Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jetlag's Nutcracker

My paternal grandfather knew I liked the Nutcracker story. A few Christmases, he gave me Nutcracker gifts: the George Balanchine ballet on VHS (yeah, the movie with Macaulay Culkin), the Warren Chappell book, tickets for the Springfield Ballet production, and one year, an animated version on VHS.

I have since purchased that same animated version on DVD, and now will attempt to review it. The production was by Jetlag Studios, a low budget animation studio who would turn out animated movies usually based on public domain materials.

Their Nutcracker starts with a song being sung about a Season of Love and the Nutcracker who became a King and a Little Girl who became a Queen. Then it's to the Stahlbaum home where Marie and Fritz eagerly await to open their Christmas presents. Their parents play around and ask, "if it's time to open your presents, what are you doing in here?" They hurry in and enjoy their gifts, and soon, Drosselmeyer arrives to activate his clockwork castle, which Marie loves, but Fritz loses interest in quickly.

Drosselmeyer points out the Nutcracker on the tree to Marie. Her father demonstrates how to use it to crack nuts, and Drosselmeyer says it belongs to Marie. She decides to only crack small nuts, but Fritz crams the Nutcracker's mouth full of nuts and breaks off some of his teeth. He's unconcerned about what he did. Marie sits up with the Nutcracker, assuring him she loves him and Godfather Drosselmeyer will repair him. However, as the clock chimes, the owl on top of the clock comes to life and turns into Drosselmeyer himself. Mice begin swarming in, led by a seven-headed Mouse King (at last!), who calls for battle on Fritz's toy soldiers.

Drosselmeyer brings the Nutcracker to life and the little wooden fellow calls the soldiers to life. However, the Mouse King manages to shatter the Nutcracker's sword, but before he can give the death blow, Marie throws her shoe at the Mouse King, but hits her head on the toy cabinet and passes out.

Marie awakens in bed and Fritz and her mother don't believe her story about the battle. However, Drosselmeyer arrives with a repaired Nutcracker and proceeds to tell her "how the Nutcracker became the Nutcracker."

A king and a queen with their baby princess Pirlipat called clockmaker Drosselmeyer to rid the palace of mice, but Madame Mouserinks, queen of the mice, swears vengeance that she will deliver on Pirlipat. Despite their guard of maids and cats, Mouserinks gets through and curses the princess. Drosselmeyer and the court astronomer spend 15 years sailing the world searching for a Krakatook nut and a young man who has never shaved or worn boots. They finally find both with Drosselmeyer's cousin. (They left in the part where the cousin tells Drosselmeyer it was fifteen years ago that he got the nut. "LET ME AT HIM!" Drosselmeyer begs.) Drosselmeyer's nephew breaks the nut for Pirlipat, which restores her beauty, after the king agrees Pirlipat will marry the nephew. However, Madame Mouserinks arrives and turns him into a Nutcracker that falls over on her and kills her. With her dying breath, she swears revenge. Pirlipat refuses to marry the Nutcracker, and the king tells Drosselmeyer to leave.

Marie feels sure that her Nutcracker is Drosselmeyer's nephew. But that night, the Mouse King visits her and demands her Christmas candy or he'll chew the Nutcracker apart. She agrees, but her family doesn't believe her, except Drosselmeyer. The next night, he returns and demands more of her things, and she gives in. The next day she tells the Nutcracker she's afraid the Mouse King will take all her things until she has nothing left and he'll be destroyed. The Nutcracker comes to life and explains he needs a new sword. Fritz supplies one (saying "The day may come when I might need a favor, so here." "Thanks, Fritz! You're the best brother ever!" "I know.") and that night, the Nutcracker valiantly slays the Mouse King, giving Marie the seven crowns.

The Nutcracker then takes Marie through a coat sleeve to Christmas Wood, where they eat Sugar Plums that fly like shooting stars, and sail to Lake Rosa, where Marie sees a princess in the water. She thinks it's Pirlipat (and it is for a moment), but the Nutcracker has her look and see that it is her own reflection. Arriving at the Marzipan Castle, the Nutcracker is greeted by his weeping sisters and then he and Marie dance. A song follows about dancing through the night, but it climaxes with Marie waking up in her bed. Again, her parents don't believe her story, even when she shows them the crowns. However, she is declared well enough to leave her bed.

Marie tells the Nutcracker she still loves him, no matter what anyone says. And at that moment, Drosselmeyer enters with a young man who Marie identifies as his nephew, who later speaks with her in private. He reveals he was the Nutcracker, and invites her to rule with him in the Marzipan Castle, and they are transported immediately there.

"You are my love, my dream come true." — Marie

The production closes with a music video composed of clips of the short film with the song, "A Dream Come True."

Despite some of the voices and dialogue not sounding entirely authentic for Germany in the early 19th century, I'm still surprised at how well this production adapts Hoffman's story. Very little is excised, and the production runs at a quick pace, clocking in at under 45 minutes. The animation is passable, nothing Disney-worthy, but there aren't any quickly noticeable inconsistencies, either.

The production is also notable for not using Tchaikovsky's score. The familiar March theme is used in some pieces of music, but usually, it's original music.

It's easy to ignore this one for its low budget and cheap releases, but, while it might be nostalgic sentimentality, I really recommend that this one not be missed.


Anonymous said...

I really loved this version of the nutcracker as a kid. I've tried finding it online to watch it in full, but all I can get is parts of it on youtube :( it seems this version is hard to find, is there anyway u can email me a link to watch it in full please?

Anonymous said...

Did the nephew have a beard before becoming the nutcracker? I seem to recall watching a version of the Nutcracker in which the "never shaved" part was oddly interpreted to mean he had a beard, rather than being too young to shave.

Jay said...

Yes, the nephew has a beard.