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Entries in holiday (1)

Saturday
Dec152018

Thar B Spoilers Review: Nutcracker Fantasy (1979) Script

The Nutcracker Fantasy 1979

 

Last year for the holidays I ventured into the “Realm of the Forgotten” again and talked about the forgotten oscar winning tv animated short film version of “A Christmas Carol”.  How did that work out(shows pathetic view number,  play sad sax music)?  Uh yeah…well since I’m a Taurus and that makes me a bit of a knuckle head I’m going to try again.  This time with “The Nutcracker”!  Well, it makes a bit of sense.  A recent adaptation of the story just came and went in the theaters last month.  Plus when you think nutcracker you think of the holidays right?  This version however is a tad different.  In what way?  How about someone known as the Rag Man turning kids into mice if they don’t go to bed on time?

 

Interested?

 

First some backstory.  Author E. T. A. Hoffman originally wrote a (short) story in 1816 called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” which followed a young girl and her toy nutcracker battling a heinous Mouse King as well as said nutcracker whisking her to a enchanted land inhabited by dolls.  In 1882 composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky(along with Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Alexandre Dumas(he adapted the story)into a ballet only called “The Nutcracker”).  *In 1882 a ballet was made based off of the story.*

 

The story has been adapted who knows how many times since then.  The most well known versions done however are probably a segment from “Fantasia”, “Nutcracker The Motion Picture”(1986), Holiday performances held across the world to some of the most eyebrow raising ones were (ex.) “Care Bears Nutcracker Suite”(1988), “The Nutcracker in 3D”(2010), “Barbie in the Nutcracker”(2001) to this version “Nutcracker Fantasy”(1979) and that’s the one that I’m tackling today.

 

This is an odd take on the story.  It uses some to the framework of the initial tale and them makes a run for it.  Also this is a stop motion animated film.

 

The film opens with an adult Clara recounting the tale(play some narration).  Welp!  I guess I know that she’s going to make it to the end then!  We’re introduced immediately to “The Evil Ragman” and it looks like he graduated from “CREEPER SCHOOL” with honors!  He creeps around looking for any kids that stay up too late and turns them into mice and then tosses them into his sack.  A couple questions: 1. Why ONLY KIDS?  2.  What, are the parents just fine with this practice?  What happens when they come in the morning with their kids missing?  Are they just going to shrug their shoulders and say “That brat got just what he deserved!”?  Also where is the FBI, MIB or BPRD when you really need them?! 

 

(02:47) I find it interesting that they call this Nutcracker Fantasy.  Isn’t that redundant?   Of course it’s a fantasy.  Since when have living toys and magical creepers not been a fantasy(ohh…yeah…)?  Anna is told to go to bed by here aunt but she’s too excited because her childhood friend Fritz is coming to visit tomorrow.  (03:32)It’s around this time I’ve noticed a couple of things.  One, Anna’s image of Fritz looks like a bishonen character from Utena!  Two, the design of all of the characters is off putting.  I didn’t know why at first but now I do.  No one blinks their eye’s!  Every character has the same thousand mile stare.  There is also a lack of movement with the faces.  Because of this the characters have a disturbing feel to them.  I haven’t heard a lot about this film but what I have heard is that it’s crazy.  I’m thinking the appearance of the puppets has something to do with that.

 

Well after Clara claims there ain’t no Ragman and I’m adult she’ll stay up as long as she wants(play lonely island song)she then like a scaredy cat she hops in bed and closes her eyes(?)!(04:31)  Wait, why after almost 5 mins did the animators decide now was the time to show animation?  Sigh, you know if I keep asking questions this review will be one hour long.  Which isn’t good since the film is only 1 hour 13 mins long!

