Thursday, January 3, 2019

Mary Poppins

When you say "Mary Poppins," most people will think of Disney's classic 1964 film, but that was actually based on a book series by one Pamela Lyndon Travers (who used P. L. Travers on her books). The series ran for eight books, published from 1934 to 1988.

The books tell of how the magical nanny Mary Poppins cares for the Banks children, meeting unusual characters and having extraordinary adventures. The first three had the framing of Mary arriving as the Banks family had become unruly, and during her stay, she would get them under order again. Finally, she would leave in the final chapter. The remaining books were midquels for the original trilogy, with stories occurring during those visits.

The series of loose stories featured the Banks family: Mr. and Mrs. Banks, the children Jane and Michael, the young twins John and Barbara, and with the second book, baby Annabel. Also featured were their staff: Ellen the maid, Mrs. Brill the cook, and Robertson Ay the handyman. Around the neighborhood were Admiral Boom, Bert the Matchman who also draws lifelike chalk drawings and plays a hurdy-gurdy, the Bird Woman, Miss Lark and her dogs Andrew and Willoughby, and the Park Keeper.

The stories would range from whimsical adventures to strange visits of interesting characters that might turn chaotic. Yet they maintained a sense of wonder which captivated the imagination of readers.

The first adaptation of the books was a television play in which Mary Wickes played the role of Mary Poppins, on CBS' Studio One program. A recording of it exists in the collection of the Los Angeles Paley Center, but what is available for the public to see without a trip is only a few photos and the cast and crew listing and a short plot description saying that Mary Poppins arrives to take care of Jane and Michael, the naughty children of Mr. Banks. It also says that Bert was part of the cast. A friend of yours truly was able to see a screening and spoke highly of it and Mary Wickes' performance.

The big adaptation would arrive in 1964 with Disney's big screen adaptation of Mary Poppins. Walt Disney had worked hard to get the film rights from Travers, who demanded script approval and still wasn't completely taken with the finished film.

The film creates a plot around the character of Mr. Banks. He doesn't take time for his children or to hear them out, he doesn't approve of the suffragette movement (the books took place in about the 1930s, the film explicitly takes place in 1910) which his wife is a part of. Mary Poppins' presence isn't just a calming force now, it's a healing one.

The cast of characters was reduced, although some characters from the books received small cameos ("Miss Lark likes to walk in the park with Andrew," sings Bert, and then turns to an old woman, "Old Mrs. Corry, a story for you... your daughters were shorter than you... but they grew!"). Mary was of course there, played by Julie Andrews (and most viewers were either introduced to Julie Andrews through this film or The Sound of Music), in addition to being prim and proper, she is also a little vain. (Humorously in a later scene in which all of the characters are covered in ashes and soot, she takes out a compact and powders her nose with even more.)

Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) are the only Banks children present, the film wisely narrowing its focus and reducing the number of child actors needed on set. David Tomlinson played Mr. Banks while Glynis Johns portrayed his wife Winifred. Of the Banks household, only Ellen (Hermione Baddeley) and Mrs. Brill (Reta Shaw) are present, while Reginald Owen plays neighbor Admiral Boom, who fires his rooftop cannon every hour.

Next to Julie Andrews, the other big star was Dick Van Dyke as Bert, whose character was also combined with the character of the Sweep, as Bert explains he's a jack of all trades, first being seen as a one-man band, then later doing chalk drawings, caring for Mary's uncle Albert (Ed Wynn), being a chimney sweep, then finally selling kites. His cockney accent would become one of the film's most criticized points. He would also portray Mr. Dawes, a senior partner of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.

