The Elements of Harmony combine to summon the Rainbow of Light. There's even more of a shout out when they're used to beat Discord. Complete with similar music and a World-Healing Wave.
In the Pilot, the ponies have to cross a raging river and a rickety bridge to get to a castle, just like in Rescue from Midnight Castle.
Rarity's butterfly wings in "Sonic Rainboom" and the Glimmer Wings toy ponies are a nod to G1 and G3 winged ponies, the Flutterpony toy line (right down to how they're notorious for having delicate, breakable wings) and the Breezies in particular.
In "The Cutie Mark Chronicles", the younger Fluttershy's thinner body and legs is also reminiscent of the Flutter Ponies. All she's missing are the delicate butterfly wings... which, of course, can be found on her cutie mark instead.
Fluttershy has a yellow coat and pink mane and tail, like Rosedust, Queen of the Flutter Ponies - and her original inspiration Posey (who was an earth pony, but otherwise was nigh-identical in appearance, especially in Lauren Faust's early sketches).
In "Over a Barrel" Spike plays a piano for a show like G1 Spike does in the 1986 My Little Pony Movie.
Discord's mind rape of the mane cast making them lose their color and become jerks is reminiscent of the Smooze from the Original MLP movie, where touching it made a pony act like a jerk and "lose their twinkle".
The design of the Fire Ruby in "Secret Of My Excess" looks exactly like the Heart Stone from the original series episode "Crunch the Rockdog".
Twilight's Twinkling Balloon is actually a shout out to the balloon in MLP G3/G3.5.
Spike sending a photo of the ponies to Princess Celestia at the end of the opening is a reference to the ponies taking a group picture at the end of the G3 and G3.5 openings.
Heck, the opening starts with a shout out to every MLP commercial and theme song ever made.
Applejack is just a redesigned version of the original. She and Spike are the only trademarks that the creators were interested in using that Hasbro retained from the 80s.
Applejack's brother Big McIntosh resembles the G3 version of Applejack in color and a cutie mark consisting of just one big apple (as opposed to every other version of Applejack having several smaller apples).
Twilight Sparkle is a fairly direct cross of Powder, Twilight Twinkle and Twilight.
Her mother Twilight Velvet, seen in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" and "A Canterlot Wedding - Part 2" as well as in the Wave 4 Blind Bags, is very clearly based on the G1 Twilight, who was intended to be the original main character of Friendship is Magic.
Her father resembles Nachtlicht, a German-only Pony from G1, a bit too much for comfort. It could be a genderswap Mythology Gag, similar to how Big Mac resembles G3 Applejack. Or just the fact that the name and color scheme fit well into the family theme. The Gameloft game confirms this as Twilight's parents live in "Nightlight Boookbinding"
In the first episode Twilight Sparkle gets invited to Moondancer's get-together. This is both a nod to the G1 pony Moondancer and a Development Gag on the fact that Twilight was going to have a variation of Moondancer's cutie marknote It could also be a reference to the G3 Moondancer but considering they're in Canterlot, which is mainly inhabited by Unicorns, it's probably the original Moondancer.
Twilight Sparkle can teleport. In G1, Unicorns can teleport (they call it "winking in" and "winking out"). The first Unicorn seen to teleport is G1 Twilight, in the opening theme of "Rescue from Midnight Castle".
Fluttershy was originally just SUPPOSED to be Posey but Hasbro had lost the trademark on that name.
Her cutie mark however is a shout-out to the G2 Pony Sky Skimmer and her name is based on her Generation 3 incarnation.
Spike being in love with Rarity may be a shout out to G1's Majesty, with whom the original Spike came and Rarity somewhat resembles (although really she's more of an amalgamation of Sparkler◊ and Glory from the G1 line).
Twilight's relationship with Spike mirrors Spike's with Majesty back in G1, especially in the British comics.
Funny enough, Rarity's mannerisms bear resemblance to those of G3 Rainbow Dash, especially her tendency to call everyone "darling".
Twilight herself mirrors Majesty in the British comics. Other unicorns could only really do one type of magic, like Fizzy being good at blowing fireworks out her horn, but Majesty had no such restrictions.
Early concept sketches of Pinkie Pie were just straight up Surprise◊. Her wings were passed on to Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie was given a swapped version of her G3 color scheme.note G3 Pinkie Pie had a magenta coat and light pink mane; G4 Pinkie Pie has a light pink coat and magenta mane.
Both Surprise in her original concept and G3 Pinkie Pie have similar cutie marks with 3 balloons. G4 Pinkie Pie's cutie mark is a combination, using the balloon colors (blue and yellow) from G3 Pinkie Pie and the placement of the concept.
The first word out of Pinkie Pie's mouth in the G4 cartoon is "Surprise".
It's worth noting that the original Surprise had somewhat greenish blonde hair in the cartoon and Pinkie's mother is white with green hair, though she's not a pegasus.
In the show, one of the unnamed Wonderbolts(whose toy is simply called "Wonderbolts Pony") is colored similar to Surprise and G3 Breezie.
Every time Pinkie Pie plans a party or does a balloon gag she's giving a shout out to the G3 theme song.
Let's plan a party with Pinkie Pie Then watch her balloons lift her up to the sky!
—My Little Pony G3 theme song
That part of the theme song is actually a reference to A Charming Birthday in which she is lifted into the air by her balloon charm bracelet.
