My Little Pony: Rainbow Roadtrip is an hour-long animated special based off of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, using the animation style of My Little Pony: The Movie (2017). It aired on June 29, 2019.
Rainbow Dash gets a letter inviting her to the Rainbow Festival at Hope Hollow as the guest of honor, inviting her friends along as well. After some initial troubles taking off, the Mane Six leave in a hot-air balloon for the distant town, all imagining the activities they'll enjoy when they get there. However, as night falls and they near where the town is, there's no apparent sign of it, except for a giant wooden rainbow which they crash into. They safely make it to the ground but the balloon is in need of major repairs. They find a sign pointing to Hope Hollow, so they know they are close.
They soon find the town but nopony around, and with much of the place lacking color. They find the inn they were to stay at, run by Petunia Petals, who is happy to greet and lodge them, and tells them they can see Mayor Sunny Skies the next day. When morning comes, they find that ponies are about, but like the town, appear washed-out of color, and the Mane Six's own bright coats make them stand out. Sunny Skies comes to greet them, and shows them that their local repairpony, Torque Wrench, is already working on fixing the balloon. They ask about the Rainbow Festival, and Sunny tries to show them to the non-existent exhibits but is forced to tell them that there is no Festival. There had been a Festival in the past, something his grandfather had started using a special Rainbow Generator that helped with the celebration. The Generator was passed down through Sunny's father to him, keeping up the Festival tradition. However, in recent years, Sunny found the ponies of Hope Hollow has started to participate less in the Festival, and to try to liven it up, modified the Rainbow Generator with his magic. However, on activating it, the Generator failed, and the town and all the ponies were drained of their colors. Since then, Sunny has blamed himself for the accident and had invited Rainbow Dash to try to help fix it.
The Mane Six quickly agree to help, believing that by holding the Rainbow Festival, along with magic from Twilight, they can restore the town's colors. The Mane Six split off:
- Twilight finds her magic can't simply fix it and discovers Petunia's inn holds a large library with magical resources. She also discovers the Rainbow Room, a special museum area dedicated to past Festival events. Sunny shows her that some of the pictures from past festivals still have their color. Twilight finds a series of photos from the Festival where the Generator failed, suggesting that it was at fault.
- Rainbow Dash meets a pair of twin pegasi foals, Pickle and Barley Barrel, who are fans of hers and want to be Wonderbolts themselves. Rainbow decides to recruit them as the Festival's entertainment and helps to train them for a flying routine.
- Rarity discovers Kerfuffle, a seamstress pony who adores Rarity's fashions but misses being able to design her own in colors, even though she knows what the colors should be. Rarity helps Kerfuffle create a number of new designs for the upcoming festival.
- Applejack works with Torque Wrench to fix the rainbow sign the Mane Six accidentally destroyed, finding that Torque is a very competent mechanic, having already repaired the balloon, and loves doing that type of work.
- Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy try to find a place to bake goods, but the only big kitchen in town is closed down. They encounter Mr. and Mrs. Hoofington, who love to bake pies, but because of the drained color, they can't tell ripe fruit from unripe and the pies turn out inedible. Their neighbor, Moody Root, has a large and healthy apricot tree but refuses to let the Hoofingtons use its fruit. Pinkie and Fluttershy persuade him to offer his apricots in exchange for a share of the pies; surprised at how well they taste, he agrees to let the Hoofingtons use his fruit whenever they need.
Twilight decides that a way to reverse the color loss is by fixing up the Generator and then using her magic to help. With AJ's and Torque's help, they repair the Generator, and while the Generator works, Twilight's magic fails to make any change. Twilight is about to walk off when AJ notices a set of flowers that had regained their color after Torque received her compliment for her repair work. Seeing that the colors can be restored on their own, Twilight proves to Sunny that the loss of the town's color wasn't from the Generator, but simply from hopelessness magic, an effect that comes when ponies were not showing community with each other and lost hope. His photos were out of order, seemingly putting him at fault, but the effect had already set in even before he turned on the Generator.
Knowing that bringing the community together will fix the colors, Twilight and the others get the support of their new allies to set up the Rainbow Festival as it was planned. With the excitement of the Festival, the town and its ponies gradually get their colors back. As Sunny starts off the Festival, he reveals to Petunia a secret project he had been working on - a marriage proposal, as she has been supportive of him all this time since he doubted himself. As the Festival commences and Hope Hollow returns to normal, the Mane Six say their goodbyes to their new friends and take off for home.
