Yeah, I don't know what's up with the cover. (Maybe they just copy-pasted the header from #20?) This is indeed me and Agnes.
Oh, man, I was in the pit orchestra in high school for our production. I remember really hating Nimue's number for some reason ....
Yeah, it was tempting to do a Monty Python line, but ultimately I went with Lerner & Loewe. What can I say? I listened to a lot of musicals as a kid.
Nah, it's straight-up magic.
It's set after RR. Hasbro actually didn't say anything specific about when it had to be set—they just wanted "a holiday story"—but I decided to put it after RR, mostly because it was going to be released after RR! The way I see it, though, as a reformed villain Sunset is always going to be the prime suspect if something bad happens—and, not to spoil anything, but in the comic she's also the most obvious suspect when something bad DOES happen. No matter how much she cleans up her act, the other students are still going to side-eye her, you know?
As for access, I can't speak for all the creators, but I don't get to see anything special unless it specifically pertains to what I'm writing. For example, when I did the Trixie in Manehattan story, I got to see the script to "Rarity Takes Manehattan", just so I could get a little more info about the city. For this, I got the script and a copy of the movie a while back, so I'd know the status quo and everything. (Although, funnily enough, my copy of the script did NOT include the stinger ending ... it's almost like they were trying to keep that part super-duper secret ... ) But in general, no, we don't get anything special. I watch the new eps on Saturday mornings just like everyone else.
It was super-tempting to put in a scene where Fluttershy explains the meaning of Kwanzaa.
Man, if you think this issue looks cartoony, wait until you see Jay's NEXT issue. That one's gonna blow some minds.