The 3rd tier characters Snips and Snails (himself a shout out to the G1 pony Squirmy◊), make up 2/3rds of the ingredients of little boys, the exact opposite of the Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice that created the Powerpuff Girls.
Most of the large stallions have unshorn fetlocks like the G1 Big Brother Ponies. Two of these large stallions are in fact big brothers, Big McIntosh to Applejack & Apple Bloom and Shining Armor to Twilight Sparkle.
Celestia resembles the G2 Pony design, with a bit of the G1 Beauty Dream Pony thrown in.
Cheerilee being a teacher is similar to her original unicorn version role in one of the G3 specials, notably Crystal Princess: The Runaway Rainbow. Later stories have her mysteriously not a unicorn anymore, but she is the older sister to Scootaloo and knows a great deal of lore and history. So naturally, she is a teacher in FIM, with Scootaloo as one of her students (as well as Scoots' partner in crime Sweetie Belle.)
Cheerilee had a toy called "Go To School With Cheerilee" which had her as a student in school. Come a few years later and she's a teacher.
Cheerilee was notably requested by Hasbro to appear in the show due to her popularity from G3.
The plot of "The Ticket Master" is near identical to a My Little Pony Tales episode ("And the Winner is..") where one of the ponies wins a pair of tickets to a concert and has to choose which friend to take.
"Dragonshy" is about the ponies climbing a mountain to deal with a dragon in a cave, which also happened in the G3.5 special Twinkle Wish Adventure.
In G3, Spike wakes up from a thousand year nap. In G4, dragons are mentioned to nap for very long, possibly a hundred years or even more.
"Winter Wrap Up" brings to mind the the opening theme to the the 1986 My Little Pony movie:
My Little Pony, My Little Pony All in a twinkling spring is here. My Little Pony, My Little Pony When did all the leaves and grass appear? Where there were snowdrifts, now there are no drifts, Nor is the sky overcast. My Little Pony, My Little Pony Winter is over at last!
In one episode of G1, Wind Whistler had her wings tied during a race, like Rainbow Dash in "Fall Weather Friends".
The foal that Rainbow Dash rescues from the well in "The Mysterious Mare Do Well" has the same body color (and a near-identical voice) as Lickety Split, who had a musical number involving someone else trapped in a well in the original movie.
In "Hearth's Warming Eve" when Rarity (as Princess Platinum) claims Equestria as her own she christens it Unicornia. Unicornia is the name of the unicorns' kingdom from G3 whose princess is named Rarity.
Fluttershy's character in the play is named "Pansy", which almost sounds like "Posey", the G1 pony Fluttershy was based on.
The euphemisms and pony-versions of words characters use come from G1, mainly from European canon. Terms like "Pony feathers!" are the most obvious. Applejack in particular liked to use that term in the British comics, and her G4 Expy often uses it too.
"The Last Roundup" includes a pony named Cherry Jubilee. There was a G1 pony named Cherries Jubilee.
Party Of One's plot is unusually similar to a comic in the British G1 comics called "A Surprise For Surprise''. In the comic, everypony is ignoring Surprise and telling her to leave them alone. Surprise believes they all hate her and runs off, but it turns out they were throwing a party for Surprise. All the ponies the Mane Cast are based off appear in the strip too.
Flower Wishes, Daisy's name from the toy line, was also the name of a G3 pony.
The stunt that causes Rainbow Dash to crash in "Read It And Weep" is, going by the motions of the onlookers' heads as they follow it, Firefly's trademark double inside-out loop.
"Dragon Quest" has quite a bit in common with the My Little Pony And Friends episode "Spike's Search": They both involve a little purple dragon named Spike leaving behind his pony friends to look for his draconic roots, only to fall in with a crowd of trouble-making dragons, which leads him to decide he's more at home with the ponies.
One of the dragons, Garble, has the same color scheme as Fiery from G1.
In "Hurricane Fluttershy", during the big tornado scene one can see a male pegasus with the color scheme of Firefly, the G1 pegasus who inspired Rainbow Dash.
A pony in "Putting Your Hoof" down - dubbed "Surf" by fans - has a blue mane, pink fur, lightning bolt earrings, and looks like she came right out of The Eighties. She seems to be a Shout-Out to Firefly.
When Fluttershy is cleaning during "The Ticket Master", she hums the G1 theme song. It's easy to mistake it for the Friendship is Magic theme tune, since they start the same way, but after the "My Little Pony My Little Pony" part, it clearly follows the melody and beat of the next line of the G1 theme tune ("What will today's adventure be?") rather than the rising "Ah" that follows it in Friendship is Magic, though said beat would eventually find its way into the extended version of the Friendship is Magic theme ("What is friendship all about?")
In "Applebuck Season", sleep deprivation turns Applejack into a silly pony. Her G1 incarnation was an earth pony forerunner of Derpy (but with apples instead of muffins). A tie-in record was made during G1's run in the UK, one of the songs being the now-memetic "Who's A Silly Pony".
King Sombra is turned to crystal and shattered by the Crystal Heart. G1 villain Lavan was killed when a crystal called the Heart of Ponyland provided the power needed to shatter him (after he'd already turned to crystal).
He also shares more than a passing resemblance to the original Tirek who was also killed by exploding.
The advert transition screen from "The Crystal Empire - Part 2" is a large bunch of balloons, which bears a resemblance to the Children's Video Library logo; which is basically the very first thing you see if you play an original VHS copy of Escape from Midnight Castle.