What really made the film soar was the delightful depiction of some of the adventures from Travers' stories, paired with songs written by Richard and Robert Sherman. for audience, this rendered the film a veritable box of delights as Mary Poppins helps Jane and Michael tidy up their nursery by snapping their fingers and having everything go back to where it should be. Then they would join Bert for a "jolly holiday" in which they'd enter a traditionally animated English countryside complete with talking animals. Later they would join Uncle Albert for tea, except he's having a laughing fit that makes him levitate to the ceiling. Finally, in a technically amazing sequence, they go to the rooftops of their neighborhood and join the chimney sweeps in the songs "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Step In Time."

The film could definitely be criticized for being a series of loosely connected episodes, but given that the movie manages to draw viewers in and delight them, it's hard to hold it against it. Only those not given to flights of fancy or musicals would manage to not like the film, aside from Travers herself who had trouble accepting someone else's vision of her work.

Disney would approach the idea of a sequel but was shut down by Travers. There was another film made, but this was in the USSR, titled (when translated) Mary Poppins, Goodbye, produced in 1983. It dispenses with making it a period piece and places it in the 1980s. It again reduces the children to just Jane and Michael.

The next big adaptation would be the stage production Mary Poppins that debuted in London in 2004. This was based primarily on the Travers' stories, but worked with Disney Theatrical to use some of the songs from the 1964 film, as well as many new ones. Like the film, only Jane and Michael are present and Bert continues in his composite role from the film. And also like the film, personal stress of Mr. Banks is used to help the family heal, but in a note from the books, Mrs. Andrew—a cruel governess—is brought in as a counterpart to Mary.

2004 also saw a one hour radio drama based on the books produced by BBC Radio. As part of the 40th anniversary of the film, Disney produced a short based on a chapter from one of the books titled "The Cat That Looked At A King," starring Julie Andrews and it has featured on home media releases of the movie ever since.

2013 saw Disney return to Mary Poppins with Saving Mr. Banks, a biopic telling a somewhat sanitized version of how P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) agreed to let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) make the 1964 film. The movie flashes back to Travers' childhood with the idea that Mr. Banks's character development to tie together the story of the classic movie was inspired by her own father.

It was heavily criticized for depicting Travers crying tears of joy at the film's premiere when she actually found it to be so unlike her books it brought her to tears, only later saying that there were things she liked about it, but pulling together years and sometimes decades of story into a neat package is about standard for biopics. Still, it was a well-produced film about two very different creative minds coming together and clashing.

That brings us to the latest adaptation: Disney's Mary Poppins Returns. As it was released 54 years after their first film, recasting across the board was necessary. Emily Blunt was selected to fill the title role. Julie Andrews was offered a cameo role, but turned it down as she didn't want to detract from Emily's role.

Instead of recasting Mr. Banks and his wife, the sequel moves forward to the 1930s during "the great slump." Mr. Banks appears to be dead while there is no mention of Winifred. Instead, Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is now a widower father with three children: John (Nathanael Saleh), Annabel (Pixie Davies) and Georgie (Joel Dawson). Jane (Emily Mortimer) lives in a flat across town, but has been coming by to help with the children, while Ellen (Julie Walters) remains as the family maid.

Filling the role that Bert had in the original film is Hamilton writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, a lamplighter. David Warner takes over as Admiral Boom, while Miss Lark reappears, now with Willoughby. Meryl Streep plays Mary's cousin Topsy Turvy and Angela Lansbury appears as the Balloon Woman. Colin Firth takes a villainous role as William Wilkins, who currently runs the bank.

One could criticize Mary Poppins Returns for trying to retread the same lines as the original 1964 Disney film, and it's easy to see that position: we have magical moments with Mary that sees her win the children over by turning bath time into an underwater fantasy, another animated world sequence in which Mary and Jack sing together, a run in with a relative of Mary's and an adventure with Jack and his fellow lamplighters. However, it's actually faithful to the source material in that it's a similar concept just different as many of Travers' whimsical stories could get repetitive. And in fact, many of the adventures are inspired by stories from the Travers books.

