to the intended likeness to a bug, holes are abundant in Chrysalis's design. Her decaying aspects are deliberate contrasts to Princess Celestia and Cadance's vigor. Shining Armor and Cadance are intended to display strength, honor, and fearlessness. Faust stated she was surprised when seeing Cadance as a winged unicorn, a decision that was made after she left the show.
In the lead-up to its premiere, The Hub heavily promoted the episodes through a "Royal Wedding" advertising campaign that included a microsite with games and digital content themed around the episode, previews of the episode posted on social media including The Hub's pages on Twitter and Facebook), and an advertisement in The New York Times' wedding section on April 13, 2012, formally announcing the marriage of Princess Cadance and Shining Armor. McCarthy said the ad was placed because the series wanted to "justify something big and crazy and exciting". Actor and wedding aficionado Tori Spelling also appeared at promotional events for "A Canterlot Wedding", and in segments aired on The Hub during the episodes. Though she was scheduled to host a "bridle shower" event in Culver City the week before the episodes' airing, Spelling canceled due to pregnancy sicknesses and television personality Brooke Burke took her place.
The episodes' themes have been described as serious and complex for a children's television series. New York Daily News' David Hinckley considered them dramas and compared the plot twist to those of science fiction television series Fringe. Emily VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club highlighted sincerity, hope, growing up, and the "power of love" as primary themes of the episodes. She stated Twilight's anger at Shining Armor for not informing her about his wedding sooner is "a great example" of the way children, while working towards their futures as adults, cannot completely understand their elders' activities. VanDerWerff also believed the episodes recognize the concept of growing up might be frightening and lonely, and that making and keeping friends may be difficult.
The episodes have also been subject to feminist analysis. In his book Orienting Feminism, Kevin Fletcher said the episodes both exemplify and resist the "princess stereotype", and undermine the typical fairy-tale wedding by focusing on Twilight and her friends rather than the royal couple. He likened Chrysalis's retrogression to evil Disney queens and noted "matriarchal societies are often modelled on termites in science fiction ... [that] contribute to the function of 'A Canterlot Wedding' as a retrogressive text". Fletcher said the reprise of "This Day Aria", in which Chrysalis celebrates her victory and "hav[ing] it all", relates to post-feminism. A study by Bachelor of Arts Christian Valiente and Doctor of Philosophy Xeno Rasmusson found the episodes, in which females drive the action and dialogue while males are incompetent or under their control, challenge gender stereotypes. In addition, females are in positions of authority, and primary and active roles.
Both parts of "A Canterlot Wedding" premiered on The Hub in the United States on April 21, 2012, airing in an hour-long special presentation hosted by Spelling. Several sources noted their broadcast was close to the first anniversary of the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. The episodes became rating successes; the first part was the highest-rated telecast among children ages 6–11 and 2–11, and households, as well as the second-highest among persons aged 2+. The first episode received a viewership of 483,000 and triple-digit, year-to-year delivery gains in all demographics except those aged 6–11 and 2–11, which received quadruple-digit gains. The second part became The Hub's second-highest-rated telecast among children aged 6–11 and households, and the third-highest-rated among children aged 2–11; it was viewed by 475,000 people aged 2+ and earned many double-digit and triple-digit year-to-year delivery gains. The Hub, driven by the performance of "A Canterlot Wedding", earned its second-best Saturday rating in the network's history with an average of 184,000 viewers in 129,000 households watching the channel between 6 am and 12 am.
The episodes received largely positive reviews. VanDerWerff gave "A Canterlot Wedding" an "A-" rating, considering it to be one of the reasons she felt Friendship Is Magic was one of the best children's programs. Other critics called it heartwarming, "surprisingly complex", and "biggest, most expensive, action-packed ... episode ever". Hinckley and Entertainment Weekly writer Hillary Busis commended the ambition, complexity, captivation, and enjoyability, believing they would appeal to all audiences. Though they initially chastised Cadance for being a "pretty pink alicorn princess", which was contrary to their desires, the Friendship Is Magic fandom enjoyed the episode, and some considered it perfect.
The music garnered critical praise as well. It has been called "one of the best things about this show" and "just breathtaking". Reviewers often singled out "This Day Aria" for particular acclaim. For example, VanDerWerff favorably compared it to the Disney villain songs; similarly, Sherilyn Connelly of SF Weekly considered it to be showstopping and approvingly likened it to "La Resistance" from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and "Walk Through the Fire" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The visual sequences were sources of praise. VanDerWerff complimented how "the bright colors and beautiful backgrounds contrast nicely with the more simplistic Flash animation that drives the program". Multiple writers enjoyed the fight between the ponies and the Changelings: Connelly found it thrilling, especially Pinkie Pie's usage of Twilight as a gun, and VanDerWerff considered it to be vibrant and pleasurable. Other sequences singled out by critics include the "bouncy and fun, filled with real joy and heart" wedding, the climax where Cadance and Shining Armour defeat the Changelings that "gets [Connelly] gooey inside every time" and the scene where Cadance transports Twilight to the caves, described by the latter critic as "the most disturbing the show has yet produced".
On August 7, 2012, Shout! Factory released a DVD compilation, titled "Royal Pony Wedding", containing both parts of "A Canterlot Wedding". They were also released as part of the Season 2 DVD box set.