The Crystal Ponies themselves, in their crystal forms, resemble a G1 line with the same appearance called the Sparkle Ponies.
Speaking of Sparkle Ponies, Applejack resembles one when she was covered in glitter in "Apple Family Reunion".
Babs Seed blows her hair out of her eyes like G3's Toola-Roola (incidentally one of only two of G3's Core 7 to not appear in G4 at all; Starsong is the other).
In Sleepless in Ponyville, Rainbow Dash saves Scootaloo from death by waterfall, like in The Runaway Rainbow.
In "Family Appreciation Day", a rainbow resembling the one from the franchise's original logo appears above the apple tree. Also, a rainbow flies around the apples, like the Rainbow of Light.
In issue 9 of the IDW comics, a flyer from Canterlot High clearly states "Bring submissions to Megan, Danny, or Molly". It's referring to the human characters in My Little Pony And Friends. The same flyer has the name "Sundance" on it, a G1 pony who Megan was released with several times in the toy line.
In the same issue a unicorn who has a strong resemblance to Moondancer from G1 pops up. It's also a kick back to episode 1 of the series, where Moondancer is mentioned.
In the same issue, there's also several background instances of members of the Mane 6 telling other ponies about an off-screen adventure that apparently was very similar to "The End of Flutter Valley" from the original series (it involved a Sun Stone and giant bees).
One issue of the IDW comics clearly shows Glory, Surprise, and Firefly.
As of Season 4 Episode 16, we have Friendship Is Magic's answer to Breezies, which were originally G3-specific.
The goat head of the Chimera that attacks Applebloom in "Somepony to Watch Over Me" is vaguely similar to Grogar's head.
"Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3" documents the creation of the Wonderbolts, lead by "General Firefly". This is, per Amy Keating Rogers, a nod to Lauren Faust's online screenname "fyre-flye", which itself was selected by Faust in relation to the G1 Firefly, who inspired the current generation Rainbow Dash.
The Big Bad of the season 4 finale, "Twilight's Kingdom", is Lord Tirek, who is named for (and resembles) the villain of the original My Little Pony TV Special "Rescue from Midnight Castle". Scorpan is mentioned in Lord Tirek's backstory, and both have designs very reminiscent of their original forms. In a larger sense, this two-parter is a celebration of the 30th anniversary (late by one month) of My Little Pony as a cartoon franchise. The Rainbow Power used to defeat G4 Tirek is a callback to the Rainbow of Light used against his G1 counterpart.
Twilight's last name was changed from "Twinkle" to "Sparkle". When Lauren Faust was asked if the name was an intentional joke, her response was "It passed legal."
The Cutie Mark Crusaders are suspiciously similar to the "Pre-Teen Sensations" from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., even to the point that they are waiting for a physical transformation and are trying all kinds of irrational stuff to make it happen. The entire scene where they are deciding on a name is almost exactly how it happens in the book.
The first outfit seen in the Costume Test Montage in episode 1 is very clearly the pony version of the Statue of Liberty. In a later episode, we see the statue proper in Manehattan.
Twilight calls a lovestruck Spike "Casanova", a reference to the Real Life person.
Nightmare Moon's exit from her first appearance in the second episode is a shout out to Maleficent's exit in Sleeping Beauty.
Even Applejack holding back Rainbow Dash from charging Nightmare Moon, even though it suits the two of them so well it hasn't been the only time, has a clear parallel in the same scene, with Flora (red fairy) holding back Merryweather (blue).
Nightmare Moon's boasting to Twilight after shattering the elements mirrors a line by Maleficent almost exactly.
Heck, in the beginning of the second episode, they literally take two lines from Sleeping Beauty almost word-for-word.
Twilight Sparkle emits the "transporter energize" sound effect from Star Trek, at about 18:23 of Episode 2. (For those who don't want to wait for a video that's at least that long to load, and then watch all the way to that point, it's when she opens her eyes and they glow.)
The manticore has a thorn in its paw. The manticore is part lion. Definitely a shout-out to the fable of Androcles and the Lion.
The part of the manticore scene where Rainbow Dash attempts to create a vortex around the beast is very similar to a battle in BIONICLE where Lewa Nuva attempted the same move against the Rahi Nui (Which is more or less a biomechanical manticore). In both stories, the creature sticks a limb into its enemy's path and sends them sprawling.
Luna is given a wreath of red and white roses, referring to the Tudor crest used to symbolize peace after the War of the Roses.
"Ticket Master" includes a Benny Hill-style chase scene, right down to a Suspiciously Similar version of "Yakkity Sax" playing in the background. Like the original, this BGM has been reused for every wacky chase scene throughout the show, twice so far (although the second one is slightly different and actually even closer to the original).
The same episode includes Snips and Snails making a Pinky and the Brain reference, and when Rarity demands for a mirror to see the mess Trixie made to her mane, she is mimicking The Joker's mirror scene from Tim Burton's first Batman movie.
The shout out to Batman is even more powerful when you realize Rarity is wearing a purple dress, her face is white and her hair is, well, green.
Twilight calls Spike "Romeo" early in the episode.
In "Dragonshy", the music that plays during the preparation montage – as well as the montage itself – is a combination of references to The A-Team and Charlie's Angels. Additionally, the music that plays during the girls' journey up the mountain is a variation on the theme for The Lord of the Rings.
Rarity seals herself in her bedroom, shouting "I vant to be alone!" She does it again in "Green Isn't Your Color".