What I most appreciated about the sequel was an updated method of storytelling. There is a conflict set up early in the film as Michael has taken out a loan with 17 Cherry Tree Lane as collateral and has fallen behind on payments and the bank is threatening foreclosure. Since his father had a share in the bank that he left him, Michael scrambles to find his certificate. He and Jane talk to Mr. Wilkins who claims he wants to help them, but actually destroys a page from the ledger proving George Banks' share as he wants to foreclose on the property. This presents a ticking clock for the plot which culminates in an exciting rush to Big Ben. In addition, there is now a through line connecting the adventures with Mary Poppins to the main plot. I won't go into the details to avoid spoilers, though.

As opposed to many Mary Poppins adaptations in which the children are very naughty, John, Annabel and Georgie (two of them named for some of the other Banks children from the books, Barbara is the sole child not to be represented in Disney films so far) are forced to step up in helping out the household. Early in the film they offer to buy groceries when Michael realizes he barely has any food in the house. Thus, when Mary Poppins arrives, the children clash with her by thinking they don't need a nanny rather than just being naughty. If anything, the children go from having to be miniature adults to being allowed to embrace their childhood while it lasts.

Emily Blunt's Mary is still glamorous and while she's obviously not Julie Andrews, it's easy to imagine that this is the same character, yet her take on the character is closer to the stern character from the original stories, but she's not cold as she assures the children that their mother is still with them in a lovely song. Lin-Manuel Miranda's Jack is a little different from Dick Van Dyke's Bert. He's more scaled back and is only a lamplighter throughout the film instead of having different jobs. In addition, he admits that he would wave at Jane as a child and he sparks a romance with her as an adult. It's not a major plotline, but one they carry through.

Dick Van Dyke appears as the son of his character in the first film in a small but plot-connected cameo. He gets to sing and show he still can dance. Karen Dotrice appears briefly as a woman asking for directions. Angela Lansbury, as indicated above, plays the Balloon Woman. She was not in the 1964 film, but did star in 1971's Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which Walt had begun developing as an alternative to Mary Poppins and was eventually resumed after his death, and was also a musical film featuring a woman with magical abilities caring for children going on incredible adventures, complete with songs by the Sherman brothers. While not in Mary Poppins continuity, it's certainly a member of the same family of films.

The songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman aren't quite as memorable as the original Sherman score, but they are certainly no slouches, still being a lot of fun and very heartfelt, particularly Michael's "A Conversation" in which he sings about what he'd like to say to his late wife and Mary Poppins' "Where The Lost Things Go." It's perhaps unfair to directly compare them as these are new songs and melodies as compared to the Sherman songs that have delighted audiences for over fifty years, so they have a longtime presence and nostalgia on their side.

So, while it might be hard to appreciate Mary Poppins Returns as much as the film it's a sequel to, I think it's a well-done film and a welcome addition to the live action Disney canon.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Nutcracker: An Index and my Top Five

Between 2011 and this year, I have written blogs about thirty works based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. There are more, of course. Little audio adaptations, stage productions that aren't ballets, little animated video versions thanks to internet video being widespread, and countless more adaptations of the ballet. But given that there are so many, it was important to just say, "this is enough for now."

Perhaps some day, if the mood strikes me, I'll write about more of them. I avoided going to the ballet as many of them have similar if not identical structures, the differences being in the exact choreography and costume and set designs. I made an exception for the Stowell/Sendak adaptation of the ballet as it tried to hew closer to the original Hoffmann story. As such, if I do write about the ballet adaptations, I don't expect to repeat my thoughts.

I feel my more recent writings are better than my 2011 efforts, not just that I've improved my writing style, but I tried to do more research about the versions I was looking into. As such, I discovered more versions and discovered many interesting things about the people involved with the properties.

So, here is a list of the Nutcracker blogs from this year and 2011, arranged in order of their release.

In addition, I wrote a blog about my personal feelings about the Nutcracker in 2011 and I wrote up my top five best and five worst adaptations. This year, here are my new top five Nutcracker adaptations:

5. Dziadek do orzechów, the 1967 version follows Hoffmann faithfully and does so delightfully, but is unable to fully immerse itself in fantasy by cutting the scenes in the Land of Sweets.

