- Nutcracker Fantasy
Nutcracker Fantasy Directed by Takeo Nakamura Produced by Walt deFaria
Mark L. Rosen
Written by Eugene A. Fournier
E.T.A. Hoffmann (story)
Starring Melissa Gilbert,
Christopher Lee, and
Roddy McDowall (in English-language version)
Distributed by Sanrio (Japan) Release date(s)
March 3, 1979 (Japan)July 6, 1979 (US)
Running time 82 min. Language Japanese
Nutcracker Fantasy is an animated film by Sanrio, very loosely based on Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker and E.T.A. Hoffman's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It was nominated for the 1980 Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and the 1980 Young Artist Award for Best Motion Picture featuring youth. It won the 1980 Young Artist Award for Best Musical Entertainment.
The film was released in two versions - Japanese and English. The voices credited below are those of the English-language version, but certain moments that appear only in the Japanese version are described.
The movie begins with the narrator (voiced by Michele Lee) talking about the Ragman, a creepy and mysterious old man who turns children into mice if they don't go to bed on time. The Ragman roams around the city looking through windows of people's houses, spying on sleeping children. A little boy is up past his bedtime reading, whereupon the Ragman turns the boy into a mouse.
After the opening, Clara (voiced by Melissa Gilbert) and her Aunt Gerda (voiced by Lurene Tuttle) are in Clara's bedroom, and Clara is talking about how excited she is about her cousin Fritz's upcoming visit. Aunt Gerda tells Clara to get into bed or else the Ragman will come and turn Clara into a mouse. The door slowly opens, frightening Clara and Aunt Gerda, and a tall figure is behind the door. But it is only Clara's uncle Drosselmeyer (voiced by Christopher Lee). After Uncle Drosselmeyer and Aunt Gerda's conversation, Drosselmeyer talks to Clara and presents her with a gift: a wooden nutcracker doll. Clara simply adores her new nutcracker, and she and Drosselmeyer talk about fantasy and love. Aunt Gerda tells it's time for Clara to sleep. So, Uncle Drosselmeyer says good night to Clara and exits, saying "Tick, tock, tee..." over and over.
As Clara sleeps, she starts dreaming about fantasies, and then awakens to the sound of mice squeaking and to find her nutcracker gone. Clara sees mice making off with the nutcracker and tells them to give it back to her. Clara follows them down the stairs into the living room and sees many mice. She grabs the nutcracker and is confronted by the leader of the mice, the two-headed rat queen, Queen Morphia (voiced by Jo Anne Worley). Queen Morphia demands that Clara give her the nutcracker, but Clara refuses. A mouse scratches Clara on the arm and Clara starts to fall asleep. Just as Queen Morphia orders the mice to attack Clara, the nutcracker comes alive and fights back while Clara watches. As Queen Morphia and her army flees, Clara falls asleep.
When Clara wakes up, she finds herself in her bedroom with Aunt Gerda tending to her. Clara asks Aunt Gerda if she saw any mice in the living room the previous night, but she denies it. After Aunt Gerda leaves the room, Clara looks at the scratch on her arm and wonders if it was a dream. She then gets up out of bed, exits the room, and looks over the stairs in the living room. She then goes down and looks at the clock and hears Uncle Drosselmeyer saying "Tick, tock, tee..." repeatedly. Clara looks in the clock and then proceeds to climb in.
While walking through the innards of the clock, Clara keeps asking if Uncle Drosselmeyer is inside. It appears to be the Ragman. Frightened, Clara keeps wandering around, but the Ragman keeps popping up. After sitting there, afraid, Clara walks around in darkness and spots a ballerina whom she dances with. Once the dance is finished, it grows even darker, and when the light returns, Clara finds herself in a huge palace. Clara immediately spots Uncle Drosselmeyer near a staircase and begins chasing after him, yet he continues to evade her. She sees Uncle Drosselmeyer near a door, and when Clara enters it, she finds a large portrait of a young girl who looks just like Clara. She then finds another door opened and when she enters, finds herself in a large, quiet room with a large bed in the center where there is a faint silhouette of a young girl with a mouse-like face sleeping, surrounded by people who appear to be in mourning. Suddenly, the people notice Clara's presence, and instantly assume that she is their Princess Maria.
Everyone in the court, including King Goodwin,(voiced by Dick Van Patten) believes that Princess Maria has returned. However, Clara reveals who she is, and everyone becomes depressed. King Goodwin tells the story regarding his daughter and Queen Morphia.
King Goodwin's toy soldier army has recently been in battle against the wicked and magical Queen Morphia and her rat minions. It seemed the rat army would win, so King Goodwin arranged a peace treaty with Queen Morphia . However, before Queen Morphia agreed to the terms, she demanded that the king's daughter marry her son, Gaar. When the King disagreed, Queen Morphia placed a curse on the princess - she would fall into eternal slumber and slowly transform into a mouse. The curse can only be lifted by Queen Morphia if the king agrees to her demands.
Just as King Goodwin finishes his story, a young lieutenant named Franz (voiced by Roddy McDowall) enters and informs the king that all the wise men from around the world have gathered. King Goodwin and Franz believe that with all of wise men gathered, they will hopefully have the knowledge to free Princess Maria from her curse. However, all of the wise men's theories are either far-fetched or ineffective (examples include reciting a poem to the Mouse Queen, kissing the princess, and uing snake venom). Soon an argument erupts over which remedy will help the princess.