During the second fashion show, the background music features multiple shout-outs. In the beginning and end, the music takes cues from "Also Sprach Zarathustra". Pinkie Pie's segment takes cues from both I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow and the Cartoon Cartoon music from Cartoon Network. Fluttershy's segment is based off of Claude Debussy's L'après-midi d'un faune
The entire sequence where Twilight was stalking Pinkie in "Feeling Pinkie Keen" took multiple aspects from Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, including gag scientific names, as well as Anvil On Head and Piano Drop.
Early on, Twilight asks Pinkie Pie "What in the wide wide world of Equestria are you up to?", another reference to Blazing Saddles (the original line in the film was "What in the wide wide world of sports...", a reference to the popular ABC television show of the same name).
The "Pinkie Sense" itself is a nod to Spiderman's Spidey Sense.
The swirling blue "whirlpool" accompanying Rarity's transformation in "Sonic Rainboom" is a reference to The Swan Princess.
What happens to Rarity's wings at the end of the episode is a direct reference to the Greek myth of Icarus.
In "Stare Master", Sweetie Belle makes the comment "who wants a hammer on their flank anyway". As a matter of fact, the Wreckers, the Autobot subgroup from Hasbro's other major property Transformers, have a hammer over their usual Autobot symbols.
On top of that, in "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000", there's a background pony with a hammer and a lightning bolt on her flank, who has been given the Fan Nickname Mjolna, after Thor's hammer Mjolnir.
In "The Show Stoppers", Scootaloo's failure to find a decent rhyme, frustrated "NEVER, NEVER!", and piano head-desking are lifted straight from Don Music in Sesame Street.note A character who was dropped because of concerns that children were imitating this behavior.
The outfits worn by the Cutie Mark Crusaders for the talent show make them look like the Misfits from Jem (another famous girls' cartoon from The Eighties).
The So Bad, It's Good style of the CMC's Theme Song is also a shout out to the Misfits' musical style, that is off-key screaming metal of the 80s, a la KISS.
The way the Cutie Mark Crusaders are lit when their song begins is an obvious shout-out to the music video for Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody◊.
The audience's reaction to the performance and its unintentional hilarity is almost directly lifted from The Producers.
In "A Dog and Pony Show", the diamond dogs themselves speak in a manner similar to Gollum from The Lord of the Rings films, have a gangly appearance similar to Gollum, and even refer to the gems as "precious".
The name "Diamond Dogs" has got to be a shout out to the David Bowie album. The title song from that album contains the line "The diamond dogs are poachers, and they hide behind trees". When we first see the dogs, they are hiding in a tree and planning to steal the gems Rarity and Spike are collecting.
In the cold open, the music is reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda games while Rarity places rupee-shaped gems on her latest dress. The blue one even flies up from an open chest, much like those found in the games. In a related shout-out to Zelda, the Diamond Dogs are similar in shape to Moblins.
The music that plays when the girls try to get into the rapidly filling holes takes a few cues from the Rite Of Spring.
At one point, one of the dogs keeps popping up from different holes while Applejack is trying to catch him, while a soundeffect straight from a Whack-A-Mole machine plays.
The leader of the Diamond Dogs wears a red vest just like the Grundle King's from the 1986 movie.
In "Over a Barrel", when Spike walks off in a huff because the girls keep interrupting his sleep, Fluttershy calls him "Huffy the Magic Dragon". Made all the more bizarre by the fact that Fluttershy says it as if she's deliberately making the reference, and Twilight seems to get the joke. This is immediately followed by a gag used in The Emperor's New Groove – Rarity getting up angrily and scaring the others with her Cucumber Facial.
The climactic slapstick pie fight near the end of the episode is almost certainly a Blazing Saddles reference.
This episode makes at least two shout-outs to the classic Bugs Bunny short "Bully for Bugs": both the buffalo from this episode and the bull from the Bugs Bunny cartoon sharpen their horns using a grinding wheel, and the buffalo running into an anvil hidden in a hay bale mirrors the bull running into an anvil hidden behind Bugs' red muleta.
The scene where the buffalo line up along the edge of the cliff before charging down towards the town is a reference to a Tex Avery short to boot.
There are a couple widescreen closeup shots of the Buffalo chief's eyes that are very Leone-esque.
The name of the apple tree Applejack is tending to is named Bloomberg. The mayor of New York City (a.k.a "The Big Apple") at the time of the episode's airing is Michael Bloomberg.
At one point before the big battle is about to begin, Rainbow Dash tries to think of something in a manner reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh, tapping her hoof to her head repeating "think" to herself.
The overall plot of the episode is reminiscent of the scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where Dumbledore's pet bird burns to ash in front of Harry, and Harry thinks he's in deep trouble until Dumbledore reveals that his pet is a phoenix. Philomena even looks a fair deal like almost dead Fawkes.
Drilled in when Princess Celestia cheerfully states "lovely, isn't she?" and is still quite cheerful when everyone else is horrified, and is clearly enjoying having fun with the other ponies, Dumbledore-style. She even urges on Philomeena to quit milking the melodrama and rebirth already, just like Dumbledore.
And during Celestia's brunch at the Sugarcube Corner, right when she announces that she must leave because royal duty is calling, the scene looks very similar to "The Last Supper" from Leonardo da Vinci. (Even the number of ponies on screen is exactly twelve and Celestia makes it 13.)
The little green hummingbird Fluttershy brings in as a friend for Philomena is "Hummingway".