4. Щелкунчик (1973), the Russian cartoon manages to stay in the top 5 by still being a dialogue-less adaptation with style, smartly timing itself to Tchaikovsky's music.

3. Nussknacker und Mausekönig, this 2015 German television adaptation enters the top five with a solid adaptation that plays a loosely with the story but sticking to the themes of the original and updating the storytelling

2. Nutcracker Fantasy, moving up to the number 2 position, this stop motion version goes full out for fantasy while wholly reworking the plot, but keeps the heart of the story intact.

1. The Nutcracker Prince, this animated adaptation sticks faithfully to Hoffmann's story while smartly reworking it for cinematic effect. It goes even further by fleshing out the cast with some of Clara's toys come to life, in keeping with the original story's moments of Marie talking to her dolls as if they're people.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker

After taking on L. Frank Baum's Oz mythos in The Wicked Years series, Cinderella in Tales of an Ugly Stepsister, Snow White in Mirror, Mirror and Alice in Wonderland in After Alice, author Gregory Maguire turned to Hoffmann's Christmas classic in Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker.

What many of these books have in common is that Maguire will select a character or themes and take his own spin on the tale from another perspective, sometimes telling the life story of the side characters.

In Hiddensee, Maguire selects the character of Godfather Drosselmeier from The Nutcracker. (I've not addressed it before, but with the spelling of Drosselmeyer's name varies in different versions. I typically stick to the one with a y, but the one with an i instead is just as valid.)

Maguire's Dirk is a foundling: an abandoned child. He was taken in by a couple who lived in the woods and raised him. As he learns to cut wood, an accident happens, leading Dirk to have a strange experience. After many years, he goes to learn more about the world. As he learns from a minister, he is given his last name: Drosselmeier.

Dirk meets various people through the years, chiefly Felix Stahlbaum, a man who appreciates him for who he is, even if he doesn't fully understand him, and there is even a homoerotic moment between them.

The story returns to a legend of a golden walnut that contains a key, Drosselmeier eventually making a nutcracker that he claims will open the nut one day. It is, of course, this nutcracker that is eventually given to Claire-Marie (or "Klara") Stahlbaum, an imaginative child who Dirk particularly loves.

The book offers a take on the Nutcracker story wholly its own. While Maguire relishes in the mundane looking for fantasy (he describes hair color like "frozen mud" or "melted marzipan"), he creates in Dirk a man who may yet be the mysterious and nearly sinister figure from Hoffmann's original story, but is yet not particularly a bad man, just one who seeks to find more from life than it willingly offers, and in the end, his lone lasting accomplishment is giving inspiration to a child one Christmas Eve.

I found some of the book particularly lengthy with discussions and thoughts about Dirk's past experiences and philosophy filling pages and pages. Yet it goes for just under 300 pages, rendering this on the shorter end as some novels go.

References to other works appear, with Dirk's adoptive mother telling stories to one of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen is mentioned, and it's even mentioned that Dirk has a copy of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This makes it impossible for the story to neatly complement Hoffmann's original story, dating from 1816-1818, while Dickens' famous story was first published in 1843, 21 years after Hoffmann's death. This is rather disappointing as Wicked retells many of the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, just from the perspective of the Wicked Witch in a version of Oz different from Baum's, but could arguably be out of the perception of Dorothy.

Another disappointment I had is that Hoffmann's Drosselmeyer is first introduced with his clock repair and his ability to create clockworks. One would think that having a young Dirk become fascinated with clockworks and finding out how they work and mastering them for himself would lend itself well to the storytelling. At over two-thirds of the way into the book, I was wondering if it would come in at all. It finally did, with his mastery of clockwork being briefly mentioned to explain how he made a few toys, especially the clockwork castle from Hoffmann's story that Fritz quickly grows bored with.

