Discord is inspired by John de Lancie's popular character Q from the second Star Trek television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. After the part was written, de Lancie was contacted to provide the voicework for Discord. Q and Discord share a fondness for cruel games, amusing themselves at the expense of others, occasional use of rhymes, finger snapping to use their powers, and a white flash accompanied by a similar chime-like sound effect signifying the use of their powers.
Pinkie Pie refers to the "chocolate rain" caused by Discord, a choice of words that evokes the title of a popular YouTube music video named "Chocolate Rain" by Tay Zonday. On September 26, 2013, Zonday himself released his cover of the MLP:FIM theme song.
The rabbits that are transformed by Discord grow long bony needle-like legs, similar to creatures found in paintings by the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, for example The Temptation of Saint Anthony, The Elephants, and Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening.
When Discord is still in the stained glass windows and dances on Twilight Sparkle's head, he performs The Running Man.
The line "With friends like you, who needs enemies?" spoken by Twilight is an old English proverb.
According to director Jayson Thiessen, one of the storyboard artists decided to board the award ceremony sequence at the end of the episode as a shot-for-shot equivalent of the Rebel victory ceremony after the destruction of the first Death Star from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, though parts of the sequence were ultimately cut for time, including a scene where Pinkie Pie imitates R2-D2's signature beeping.
In the scene where Twilight says, "If I can't find a problem, I'll make one," she smiles similar to the Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch says "If I can't find a reindeer, I'll make one instead."
The holiday featured in this episode, Nightmare Night, borrows aspects from the holiday Halloween as celebrated in the United States. Both holidays involve children going door-to-door in costumes to collect candy, costume parties, and spooky decorations.
Rarity mirrors the famous line from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!" with "As Celestia as my witness, I'll never be sisterless again!" Fluttershy does the same later in Putting Your Hoof Down.
Rarity's mouth look when Sweetie Belle bothers her outside of the boutique is similar to Popeye in his regular facial feature.
Rarity getting covered in mud to swap places with Applejack during the race is similar to the climax of the 1937 Marx Brothers film A Day at the Races.
The episode title alludes to pox illnesses like chickenpox and smallpox.
At the bowling alley, four of the male ponies present are modeled after the main characters from the 1998 Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski, which features bowling as a prominent theme.
Apple Bloom exclaims "Oh my star apples!", mixing the phrase "oh my stars" with star apples.
A ponified version of the painting American Gothic by Grant Wood hangs on the wall in the living room of the Apple family's house.
One of the cutie marks Apple Bloom receives is a red shoe which causes her to start dancing uncontrollably, like the main character in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Red Shoes.
The Paleopony Period is a reference to the Paleolithic Age of human prehistory, a large part of the Stone Age.
Applejack asks Zecora, "Was your zebra sense a-tinglin'?", which is a reference to Spider-Man's ESP super-power, Spider-sense, which he often mentions with the famous line "My spider-sense is tingling!".
The statue Apple Bloom carves is a ponified version of Venus Anadyomene, a common figure in art in antiquity and the Renaissance.
The episode's lead storyboard artist, Sabrina Alberghetti, commented on how the crew incorporated "one [superhero] cliché after another" in a "fun tongue-in-cheek kind of way." Among them:
Rainbow Dash's catchphrase, "Never fear, your friendly neighborhood Rainbow Dash is here!" is a play on both "your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" and "There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!"
The Mysterious Mare Do Well shares the same purple-and-black color scheme and wide-brim hat and black ribbon as Darkwing Duck. Sabrina Alberghetti had worked on Darkwing Duck comics before; however, she did not design the character.
Pinkie Pie's use throughout the episode of the Pinkie Sense, which enables her to detect potential danger, parodies Spider-Man's own ESP super-power, the Spider-Sense.
The musical score as the cart rolls uncontrollably downhill mimics the score of the 1994 film Speed.
Part of the scene where Rainbow Dash is chasing after Mare Do Well has Mare Do Well running by in the foreground, Rainbow rushing where she saw her, Mare Do Well running by in the background, Rainbow running over there, Mare Do Well running by in the foreground, and so on. This is similar to a scene from the Looney Tunes cartoon What's Opera, Doc?, when Elmer Fudd chases a disguised Bugs Bunny.