This is followed by another instance of Fluttershy (and Hummingway) singing a tune similar to the theme song.
In "Green Isn't Your Color", one of the photos of Fluttershy shows her in Eeyore's signature slump.
"The Cutie Mark Chronicles" had a scene where Filly Applejack watches a pony version of the Statue of Liberty (linking back to Twilight's outfit in the pilot).
Filly Rarity also (literally) bumps into a rock that resembles the black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, musical fanfare included.
This part also brings to mind the scene in The Road to El Dorado in which the main duo also come before a great big rock (Rarity's complaints about it have a similar tone to Tulio's) after thinking that it led to their main goal (which in both cases, turns out to be true).
Filly Twilight Sparkle tries to get accepted into "Princess Celestia's School For Gifted Unicorns" and during the admission exam her magical power violently awakens, turning her into a huge danger for everyone and herself, until Princess Celestia herself manages to calm her down and offers herself as her guide so she could learn how to control her immense magical power. The entire scene is a shout out to X-Men, with Twilight as Jean Grey, Celestia as Charles Xavier and the school itself a shout-out to "Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters".
"There was no talking. There was no smiling. There were only rocks." Think that type of dystopian narration sounds a bit familiar?
The scene in which filly Applejack starts talking about farm life in her "proper" accent seems to be a shout-out to a similar scene in Pygmalion.
When Spike's looking for a new quill, one of the places he looks is in the shower, where Owlowiscious happens to be bathing. This is likely a reference to the Jean Craighead George book There's an Owl in the Shower.
When Spike first sees him, Owlowiscious is looking outside and to look at Spike, his head does a 180° while the lightning darkens and a scary tune plays. As Spike comments "Dude, that's creepy."
The opening of "The Best Night Ever" has Twilight channeling the Fairy Godmother by making a carriage out of an apple and horses out of mice, even adding the stipulation that they'll revert by midnight. The ending also includes a bit about one of Rarity's glass slippers.
Of course, after seeing how much of a douche her dream prince actually is, she destroys the slipper, not wanting him to find her.
Discord also "Force Chokes" the Mane Cast during the final confrontation.
One background pony making her debut in this episode has a screw and a baseball for a cutie mark. In older cartoons, such as the Daffy Duck short "Duck Amuck", this was the universal sign for "screwball"
After Applejack and Apple Bloom drive sheep into a corral, one of the sheep says "You could have just asked," referencing a scene from Babe.
In the bowling alley scene at the start of "The Cutie Pox", you can see pony versions of several characters from The Big Lebowski, including Jesus Quintana, Walter Sobchak, Donny, and the Dude.
Two of them were later named in a licensed mobile game by Gameloft: Jeff "The Dude" Letrotski and Jesús Pezuña. The pony resembling Walter was added to the same game for a winter update, but he was called simply "Bowling Pony".
One shot inside the Apple family's house features a painting in the background that looks like a pony version of Grant Wood's American Gothic.
The statue that Apple Bloom carves is a direct reference to the Renaissance Italian painting The Birth of Venus.
After a chess-playing cutie mark appears on her, Apple Bloom plays, and beats, a chess-playing pony who looks an awful lot like Geri.
Apple Bloom first discovers she's forced to use the talents the Cutie Pox gives her with a tap dancing mark, referring to the Hans Christian Anderson story "The Red Shoes".
The part where Apple Bloom is diagnosed is awfully reminiscent of a typical House scene, team and everything.
The last pox cutie mark AB recieves causes her to tornado-spin like the Tasmanian Devil.
In "May The Best Pet Win!", Rainbow Dash's wing becoming trapped beneath a boulder in a canyon is reminiscent of hiker Aron Ralston, who was trapped in a canyon for five days when a falling boulder pinned his arm.
After first failing to supply Dash's need for an awesome pet with a bunny, the next thing she brings out is a "puddy tat".
Rainbow Dash's first attempt to stop the runaway coach resembles Peter Parker's first attempt at stopping the elevated subway in Spider-Man 2.
The crane driver is an earth pony version of the pegasus foreman from "Feeling Pinkie Keen", who might look like Fred Flintstone.
In "Sweet and Elite", a painting in an art gallery is inspired by Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory.
Twilight's awkward dancing at the Canterlot ponies' party mirrors a scene in Seinfeld.
The underscore as Rarity soaks Opal in water is a reference to Ravel's famous piece "Bolero".
The design of the blimp that Rarity helps see off in her musical number evokes the Wind Fish.
The overworked bellhop pony seems to be based on the Squeaky Voiced Teen from The Simpsons.
The music in the cold open of "Secret of My Excess" is inspired by The Sorcerer's Apprentice. This music recurs several times throughout the episode, including a sequence when Twilight lures Spike back to the library by baiting him with a broomstick.
The re-shelving scene seems slightly similiar to this scene.
In addition to King Kong references above, the presence of a giant rampaging lizard has a tendency to make one think of Godzilla. His roar is almost directly lifted from that franchise.
The scene where Rarity's tears fly upward as she and Spike free-fall seems reminiscent of Spirited Away.
Twilight teleporting Spike back to her to clean his cheek, yet another allusion to Doctor Who.
Spike's monstrous corruption after greedily demanding extra birthday presents is similar to the fall of Smeagol.
Applejack's line "Twilight, get my rope" isareferenceto a Pace Picante sauce commercial from the '80s.
In Family Appreciation Day, Apple Bloom gets called "Half Pint" when wearing the same bonnet Laura "Half Pint" Ingalls wore.