Despaired that no one knows how to help, Clara leaves the castle and wanders the streets until she comes across a street singer (Christopher Lee). Clara shares her concerns to him, and the street singer tells her to follow a crow which will lead her to The Queen of Time (voiced by Eva Gabor), who is known for having the answers for everything. When Clara finds The Queen of Time, she asks if she knows how to save the princess and defeat the Mouse Queen. The Queen of Time replies that the only way to save Princess Maria is to destroy the Mouse Queen, and the only way to defeat the Mouse Queen is to destroy her source of power, The Nut of Darkness. This can only be done if the Sword of Diamond is wielded by someone with a pure heart. The Queen of Time provides the sword, but it's up to Clara to find someone with a pure heart.
The next day, Clara tells Franz about the Nut of Darkness, and hands him the sword, believing he can destroy it and save the princess. Before he leaves and leads his soldiers to battle, Clara expresses her feelings for him, and King Goodwin promises Franz his daughter's hand in marriage if he wins. The soldiers arrive at the rat's hideout as they are celebrating Gaar's eminent marriage to the princess. At first the toy soldiers are winning, but soon the rats overpower them. Franz is the last one standing and locates The Shell of Darkness, and makes his way to it. Queen Morphia tries to stop him, but Franz evades all her attacks and is able to reach the nut. But before he destroys the nut, Queen Morphia places a curse on Franz, by which he will be transformed into an ugly nutcracker forever. Clara arrives at the battle scene just as the nut is destroyed and Franz changes into a nutcracker.
Back at the palace, the court and King Goodwin are overjoyed that Princess Maria has awakened from her deep sleep and is returned to normal. King Goodwin tells Maria that he promised Franz her hand in marriage for defeating Queen Morphia. At first she is ecstatic, but when she asks where Franz is, no one seems to know his whereabouts. Suddenly, Clara steps forward, carrying Franz, who is now the nutcracker, and tells everyone that he sacrificed himself for the princess. Maria, however, does not believe that such an ugly doll could be Franz, and refuses to marry him. Everyone leaves Clara while they attend the celebration. Alone and not sure what to do, Clara leaves the kingdom and travels down a dark road, unaware that she is being followed by Gaar.
After walking down the road, Clara comes across two people playing a game of checkers. But when she tries to talk to them asking for directions, they are revealed to be puppets controlled by a strange man called The Puppeteer (Christopher Lee). At first the Puppeteer speaks in riddles, making it difficult to answer Clara's question. But the Puppeteer reveals that further up the road lives a person called the Watchmaker (Christopher Lee), who supposedly can help break Franz's spell.
As Clara meets the Watchmaker, he examines the nutcracker and reveals that the only way to save Franz is an act of true, unselfish love, to be able to risk your life for the person you love just as Franz did for Princess Maria. Although Clara claims she loves Franz, the Watchmaker says it's not enough to save him. Exhausted from traveling, Clara falls into a deep sleep and dreams that she and Franz (in his human form) share a romantic dance and are whisked away to a diamond castle. Soon they are at the base of a tall set of stairs and are about to ascend and supposedly start a new life, when suddenly Uncle Drosselmeyer appears and ask if Clara truly deserves this, if she truly committed an act of selfless love. Before Clara can answer, her foot suddenly becomes stuck on the stairs, and Franz begins walking on without her. Clara grabs the edge of his shirt, crying out for him to wait, when Clara wakes up from her dream and realizes that the nutcracker is being taken away by Gaar. He is about to kill the nutcracker, when Clara offers her own life if Gaar promises not to harm him. He refuses her offer, and is about to stab the Nutcracker when Clara jumps in front of the him and is stabbed instead. Instead of killing her, this act is enough to defeat Gaar and free Franz from the spell. Clara is seen falling down a dark hole, crying out for Franz, Aunt Gerda, and Uncle Drosselmeyer.
Clara seems to be in a deep coma, but she awakens, and when she does she finds herself back in her room with Aunt Gerda and Uncle Drosselmeyer, but no sign of Franz or her nutcracker. However, Fritz arrives, and Clara notices a striking resemblance between Franz and Fritz. We see two lovebirds outside the window kiss, and then we see Clara, dressed in a wedding gown, with Fritz kissing her hand tenderly. The film ends with the narrator stating that they got married and lived happily ever after.
Voice Cast (in order of appearance)
- Michele Lee- Narrator
- Melissa Gilbert- Clara
- Lurene Tuttle- Aunt Gerda
- Christopher Lee- Uncle Drosselmeyer, Puppeteer, Street Singer, Watchmaker
- Jo Anne Worley- Queen Morphia
- Ken Sansom- Chamberlain
- Dick Van Patten- King Goodwin
- Roddy McDowall- Franz, Fritz
- Eva Gabor- The Queen of Time
- Nutcracker Fantasy has often been mistaken to be a Rankin-Bass production, due to its similar use of stop-motion Animagic animation. Coincidentally, Nutcracker Fantasy's director, Takeo Nakamura, worked as an animator on the Rankin-Bass special, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. 
- In the Japanese version, singer Kaoru Sugita (who was 14 at the time) provided Clara's voice.
- In the American version, certain scenes were edited for violent or scary images. In one scene, for instance, Clara enters the clock and encounters the Ragman. In another scene, Franz is seen cutting through Queen Morphia to get to the Nut of Darkness. Finally there is a scene where Clara is clearly seen as having been stabbed when Gaar tries to destroy the nutcracker.
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