The name "Mare Do Well" is an ironic reference to the term "ne'er-do-well", a person who does no good.
Among other places Rarity visits in the montage is an art exhibit, where the central painting on the wall combines elements of Salvador Dalí's paintings, particularly The Persistence of Memory. The painting to the left resembles Pablo Picasso's signature style of Cubism. The painting to the right is an abstract style akin to the works of Wassily Kandinsky. The show's director, Jayson Thiessen, had hinted about avant-garde art in an interview in September 2011, long before the episode's initial broadcast.
When Rarity examines the art exhibit she is dressed in stereotypical Beatnik fashion: a scarlet beret with a black turtleneck and black slippers, and mane let down with bangs hanging straight across her forehead.
One of the bags holding Rarity's purchases in the scene where she runs into Fancy Pants has two horseshoes arranged to imitate the Chanel fashion house logo.
The music played when Rarity washes Opal in order to make her look sick for Fluttershy and the others is an adaptation of Maurice Ravel's "Bolero", which was famously performed by ice-skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean at the 1984 Winter Olympics.[specify]
One of the working titles of the episode, "Attack of the 50 Foot Dragon", is a play on the movie title Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and it hints to the episode's "giant monster rampaging through a city" theme that was popularized by the 1954 film Godzilla.
The scene in which Spike wears the white hat and carries the ball is an allusion to The Godfather Part II, when Don Fanucci walks along the street also wearing a white hat and with an orange in his hand.
The kidnapping of Rarity and subsequent aerial assault on Spike parallels the climatic scenes from the classic 1933 monster film King Kong.
The line "Twilight, get my rope" was inspired by a 1980s Pace sauce commercial.
Some elements about the Heart's Warming Eve celebration mirror Christmas: holding a pageant that depicts the origins of the holiday; wintery time of celebration; red and white candy canes; and decorating with adorned spruce trees, red ribbons, green garlands, and brass bells.
Scootaloo getting her tongue stuck to a frozen giant candy cane is a reference to a scene from the 1983 film A Christmas Story.
The ponies in the past sequences sport a mixture of medieval and renaissance clothing, with ethnic German garb and Roman legionnaire armor (similar to that of the present day Equestrian Royal Guards) for the Earth Ponies and Pegasi, respectively; Spike also dons Renaissance garb as he narrates on stage.
Some of the music that plays towards the end is based on the English folk song "Greensleeves".
Some of the jokes Pinkie Pie tells (particularly the "where y'all from?" and "ant farm" jokes) resemble those told by Leslie Nielsen's character Frank Drebin in the Police Squad! episode Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh).
Pinkie's "spot remover" joke is a staple of Steven Wright's stand-up routine.
During Pinkie Pie's Piggy Dance, she uses her tail as a spring while she's balancing, similarly to Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
The screeching violins that play when Pinkie Pie finds Pound Cake on the ceiling echo the musical piece The Murder, made famous by the film Psycho.
The scene where Pound Cake crawls along the ceiling is a reference to the film Trainspotting.
The music that plays when Pinkie Pie urges the Cakes to pick her as babysitter is based on Aquarela do Brasil, a Brazilian samba standard from the 1930s.
Pinkie's instructions for using the crib echoes a line from The Simpsons episode "The Last Temptation of Homer": "Napping, sleeping, and on occasion with permission, as a pretend old-timey western fort" and "Sleeping, eating, and maybe building a little fort."
The music used in the beginning of the episode where Applejack is running an obstacle course is similar to the NBC western series Bonanza's opening theme.
Dodge Junction is a namesake of Dodge City, a famous locale for western films and the western series Gunsmoke.
The music used when the rest of the Mane 6 are looking for Applejack at the rodeo is similar to the Hammer Bros. theme from Super Mario Bros. 3.[dubious – discuss]
Rainbow Dash asks Applejack if she saw "Wild Bull Hickok" and "Calamity Mane", whose names are similar to the Wild West figures Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.
