The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Written byAshleigh Powell[1]
Based on
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyLinus Sandgren
Edited byStuart Levy
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date
  • October 29, 2018 (2018-10-29) (Dolby Theatre)
  • November 2, 2018 (2018-11-02) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$120–133 million[3][4]
Box office$102.2 million[5]

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a 2018 American fantasy adventure film directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston and written by Ashleigh Powell. It is a retelling of E. T. A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and Marius Petipa's The Nutcracker,[1] about a young girl who is gifted a locked egg from her deceased mother and sets out in a magical land to retrieve the key. The film stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman.

The film was announced in March 2016 with Hallström directing a script by Powell. Much of the cast signed on that summer, and filming began in October at Pinewood Studios, lasting through January 2017. In December 2017, it was announced Joe Johnston would direct a month of reshoots written by Tom McCarthy, with Hallström agreeing to Johnson receiving co-directing credit.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms premiered in Los Angeles on October 29, 2018, and was released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures in the United States on November 2, 2018, in Real D 3D and Dolby Cinema. The film received generally unfavorable reviews from critics, who called the film "soulless" and "incoherent", criticizing the slow pace and lack of dance numbers, although the visual effects received some praise.[6][3]


In Victorian London in England, one Christmas Eve, Mr. Stahlbaum gives his children Christmas presents to fulfill his wife Marie's dying wish. The younger daughter, Clara, receives a handcrafted egg-shaped box, which she is unable to unlock. In the package, she discovers a note from her mother that states that the inside of the egg is all she would ever need. The Stahlbaum family then heads to a Christmas Eve ball, hosted by the children's godfather and skilled engineer Drosselmeyer. Refusing to dance with her father, Clara scurries from the crowd to ask Drosselmeyer how to unlock her egg. He then reveals to Clara that the egg was a creation of his that he gifted to Clara's mother when she was younger, and that her mother's wish was to bestow the gift to her daughter.

Returning to the ballroom, Clara gets scolded by her father for disobeying him and not dancing with him. She calls him self-absorbed and obsessed with his family's image since her mother's passing, after which Drosselmeyer announces it being time for the children to receive their gifts. Clara finds her string with her name on it, signifying her gift, and follows it into a forest in a parallel world where she sees the key. Before she can grab it, a mouse snatches it. Unable to reach the mouse, which crosses a frozen-over lake, Clara approaches Captain Philip Hoffman. He leads her across the bridge into the Fourth Realm, but they are unable to obtain the key from the mice. Captain Philip then guides Clara to the palace, where she meets three regents of each land. They tell Clara that they are at war with the Land of Amusements which they now refer to as "the Fourth Realm".

Watching a ballet that tells the story of their world's creation, the Sugar Plum Fairy, regent of the Land of Sweets, explains to Clara that her mother created this world as a young girl. She later explains that Marie animated everyone with a machine that can turn toys into real-life people. Sugar Plum says that she can use this machine to defend the other three realms against Mother Ginger, the Regent of the Fourth Realm, but it needs a key. Clara notices that the machine's keyhole matches that of the one on her egg. Clara and her soldiers head towards Mother Ginger and steal the key the mouse had snatched. However, Clara is disappointed upon discovering that the egg is only a music box.

Once Sugar Plum obtains the key, she uses the machine to turn toy soldiers into life-size soldiers that obey her every command, including her command to attack the Fourth Realm. She reveals that the machine can turn this world's people back into toys as well, and intends that to be the fate of the other regents, revealing she had lied about Mother Ginger who, with her people, only resisted against Sugar Plum's plan. Clara resists, and Sugar Plum imprisons Clara, Captain Philip, Shiver, and Hawthorne.

When Clara opens her egg-shaped music box again, she discovers that the top flips up to reveal a mirror, illustrating that all she needed was herself. She and the other prisoners escape and she and Captain Philip are then greeted by one of Mother Ginger's mice who shows Clara another way into the machine room and guides Captain Philip to Mother Ginger to convince her to help Clara overthrow Sugar Plum. Clara enters the machine room and shuts down the machine while fighting off soldiers. Mother Ginger comes to her aid and helps her to fight off the soldiers. Sugar Plum ultimately traps Mother Ginger and attempts to turn her back into a toy with the machine. However, Clara tinkers with the machine so that it aims at Sugar Plum. The machine zaps and turns her back into a porcelain doll as punishment for high treason to the Realms, saving Mother Ginger.