My Little Pony: Rainbow Roadtrip provides examples of:
- 20% More Awesome: The Barrel twins evoke the "20% cooler" meme.
- Animation Bump: The special is animated using Toon Boom, similar to the 2017 movie.
- Anything but That!: When Pinkie Pie says that only one thing could make the Rainbow Festival better, Rarity retorts "Not more karaoke, darling!"
- Armor-Piercing Question: When the Hoofingtons complain that Moody Root never talks to them, Fluttershy asks if they ever tried talking to him. They sheepishly admit that they haven't.
- Art Evolution: This special shares the same animation style (done by Toon Boom) as the 2017 movie, with all of the unique effects and design details that wouldn't be possible with the show's standard animation.
- Artificial Limbs: Kerfuffle has a prosthetic back leg, which doesn't seem to otherwise slow her down as a pegasus and seamstress.
- Ascended Fanboy: A couple of In-Universe examples.
- The Barrel twins, the sole members of the Hope Hollow's Rainbow Dash Fan Club, get to perform alongside Rainbow Dash at the Rainbow Festival. Rainbow Dash also calls them "Future Wonderbolts" and later "Junior Wonderbolts". (And given how easily they can keep up with her in the performance, it's not hard to imagine them becoming Wonderbolts one day.)
- Kerfuffle, who loves adding to Rarity's designs with her own accessories, gets to work alongside Rarity to design accessories for the Rainbow Festival.
- Bag of Holding: The opening shows a montage of the Mane Six packing their bags. Both Rarity and Twilight Sparkle put an impossible amount of stuff in their bags; clothes (and a surprised Opalescence) including a top hat that is larger than the bags themselves for Rarity, and Twilight cramming in what seems to be half her library.
- Call-Back: Twilight eventually discovers that the townponies lost their colors because they had lost their hope. The same thing happened to her all the way back in "The Return of Harmony Part 2", and similar phenomena can be observed in various other episodes as well.
- The Cameo: Starlight Glimmer, Trixie, Derpy, Lyra Heartstrings, Bon Bon, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Granny Smith, Big Macintosh, the Cake family, one of the Spa Ponies and Party Favor briefly appear in the Ponyville market at the beginning of the special.
- Captain Crash: The Barrel twins try advanced stunt flying despite not being at the appropriate skill level yet, resulting in them regularly crashing into the ground.
- Comically Missing the Point: When Rainbow Dash tells the Barrel twins that she didn't become who she is in just one day, Barley asks if it took two days.
- Delayed Reaction: While worrying that the crashed balloon could mean his plan is ruined, Sunny Skies walks right past the Mane Six before realizing who they are.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Occurs in-universe, and it's played for drama. Mayor Sunny Skies believes that he caused the whole town to drift apart thanks to his device not working, causing the whole town to de-saturate. As life starts to come back to the town, it instead starts showing up at various times with a Splash of Color.
- Dispel Magic: Twilight Sparkle attempts to remove the spell that drained the town of their colors with her alicorn magic. It fails, however, as she has yet to understand exactly how it happened, and it takes a different kind of magic to restore the colors.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Averted. Sketchiness aside, Sunny Skies knows of the Mane Six's general heroics and invited the group to Hope Hollow in hopes that their reputation can help him with generating enthusiasm for the Rainbow Festival.
- Fangirl: Kerfuffle is one for Rarity, putting up one of her own designs in her clothing store and gushing over meeting her in person.
- Food as Bribe: Moody Root is convinced to let the Hoofingtons use his apricots for baking in exchange for a share of the pies. After trying one, he comments that he would have done the trade a long time ago had he known their pie was so delicious.
- The Mane Six's earliest attempt to bring color back to Hope Hollow has Rainbow Dash perform a Sonic Rainboom. Like the later attempt with the repaired rainbow generator, this accomplished nothing.
- Every time a Splash of Color appears, it provides another hint about what the problem is and how to actually solve it.
- Forgot About His Powers: Twilight uses her teleportation to bring everyone to the ground after the fliers have evacuated the six from the balloon. Said teleportation could have saved the entire balloon before that was an issue.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Rainbow Dash and the Barrel twins receive goggles when the rest of the Mane Six get their accessories, presumably because they look cool on them.
- Got Volunteered: Despite Sunny Skies claiming that Torque Wrench "offered" to fix the Mane Six's balloon, Torque quickly points out that he actually volunteered her.
