Written by David Strege
When your a kid and your mother sticks you in front of the tv you get to watch many strange cartoons at an impressionable Age in the 80’s and Takeo Nakamura’s (a Japanese animation artist who’d worked on the Rank/Bass production Santa Claus Is Coming To Town as well) Nutcracker Fantasy was one of them from Sanrio Film.
At the time I hadn’t realized how many people that were recognizable names but such a weird concoction of voice actors and actresses. I also had no idea Japan had anything to do with this stunningly Dark and beautiful underworld backstory to the Nutcracker tale very loosely based on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” a russian tale? Told by Japanese animationists? Intriguing…
Not to say Laura Ingals Wilder, Hammer Film’s Dracula and Cornelius from Planet of the Apes is involved as well as the First Lady of Radio combined to tell the tale of Clara and her imagined world of rats, Princesses and danger…
The tale begins with an old wives tale not that unlike the tale of the Sandman but in here they call him “The Ragman” a hunched creature with a sack moving through the night to snatch you up if you weren’t asleep… of course I remember this film being a heck of a lot more grainy learning that Discotek had released this film and mastered it again I am floored at how clear it is now and it is every bit as dreary as I remember it.
The story itself is narrated by Michele Lee whom has the perfect narrating voice for this story of Clara (Gilbert) who spent her summers at her uncle Drossselmeyer (Lee) and her Aunt Gerda (Tuttle) it is when Clara stumbles on her Uncle Drosselmeyer’s true passion for making dolls her uncle and aunt allow her to have a Nutcracker with buckteeth to sleep with. He is imperfect but Clara likes him.
During the night Clara wakes to find some mice trying to steal her doll and after chasing them away they seem to disappear inside the clock that Clara’s Aunt keeps saying needs fixing but then a two headed Rat Queen Morphia (Worley) comes out to help steal the doll but when Clara is hurt the doll defends her. When she awakes the doll is gone and no one believes her tale so little Clara decides to go ito this world to save her doll…
This is where it gets a little weird a pink rose rises in the mist and inside the rose is an unanimated ballet dancer but she is also pretty and so begins some out of focus slow motion dancing along with some random dancing from Clara seemingly making use of one dancer to signify a dreamlike world.
And actually it’s her Uncle Drosselmeyer that she has followed behind the clock where she finds a painting of a girl who looks like her a princess Mary.
As it turns out there was once a battle of dolls where as one kingdoms soldiers of dolls orchestrated by strings and the other army by windup dolls but also the problem of breaking the curse of the slumber of princess Mary and her ratly-like features. When wiseman come from all over the world and only think of themselves Clara goes off in search of the Queen of Time (Gabor) which her voice reminds me of the blue fairy I believe from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. What the Queen of Time tells her is that Queen Morphia harbors a shell of Darkness around her heart where her evil powers lay and that the pearls of light, a certain sword has the power to crack this shell and must be wielded by someone of pure heart.
Clara takes the sword to Franz and he takes up the sword vowing he will take a chance try to save the Princess or die. I’m glad I chose to pick this up it’s it’s own form of weird darkness wrapped up in an odd Christmas nutshell. You have some rare moments of hearing Christopher Lee sing. For an animation much of this film is oddly amusing.
I love and is absolutely one of my favorite animations of its time. I’d certainly recommend this film for those whom are into films of this nature where yes much of it isn’t real but you can imagine the world as it is with this kind of claymation in its creative beginnings. The film was nominated for the 1980 Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and the 1980 Young Artist Award for Best Motion Picture featuring youth and won the 1980 Young Artist Award for Best Musical Entertainment so this must count for something.
Starring Michele Lee as Narrator (voice), Melissa Gilbert as Clara (voice), Lurene Tuttle as Aunt Gerda (voice), Christopher Lee as Uncle Drosselmeyer / Street Singer / The Puppeteer / The Watchmaker (voice), Jo Anne Worley as Queen Morphia (voice), Ken Sansom as Chamberlain / The Poet Wiseman (voice), Dick Van Patten as
King Goodwin (voice), Roddy McDowall as
Franz / Fritz (voice), Mitchel Gardner as
The Indian Wiseman / The Viking Wiseman (voice), Jack Angel as The Chinese Wiseman / The Executioner / Gar (voice), Gene Moss as Otto Von’Atra / The French Wiseman / Clovis (voice), Eva Gabor as Queen of Time (voice), Joan Gerber as Mice Voices (voice), Maxine Fisher as Mice Voices (voice), Robin Haffner as Princess Mary (voice), Kin’ya Aikawa as Executioner (voice), Hisao Dazai as Chamberlain (voice), Arihiro Fujimura as French Wiseman (voice), Shunji Fujimura as Indian Wiseman (voice), Atsuko Ichinomiya as Queen Morphia (voice), Ichiyô Itô as Prussian Wiseman (voice), Shirô Kishibe as Corpulent Rat (voice), Haruko Kitahama as Gypsy Fortuneteller (voice), Shinji Maki as British Wiseman (voice), Kiiton Masuda as King Goodwin (voice), Shûichirô Moriyama as Poet (voice), Hiroyuki Nagato as Doctor of Letters (voice), Shizue Natsukawa as Aunt Gerda (voice), Kô Nishimura as Uncle Drosselmeyer / Strange Old Woman / The Puppeteer / Watchmaker (voice), Jirô Sakagami as
Chinese Wiseman (voice), Tarô Shigaki as
Franz / Fritz (voice), Kaoru Sugita as
Clara (voice), Yukari Uehara as
Princess Mary (voice), Takao Yamada as
Shunruru (voice), Kyosen Ôhashi as
Russian Wiseman (voice).