Thanked for restoring peace among the Realms, Clara promises to visit the Realms in the future and returns back to London, where time has hardly passed since she left. She then approaches her father, apologizes for her earlier behaviour, and asks him to dance. He accepts, and Clara opens her music box. Clara's father becomes emotional and reveals that the music box's song was the first song that he and Clara's mother had ever danced to. The two then continue to dance throughout the night.


  • Mackenzie Foy as Clara Stahlbaum, a young girl who travels into the Four Realms, searching for a key of a gift from her late mother Marie.
  • Jayden Fowora-Knight as Captain Philip Hoffman, a nutcracker who helps Clara on her journey.
  • Keira Knightley as The Sugar Plum Fairy, the tyranical regent of the Land of Sweets.
  • Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger, regent of the Land of Amusements, also known as The Fourth Realm.
  • Morgan Freeman as Drosselmeyer, Clara's godfather, who gives her a magical gift that once belonged to her mother.
  • Misty Copeland as The Ballerina Princess, a gifted dancer in the mysterious Four Realms.
  • Eugenio Derbez as Hawthorne, regent of the Land of Flowers.
  • Richard E. Grant as Shiver, regent of the Land of Snowflakes.
  • Matthew Macfadyen as Benjamin Stahlbaum, Clara's father, a widower following the death of his wife Marie.
  • Sergei Polunin as The Sweets Cavalier, a dancer, who performs alongside the Ballerina Princess.
  • Anna Madeley as Marie Stahlbaum, Clara's mother who created and ruled over the Four Realms as a child.
  • Ellie Bamber as Louise Stahlbaum, Clara's older sister.
  • Tom Sweet as Fritz Stahlbaum, Clara's younger brother.
  • Jack Whitehall as Harlequin, a guard at The Palace of the Four Realms.
  • Omid Djalili as Cavalier, another guard at The Palace of the Four Realms, and Harlequin's cohort.
  • Meera Syal as The Stahlbaum’s Cook, a member of staff in the Stahlbaum household.
  • Charles "Lil Buck" Riley as The Mouse King, ruler of the legion of mice. Riley also provided the choreography and motion capture performance for the character.

Although it was originally announced that Miranda Hart had been cast in the role of The Dew Drop Fairy, she did not appear in the final cut of the theatrical release for the film. Maestro Gustavo Dudamel has a brief cameo conducting an orchestra in a shot modeled after the Toccata and Fugue in D minor segment of Fantasia.



On March 4, 2016, the project was first announced, which stated that Walt Disney Pictures was developing The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, with Lasse Hallström set to direct, continuing its model of developing classic fairy tales. The project is based on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann, with Ashleigh Powell on board to write the script.[7]


In July 2016, Mackenzie Foy, Misty Copeland, and Morgan Freeman joined the cast.[8][9][10] In August 2016, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren joined the cast.[11][12] In September 2016, Ellie Bamber joined the cast.[13] In October 2016, Miranda Hart joined the cast,[14] however, her character was later removed from the film. In March 2017, Eugenio Derbez confirmed that he had been cast in the film.[15] Later, it was revealed that Jack Whitehall had joined the cast.[16]


Filming began in October 2016 in South Kensington and Pinewood Studios in England, and wrapped in late January 2017.[17] In December 2017, it was reported that Joe Johnston would helm 32 days of reshoots, scripted by Tom McCarthy, due to Hallström being unavailable. Hallström would still oversee post-production.[18] It was later revealed that Hallström and Johnston had voluntarily decided to receive a joint directorial credit for the film.[19] The production had a total budget of about $132.9 million, including spending $109.6 million (£85.6 million) in the UK.[4]

Music and soundtrack[edit]

The music was adapted in part from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite from 1892 by James Newton Howard, updating the original and adding new tracks as well.[20] For the recording, Gustavo Dudamel conducted the London Philharmonia Orchestra, while Lang Lang was the piano soloist.[21] Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo contributed the original duet "Fall on Me" for the film, which premiered on Dancing with the Stars' "Disney Night" on October 22, 2018.[22] The soundtrack was released on October 26, 2018.[21]


The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was released on November 2, 2018 in 2D and Real D 3D by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, replacing the original date set for Disney's live adaptation of Mulan.[23][24] The teaser trailer was released on December 19, 2017.[25] Another trailer was released August 8, 2018.[26] Two days later, on August 10, 2018, a sneak peek of the film aired on Disney Channel during a new episode of Andi Mack. There was also a trailer that first came out in theatres with showings of Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Christopher Robin before going online on September 4 of that year.