- Grand Romantic Gesture: Sunny Skies spends a good part of the present on a secret project. It turns out to be his speech to give to Petunia Petals for asking her hoof in marriage at the start of the Festival, given how much she has supported him through the years.
- Grumpy Old Man: Moody Root is this at first, being a moody, isolationist figure who only interacts with his neighbors to angrily tell them to stay away from his fruit tree. However, after Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and the Hoofingtons reach out to him, he becomes much more friendly.
- Hope Spot: The rainbow device is rebuilt by Torque, and Twilight uses her magic to turn it on, attempting to reverse the spell. However, it does absolutely nothing.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: Applejack tries to make the best of the sub-par hotel by insisting they'll be fine as long as they have beds to sleep in, hopping on the pop-out bed to illustrate her point. It immediately springs back into the wall, taking her with it.
- It's All My Fault: Sunny Skies blames himself for the citizens of Hope Hollow drifting apart following the loss of color, despite Petunia trying to tell him otherwise.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Petunia not only runs Hope Hollow's only hotel, but is also the town librarian, information guide, chef, portrait painter and possibly more (as Rainbow Dash interrupts her before she can finish).
- Jade-Colored Glasses: The constant disappointments of Hope Hollow's past rainbow festivals caused the citizens of Hope Hollow to lose hope and become jaded and apathetic towards each other, thus draining the town of all their color.
- Lighter and Softer: To My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), its animated predecessor. There's literally No Antagonist in this special.
- Lots of Luggage: Subverted. When the balloon initially fails to fly away, Rainbow initially blames Rarity, who has a history of this trope. She pleads innocence by showing the one tiny bag that she brought. The actual culprit turns out to be Twilight's bag of books and papers from her school, which Applejack promptly tosses out.
- Magitek: The Rainbow Generator, a machine invented by Sunny Skies's grandfather that can magically project rainbow colors into the sky, but can also completely desaturate an area if improperly modified.
- Minnesota Nice: Nearly everypony in Hope Hollow speaks with a Minnesota accent and uses phrases like "doncha know?" The only major exceptions are the Hoofingtons, who moved in from Manehattan, and the Barrel twins.
- Mr. Fixit: Torque Wrench is a repairpony by profession and can fix anything brought to her shop, from broken signs and crashed balloons to thoroughly wrecked Magitek devices.
- Murphy's Bed: At Hope Hollow's only hotel, Petunia Petals shows to the Mane Six that the sole bedroom has a pop-out bed, although she has to buck the wall a couple times before it opens. Quite naturally, the moment Applejack jumps on the bed, it folds back and pins her against the wall.
- Mythology Gag: The wing bling isn't the first time that My Little Pony had wing coverings; in "Baby, It's Cold Outside", Megan made (less ornate) wing warmers for Surprise when the unexpected winter hit.
- Nightmare Face: Pinkie makes a comical one after the Hoofingtons say she's terrorizing Hope Hollow's citizens, to demonstrate what "terrorizing" should look like.
- No Antagonist: The special doesn't really feature a bad guy or one singular entity that the Mane Six have to fight. Sunny Skies is the closest thing to a bad guy, and he's a Con Man at worst. He might have lied to get the Mane Six to come to Hope Hollow, but it was with good intentions, there's not an ounce of malice in his actions, and the Mane Six are actively working with him by the end of the first act.
- Non-Indicative Name: The "Rainbow Roadtrip" is actually a balloon ride. Lampshaded by Pinkie in the opening scene.
- Not Me This Time: When the Mane Six are about to take off on their balloon, they discover that there is too much weight that is keeping them down. They immediately glance over at Rarity, assuming she packed too much again. In actuality, Rarity packed very light and it was Twilight who packed too much this time around.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Applejack is the first to notice the color returning and tries to tell Twilight, but she's too busy working on the Generator to listen. Fortunately, Applejack manages to tell her...eventually.
- Percussive Maintenance: Petunia Petals has to buck the wall a couple times before the pop-out bed deign opening.
- The Power of Friendship: It turns out that all that is needed to restore color to the town is to bring the community back together as friends.
- Puni Plush: The more rounded character designs from the movie return in this special.
- Revision: This special elaborates on the in-universe concept of "Hopeless Magic", which was first seen back in "The Return of Harmony Part 2" but wasn't referred to by name or explored then. Like Twilight before them, the ponies of Hope Hollow lost all of their color due to the town collectively crossing the Despair Event Horizon. With help from the Mane Six, acts of kindness and friendship restored their hope, and restoring their color.