At the very beginning of the episode, Granny Smith is running around in the middle of the night causing a huge ruckus in direct reference to the famous Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.
The scene in "Baby Cakes" where Pinkie suddenly sees Pound Cake walking along the ceiling may be a nod to, of all things, the film version of Trainspotting.
Cranky's snowglobe in "A Friend In Deed" is clearly based on the one from the infamous final episode of St. Elsewhere.
One of Pinkie's guesses as to what the "C" in C.D.D. stands for is "Chico".
Cranky's name and species, as well as the ending music, are a giant reference to the song Yankee Doodle, particularly the first verses. Likewise, Pinkie's "Cranky Doodle Donkey" song is a reference to "Yankee Doodle Boy" from Yankee Doodle Dandy.
The music that plays when Fluttershy realizes her assertiveness has gone too far is almost exactly like The Lonely Man from the The Incredible Hulk. What is more, it plays as Fluttershy walks down a road slowly, away from the camera.
The music playing during her conversation with herself (both in the beginning of the episode, and when the same scene is revisited at the end) is a remix of "I am the Doctor", a piece of Doctor Who music. Also, Future Twilight's appearance is preceded by a sound similar to the one heard when the TARDIS materializes. (A key being rubbed against a piano string, incidentally.)
When Twilight, Pinkie and Spike circle around to where they started while sneaking around the Canterlot Archives, Spike says "Isn't this where we came in?"
Citizen Tiara, anypony? Diamond Tiara addresses the rest of the students from behind a podium in front of a giant-sized portrait of herself, and turns the Foal Free Press into a success based on yellow journalism. Fortunately for her, she's still young enough to avoid Kane's Downer Ending and learn from her mistakes... maybe.
Her scenes also contain nods to John Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle from Spiderman.
"MMMMystery On The Friendship Express is direct homage to Murder on the Orient Express, and borrows several plot elements, including the ending.
Donut Joe's antics as Pinkie imagines them are based off the James Bond series of films. Gustave is portrayed as a Dastardly Whiplash-type villain, and Mulia is portrayed as a Kurosawa-esque ninja.
Andrew Francis is a captain of the guard, Kathleen Barr voices an evil queen commanding a legion of insectlike creatures... seems familiar...
The Changeling Queen's plot to take over Canterlot is similar to Ursula's plot to take over the sea in The Little Mermaid. Both disguise themselves as the bride, both possess the bridegroom, and both get a Villain Song where they sing about their plans into a mirror!
The end of the fight scene between the Changelings and the Mane 6 resembles that of one of the shows Lauren previously worked on.
When impostor Cadance is singing her half of the duet, we see the chandelier in her chamber—straight out of the Myst library.
In the preview clip for "The Crystal Empire", Pinkie Pie's night-vision goggles look quite a lot like the ones worn by Sam Fisher, only in gold and yellow. Also, when Pinkie startles two of the Crystal Ponies, when she says "A spy?! How did they know?!", if you listen carefully you can hear a very slight musical cue that sounds awfully similar to the James Bond theme.
The first episode deals with a magical kingdom that has a powerful device/object that is hold sacred by its inhabitants. Suddenly, an evil man/creature tries to seize this power to himself and ultimately corrupts the land because of his evil heart, turning it into a wasteland and the castle into his tower, leading the goddesses to seal him away only to return after many years and try to seize this power once again. Gee, where have I heard this before?
The scene where the crystal heart returns and protects the city is similar to the ending of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, right down to the magic force field.
The whole plot actually shares a lot of elements from Atlantis. The city's general layout, the fact it was lost for a long time, amnesiac citizens, a missing page in the otherwise complete guidebook to the civilization, which details how the power crystal which protects the empire works. Uh huh. Totally a coincidence.
Shining Armor's appearance when he arrives at the station may pretty well be the Star WarsShout-Out one can find in every season opener.
The circle of crystals that Twilight gets trapped in towards the end of part 2 seems rather reminiscent of the bubble of destructive magic Odette and Jean Bob are trapped in towards the end of The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom.
The pony who declares "She is correct!" after Twilight gives the square root of 546 during "The Failure Song" is named Professor Bill Neigh.
In One Bad Apple, during a montage, a (slightly modified) rendition of The A-Team theme can clearly be heard.
When Babs occupies the CMC's treehouse, Sweetie Belle cries like Numbuh 3
Twilight's training with Zecora in "Magic Duel" shares some similarities with the one Luke once went through, taking place in the local lost woods of sorts, having a mentor who puts a lot of emphasis on concentration and likes to talk funny, down to the training itself involving levitating objects while standing on water - and failing due to similar distractions. Not to mention that Trixie's dark cloak and red magic aura make her look very much like a Sith Lord.
In "Sleepless in Ponyville", the scene where Scootaloo tries to run away from the Headless Horse is reminiscent of the last part of Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the final shot of Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash flying is similar to the final shots of the Superman movies.
The mustached instructor pegasus accompanying Spitfire very closely resembles a pony version of Viper from Top Gun.
Pinkie's subplot with the mailbox brings to mind an episode from another show Merriwether Williams wrote for.
Pinkie Pie appearing right behind the other ponies while they were still watching her from a distance could be seen as a nod to Dio Brandowho was able to move and appear great distances while people's eyes were still trained on him, or even move victims.