Overall, I would only recommend Hiddensee to those familiar with Maguire from his other works. It's not as out there as some scenes in Wicked (if you read it, you know what I mean), and provides an interesting story on its own. As a companion to Hoffmann, it falters in a few areas.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Storyteller's Classics presents The Nutcracker

Here is a half hour animated adaptation, but it's not listed on IMDb. The end credits say it was produced by British company Mad Man Movies for Castle Communications, whose sole IMDb credit is a 1996 Christmas themed special titled Silent Night. This carries a copyright date of 1994, and according to a WorldCat listing, it was released on VHS by the Orion company. A YouTube video transfer of a commercial for the Storyteller's Classics series reveals four other titles in the series: Peter and the Wolf, The Toys' Symphony, and animated adaptations of Tchaikovsky's other ballets: Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, all narrated by Dudley Moore or Helena Bonham Carter. Moore narrates this one, which is animated well and looks nice, but is not "breathtaking animation" as the commercial says.

This adaptation opens with a party at Marie and Fritz's home (yes, they have their original Hoffmann names). A couple of servants are getting everything ready while mice raid the food. Drosselmeyer arrives and among his gifts is of course the Nutcracker, which Fritz breaks some of the teeth off of. The mice spot the Nutcracker and inform their king.

Marie sleeps with her Nutcracker and the mice invade her room to try to steal it. When she gets up to investigate, they scurry away. The Nutcracker comes to life and Marie shrinks. He explains that he was the prince of Candyland who was going to marry a princess, but her father didn't want them to marry, fighting with the prince. When the king gets a wizard to turn the prince into a nutcracker, he refuses to pay for the service, and is turned into a mouse king.

The mice attack the castle Drosselmeyer brought, Marie and the Nutcracker making a stand, but Marie is captured. The Nutcracker manages to free her and they go to Drosselmeyer's workshop, which leads them to Candyland. (Apparently, riding the carousel does it.) The Sugar Plum Fairy brings them to her castle, where she pays the wizard to break the curse on the Nutcracker to restore him to the form of a prince and Marie becomes a princess, while the Mouse King arrives.

Marie confiscates the Mouse King's crown and disposes of it, rendering the king a regular mouse, and the other mice rebel against him. The prince and Marie kiss, then the scene fades to Marie and the Nutcracker still in bed on Christmas morning, but the living room is still a mess from the battle. So was it a dream?

I was reminded a bit of the 1973 Russian Nutcracker while reviewing this one, in which the Nutcracker also tells a different origin story for himself and uses no dialogue (there is a version narrated by Shirley MacLaine, but I haven't seen it). Still, that one had style, deciding to time the animation with the music, while this one just has the music play in the background. It also alters the plot in an unusual twist, what with Marie being imprisoned and later defeating the Mouse King—revealed to be a transformed person who is never restored—just by removing his crown. I can't exactly say it was bad, but it wasn't that great either.

This version seems to be hard to find. Copies pop up on eBay, and it doesn't appear to have been reissued on DVD. I found it on YouTube, the uploader unsure of its origins and their tape starting after the title and possible opening credits had already passed. The sound had an unfortunate loud tape hiss. They claim to have made the video from a DVD transfer of a VHS recording from a TV broadcast. If you're interested in collecting it, copies may be out there, but I wouldn't recommend spending too much on it.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Katya and the Nutcracker: A Christmas Fantasy

I discovered this version of The Nutcracker shortly after completing my 2011 blog series. It's an animated take on the story that uses no dialogue, only sound effects and Tchaikovsky's score for the ballet. It runs for about 25 minutes. I was wondering if Katya was part of a series, but seems this was done to present a more Russian Nutcracker in honor of the Russian roots of Tchaikovsky and the ballet.