- Running Gag: Whenever the Mane Six bring up the upcoming festival, the citizens of Hope Hollow ask some variation of "there's still a Rainbow Festival?"
- Sarcasm-Blind: Rarity's strained comments on the terrible state of accommodations at the hotel fly right over Petunia's head.Rarity: [horrified] How rustic and charming...
Petunia: Isn't it just?
- Shutting Up Now: Kerfuffle, after talking a little too much during her introduction to Rarity.Kerfuffle: I'm Kerfuffle! Spelled like it sounds, with a double "ffff" for the "fuff"! [gasps] I should really stop talking now.
- Skewed Priorities: When Sunny Skies admits there is no Rainbow Festival, Rainbow Dash asks if this means there's no Rainbow Dash fan club in Hope Hollow.
- Something That Begins with "Boring": Subverted. Rainbow Dash thinks Pinkie Pie trying to play "I Spy" on the trip, until Pinkie reveals sees a real rainbow in the distance (It's Hope Hollow's Rainbow billboard).Pinkie Pie: I Spy with my little eye, a rainbow.
Rainbow Dash: Great. We're playing that game now?
Pinkie Pie: No, I really do spy a rainbow.
- Spiritual Successor: Rainbow Roadtrip through its general Lighter and Softer plot, animation, and theme, is a G4 special that strongly invokes the tone and style of My Little Pony (G3) rather than the parent Friendship Is Magic series. The plot is very simple and laid back Slice of Life fare with minimal stakes or adventure elements and there's no villain or even an antagonist involved in this special whatsoever.
- Splash of Color: As the Mane Six help the citizens of Hope Hollow, color returns to the surrounding objects.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Mr. Hoofington comments that due to the missing color, he has difficulty telling the difference between fresh and unripe apricots, causing his apricot pies to suffer in quality.
- That Poor Cat: In the opening, Rarity accidentally puts Opalescence in her suitcase and closes it on top of her tail.
- That's No Moon!: The Mane Six assume the "rainbow" they see is just a normal everyday rainbow before finding out too late its a rainbow billboard which destroys their balloon and sends them crashing down.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Applejack feels this way when Rainbow Dash starts bragging about being the guest of honor at the Rainbow Festival.Applejack: You're gonna be like this the whole trip, ain't ya?
Rainbow Dash: You know it!
- Three... Two... One...: A variation happens when Pinkie and Fluttershy help the Hoofingtons ask Moody Root for his apricots so they can bake Apricot pies for the festival and share them.Fluttershy: Wait for it...
Moody Root: Got a ladder! We can just pick 'em from your side of the fence!
- Two Lines, No Waiting: The main plot splits off into multiple subplots for the Rainbow Festival, before converging back into one come the end. Rarity helps Kerfuffle with her clothing designs, Applejack works with Torque Wrench, Rainbow Dash works with the Barrel Twins, Pinkie and Fluttershy help the Hoofingtons get along with Moody Root, while Twilight works with Petunia Petals on solving the mystery of the missing color.
- Undying Loyalty: Petunia Petals to Sunny Skies. She stuck by his side for years even as he blamed himself for ruining Hope Hollow. It's for this reason Sunny chooses her to be his wife.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Twilight spells out how her plan with the device will bring back the color to Hope Hollow. It works out okay until the final step when the device is turned on. While there's a huge rainbow flash, it doesn't break the spell.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: It takes the Mane Six a strangely long time to even notice that pretty much all the color is gone from the town (Twilight notices it a bit the first night, but it's not until the next day that she is sure), and once they do all realize it their reaction is rather... subdued, more like how one would talk about unusual weather rather than a never-before-seen phenomenon. They even are fine with taking a rather unrelated tour of the town before getting an explanation for the lack of color.
- Verbal Backspace: Sunny Skies tells the Mane Six that he'd be lost without Petunia... then quickly amends this by saying the town would be lost without her.
- Verbal Tic: Wow, most of the Ponies of Hope Hollow sure are nice and speak in a Minnesotan accent, doncha' know?
- Wheel o' Feet: When Pinkie Pie races with Rainbow Dash toward the balloon, her four legs turns into blurred wheels.
- Wrong Turn at Albuquerque: Played for Laughs. During the balloon trip, which is taking longer than usual, Rainbow Dash asks why the group haven't arrived at Hope Hollow yet. Applejack surmises that they look the wrong left turn at the last cloud instead of right.