 

Over the next few mins Uncle Drosselmeyer does his best ragman impersonation to creep out Clara, argues with his wife and just acts weird.  It’s here where Clara get’s the titular nutcracker(why was he shot creepily at a dutch angle at (07:00)?!)during which Uncle Drosselmeyer explains that while he is a clock maker his true love is doll making(he also states that something isn’t right about the doll he gave her).  Clara’s reaction to this is your 8th and 9th nightmare for tonight.  What’s worse about this horrifying image is they reuse this shot about 5 seconds later(08:09)!  After Uncle Drosselmeyer acts creepy one more time Clara falls asleep via a 1970’s rock ballad (09:30).  The song is pretty good(even though it explains everything that is happening on the screen at the time!) Unfortunately the song ends and Clara wakes up noticing that some rotten mice just kidnapped her doll.

 

She very stilted-ly chases after them.  She saves the doll but it looks like the mice got away and then this happens(12:10).  What the hell is going on?!  Who is this?(play We are siamese if you please)  Okay just how far are we into this film.  13:10(ding sound effects)  I’m not sure I’m going to make it the next hour.  I know there both different types of film but I’m starting to get “Abar The First Black Superman” flashbacks now.  Okay so I don’t know if I’m tripping or if the film is here.  This, these ladies(?) order the mice to get the doll and suddenly the nutcracker comes to life and this leads to the laziest most anticlimactic fight in history(13:35).  During this Clara falls asleep and wakes up with the nutcracker gone.  So we’re not going to see the conclusion to the fight then?  Sigh, fine!

 

(15:08)  Okay with the playing of the nutcracker and the aunt walking like this towards Clara I defy anyone to tell me this isn’t a horror film!  It seems Clara is sick now so the aunt goes to get a doctor and I really didn’t think I’d see the day were the Filmation and Hanna Barbera practice of limited animation would make it’s way to stop motion but, man(16:17)!  So anyway Clara falls asleep and she seems to be having visions from the previous night.  She climbs into the downstairs clock when she thinks she sees her uncle(18:00).  She continues to chase his image until she winds up in a castle I think and in a room with pictures of her.  A bunch of women and a king greet her and says that she’s his daughter named Mary(22:11).  The king doesn’t take her presence too well.  Okay the king gives Clara the lowdown about what’s happened.  That 2 headed rat witch thing from earlier is name Morphea and she went to war with the king.  He lost because he soldiers are wind up toys and they unwound themselves.  DESIGN FLAW!!!  How did he not see that happening from the beginning?!(24:30)  As part an agreement the Queen insisted on an arranged marriage with her son and his daughter.  He said NAH and she very sensibly turned his daughter into a mouse and put her to sleep to this day.  (25:43) Okay so after seeing Fritz as a soldier to the doll kingdom Clara is just not going to say or do anything?  Really?  Oh, brother.

 

Then for the next 2 mins what I can only describe as nonsensical nonsense occurs.  (27:58)After a bunch of random things happening finally the Russian stereotype states that he has a plan to wake the princess.  AH!  So that’s what’s supposed to be going on?  Then what was all of the dancing and a robot cat chasing a toy mouse for?!  Was there an actual script to this movie or was everything done in a stream of consciousness way?  Don’t believe me?  For the next several minutes we have characters wanting to chop off peoples heads, say sonnets, do explosive experiments and run around kissing everyone in order to wake up and change the princess back to normal(32:00)!  

 

This silliness goes own for about another 2 minutes and the kings response to these so called wise men plans?  “There is no hope.”(32:57)  That is probably the saneness thing said in this film so far!  Okay so we’re 35mins in I think we now finally have the plot for the film.  To return the princess back to normal.  One question though, where is the Ragman?  He’s been gone for over 30mins.  If he plays no part in the story they why introduce him as the main antagonist in the first place?!  Later on Clara is seen walking in the dark streets when she is acosted by a creepy man in black asking “What are you doing out here little girl?”(35:57)  When even a creeper is questioning your sanity then you really know you have problems!  Fortunately he doesn’t do anything to her but after she tells him the story of the princess he tells her to find the gypsy fortune teller and say “Queen of Time” to her(37:30)duh, Duh DUH!!! Uh, no I don’t know what that phrase is supposed to do.

