The Nutcracker (1973 film)

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The Nutcracker
Directed by Boris Stepantsev
Boris Larin
Produced by Bernard Sofronski
Written by Boris Stepantsev
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Release date(s) 1973
Running time 27 min. 6 sec.
Country  Soviet Union

The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, transcribed as Schelkunchik) is a 1973 Soviet/Russian animated film from the Soyuzmultfilm studio directed by Boris Stepantsev and based partly on Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, but more closely on E.T.A. Hoffmann's novelette The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the story which inspired the ballet.

Ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who himself starred in his own classic TV edition of The Nutcracker in 1977, included the 1973 animated film as part of his PBS series Stories from my Childhood, of which he was the executive producer. For the U.S. telecast, narration spoken first by Hans Conried and later by Shirley MacLaine was added as well as a version without any narration. There is no dialogue in the original film, except for a few "chipmunk"-like squeals when the mice vanish and the squeals and laughter of the children in the party sequence. The music is taken from several of Tchaikovsky's compositions aside from The Nutcracker, including Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.

Plot[edit]

During the opening credits, a mouse soldier is climbing around a Christmas tree with a light.

The first scene is a Christmas party where numerous children are celebrating. The female protagonist, an unnamed girl who works as a maid, watches the household children frolicking around. A boy begins using a nutcracker to crack nuts, but he is quite brutal with it and eventually leaves the nutcracker with a nut stuck in its mouth. When the party is over late at night, the girl comes down to the hall for cleaning, but the night is full with magic, which manifests firstly in the maid's broom animating and dancing with her. She eventually finds the nutcracker on the floor. When she kisses him, he comes to life and is devastated when he sees what he has become.

The story of how he became the nutcracker is then told. There was a party at a royal castle to celebrate the prince's birthday, which was interrupted by the arrival of the three-headed mouse queen and her spoiled brat son, who both behaved very rudely and refused to leave or improve their manners. In exasperation, the king entered a chamber to obtain a poison against the mouse queen, but was locked in by the mouse prince. The mouse prince then started harassing the queen and the baby prince, and when the prince hit the mouse prince, its tail got stuck under the cradle and was hurt. In retaliation, the vengeful mouse queen had cursed the baby prince, turning him into a nutcracker, just before she was vanquished by the king. The king and queen were devastated, and the entire hall was petrified while the mouse prince escaped as the new mouse king. Eventually, the nutcracker came to hang as an ornament on the Christmas tree within this house.

Just after the nutcracker has finished his story, mice soldiers begin to appear in the hall, followed by the king of mice. The soldiers try to get the nutcracker, but the girl stops them, leading the mouse king to shrink and capture her. The nutcracker brings the toys around the Christmas tree to life, and a war is fought between the toys and mice. The nutcracker is captured, bound and about to be whipped to pieces by the mouse king when the girl throws her wooden clog at him, causing the king to vanish in a puff of green smoke which also decimates his army the moment they inhale it and they started sneezing.

The clog transforms into a glittering shoe. When the nutcracker takes up the shoe, his nutcracker shell falls away and he is restored to his human (and now young adult) self. He puts the shoe on the girl's foot, and her maid's gown is transformed into a princess costume. The two dance to the royal castle to the music of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; the king and queen are brought back to life through the Waltz of the Flowers, and the girl and the prince pass into the realm. All that is left behind of them in the human world are the girl's wooden clogs and the crumbled remains of the nutcracker's shell lying before the Christmas tree.

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