Even though, the roles of protagonist and The Rival (and loyal second) are inverted from Top Gun, and Lightning Dust's attitude toward team flying is more like Maverick, her mane nonetheless bears a more than passing resemblance to Iceman's haircut.
One of Spitfire's uniform badges closely resembles the rank insignia from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Future Imperfect", while the three red pips underneath it are very reminiscent of the stars worn by Royal Manticoran Navy officers to denote their previous hyperspace-capable starship commands.
"Magical Mystery Cure": In the opening musical number two stallions lift Twilight down from a table where she was dancing and she runs forward. It's very reminiscent of the big dance scene at the end of Dirty Dancing.
The whole opening number is reminiscent of the opening of Beauty and the Beast, with Twilight taking Belle's place on a morning walk through town.
Episode four featured Ahuízotl once again with a Mayincatec culture as well. One of the artifacts was called the "Tenochtitlan basin"note Tenochtitlan was the capital city of the Mexica empire, although they mispronounced it, since it's "teh-nosh-tee-tlan". Dr. Caballerón's appearance and approach to archaeology mirror those of Indiana Jones character René Emile Belloq, who also sold artifacts for personal profit, and the whole episode is inspired by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Episode seven, "Bats!" features a scene with Rarity in a special suit trying to catch a bat. The bat spits out an apple that lands on her "helmet" and licks the juice off it, like in The Empire Strikes Back, where Leia is attacked by a winged monster while inside an asteroid.
In "Rarity Takes Manehattan", Rarity improvises a new fashion line out of drapes, rugs and other objects in her hotel room, similar to the way that Maria made play clothes for the Von Trapp children out of the drapes from her room in The Sound of Music.
Discord at one point dresses like the Hunter S. Thompson-inspired character Raoul Duke played by Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, down to the shirt, glasses, and hat. (This being a kid's show, the cigarette is replaced by a lollipop.)
Discord folds a map into a paper hat and puts it on Twilight's head, reminding some viewers of Woona from the Moonstuck tumblr blog.
The Tatzlwurm is basically a Graboid, with three prehensile tongues and an equal number of jaws. It also reminded a lot of people of Molgera, which was itself inspired by the Graboids.
Pinkie Pride's opening song "Pinkie the Party Planner" has Pinkie singing and the town singing back, which is very similar to "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast,
Pinkie sings "dale dale dale, no pierdas el tino, porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino", which is the typical song that Mexicans sing while a kidnote it's not like in movies and TV shows, when kids form a group and bully on the thing with each carrying a stick. The actual piñata-breaking is done one by one flings his stick trying to hit the piñata.
Young Cheese Sandwich is a reference in/joke to "Weird Al" Yankovic's earlier image when he had poofy hair and glasses.
Also most of Cheese Sandwich's lyrics in the final showdown are in Polka form, which "Weird Al" Yankovic is infamous for.
In the scene where Rarity is talking to Applejack, two ponies that resemble Robert and Rosalind Lutece from BioShock Infinite walk by. The male one is even using his horn to levitate a bird cage, a reference to the Arc Words, "The Bird or the Cage?"
The way he avoids Tirek's attack is by splitting his head in two, much like the T-1000.
Tirek refers to Discord's role as friend to the Mane Six as "pony errand boy."
When Discord hauls in some captured ponies with a fishing line, he is dressed exactly like Quint.
The screechy sound of Tirek's devouring power is the shriek of the Aliens' queen.
The flag of Maretonia looks like the artificial Palm Islands in Dubai.
The way Discord and Tirek set up a magic show to drain magic out of the entire audience in the theater is reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's short story "Nyarlathotep" — "...and in the sputter of his sparks there was taken from men that which had never been taken before yet which shewed only in the eyes."
Just before the big fight, Twilight's takeoff from the ground is similar to Superman taking off in Man of Steel, including with the rocks shaking moments before she blasts off.
Another shout out to Superman's comics and movies is how a crystal piece (in this case a chest) buries itself on the ground and makes a large, fully formed crystal building to emerge.
When Twilight saves Owlowiscous from the library before it is destroyed by Tirek, and sends him off flying to safety, it's much like the sequence in Avatar: The Last Airbender where Aang faces off against Fire Lord Ozai and sends Momo flying off to safety. The fact that both Tirek and Ozai are both Red and Black and Evil All Over really stresses this point further.
Twilight getting stuck in a rock crevice is one to One Piece as Luffy has a bad habit of this happening during fights with a Big Bad. Unlike Luffy though, Twilight can just teleport out.
The throne room in Twilight's castle has a low dais reminiscent of the Round Table at its center, surrounded by thrones for the Mane Six and Spike.
Spike's smaller, less ornamented (i.e., no cutie mark) throne next to Twilight's is a bit like the throne of the Steward of Gondor.
The Mane Six's Rainbow Power is similar to the "Sailor Planet Attack" in Sailor Moon, even replicating the overhead shot as the ponies power up.
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Hoity Toity is a clone of German designer Karl Lagerfeld (with Tim Gunn's accent).
Photo Finish is Vogue editor Anna Wintour (with Karl Lagerfeld's accent).
The manly tennis player pony ("Ace") in "Call of the Cutie" and "Luna Eclipsed" is based on Andre Agassi (before he started shaving his head).
The backstage manager at the Best Young Flyer competition ("Lucy") in "Sonic Rainboom" who later appears as a unicorn with a different cutie mark in "Putting Your Hoof Down" is based on Lucille Ball.
Mulia Mild's name, career, and voice are all based on Julia Child.
