The Nutcracker Prince Is the Best Nutcracker Movie You've Never Seen!

The holiday season has begun, but like many other things this year, it is a mere shadow of its former self. That's why I was so pleased when one of my readers referred me to an animated version of "The Nutcracker" that I had missed during my childhood. The Nutcracker Prince is by far the most accurate version of E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" that I have ever seen. After my overwhelming disappointment with Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, I thought that the Barbie movie was the closest I'd ever get to an accurate feature based on this classic fairy tale. I was wrong. The Nutcracker Prince is an animated film released in 1990 with a surprisingly impressive cast of voice talent. Sadly, there's no chance of seeing it on Disney+ any time soon because it was distributed by Warner Brothers, one of the only major film studios that Disney does not own (yet). However, it is free to watch on YouTube for those of you in need of some holiday princess cheer.

The Nutcracker Prince movie poster

The first thing I noticed about this movie is that the character designs are reminiscent of Anastasia, one of my personal favorites. Clara looks like a younger version of the redheaded Russian heroine with a similar hairstyle to the scene where Anya danced with Dimitri for the first time. The quality of the animation was not quite as good as Anastasia, of course, as there are few movies that have the same intricate shading and attention to detail as Don Bluth's masterpiece. However, there were still details that impressed me, such as the brilliant sparkle of Clara's mother's necklace when received it as a Christmas present and the attention to detail on the Nutcracker doll's transformation into a human/doll hybrid after he came to life. I was also impressed by the whimsical artistic style when Drosselmeyer tells the story of Princess Pirlipat. There is a clear shift in animation between the "real" world and the magical kingdom inhabited by a comedic king and queen with two wicked royal mice. The backgrounds and character designs during this scene were reminiscent of Mary Blair's art and looked like they came straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

I was also impressed by how respectful The Nutcracker Prince is to both the E.T.A. Hoffmann tale and the Tchaikovsky ballet. It seemed like they didn't miss a single detail. They kept the famous name "Clara" from the ballet, but gave the name "Marie" from the fairy tale to Clara's doll as a tribute. The method that Clara uses to save the Nutcracker by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King was spot on with the original story. So many other versions of this tale exclude the section about Princess Pirlipat entirely since her story is such a drastic segue from Clara's tale. I liked that this version accounted for that tonal shift by giving Pirlipat's world a different animation style to portray the disconnect between the two stories. Even the Kingdom of the Dolls at the end of the movie had its own intricate design with bright colors and enhanced details. The Disney version tried to do something similar by designing four distinct realms, but they had already butchered the story and let their beautiful set designs go to waste.

I loved that this version added lyrics to the famous Tchaikovsky "Nutcracker Suite." It was so cute and unexpected to see Clara dance around with the Nutcracker to this famous song. As far as I know, the only other movie to add lyrics to a Tchaikovsky song was Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Hearing this classic score throughout the movie really enhanced Hoffmann's fairy tale with whimsical art that the ballet would not have been able to incorporate. I wish I had known about this version of the story when I was younger because it would have surely been my favorite. The artwork, the characters, and the music were done so well that it's a shame it never got the attention it deserved. If you were as disappointed as I was with The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker Prince is the perfect alternative.

If you are looking for something pretty and cheerful to get into the right mood this holiday season, look no further than The Nutcracker Prince. This classic story has never been portrayed quite as accurately and creatively as it was in this 1990 film, when animation was at its peak. If this movie leaves you craving an opportunity to somehow magically transport yourself to a theater to see the ballet during the lockdown, you are in luck. The New Paltz Ballet Theater will be streaming a live performance of it on YouTube starting November 24th. It will be available until New Year's Day, so don't miss your chance to enjoy this holiday princess classic! Happy holidays, everyone!


PrincessContent said…
Oh my gosh, how happy I am to see that you’ve made a post about the movie!

Now a message to everyone who might read my comment here:
Even if you can watch this movie for free on Youtube please consider buying it on DVD if you like it and if you can find the movie. It's very hard to find it, only one left in stock on amazon! This movie is a gem and it deserves to be supported! <3

Happy Holidays to you all! <3
Anonymous said…
I watched that movie as a child and even as an adult I love it. I wish it was more well-known.

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