Box office[edit]

As of November 16, 2018, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms has grossed $40.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $61.9 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $102.2 million.[5]

In the United States and Canada, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was released alongside Nobody's Fool and Bohemian Rhapsody, and was projected to gross $20–24 million from 3,766 theaters in its opening weekend.[27] It made $5.89 million on its first day, including $625,000 from Thursday night previews, the lowest figure for a Disney film released in over 2,000 theaters since The Finest Hours in January 2016. It went on to debut to $20.35 million, finishing second behind Bohemian Rhapsody. It was the third big-budgeted film to post a disappointing opening for Disney in 2018 after A Wrinkle in Time and Solo: A Star Wars Story, although Deadline Hollywood, who blamed the early-November release date and poor reviews, noted Disney's Marvel and Pixar films from 2018 would offset any possible losses the film would suffer.[3]

The film was released in 45 other countries alongside the US, grossing $39.2 million. Its top markets were $12 million in China, $5.4 million in Italy, Germany ($2.7M), Mexico ($2.3 million), Spain ($2.2 million), as well as $2.1 million in the United Kingdom.[28]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 32% based on 163 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Lacking a transporting yuletide story or dazzling dance routines, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a hollow holiday confection that's lovely to look at – and easy to forget."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 39 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it 3 out of 5 stars and a 49% "definite recommend".[3]

David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of "D+", calling the film "empty but eye-popping", writing "Watching a visually spectacular but virtually soulless new family movie like The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, it's tempting to wonder if such eye-popping dreck has any hope of sticking with impressionable young audiences. Is there any chance that the kids of today might be nostalgic for this hyper-saturated nonsense tomorrow?"[31] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap also gave the film a negative review, writing "The 'child travels to a magical land and learns things' trope has been the basis of many beloved stories, from The Wizard of Oz to The Phantom Tollbooth to The Chronicles of Narnia. But it's not a foolproof device, particularly when the magical land in question never makes much narrative sense; besides, how can the Four Realms be magical when the London where Clara already lives is so obviously a cartoon? Both the 'real' world and the fake one are ugly, overdone, and lacking any visual connection to gravity let alone reality."[32]


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  2. ^ "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms". AMC Theatres. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
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  12. ^ Kroll, Justin (2016-08-25). "Helen Mirren Joins Disney's 'The Nutcracker'". Variety. Retrieved 2017-04-01.
  13. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (2016-09-30). "'Nocturnal Animals' Ellie Bamber Set For Disney's 'Nutcracker And The Four Realms'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
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  15. ^ "Eugenio Derbez recibirá Premio CinemaCon". El Universal (in Spanish). 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2017-04-01.
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  17. ^ "Mary Poppins Returns films next week". 2017-01-26. Retrieved 2017-04-02. The studio’s new take on the classic tale, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, wraps a four-month UK shoot imminently.
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  20. ^ Bundel, Ani. "'The Nutcracker & The Four Realms' Soundtrack Will Put You In The Holiday Spirit". Elite Daily. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  21. ^ a b "'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  22. ^ Fremont, Maggie (October 23, 2018). "Dancing With the Stars recap: Will a little Disney magic help our contestants perform?". Entertainment Weekly. Meredith Corporation. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  23. ^ Snetiker, Marc (2017-07-15). "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms debuts first trailer, sets release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  24. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (July 15, 2017). "Disney's 'Nutcracker and the Four Realms' Sets Fall 2018 Release, Bumping Live-Action 'Mulan'". The Wrap. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  25. ^ Biedenharn, Isabella (December 19, 2017). "Watch the magical first trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  26. ^ Forstadt, Jillian (August 8, 2018). "'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' Trailer: Mackenzie Foy Leads Disney's Star-Studded Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  27. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (October 30, 2018). "Can 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Find Box Office Success Despite Tepid Reviews?". TheWrap. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
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