As the story we knew of sugar and spice
But a rainbow's easy once you get to know it
With the help of the magic of a Pegasus Device...
A pair of young pegasus ponies, Scootaloo and Orion, are getting ready for their final flight exam, which will either make their lives if they succeed, or break them if they fail. But during the exam, a pony twists her wings and catastrophically crashes before their eyes. A chain of events leads to all three of them failing the exam and being taken somewhere unknown, where the glorious city of Cloudsdale won't have to suffer failures such as them.
But the exile turns out to be even worse than expected... Instead of being deported to some unknown land, the three find themselves inside the Rainbow Factory. Barely anything is known about the workings of this place, besides the fact that it produces rainbows. But now, the three are finally about to find out where those beautiful rainbows gracing Equestria really come from... and to discover the horrifying truth behind Scootaloo's mentor, friend and hero... Rainbow Dash.
And Celestia help them all.
Rainbow Factory was first written as a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic-themed song by renowned brony musician Glaze, aka WoodenToaster. While it clearly suggests the cheerful Rainbow Factory depicted in the show is not all it seems, it leaves the actual details to one's imagination. Aurora Dawn later wrote a fanfiction based on the song. This contains canon character reinterpretation (as well as death) and is very grimdark.
Find the song here and the fanfic here. Much like Cupcakes (Sergeant Sprinkles) before it, there's also a dose of Nightmare Retardant in a parody here, courtesy of My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series.
Aurora Dawn wrote a sequel to Rainbow Factory, Pegasus Device, about a duo of foals trying to escape the factory as things begin to go wrong in there. The sequel is arguably Lighter and Softer than Rainbow Factory was, and adds a degree of philosophical depth to many of the antagonists.
Also inspired a number of Ask a Pony tumblrs, Ask Rainbow Factory Worker Scootaloo set in an Alternate Universe where Scootaloo passed the exam and got a job at the factory, Ask Rainbow Factory Dash, a blog about the manager of the factory in the same continuity as the Scootaloo blog, and Frenzy of the Rainbow Factory, an OC blog in continuity with the previous two. Ask Ghostly Scootaloo is revealed to follow an ending where Scootaloo is killed immediately, rather than being imprisoned. In a crossover between Ghostly and Factory Scootaloo, they end up in what could probably be defined as the "Alpha" universe with the imprisoned version of Scootaloo from Rainbow Factory canon.
- Achievement Test of Destiny: In Cloudsdale, all pegasus foals have to take a mandatory athletics test assessing their flight capabilities. Passing this test allows them to become a citizen of Cloudsdale, failing it gets them Released to Elsewhere and ground up into the raw material that makes rainbows.
- Adaptational Villainy: Rainbow Dash as A Nazi by Any Other Name Corrupt Corporate Executive.
- Art Evolution: The animation, models and special effects of the PMV for "Awoken" have improved considerably from the "Rainbow Factory" video. Of note, the shape of Wooden Toaster's mane is refined, the animation is made smoother, and new (gorgeous!) lighting effects are added.
- Artificial Limbs: The factory worker in the "Awoken" PMV, H8_Seed's avatar, is drawn with mechanical wings.
- Alternate Universe: Some of the Tumblrs have a universe where Scootaloo passes her exam and is hired to work at the factory. In a crossover with Ask Serious Rainbow, they went to a universe where Rainbow Dash is Absentia, and an Ax-Crazy Scootaloo is the one running the factory.
- Author Avatar: The pegasus Aurora Dawn shares the name of the author AuroraDawn. She is one of the three main protagonists.
- Ax-Crazy: Rainbow Dash is completely and murderously out of her mind.
- Bittersweet Ending: The video for "Awoken". The robotic worker escapes the Rainbow Factory and it's implied he'll be able to build a life outside of it with his friend, but the Factory is still operational and killing ponies for Spectra. They're not even affected by losing him, as The Stinger shows another version of him being built as a replacement.
- Broken Pedestal: Rainbow Dash is definitely this to Scootaloo when her role in the factory is revealed.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: As Rainbow Dash calmly informs the victims, the Pegasus Device works better if the pony gets his/her ribs broken beforehand.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Pretty much the entirety of the upper-rank Factory officials... Rainbow Dash mostly.
