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Western Animation / The Nutcracker Prince

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The Nutcracker Prince is a 1990 Animated Musical made by Lacewood Productions and released by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment. Based on the E. T. A. Hoffmann's classic book The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and with music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, this animated holiday tale utilizes the vocal talents of such stars as Kiefer Sutherland (in the title role), Peter O'Toole, and Phyllis Diller. The film was produced by Kevin Gillis, creator of The Raccoons. However, the initial box office failure of this film caused Raccoons to be canceled.

The Nutcracker Prince provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Mainly the Mouse Queen when she belittles and ridicules her son after he insults her for preferring to use magic and after her plans backfire on her.
  • Adaptational Badass: The Mouse King in the original play is killed after the duel with the Nutcracker (and off screen). Here he manages to make one final attempt on Clara's life, and on his death throes, no less.
    • This is keeping with the original novel, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, in which the Mouse King was featured much more than the play and is the Big Bad. Although the Mouse King also dies after a second battle with the Nutcracker in the original tale (which happens off the pages,) and doesn’t live long enough to threaten the heroine there.
  • Anachronism Stew: At one point, as the queen is crying and explaining about the Mouse Queen, the king only casually holds a modern day umbrella (in what seemed to be the 1000s during the storybook portion) underneath her crying.
  • Animation Bump: The animation framerate often ranges from almost TV quality to higher quality ala Disney or Don Bluth. One of the most notable examples of the film's better animated sequences is the climax, when the dying Mouse King shows up at the Gingerbread Castle and tries to kill Clara, who fends him off with food and then ducks until he falls to his death.
  • Art Shift: The story told by Drosselmeier to Clara is animated in a more comedic, cartoony way than the rest of the film.
  • Attack the Tail: The Mouse King's tail gets smashed by a collapsing pillar, which was knocked down by a transformed Hans. This later becomes a Running Gag, in which his bent tail either gets burnt or crushed again.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Always Come Back to You." sung by Natasha's Brother and Rachele Cappelli.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: The Mouse Queen herself.
  • Berserk Button: Clara's doll Marie gets angry when her dress is dirtied. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
    • Also, the Mouse King's tail. Attempting to foil his plans will annoy him; damaging his tail will automatically put you on his hit list. Even if you damaged his tail by accident.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Averted. After the Mouse King was stabbed by the Nutcracker and fell from the Christmas tree, his chest is visibly bleeding, and there's even blood on the sword after the Nutcracker pulled it out. Later, the Mouse King shows up at the castle, alive but in his deranged and murderous state and clutching his wounded chest, which is still actively bleeding.
  • Cool Old Guy: Drosselmeier.
  • Dance of Romance: Hans the Nutcracker and Clara have a lovely dance in the Land of the Dolls which ends with the Nutcracker proposing to Clara! Sadly, although she is tempted and although she does love him, she knows that she can’t be a child forever and refuses to stay with him.
  • Darker and Edgier: While the movie is mostly light-hearted and family-friendly, there are some really terrifying scenes. When the Nutcracker stabs the Mouse King, we see blood on the Mouse King's chest. Also, the Mouse King's appearance in Clara's house is a lot more scary than in the flashback told by Drosselmeier (though he does retain his comedic personality).
  • Determinator: The Mouse King. To the point where not even getting stabbed in the chest is able to stop him.
  • Disney Death: When everyone turns to dolls after Clara refuses to stay, the Nutcracker can only watch helplessly as the Mouse King chases after Clara before he reverts back to a toy; he and all the other dolls eventually disappear after the Mouse King died but he is released from his curse and reunites with Clara as Hans.
  • Disneyesque: With the exception of the Story Within a Story, the art style seems to scream Disney. Clara even looks like a younger Ariel.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Mouse King. His death scene involves him plunging off the gingerbread balcony into the waters below, after making a final attempt to murder Clara.
    • Of course, there's a charming little scene before that of the Mouse King staggering after Clara, clutching a fatal wound in his chest and breathing raggedly, barely alive except for a single-minded determination to kill her. So the animators probably decided to go easy on us a little with his death scene.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Mouse King wants revenge against the Nutcracker for the injury to his tail, not knowing or caring that it was an accident. He later expands his hatred to include Clara for stopping his vendetta, but mostly because she injured his tail again.
  • Does Not Like Magic: The Mouse Queen's son sneers at his mother's spells, going instead for more hardcore badassery. This may be because the Mouse Queen belittles him.
  • Duel to the Death: The Nutcracker does battle with the Mouse King in a one-on-one duel. No prizes for guessing who wins.
  • The Dragon: The Mouse King to his mother The Mouse Queen.
  • Dragon Ascendant: The Mouse King after his mother The Mouse Queen dies.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: According to Drosselmeyer, the Krakatooth Nut can only be broken by a gentleman who has never worn boots. Hearing this, the King orders that all the noblemen of his realm be summoned to help break the curse on Princess Perilpat, and that they remove their boots before trying to crack the nut. Somehow, it flew over his head that the conditions of the curse clearly state the gentleman in question has to have never worn boots, not simply the absence of them. In all fairness, one can interpret that the King knew it would be hard to find such a person, and is trying to cut corners to better his chances.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Hans had started out the film as trying to break the curse on Princess Perilpat. But then he is transformed into a nutcracker by the Mouse Queen and he spent many years stuck as the nutcracker. Then, after he defeats the Mouse King, his suggestion that Clara become his princess is rejected due to her wanting to follow her dreams and he transforms back into a Nutcracker just as the Mouse King is trying to kill Clara. Luckily, the curse is finally broken on Hans (perhaps because she admitted that despite realizing that she can’t stay in the Land of the Dolls forever she does love him), and he and Clara are able to reunite with each other at the end of the film.