This adaptation is set in 1910 St. Petersburg, evident from Russian architecture and some fashions. Katya lives with her father and three other children and an older woman. This might be a grandmother or an aunt, and the other children might be her siblings or cousins. There's a boy and twin girls. This Christmas, the children are given presents, but while the others get toys, there's nothing for Katya. She is happy, however, when her father gives her a nutcracker. (This one has an odd design with an O-shaped body, the nut is put in the opening and the arm is cranked to break the shell.) However, the boy tries to get his turn at it and breaks the arm off. Katya goes to bed unhappily.

That night, she awakens and as she goes downstairs, she shrinks and finds the toys and the Christmas tree being attacked and looted by mice, their leader wearing a gas mask. The toys come to life and fight back, but the tide turns when Katya's cat arrives on the scene and scares the mice away, the leader taking to a toy airplane, but the Nutcracker and Katya aren't willing to let him go without a fight, and all three ride the plane outside, where after a bit, the lead mouse is set flying into the sky with an explosion by Katya pulling a lever on the plane.

To celebrate, Katya and the Nutcracker fly to a fairyland, where the Nutcracker is given a new arm, and they are entertained by many dancing creatures (including a group of mice). The two then head out to a wondrous winter realm, during which time the Nutcracker is turned into a real boy able to ice skate with Katya. They meet icy centaurs before the scene goes back to Katya's bedroom, revealing it to be just a dream, her father placing a repaired Nutcracker on her bed just before she awakens.

As I was writing this, I realized that although we can see a bit of the classic Nutcracker towards the beginning, after that, the story more resembles Raymond Briggs' classic picture book The Snowman in which a child goes off with a magical creature and has a wondrous experience that appears to be only a dream. And sure, this is present in the original Nutcracker story, but given that an animated version of The Snowman is a Christmas staple in the UK and this is a British based production as well, you can't help but wonder if some subtle inspiration happened. Particularly as both animated specials feature no dialogue.

To be fair, the animation is generally well done, though I can't say I care for a lot of the character designs. The story adaptation is no less faithful than a lot of versions of the ballet, and honestly, I'd suggest that if you're interested, give it a watch.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Hello Kitty's The Nutcracker

 Japanese company Sanrio turned to The Nutcracker in 1979 with Nutcracker Fantasy, which I covered back in 2011. But that one had a tiny blink and miss cameo by their most famous creation, Hello Kitty, and wouldn't you know? There's now a Hello Kitty Nutcracker cartoon. This was part of the series Hello Kitty's Animation Theater, released in 2000. Seemingly, Hello Kitty and her friends would be cast as the characters of a story. Note that the stories ran about fourteen minutes and were very kid-friendly.

In this one, Hello Kitty is Clara and Dear Daniel is Fritz. Clara gets the Nutcracker for Christmas, but when Fritz breaks it, Clara takes it to the shop of Drosselmeyer to have it fixed. While she's there, Drosselmeyer tells her the story of how a king had his sausage party (hey, they said it) ruined by the Mouse Queen eating most of the fat for the sausages. When the king sets traps, the Mouse Queen takes revenge by cursing the Princess. A young Drosselmeyer (who the storyteller teases may be a relation) breaks the nut and the curse, but is cursed and rebuffed by the princess for his pains. Drosselmeyer gives her a necklace that he says may help her.

Clara believes this may be her Nutcracker and that night, she finds herself and her Nutcracker transported to an otherworldly landscape where the Nutcracker fights the Mouse King. When Clara tries to help, she's subdued by the Mouse Queen, who's defeated when she uses magic on Clara, but it's repulsed by the necklace. Using the necklace, the Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King and is restored to his true form and takes Clara for a boat ride to the Land of Sweets, where everything is made of sweets. A suddenly shaky boat turns to Clara being shaken awake at home, just in time to meet Drosselmeyer and his nephew Kristoff.