The scene where Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy work at a conveyor belt and can't handle the pace is a homage to the television series I Love Lucy. The scene replicates one from the I Love Lucy episode "Job Switching", (which, in turn, was inspired by a scene from the Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times) where Lucy and Ethel wear mushroom-like hats and work on a production line wrapping candies. They can't handle the pace, so they stuff the chocolates into their hats and mouths.
The musical number The Flim Flam Brothers shares many similarities with the number "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man, specifically the identical rhyming styles, staccatos, and theme of smooth-talking conmen trying to win over a small town. Mid-song, the ponies chant "cider, cider, cider!" in the same manner that the people of River City chant "trouble, trouble, trouble!" in the Music Man number. The Brothers' style of dress and performance is also a nod to Vaudeville.
The competition between the Apple family and the machine alludes to the legend of John Henry and the Steam Drill, albeit with less fatal results.
Granny Smith refuses to have a competition with the Flim Flam Brothers until one of them says, "What's the matter, Granny? Chicken?" At this point Granny Smith begins to scream at him and insist upon the competition. Later, Apple Bloom points out that "nopony calls Granny a chicken." This sequence is a reference to the film Back to the Future Part II.
The musical cue that plays when Rainbow Dash looks at the book and starts reading is very similar to the one that plays in a similar scene in the film The NeverEnding Story.
The quote of Pinkie Pie saying "Did the crash somehow give her super-duper spider powers?" and the doctor saying "No, nor did it give her amazing healing powers" allude to the powers of Marvel comic-book characters Spider-Man and Wolverine respectively. Pinkie Pie's quote also alludes to the common comic book cliche of gaining super-powers by means of a random accident.
The scene of Rainbow Dash in her hospital room bouncing a ball off the wall is lifted straight from the World War 2 film, The Great Escape.
The game that Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle play with Rainbow Dash is very similar to Battleship, which is produced by Milton Bradley and owned by Hasbro.
The ahuizotl is a creature of Aztec mythology with a hand on its tail, which is blamed for the drowning of humans in shallow water.
The pizzicato (plucking the strings) that plays when Daring Do first enters the temple is similar to the music that plays early in the film, when Indiana Jones and his partner have spiders on their backs.
The sunlight shining into the chamber parallels the Indiana Jones map room scene where the sunlight shines on a crystal in the center of the room.
The way Daring Do makes her way to the Sapphire Stone's pedestal mirrors a scene in The Last Crusade where Indiana Jones navigates a trapped floor by stepping on the tiles marked with the correct answer to a puzzle.
The scene where Daring Do retrieves the Sapphire Stone mirrors a scene in which Indiana Jones retrieves a statue of an idol from a pedestal.
The scene where Daring Do is pursued by numerous big cats, followed by a small house cat that meows cutely at her, parallels a scene in The Emperor's New Groove where Emperor Kuzco is pursued by several panthers followed by a tiny panther cub that meows cutely at him, shortly before being rescued.
The line "We're gonna need a bigger envelope" is a parody of the "You're gonna need a bigger boat" line from Jaws.
The holiday featured in the episode shares many similarities with Valentine's Day and was originally aired a few days before February 14. It features romantic couples spending time together and exchanging of greeting cards.
The story behind the Love Poison shares many elements with the Arthurian legend "Tristan and Iseult", where a prince and princess both ingest a love potion to disastrous results.
The title "Putting Your Hoof Down" is a play on the saying "putting your foot down."
Fluttershy parodies the famous line from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!" with "As Celestia as my witness, I'll never be a pushover again!" much like Rarity in Sisterhooves Social.
When Iron Will appears at the beginning of his assertiveness workshop, the background music borrows from the primary motif of "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor with only the last two notes changed.
Iron Will's presentation takes place in the center of a hedge maze, a reference to the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, which held the Minotaur at its center.
Iron Will uses a variation of the phrase "I pity the fool", the catchphrase of Mr. T.
The storyboard artists had professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in mind when posing Iron Will, who uses hand gestures that mimic Hogan's signature taunts.
This episode borrows elements from Greek mythology:
The Cerberus is the three-headed canine that protects the gateway to the Hades, the realm of the dead.
