|Directed by||Takeo Nakamura|
|Produced by||Walt deFaria
Mark L. Rosen
|Written by||Eugene A. Fournier
E.T.A. Hoffmann (story)
Christopher Lee, and
Roddy McDowall (in English-language version)
|Distributed by||Sanrio (Japan)|
March 3, 1979 (Japan)July 6, 1979 (US)
|Running time||82 min.|
Nutcracker Fantasy is a stop motion animated film by Sanrio, very loosely based on Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker and E.T.A. Hoffman's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It was nominated for the 1980 Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and the 1980 Young Artist Award for Best Motion Picture featuring youth. It won the 1980 Young Artist Award for Best Musical Entertainment.
The movie begins with a narration by the adult Clara (Michele Lee) talking about the Ragman, a mysterious old man who roams about the city looking into people's houses, and turns children into mice if he catches them up past their bed time.
Clara (Melissa Gilbert) is excited about her friend Fritz coming to visit the next day and refuses to go to sleep. Her Aunt Gerda (Lurene Tuttle) tries to frighten her with stories about the Ragman, but Clara says she's too grown up to believe in him. Uncle Drosselmeyer (Christopher Lee) startles them with his arrival. He gives Clara a nutcracker doll, which she adores. She promises to go to bed immediately if she can keep it.
Clara awakens in the middle of the night to find her nutcracker gone. She sees a group of mice carrying it down the stairs and follows them into the living room. As she takes back the doll, she's confronted by the leader of the mice, a two-headed rat queen (Jo Anne Worley). The queen orders Clara to hand over the nutcracker, but she refuses. Clara is knocked out just as the nutcracker springs to life to defend her against the mice.
The next morning, Clara finds herself back in her bedroom. She tells her aunt about the mice and her doll being missing, but Gerda insists talking nonsense and is ill with a fever. In her delirious state, Clara goes down to the living room and stares at the grandfather clock. Thinking she sees Uncle Drosselmeyer inside, she climbs in, only to be scared by the Ragman.
She wanders, looking for Drosselmeyer, until she finds herself in a palace. There she sees a portrait of girl identical to herself and a glass coffin containing a sleeping mouse. A king and a group of mourners appear, believing Clara to be their Princess Mary returned. After Clara corrects their mistake, King Goodwin (Dick Van Patten) explains that she's in the Doll Kingdom. They were at war with the mice, led by the two-headed queen Morphia. When defeat seemed inevitable, the dolls surrendered. However, the King refused to agree to Morphia's final term: Princess Mary must marry her son, Gaar. As punishment for refusing, Morphia cursed the princess to look like a hideous mouse and lie in sleep until King Goodwin agrees to the marriage.
King Goodwin gathers all the world's wise men in hopes they can find a way to break the curse, but all their ideas are far fetched and illogical, and an argument quickly breaks out between them. Despairing that no one knows how to help, Clara leaves the castle and wanders the streets. A street singer points her in the direction of The Queen of Time (Eva Gabor), who is known for having the answer to everything. Clara goes to her and asks if she knows how to save the princess and defeat Morphia. The Queen of Time uses her magic al crystal ball to spy on Morphia, revealing the only way to save the princess is to destroy the queen's source of power, the Nut of Darkness. This can only be done if the magical Sword of Pearl is wielded by someone with a pure heart. The Queen of Time provides the sword, but it's up to Clara to find someone to carry it into battle.
Clara returns to the castle, believing Franz, the captain of the guard, has a pure enough heart. She tells him what he must do in order to save the princess. King Goodwin promises Franz his daughter's hand in marriage if he's successful, and Franz leads the doll army off to battle. They arrive as the mice are celebrating Gaar's eminent marriage to the princess. Just as it seems the toy soldiers are losing, Franz's destroys The Nut of Darkness and kills Morphia - but not before she places a curse on him, turning him into a nutcracker doll.
Clara carries the Nutcracker back to the palace, where she finds the court and King Goodwin are celebrating Princess Mary's awakening. Seeing Franz's new state, the princess abandons the marriage promise and calls the Nutcracker ugly. Clara leaves the kingdom to wander in search of anyone who knows how to return Franz to human, unaware that Gaar survived the attack and is following her. She eventually comes across the Watchmaker, who tells her the only way to save Franz is through an act of true, unselfish love. Clara declares she loves Franz, but the Watchmaker says that isn't enough.
Exhausted from travelling, Clara falls asleep. She dreams that Franz is human again and they enter a magical kingdom made of candy. As they're about to ascend stairs to live happily ever after in their castle, Clara's foot becomes stuck. Franz continues without her, leading Clara to grab his foot and beg him not to go. She wakes up to realize she's clutching the Nutcracker as Gaar tries to pull him away. She begs Gaar to spare Franz and kill her instead, but Gaar insists Franz must die for killing his mother. As he's about to stab the Nutcracker, Clara uses her own body as a shield. This frees Franz from the spell and destroys Gaar.
Clara wakes up in bed, with Uncle Drosselmeyer beside her. As Clara is recounting what happened and trying to ask Drosselmeyer what he was doing in the clock, Aunt Gerda comes in to say Fritz has arrived. He comes in, identical to Franz. Older Clara narrates that she and Fritz lived happily ever after.
Voice Cast (in order of appearance)
- Michele Lee- Narrator
- Melissa Gilbert- Clara
- Lurene Tuttle- Aunt Gerda
- Christopher Lee- Uncle Drosselmeyer, Puppeteer, Street Singer, Watchmaker
- Jo Anne Worley- Queen Morphia
- Ken Sansom- Chamberlain
- Dick Van Patten- King Goodwin
- Roddy McDowall- Franz, Fritz
- Eva Gabor- The Queen of Time
- Nutcracker Fantasy has often been confused for a Rankin-Bass production, due to its similar use of stop-motion Animagic animation. Coincidentally, Nutcracker Fantasy's director, Takeo Nakamura, worked as an animator on the Rankin-Bass special, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. 
- In the Japanese version, singer Kaoru Sugita (who was 14 at the time) provided Clara's voice.
- In the American version, certain scenes were edited for violent or scary images. In one scene, for instance, Clara enters the clock and encounters the Ragman. In another scene, Franz is seen cutting through Queen Morphia to get to the Nut of Darkness. Finally there is a scene where Clara is clearly seen as having been stabbed when Gaar tries to destroy the nutcracker.