The Royal Wedding of Shining Armor and Princess Cadance is a shout out to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, down to the red coat and blue sash that Shining Armor wears (not to mention the shamrocks of the Irish Guards on his collar!) and the timing of the episode (close to Will and Kate's 1st anniversary).
In episode "Putting Your Hoof Down", the motivational speaker (and minotaur) Iron Will is voice-acted to mimic and parody Anthony Robbins, life coach and motivational speaker.
One of the background characters was eventually dubbed "Time Turner" by the staff after fans noticed he looked like David Tennant's portrayal of The Doctor from Doctor Who. A few of his appearances (and one of his collectible cards) directly reference lines or scenes from episodes in which Tennant played the Doctor.
Expies of the Doctor as portrayed by John Pertwee, Peter Davison, and Matt Smith have also appeared in-show, and they have the same cutie mark as Time Turner.
In "The Last Roundup" there are several shout out to the classic western series Gunsmoke. The city of Dodge Junction is named after Dodge City and Cherry Jubilee bares a strong resemblance to brothel owner Miss Kitty.
The title and the plot of "Filli Vanilli" is in reference to the 90s band Milli Vanilli, who lost their Grammys due to having someone else sing their songs behind the scenes while the two frontmen took credit.
The Ponytones may also be a Shout-Out to a South African band named The Parlotones.
Or American band Deftones. After all, one of their members is a white pony.
Coco Pommel's name and looks are based on Coco Chanel.
Cheese Sandwich IS "Weird Al" Yankovic, to the point of looking exactly like him and even being voiced by him.
The ultra-rare card Heart's Desire, which gives a player a big one-shot boost of action tokens for winning a face-off, is clearly inspired by the infamous Game BreakerBlack Lotus. The flavor text even quotes a pony named Lotus Blossom saying, "The black variety of this herb is particularly rare!"
The first expansion is named "Canterlot Nights", possibly in reference to Magic's first, "Arabian Nights".
The Dr. Hooves◊ (aka Time Turner)'s card has a subtitle "Unblinking", referring to the episode "Blink" and, more subtly, the Weeping Angels, which appeared in that episode.note The Weeping Angels are statues which will attack anybody in sight, but are immobile as long as they're being looked at. Blinking gives them just enough time to move. The flavor text of the card includes an apparent nonsense string of letters, but since has been revealed to be a Sharky’s Vigenère cipher, using the key word "WHO", and translating to "BAD TIMBERWOLF", a play on both the MLP Timberwolf creatures and the Doctor Who arc word "Bad Wolf".
The second Dr. Hooves card in the Canterlot Nights expansion is subtitled "Just In Time", and has flavor text alluding to the Doctor's original meetings with Amy Pony (though played here by Roseluck), about the Doctor being 12 years late, from "The Eleventh Hour".
"Joe's Doughnut Shop"'s flavor text, "Do you have any bear claws? - Cheese Sandwich", is a reference to "Albuquerque" by "Weird Al" Yankovic (who voiced Cheese Sandwich). Another card, "Critter Stampede" quotes Cheese Sandwich with another line from "Albequerque", "Hey, you've got weasels on your face."
"Purple Waters" flavor text is not-so-very subtle about it's nod to the band Pink Floyd. (Even adding the common surname for Roger Waters.
Cloudchaser's card comments on how "Stormwalker" could have been a cool name; this is a nod to an error made in the "Elements of Harmony" book that named her as "Stormwalker", a leftover from the animation resources.
Even the advertising for the show gets in on this.
Narrator: Without them the Grand Galloping Gala would be neither Grand nor Galloping. They are The Most Interesting Ponies in the World. Pinkie Pie:(in a Spanish accent) I don't always watch tv, but when I do, I prefer My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Twilight Sparkle: Stay pony, my friends.
Pinkie Pie: So get ready to let it go and sing your heart out!
The officially licensed shirts and bags have a lot of shout outs. This shirt is inspired by illustrator Hajime Sorayama, and may also be a reference to something else. It should be noted, however, that the shirts by We Love Fine are not designed in-house by Hasbro, but instead by designers who specialize in pop culture, as well as featuring contest-winning designs submitted by fans.
Pretty much any town or city mentioned in the show and/or shirts other than Ponyville is a direct reference to some location from real life. Canterlot is based on Camelot and Canterbury, Fillydelphia on Philadelphia, and so on.
In the Season 2 finale, Spike is shown playing with wedding cake figures of Princess Cadance and Shining Armor. Guess which two ponies are going to be in an upcoming play set together?
A poster◊ that showed up at Hasbro's booth at a licensing expo was adorned with, in familiar writing, the caption of This is Vın̈yl Scratch.
Also his trading card (which was where his name was first revealed) declares him to be a time keeper. In charge of 'keeping Ponyville's clocks in sync, setting the hourglass for cider competitions, and pretty much all things timey-wimey'.
The name Time Turner may even be an alias, since in the official guide, his name is listed as Doctor Hooves. Due to the whole 'Timey-Wimey' bit, it may be inferred that either this is a different iteration of the character, or he may have changed his name if he regenerated. Fanon, after all, holds that Doctor Hooves is The Doctor himself!
In "Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair", Time Turner is seen holding a pocket watch out to Derpy, saying "This watch is me."
Fluttershy's Cutie Mark resembles the shirt Hannah, Sid's sister, wore in the original Toy Story. The only major difference seems to be they have blue instead of purple on them.