 

Clara greets the Queen of Time as well as some choppy editing!  The Queen says that she might not be able to to help her and then shows Clara Morpheme and the mice.  Their having a ball and she promises her son(?) that he will marry the princes.  The boy then proceeds to french a picture of the princess!  Ewwwwwww…!(40:19)  Okay so we have about 33 mins left in the film and still haven’t seen the Ragman return.  What was the point of him then?!  Well anyway Clara finds out she has to break Morphea’s “shell of darkness” to break the curse.  Later on Clara tells Franz(who she seems to be not surprised that he’s here)the info so he’s off to war now(43:03).  I know the intent for the end of this scene is supposed to be an emotional goodbye the the acting is as wooden and choppy as the marionettes!  

 

(44:50)We then get a scene with the King’s army getting wound up to go into battle.  I think the king is off his rocker.  He admitted earlier that his troops lost before because they became unwound.  Now he’s doing the same thing again?  Plus it looks like their made of wood, KINDLING!  How successful of an army can you have if an entire regiment can be taken out by the “little match girl”?  Elsewhere Queen Morphea and the rat pack are having a grand ole time.  The party is intercut awkwardly with the nutcrackers marching.  I believe someone forgot to point in their marching theme at the 45:25 mark.  That’s a weird way to drink alcohol but hey whatever works right?

 

The Nutcrackers finally arrive and begin their assault(46:15).  Their trying to blow up the shadow shell.  Okay I know it’s supposed to be industructible but is it wise for the queen just to have it out in the open like that?  The mice make a successful counter attack by using recycled animation to knock the nutcrackers down.  So let me get this straight.  The kings army prior to this film was beaten by coming unwound, is losing here because someone can tap them and make them fall over and a lit match could take them all out?  Why is the king still in power?  IMPEACH HIM PLEASE!  The only way he could come up with a more pathetic plan is with all of his soldiers were made of cheese!   Look at this nonsense!  Now a human just got defeated by getting tripped.  It’s as if he doesn’t have any object permanence(48:05).  So what is Franz big comeback plan?  To rewind the nutcrackers.  Is everyone in the Kings army this stupid(yep!)?

 

Okay just what the hell is going on here?  I think Morphea just unleashed a cat and is surprised when it attacked her and the mice.  Clara sneaks into the palace and Franz takes out the shell but Morphea transforms him into a nutcracker for the rest of his life(the transformation takes about a minute for some reason) and the princess is turned back to normal(49:48).  Whew, that’s a lot how long did that scene take?  What under a minute?  This movie isn’t playing around.  

 

Sometime later at the kings palace the princess is dancing with herself in front of a mirror(51:00).  Everyone seems to be happy but uh, Franz is an unmoving nutcracker and didn’t you earlier Mr. King say that if he defeated Morphea and turned Princess Mary back that he would marry her? (51:50) Okay now the king mentions him but wonders where he is.  So basically once Mary turned back the king had a party before the general of his army returned and give them any news of what happened? (face palm) The film has 22mins left so I’m going to assume that the 2ndary or 3rdary plot is Clara trying to get Franz turned back to normal.  Clara returns and gives everyone the sad new about Franz.  Princess Mary doesn’t take it well and refuses to marry a doll(wait aren’t there real people that have married dolls?).  Clara tries to convince Mary by saying “don’t knock it until you try it”.  Mary counters with “Well why don’t you marry it?”  (52:59)Huh, so did this film inspire millions of kids and Pee Wee Herman with that phrase?  

 

The princess then proceeds to go I’m to pretty for all of this now everybody let’s go back to the party!  So Clara and and inanimate Franz are on their own.  Just how is Clara supposed to get back to the real world?  By WAKING UP! (Shhh you!)(54:24)  Clara makes her way back to the “Queen of Time” to help Franz but she just tells Clara to look into yourself and then disappears.  Ugh…thanks for nothing lady!  Then for about 4 seconds we get a doo-wop chorus?!(56:00)  For the next 2 mins Clara wonders in the dark why some I think 1970’s folk music plays.  Also one of the injured mice is stalking her?  After getting minimal help from a puppeteer (who refers her to see the time keeper)she meets the time keeper who tells her love will save Franz.  She doesn’t get it(01:01:30).  In order for him to be transformed back a sacrifice must be made.  “Equivalent Exchange”(Did Hiromu Arakawa get inspiration from this film?!)?

