See It On 16mm is getting into the spirit – the super strange spirit – with an unbelievably rare screening of the bizarre and beautiful, stop-motion animated Nutcracker Fantasy., co-presented by Animation Breakdown!
“Let Yourself Believe that Once Upon A Time Good Prevailed Where Evil Existed and Puppets Walked Without Strings” – just by reading its awkward US tagline you know there's something wondrously off about Sanrio's Nutcracker Fantasy. The Hello Kitty magnate and then burgeoning film studio hired Takeo Nakamura, an ex-Rankin-Bass animator, to direct their vaguely festive stop-motion epic and employ the same signature Animagic technique that brought the beloved Rudolph & Co. to life. The titular fantasy seems adapted from a poor German-to-Japanese-to-English translation of E.T.A. Hoffman's original yuletide yarn rather than the beloved ballet, though its melodies are infused with the amazing Moog drenched soundtrack to supergroovy effect.
What results is an awesomely bizarro sugarplum dream, at once familiar and alien. The signifiers of classic Christmas fare are there, from that unmistakable “holiday TV special” style (although far more refined than Rudolph and the Misfits toys, thanks to Sanrio's budget) to the Tchaikovsky tunes to the basic story – under threat of evil rodent army, a young girl journeys to the Kingdom of the Dolls in search of her enchanted nutcracker – except Christmas is never once mentioned and all the elements have been mutated and peppered with a pinch of nightmare dust (several scenes, deemed too dark or strange, were cut from later versions of the American release). Adding to the beautiful confusion are elaborate musical sequences and – in the English version – the voice talents of Christopher Lee (who sings!), Roddy McDowall, Eva Gabor, Dick Van Patten and Jo Anne Worley as the “Nut of Darkness” wielding two-headed rat queen. Yet when mixed together with visually stunning animation throughout, this all makes for a peculiarly delicious confection that has sadly laid largely unsavored for ages.
Incredibly rarely screened and presented here on a gorgeous 16mm print, this long lost stop-motion oddity is a marvel to behold and not to be missed!
And as a bonus, come early for a rare, wintry stop-motion short!
- Rating NR
- Running time 95
- Genre Animation