There is majesty. There is magic. There are mice. And the Sugar Plum Fairy is most definitely delicious. But this is not the Nutcracker you know.
“The Nutcracker” has long conjured images of holiday décor, a wooden toy soldier, dancing flowers and a little girl being terrorized by furry mice. Penned in 1816, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” has inspired imaginations worldwide, resulting in spectacular stage adaptations that have charmed audiences for generations—and now an epic big-screen adventure.
“The story has changed a lot throughout the course of history,” says Lasse Hallström, one of the directors of “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Disney’s upcoming feature film adaptation. “Alexandre Dumas’ version was less scary, and later became a ballet featuring music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky—the music has always been so fascinating to me. The ballet is unique with each staging, evolving within the minds of those creating it. And we’ve done the same thing. We’re adding to the story.”
Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” introduces Clara, an intelligent 14-year-old with a penchant for science. According to screenwriter Ashleigh Powell, Clara isn’t really comfortable in her skin. “She’s kind of a fish out of water,” says Powell. “She doesn’t fit into the normal stereotypes of a Victorian girl—she’s not interested in fancy dresses and the like. She’s more of a tomboy. She likes creating and building and figuring out how things work. In that respect, she’s very similar to her godfather, Drosselmeyer, so they’re kindred spirits.”
But Clara struggles with the recent passing of her mother. “It’s the first Christmas that her family is spending without Marie,” says Powell. “And her mother has left behind Christmas presents for Clara and her siblings, which sets everything into motion.”
Clara receives an egg-shaped music box with a note that reads, “Everything you need is inside.” But the box is locked and, surprisingly, there is no key. Clara is disappointed and confused, but determined to unlock the music box and the secrets it holds. Her confusion persists until a golden thread, presented to her at Drosselmeyer’s annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip, a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. She is welcomed with open arms by these regents, particularly Sugar Plum Fairy, who confides that she was once very close with Marie.
But this strange new world is not whole. It is scarred with past conflict—one regent is in exile, her realm forgotten and crawling with mice who serve as her soldiers. Clara and Phillip must brave this ominous Fourth Realm, home to the regent-turned-tyrant Mother Ginger, to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world.
“‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ is the best kind of Christmas story,” says director Joe Johnston. “It’s exciting, dramatic, heartwarming and life-affirming. With a positive message of a family’s love giving them the strength to overcome loss, and the theme of embracing your own courage and resourcefulness, it’s a great family film for the holiday season.”
“There’s real heart to the story,” says producer Mark Gordon. “In our story, Clara is really struggling with the loss of her mother. Her journey through the grief leads her to this very magical world that challenges her at every turn. She really has to pull herself together to save the land and to solve the mystery her mother left for her.
“As the father of three young girls, I am very excited to be able to bring this story to the screen,” Gordon concludes.
Disney’s new holiday feature film opens in Philippine theaters on Oct. 31, 2018.