Tartarus, the area that the Cerberus in this episode guards, is one of the darker and deeper depths of the Underworld where the wicked are said to depart to after death.
Future Twilight's arrival is preceded by wind blowing paper around, then she appears in a bright flash and electrical discharge while crouched on the ground, in homage to The Terminator. Present Twilight also refers to an "epic pony war in the distant future", a crucial part of the premise of the Terminator franchise.
The music played as Future Twilight attempts to explain why she is there to Present Twilight is similar to "I Am the Doctor" from the TV show Doctor Who, which typically revolves heavily around time travel.
Spike's query of "Isn't this where we came in?" while wandering the Canterlot library echos Pink Floyd's The Wall where the exact line is used to connect the end and beginning of the album into a repeating loop, similar to the time travel cause-and-effect in this episode.
The episode's plot is similar to an episode from the 1980s series My Little Pony, "Spike's Search", where Spike goes on a quest to learn to be a dragon and gets involved with a group of dragons who turn out to be thieves and bullies.
Fluttershy's escape out the window is a parody of the Cowardly Lion's escape from the Wizard in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
The scene with Spike traveling down the river on a boat with Cranky Doodle Donkey bears a resemblance to Mark Twain's novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Spike growing a (fake) beard in his travels and gasping in awe upon walking out of woods and getting a magnificent scenery of his destination is a pun on the cliches in explorer/survivor stories, namely the robinsonade and adventure genres.
The game "King of the Hoard" the teenage dragons play appears to be the same as the children's game "King of the Hill".
The title of the episode is an allusion to James Ellroy's 1990 novel L.A. Confidential and the 1997 film adaptation. The episode's theme is a reference to its Hush Hush Magazine subplot.
Diamond Tiara's drive to make the paper successful by any means necessary is similar to the rise of Charles Foster Kane in the movie Citizen Kane. Her introductory speech in front of a large portrait of herself is inspired by the scene of Kane's campaign speech.
Rarity's line "Et tu, Gabby Gums?" is an allusion to the Latin phrase "Et tu, Brute?", traditionally attributed as Julius Caesar's last words in the Shakespeare play of the same name, and is meant to express great shock against a trusted one's betrayal.
"Gabby Gums'" line "XOXO, Gabby Gums" is an allusion to the book and TV series "Gossip Girl", where the voice of the character always signs out with the phrase "XOXO, Gossip Girl".
The hat Pinkie Pie wears and the bubble-blowing pipe are references to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Twilight's bowler hat also resembles that of John Watson, Sherlock's partner. Pinkie also inspects the case in what would be a lengthier parody of Holmes' methods, down to the famous gathering of suspects in one room to reveal the culprit.
One of the books sticking out of Twilight's bag in her first appearance in the episode is the history book from the beginning of "Friendship is Magic, Part 1."
Mulia Mild's name and mannerisms are a reference to American chef Julia Child.
Pinkie's fantasies of the other bakers during her accusations are all allusions to multiple styles and genres of film:
The Gustave le Grand fantasy references black and white silent films, with Gustave playing the role of the dastardly villain often associated with films from the period. The vignette may also be a specific nod to Snidely Whiplash, himself an animated parody of over-the-top silent film villains (antagonist of Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties segments on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show).
Donut Joe's persona in Pinkie's fantasy, "Con Mane", is a reference to fictional secret agent, James Bond; additionally, the opening to this fantasy parodies the franchise's iconic gun barrel sequence. The mares that surround Joe are a reference to the fact that James Bond hangs around many women.
Pinkie's fantasy about Mulia destroying the cake is a reference to Japanese ninja genre films.
The Bridal Chorus, composed by Richard Wagner, is used during the wedding sequence. A single phrase is also played during the wedding rehearsal in the prior episode, as a background clip during Twilight and Cadance's confrontation with the bridesmaids.
During the fight sequence, the six ponies burst through a group of Changelings as a dramatic music cue plays. This parallels a sequence from The Matrix Reloaded, where the protagonist Neo escapes a mob of Agent Smith's clones in the same fashion.