Merry Christmas everyone! To conclude this month of merrymaking we’re looking at an animated Christmas cult classic that I have a bit of a soft spot for. But perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning:
ETA Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” is one of my favorite fantasy stories, though chances are you’re more familiar with the famous ballet by Tchaikovsky that it inspired. The music is gorgeous and instantly recognizable, but few know the actual story of The Nutcracker beyond what your average community production rolls out every December. Much of the plot plays out like a variation of Beauty and the Beast with a protagonist akin to The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy and story elements that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Grimms’ fairytale. Sadly, most of those details were lost in the translation from book to light holiday entertainment. Not that I’m complaining, I love the ballet, but there’s so much more to its origins that people aren’t usually interested in delving into.
I say all this because today’s movie, The Nutcracker Prince, is one of the very few filmic adaptations that pays faithful tribute to both its source material and its theatrical counterpart. In spite of – or perhaps because of – the popularity of the ballet, there’s been only a handful of film versions of Hoffman’s The Nutcracker (or at least a handful compared to something like A Christmas Carol). How good you find each of them to be depends upon your taste and the production value. I’ve found remarkably little about the making of this particular adaption, but that probably has to do with the fact that it was barely a blip on the box office radar. Released through Warner Brothers (which itself would issue another Nutcracker movie starring Maculay Culkin six years later), this was the only full-length animated feature created by Canada’s Lacewood Productions. A shame, really, because looking at The Nutcracker Prince you can see the studio’s potential. But thanks to the home video circuit, the movie has found a new life as a nostalgic Christmas classic for 90’s kids like myself. Let’s unwrap the reasons why, shall we?