- Creator Cameo: Wooden Toaster and Brony Dance Party, the song writer and PMV animator, appear as pony factory workers in the original Rainbow Factory video. "Awoken" adds H8_Seed and A Blu Skittle to the mix.
- Darker and Edgier: The fanfic itself to the show, big time.
- One "alternate ending" is even darker than the fanfic itself—in it, Rainbow Dash is revealed to still have a side of her personality that still cares for Scootaloo...and the struggle between it and her insane enraged side gets her tangled up in chains and shackles, until she herself falls into the Pegasus Device and dies. Scootaloo? She's still killed by Dr. Atmosphere anyways.
- Dark Fic: If you've read this far, you know that this fic is anything but Original Flavor.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Rainbow Dash is very disappointed that Scootaloo failed her flight test despite all the help Dash tried to give her... so she's determined to give Scootaloo a horribly torturous death.Rainbow Dash: You deserve this, you worthless whore of a foal!
- Downer Ending:
- Scootaloo fails to escape, is implied to have been killed, and the Rainbow Factory is allowed to remain operational.
- Pegasus Device shows that Scootaloo is not dead, however she has instead been held captive in the factory for so long that she has been driven insane to the point of forgetting her own name.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: The pegasus who oversees the flight test is insulting and abrasive, threatening to fail fliers for the slightest infraction.
- Driven to Suicide: In Pegasus Device, Scootaloo kills herself in front of Rainbow Dash, just so she can fly again. It snaps Dash out of her villainy, so it doubles as Heroic Sacrifice.
- Driven to Villainy: Word of God says Rainbow Dash went insane after years of pressure to keep the goings on at the facility a secret.
- Dystopian Edict: The test itself, considering it's a front for a secret eugenics program.
- Eldritch Location: Pegasus Device seems to imply that the Weather Factory itself became one because of all the suffering and death that went on inside it. The ghostly screams of thousands of dying foals can be heard when somepony touches the doorknob that leads to a certain room, and every worker who is told about the secret of harvesting Spectra goes murderously insane, with Gentle Butterwing snapping after only three days. Contrail believes that something about the Factory traps or steals ponies' souls.
- Et Tu Pluvi Arce Impetenote Scootaloo is essentially being betrayed by someone she looked up to.
- Equivalent Exchange: To spare a foal who failed their flight test from being turned into rainbows, a factory worker has to volunteer to take their place.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: HA HA HA—No.
- Exhausted Eye Bags: The pegasus worker in "Awoken". Fitting, considering how much he hates his job.
- Facing The Bullets Oneliner: Scootaloo's last words when cornered by Rainbow Dash: "You have beautiful eyes..."
- Fantastic Racism: More like fantastic ableism; Cloudsdale society is extremely prejudiced about poor fliers - so much that pegasi who fail their final flight test are exiled somewhere so as to not shame the city. They're actually killed to make rainbows out of them, but the population doesn't know that.
- First Time in the Sun: At least in a while for H8_Seed's OC at the end of the PMV for Awoken.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Aurora sacrifices herself so Scootaloo can escape. It doesn't work.
- In the Pegasus Device, this is the only way for sympathetic workers to save failures. Two such sacrifices saved Fluttershy and Derpy Hooves, explaining how canonically pathetic fliers could survive in a society that persecutes them.
- Scootaloo herself does this in Pegasus Device, killing herself to snap Dash out of her villainous ways.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Everypony who works at the Factory has been driven insane by the process of harvesting spectra.
- Heel–Face Turn: Dr. Atmosphere in Pegasus Device as he doubts more and more of Rainbow Dash's extreme corruption.
- The worker that "Awoken" revolves around.
- Human Resources: or rather Pony Resources...
- It's All About Me: All Rainbow Dash is concerned with is how disappointed she is by Scootaloo's failure to pass her flight test after all her advice, as opposed to the fact that Scootaloo is about to die a horrible death.
