Disney’s THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS is starting Christmas early this season with a stunning spin on the classic ballet by Tchaikovsky as well as the original book by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The trailer is eye-catching but I wondered if the film was something my entire family could enjoy together. I was able to watch an advanced screening of the film and here are my thoughts. 

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Is Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms kid-friendly?

Scary Scenes – Minimal

If you have a problem with rodents or clowns that’s the only thing that might appear creepy in the film. I was sitting next to a little boy and while there were some scenes where he covered his eyes or ears, however, he definitely didn’t seem frightened. The film takes place in Victorian England and since it’s The Nutcracker, the toys do come to life, so there’s an element of old fashioned toy inspired sets, particularly Mother Ginger’s place. The fighting isn’t too intense or visual either. Other than that and again, the mice and clowns who are more silly than scary, I would definitely say there’s nothing for children to be afraid of.

The Land of Amusements, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Clara (Mackenzie Foy) and Phillip (Jayden Fowara-Knight) visit the Fourth Realm in Disney’s THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS.

Fun fact from Disney: The Mouse King, created entirely in CG, is made up of 60,000 mice who crawl all over his body shape as he moves. The idea is actually rooted in reality. “Rat king” is a real term that describes a group of mice or rats living in close quarters whose tails become intertwined and bodies caked in mud to form what appears to be a single giant being.

Romantic Scenes – Nothing romantic

I’m a hopeless romantic so I always look for that in a film but there was none of that in DISNEY’S THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS. There were some innuendos by Keira Knightly’s character but it was absolutely nothing my 4, 7, and even 10 year old would pick up on.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ballroom scene

Mackenzie Foy is Clara, Keira Knightley is Sugar Plum Fairy, Jaden Fowara-Knight is Phillip, Eugenio Derbez is Hawthorne and Richard E. Grant is Shiver in Disney’s THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS.

Moral Compass – Diversity wins

Disney has realized the incredible influence they have with children and it’s nice to see a diverse cast playing major roles in the film. Executive producer Sara Smith told The Hollywood Reporter, “We want the movie to look like the world today. We don’t want to be living in the past, we want to be part of the present and the future and that’s our world, so we were very considerate about that, I think. We have an amazing cast as a result.” Morgan Freeman plays Godfather Drosselmeyer, Misty Copeland (the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history) stars as a ballerina and Jaydan Fowora-Knight, plays “Philip” the only Nutcracker in the Four Realms, has a great impact on the younger audiences seeing this film. Disney is saying, “Yes, you really can do anything, you put your heart into.”

African American Cast The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Also, rather than focusing on Clara as a damsel in distress we come to know her as a great engineer and inventor early on in the movie. This skill, her mind, is what will save the day, not how pretty or helpless she is. I love this aspect of the film. As a kid who struggled with math and science I’m so excited to see my daughters have role models who excel in this area.

Mackenzie Foy is Clara in Disney’s THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS.

Mackenzie Foy is Clara in Disney’s THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS.

Is the movie THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS like the ballet?

No, it isn’t. Sure there are elements of the ballet, however, other than the characters, it’s a different story. I think if you walk into the theater, like I did, expecting to see a retelling of the beloved ballet you’ll be sorely disappointed. I saw the film with a friend of mine and as I was nitpicking the film’s story and comparing it to the ballet she stopped me and said, “To be honest, I haven’t seen the ballet so those things didn’t bother me at all.” My suggestion, if you want to see the film and you love the ballet and are as familiar as I was, is to throw away your knowledge of the story. This film is inspired by and based on the original story by E.T.A. Hoffman. I haven’t read Hoffman’s story but from what I’ve read about THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS it seems like Hoffman’s original story was darker than the ballet we watch at Christmastime. In the press kit from Disney one of the directors explained,

“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 on. “Alexandre Dumas’ version was less scary, and later became a ballet featuring music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. 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.”

For example, in Hoffman’s original story, the heroine’s name was Marie, not Clara; in Disney’s film, Clara’s mother is Marie. Also, the original family name in Hoffman’s story was Stahlbaum (meaning steel tree) and Disney does its due dilligence to Hoffman by using Stahlbaum as the family name. In the ballet, which is consequently also Alexandre Dumas’ reimagining of Hoffman’s story, the family’s last name was changed to Silberhaus (which is German for “Silver House”).

This is a really interesting look into the original story by Hoffman from NPR, read the article if you want to know more.

Clara and three of the four characters in charge of the four realms

Mackenzie Foy is Clara, Keira Knightley is Sugar Plum Fairy, Eugenio Derbez is Hawthorne and Richard E. Grant is Shiver in Disney’s THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS.

Does this film deserve a trip to the cinema?

If you love the cinematography and visuals of a movie and want to experience the film on that grand IMAX screen, yes, you need to see it at a movie theater. The musical score is beautiful with nods to Tchaikovsky’s ballet score and it does deserve high quality Dolby surround sound. Die hard fans of THE NUTCRACKER ballet should be forewarned, this is not a retelling of the ballet at all. If you’re a fan of ballet, seeing Misty Copeland on the big screen should be reason enough alone to pay for a ticket. As far as the script goes, it wasn’t life changing or even memorable, and there was a real seen this before, kind of feeling with where our heroine finds her strength.

As long as you’re expecting to learn a new story, one that’s closer to the original story that E.T.A. Hoffman wrote and understand that the visuals of the film are the star of the show rather than the script, then you’ll enjoy the film.

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THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS opens November 2nd, 2018!

Is Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms kid-friendly? Read the review. #movie #disney #disneysnutcracker #kids

Read about my friend Michelle’s red carpet experience at THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS world premiere.

As the creator of the lifestyle blog Me Before Mom, Bert supports millennial moms facing the challenges and changes of motherhood. Me Before Mom is an online community that offers support through real life stories, encouraging advice, and answers to questions about how a woman maintains herself during this self-sacrificial time of parenthood. Stories from Bert Anderson have helped women across the globe through the Huffington Post, Today’s Parent, and on the Harry show. Whether weathering the first year of motherhood or walking through the later stages of motherhood, Bert has helped many continue to find herself while still in the throes of motherhood.