 

After learning that only true loves sacrifice can transform Franz back this happens(01:03:00).  Okay I’m not sure what’s going on here but I will admit the non stop motion animation looks impressive.  It’s the most creative use of animation I’ve seen in this film.  It also reminds me of the experimental use in the animation medium in the 1970’s.  This scene would mean more to me if I believed in Clara’s love for Franz or in their relationship in general.  Clara is then transported to the land of the happy times and for the first time since the opening of the film music from the ballet is played(or rather a variation of it)(01:05:00).  Are they about to get married.  This was all a dream because Clara wakes up with that gimpy mouse trying to snatch the nutcracker away from her(01:06:30).  That mouse is Morphea’s son and he wants to kill Franz.  So is Morphea dead then?  After a brief wrestling match Clara sacrifices herself to save Franz but she has that glow and this happens(01:08:00 - 01:08:31).  She then proceeds to wake up.  This was all a fever dream.  Fritz arrives and Uncle quotes Walt Disney “Dreams can come true”(or paraphrase).  After a couple of birds make out the film ends with Fritz and Clara staring awkwardly into each others creepily dead eyes and they lived happily ever after.

 

Wait! Franz looks to be a teenager(about 16-17) and Clara is probably about 8-10.  Quick somebody call the cops!  Also Where was the Ragman?!  You could have cut him out and nothing would’ve been lost.

 

WHAT THE HELL WAS ALL THIS?!!

 

 

PRO

The film tries to do something different with the Nutcracker story.

The film has good to great actors involved.

Some of the songs were pretty good.  Especially when their sung by Christopher Lee which reminds me - 

Christopher Lee is the “real” MVP of this film.  Between singing and doing voices for multiple characters this made the film bearable to sit thru.  That said he wasn’t perfect.  He didn’t differentiate his voices enough between each role.  He sounded like Christopher Lee in every one.  

Some of the effects and action scenes are good.

 

CON

Bad acting.  Stiff and wooden(NATCH!) many characters lack any personality or feeling.

 

Choppy editing.  OY! Repeating footage as well as awkward cuts in scenes were head scratching.  Did the filmmakers run out of money or time for this film?

Doesn’t follow the original story or ballet.  Which wouldn’t be a problem except it’s obvious they then didn’t have enough story to make for an entire film

 

Bad writing & storytelling. Padding out a barely more than an hour long film.  It looks like they only wanted to use the nutcracker as a framework and nothing else but then realized that they didn’t have any idea to make up the rest of the film’s running time.

 

Bad character models, design and animation.  There is a creepy feeling to the film some of which I’m sure is intended but also unintended.  The blank thousand mile stare.  The overly stiff movements.  The fact that nearly everyone has the same face/expression ALL THE TIME!  I asked myself why did this fail but the Rankin Bass shows/films succeed?  For one the Rankin Bass have a sense of fun and wonder.  Their stories are paced out well.  Also the design of their puppets are more expressive.  The characters are still stiff(they are wood after all) but with there overly exuberant movements and felt or cotton or cloth that makes up their mustaches and eyebrows they move around giving them a feeling of humanity.  That’s it!  This film lacks humanity.  Also there are times when characters are supposed to be talking out loud but their mouths never move.

 

Recommend:  Oddly, Yes.

 

This is a terrible film however I do recommend it for only 1 type of person.  The person that that claims that there isn’t any truly strange, weird or bad holiday films then they need to see this.  I think it really says something that the studio that made this since then hasn’t made another stop motion film.  Oh yeah that reminds me do you know what studio made this film?  SANRIO.  If that sounds vaguely familiar that maybe because their the company that puts out “HELLO KITTY”.  The mind boggles that a company that has that as their mascot made this.  But maybe it shouldn’t.  I did some checking and have found out that some of their other films around this time(their 2D animated) are a bit weird but in a way completely different from this film.