- I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: This is what seals the deal for poor Orion when he tried to comfort Scootaloo.You can’t have happiness. You ruined me. Now I’ll ruin you. Workers! The brown one, there! Him first!
- Jump Scare: Go ahead, click the link and scroll all the way to the bottom. If you do, you'll be met with an EXTREME close-up of Rainbow Dash's piercing red eyes, her face splattered with blood (some of which possibly belonging to Scootaloo).
- Karmic Death: Brony Dance Party in the sequel to the original song.
- Kill the Ones You Love: What happens with Rainbow Dash to Scootaloo.
- Lack of Empathy: When Aurora Dawn is horribly injured during the flight test, the instructor and judges don't even bother to help her, and fail her on the spot. They even fail Orion for going to help her.
- Lighter and Softer: The sequel, Pegasus Device, is this in comparison. Of course, lighter and softer than this does not necessarily mean light and soft.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: The manager of the Factory, Rainbow Dash, wears a suit. Most Factory workers, even the lower-end ones, do as well, though.
- Madness Makeover: Though it's justified by her having been in a fight, Rainbow Dash starts out as prim in a strict suit, and by the end of the story her mane is messed up and she's all covered in blood and wounds so her colors can hardly be seen.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Pegasus Device: Components reveals that this was the fate of Scootaloos' parents and the other five Element Bearers, with Rainbow Dash covering up her tracks due to issuing severe thunderstorms into the areas before the time of their deaths.
- Meaningful Name: In "Pegasus Device", Scootaloo has been kept alive, imprisoned in the bowels of the Factory, and lost the memory of her past, her friends, and her very identity. The protagonist Cloud Cover—an escaped failure—gives her a fitting name: Absentia.
- MegaCorp: Cloudsdale Weather Corporation doubles as both this and Nazis.
- Morality Chain: Working inside the Factory and seeing, even commanding the cold-blooded slaughter of many innocent ponies, Rainbow Dash had only one thing that prevented her from falling into complete insanity - Scootaloo. Once Scootaloo seals her fate by failing her flight exam, Rainbow Dash plunges right into the deep end.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Atmosphere, arguably. He's not exactly an evil genius, but he's got an eerie vibe about him.
- Multiple Endings: Though ultimately scrapped, AuroraDawn wrote three different endings, though they're all still Downer Endings in their own right:
- First ending: Dash starts beating Scootaloo to death when Scootaloo manages to break through to her, causing Dash to develop a Split Personality: one side of her is horrified with herself for trying to kill her "little sister", while the other remains resentful of Scootaloo and keeps trying to kill her. Dash ends up struggling with herself before falling into her own machine, though her kind self wins over and apologizes to Scootaloo before being ripped to shreds. Sadly, Dr. Atmosphere shows up, murders Scootaloo, and manages to cover up the whole incident.
- Second ending: Same as the first, except Scootaloo survives and the horrors of the Rainbow Facility have been exposed. However, Scootaloo is left thoroughly broken over the deaths of three of her friends.
- Third ending: Similar to the first and second, except Scootaloo becomes a loner and never reveals the truth of the facility to the public since she is more or less implied to be forced to keep her mouth shut.
- Murder, Inc.: The Rainbow Factory is this.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Cloudsdale is described as being 'nationalist'. Pegasi who fail their flight tests are ushered away to create the image that Cloudsdale does not produce failures. The failures are often referred to as being less than pony, and the Rainbow Factory can be seen as analogous to a certain facility the Nazis employed.
- Nothing Is Scarier: In the original song, the evils of the Factory are left to the listener's imagination...
- Not That Kind of Doctor: Dr. Atmosphere explicitly states he's not a medical doctor—he has a degree in engineering, and tells the group that he won't conduct any evil experiments on them. Indeed, they merely get killed to make rainbows out of them.
- Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: The end of the original song's sequel, "Awoken". The worker the song revolves around escapes the factory to be met by a friend outside, and even gives Brony Dance Party a Karmic Death, in the process. Too bad the factory is still being run by Wooden Toaster, though.