  • Eye Patchof Power: Uncle Drosselmier
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • The death of the Mouse Queen as she is crushed to death by a pillar after she curses Hans to become the Nutcracker.
    • Also, the death of the Mouse King was pretty brutal as he is stabbed by Hans during their battle. However, this doesn't stop him from trying to go after Clara towards the film's climax despite him dying during this scene.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The king definitely has one. He's willing to have the Mouse Queen and Drosselmeyer executed. This may not be justifiable even in the case of the Mouse Queen.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: The Mouse King is considered this. The rest of the animals are naked.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard / Laser-Guided Karma: The Mouse Queen is killed by the pillars that fall down on her due to Hans falling and knocking them over when she bit him to enact her curse. After she died, her son outright said that would teach her not to use magic.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Drosselmeier magically shrinks Clara so she can visit the Land of the Dolls.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Clara: You're cruel and mean!
    Mouse King: Your flattery won't stop me.
  • Large Ham: The Mouse King is always loud and hammy. He also comes across as Evil Is Hammy.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than its source material.
  • Likable Villain: The Mouse King for some fans.
  • Living Toys: The toys that magically come to life at night, including the Nutcracker himself.
  • Laughably Evil: The Mouse King is both very scary and hilarious at the same time.
  • Made of Iron: The Mouse King suffers a Rasputinian Death and still manages to make one final attempt on Clara's life
  • Mythology Gag: Clara's doll is named Marie because in the novel by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Marie is the protagonist.
    • Also, Dr. Stahlbaum’s Affectionate Nickname for Clara, “Sugar Plum”, is a reference to the Sugar Plum Fairy in the ballet. Clara’s desire to dance ballet might also be a reference to the ballet version of the tale.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the original novel, the Nutcracker's real name was never mentioned. Here, he was named Hans.
    • In one part of the movie, at the beginning, the mother, Ingrid, calls her husband Karl. It's at the moment she was given a beautiful necklace from her husband.
  • Never Say "Die":
    • Averted; during the battle on the Christmas tree, the Mouse King's last word was his shout of "Die!" when he was about to kill the Nutcracker, only to be stabbed in the chest.
    • Averted earlier in the story sequence as well. When the soon-to-be Mouse King sees his mother's dead corpse under a pillar, he exclaims "Momsey! You''re...YOU'RE DEAD!"
  • Nice Mice: Subverted with the mice army not the Mouse Queen or Mouse King as despite many of the mice are more sillier than both the Mouse King and his mother, they are still loyal to their king and try to attack the toys.
  • Ocular Gushers: The queen after the mice eat all the cheese out of the blue cheese cake.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The final scenes indicate that the events with the Nutcracker and the Mouse King were real.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Clara for much of the movie, as a number of scenes takes place in the middle of the night.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Clara's hairbow, and her winter coat.
  • Plucky Girl: Clara.
  • Pretty in Mink: Clara has a fancy, fur-trimmed, hooded winter coat that she wears in the beginning of the movie before she entered her home, and at the end to go see Drosselmeier.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Played with, the Mouse King originally has yellow eyes, but by the time of the present (likely to lack of sleep) his eyes turn an evil shade of pink.
  • Revenge: The Mouse King himself wants vengeance - not for the obvious reason of his mother's death, but for his damaged tail.
    • Though his mother was always demeaning to him, so he's not as eager to defend her honor.
  • Royal Brat: The whole royal family, although the Queen is perhaps the least bratty of the trio.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: During the story within, as many noblemen wait in line for their turns to be blindfolded, the non-blindfolded nobles see one of the broken teeth nobles being carried away with all of his teeth broken, prompting them to have second thoughts and bolt out.
  • Something Only They Would Do: Once the curse is lifted, Hans is returned to normal. After Clara sees his human self, Hans grins and gives Clara a familiar bow and speaks to her, her realizing the same bow and voice is actually Hans and realizing that Hans and the Nutcracker were the same person.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: When Clara is given the opportunity to stay with the Nutcracker in the Land of the Dolls, instead of saying yes, she turns him down upon realizing that she is still just a child and would be separated from her loved ones who need her.
  • Talking Animal: The mice speak some parts of English, but it's mostly the Mouse Queen and her son (who eventually becomes the Mouse King) that speaks and talks to humans.
  • Today, X. Tomorrow, the World!: A variation: The Mouse King himself, upon appearing while the toys begin to awaken, states, "Finally, revenge! Today, King of Mice, tonight, King of Dolls, tomorrow...KING OF EVERYTHING!! Ha-ha-ha-ha!!"
  • Truer to the Text: The film follows more closely to the original book, as it has the story of how the Nutcracker came to be, the Mouse King appearing more frequently, and Clara questioning whether or not her experiences with the Nutcracker were real or just a dream.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The Royal Family. Drosselmeier and Hans turned the Princess back to normal, only to have Hans turned into a Nutcracker doll by the Mouse Queen. The Princess calls Hans ugly and the King banishes them from his Kingdom.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Mouse King after he's mortally wounded by The Nutcracker Prince.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: The King seems to have a fondness for blue cheese cake. This might explain why the Mouse Queen, her son, and all the other mice show up to eat the cake — mice love cheese, after all.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Technically, the Mouse Queen and Mouse King are mice, but they're nasty enough to go here.