There's not a lot to this adaptation, which offers a slightly abbreviated Story of the Hard Nut. Like Nutcracker Fantasy, Clara actually encounters the Mouse Queen, who has an expanded role. Having recently seen the Funky Fables version, I couldn't help but note that Clara suddenly being pulled into a different landscape to fight the Mouse King happens in both versions. But like Funky Fables, this one is a very inoffensive Nutcracker. Not bad, but not exactly a major one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Funky Fables: The Nutcracker

Funky Fables was a series by Saban Entertainment that presented some very comically designed anime adaptations of classic fairy tales, from Cinderella and Snow White to The Wizard of Oz and, of course, The Nutcracker. The designs were complemented by whimsical music and comical narration and dialogue.

 In this Nutcracker, Clara and Fritz are anxiously awaiting their Christmas presents, Fritz constantly getting the holiday wrong, and saying he wants a "chicken." (He means a hobby horse.) Well, when all is ready, Fritz gets his "chicken" and Clara gets the Nutcracker, presented to her by Drosselmeyer, who has his eyepatch, a beard and a big hat. She's unimpressed at first until Fritz asks how he's a soldier with no sword. She suggests that maybe he's a nonviolent pacifist.

That night, Clara has been staying up late with the Nutcracker, becoming very fond of him. When she finally goes to bed, she has the Nutcracker tucked in next to her. At midnight, it comes to life as the King of the Mice and a couple of his mice soldiers jump out of her clock, then spotting the Nutcracker next to Clara, they hop into her bed, waking her up. Suddenly she's pulled up into the air and a mysterious door appears behind her and she's pulled through.

Clara spots the Nutcracker fighting a couple mice, then the Mouse King appears behind her. As he grabs her, the Nutcracker leaps to fight him directly. The Mouse King tosses him off, breaking his arm, but Clara manages to escape by biting the King. She then helps the Nutcracker to a cannon and soldier, which they fire at the charging Mouse King, but it doesn't stop him. A magic nut appears in Clara's hand, and on the Nutcracker's suggestion, she throws it at the king, seemingly making him shatter like glass and transporting her back to her bedroom.

The next morning, Clara hears Drosselmeyer calling her upstairs, so she follows and he tells her that the Nutcracker is a prince of "the dream world," transformed by the King of Mice. He suddenly is downstairs leaving and as he leaves, he suggests Clara look at the grandfather clock in the attic, where she finds a sword on the back of the pendulum. She falls asleep shining it up, and her mother finds her and takes her back to bed.

Clara is almost pulled through the mysterious door once again, but fights back and manages to get to the attic, but can't find the sword as the Mouse King has it and grabs her. He uses energy emanating from the sword to torture the Nutcracker, but Clara manages to divert it back to him, making him drop her and the sword, and restoring him to his true form with seven heads. ("He's so full of evil schemes that one head isn't enough to keep track of all of them," the Nutcracker explains.)

The attic fills with mice, but Clara and the Nutcracker manage to get to a beam above them and use the magic of the sword to turn the Mouse King's minions into flowers. Clara swings down and hurls herself at the King, knocking him back, letting the Nutcracker get in the finishing blow with the sword. Giving the Nutcracker the King's crown, he resumes his true form as Prince Bongo of Dream World, which they visit, described as a "flight of fancy to the furthest reaches of the imagination." They go to the castle and join a ball, where they meet Clara's favorite storybook characters.

Waking up the next day, Clara looks out the window and spots Drosselmeyer outside and goes outside to meet his grandson Bongo, who takes her to his kingdom. In a bit of humor, the narrator explains that this happened a long time ago, the kingdom is now an amusement park, the castle is a hotel, but you can visit the penthouse where Clara and Bongo lived happily ever after, "just go to the front desk and ask for... the Nutcracker Suite."

This one's really loose and doesn't really get a lot of the themes of the original story across, but it does maintain Clara's status as a heroine. Funky Fables isn't a series you'd expect a serious adaptation from, so I'll give it a pass. It's not a great adaptation, but it's not an offensive one, either.