- Powder Keg Crowd: Eventually the captured ponies lash out against their tormentors... Sadly, it's all for naught.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: Rainbows are made out of young pegasi who fail the final flight test.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Orion gives one to his heartless instructor for not caring about Aurora's injury.
- Released to Elsewhere: All the ponies think the flight test failures are exiled to another country, while the reality is quite different...
- Though Fluttershy and Derpy Hooves really were released to elsewhere (i.e. Ponyville), though not without the sacrifice of volunteer workers in return.
- Revised Ending: Being the Nightmare Retardant parody it is, the Rainbow Dash Presents version ends with them learning they never actually needed to kill foals, they had only needed crayons and pictures of families to make rainbows. While Surprise laments that they're going to pony hell for nothing, the foals happily go home and take pictures with their families to donate to the factory.
- Rigged Contest: Rainbow Dash in the sequel remarks to Dr. Atmosphere that a few of the instructors were told to intentionally fail many of the fillies and colts that take part in the Flight Exam in order to keep up their Rainbow quota.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Rainbow Dash completely loses it when the pony victims rebel and Scootaloo attempts to escape.
- Room 101: The Rainbow Factory is this.
- Sadistic Choice:
- Pegasi chosen to work in the factory itself, once they find out the truth about what they do, are given a choice. Keep their mouth shut and be party to the murder of countless foals, or spare one of them but the worker must take the foal's place. Only two foals have ever been spared — Fluttershy and Derpy Hooves.
- When Aurora Dawn gets hurt during the flight test, Orion and Scootaloo really want to help her, but going onto the field without permission is an automatic failure. Orion does it anyway, sacrificing his chance at passing, while Scootaloo watches helplessly. It's even more tragic when you consider that Scootaloo's guilt over this may have subconsciously led to her accident when her turn comes.
- Setting as a Character: Fanart, Recursive Fanfiction, and Filk Song will often depict the titular factory (or the Pegasus Device inside) as a character, although how literal that may be is Depending on the Author. Sometimes its seen In-Universe as a monstrous creature by workers because of the many horrors that are perpetuated within, and sometimes its implied to be a literal Genius Loci that eagerly encourages death to be carried out inside itself. Slyphstorm's song Pegasus Device deliberately blurs this line;A mighty machine built within the wake,
Of a long dead dream, little demon awake,
The citizens sleep, never quite knowing when
The device will reawaken, hungry again.
- Slasher Smile: Brony Dance Party, animator of the music videos to the original song and its sequel, dawns one throughout most of both videos, while acting as the quieter of Rainbow Dash's two head asssistants.
- The Social Darwinist: Rainbow Dash is a type two.
- Survival Mantra: Scootaloo has one during her flight test: "Pass the test. Fly to the gate. Live a happy life."
- Uriah Gambit: It is revealed that the events of Pegasus Device were all caused by Dr. Atmosphere in order to have Rainbow Dash removed from power, knowing full well that should any children managed to escape from the main theater Rainbow would dedicate as many measures as possible to recapturing them that she would be left in the dark when Atmosphere goes blow the whistle on the CWCs' activities to the authorities in order to have Dash removed from power as the Director so he could install himself and switch over Rainbow production methods to something more humane via a blood drive. All the more sweeter should the foals be crafty and clever enough to cause telltale destruction to the facility that several important Factory Employees wind up dying which would remove any of Rainbow Dash's sycophants that would get in his way.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The workers will kill children to make rainbows. Though it's debatable whether or not that's just their way of covering up their real intentions.
- Wham Episode: Chapter 3 of "Pegasus Device": Scootaloo is still alive.
- Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: BronyDanceParty's avatar in the music videos of both "Rainbow Factory" and "Awoken", used to convey insanity rather than fear. His eyes return to their normal state near the end of "Awoken", as he realizes he's about to be killed by Wooden Toaster.
- You Have Failed Me: Rainbow Dash comes to believe Scootaloo deserves her atrocious fate for having failed her flight test, despite all of Dash's tips and pointers. Even though her failure was not really her fault.
- It is implied in the "Awoken" PMV that Wooden Toaster kills Brony Dance Party for allowing H8_Seed to escape.