Disney’s “The Nutcracker”: Fan Favorite or Flop?


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As someone who has witnessed the outstanding performance of the ballet The Nutcracker every winter break at Lincoln Center for as long as I can remember, the different story exhibited in Disney’s remake film came as a surprise to me.

Walking into the theater, there was a sort of familiarity that I noticed as excited young girls, boys, families and those looking for a nostalgic experience prepared themselves for the movie to begin. The lights dimmed, and the same iconic classical melody began to play.

Although the overarching theme of the story was established in the same way as is done in the ballet, in which Clara, the young female protagonist of the story, receives a gift, a nutcracker, which takes her on a magical adventure that occurs in her dreams, many aspects of the Disney movie where developed differently. One key change that was made was Clara’s newfound role once she has landed in her dream setting. In the film, this place contains four realms each led by a different ruler. The two most notable realms at the center of the conflict are led by the Sugar-Plum Fairy and Mother Ginger. It is apparent quickly that Mother Ginger is the antagonized character and the Sugar-Plum fairy is the maternal heroin who needs Clara’s help to defeat Mother Ginger and her army of mice. In the ballet, the Sugar Plum Fairy similarly plays an important role in leading Clara and her prince on a journey through the world they have entered. However, in the ballet, there most definitely are not four realms led by different people, and Mother Ginger does not hold the same importance as she does in the movie.


As the story is developed in Disney’s altered rendition of this timeless story, Clara discovers that Mother Ginger is not the antagonist that the Sugar Plum Fairy made her out to be. The Sugar Plum Fairy has actually been trying to take control of all four realms by abusing the help that Clara was giving to her. This gave the movie quite a twist, turning it into an entirely different story from the one told in the ballet, in which little conflict is developed between these characters.

Like the ballet, the costume design was beautiful. Each character’s outfit, hair, and makeup is uniquely artistic and very similar to the character’s costumes in the ballet. Mother Ginger is iconically dressed in her large skirt which is also the home to her children, another aspect that adds to the comical nostalgia that comes with the Nutcracker story. The set design was also similar to that of the ballet, besides the fact that it was more realistic since the movie was not being performed live on a stage. This change was less bothersome to me as someone who loved the ballet so much as a child. It only added to my imagination of the story.

Although the alterations that Disney made to the original story did add an amusing twist, I was not the biggest fan of the character conflicts that were developed; I found it confusing to my childhood memories. However, this movie was entertaining, and I did find it enjoyable. If I had not been such a big fan of the Nutcracker ballet, I may have felt that this movie deserved a better review. I do not regret seeing this movie, but I am not sure that I would recommend this film either, especially to a fan of the iconic ballet.