The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

As we enter mid-August, trailers geared towards the holiday season are ramping up; one such features the next outing for Disney’s recent line of live-action films in the fantasy / fairy tale genre. Following Maleficent (as a spin-off of Sleeping Beautyand the live-action rendition of Beauty and the Beast) comes The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

The trailer wastes absolutely no time alluding to the famous number from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy.” It belongs in a, well, suiteof classical works, such as Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz,” that are universally recognized and referenced and have since been regurgitated and parodied far and beyond their own original cultural circumstances. It was in fact Disney that first popularized this music as a segment in the original version of Fantasia in 1940, decoupled from its origins in The Nutcracker. However, much like Disney’s previous adaptations, Four Realms promises to hew more strongly towards the plot and vision of E. T. A. Hoffman’s original 1816 story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

 Ticking is a curiously popular trope in trailer right now: The Miseducation of Cameron Postand Lizzie, to name just two recent trailers, rely on it; it’s no different here, as a sped-up Sugarplum motif is interwoven between dialogue and the ticking, designed to immediately incite intrigue in the audioviewer. Much like the recent trailer for The Darkest Minds, vocals feature here, and what’s featured (and somewhat easy to miss) is that the music is in fact a cover of No Doubt’s 90s hit song “Just a Girl,” performed by BRIX (Sophie Dupin); first released in 2012, Dupin’s cover resonates with the film’s story in which the protagonist, Clara, is a young woman challenged with the task of saving the magical world her late mother invented. Part of the soundtrack is this cover, while elsewhere an “epic version” of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” by “Orchestra Cinématique, a London based orchestra signed under Chapel Music, is used.  Underneath is a repeated chord progression that oscillates between the parallel major and minor key, creating a sentimental atmosphere. The moment at 0:23 visually alludes to Fantasia; afterwards, there is a split-second of what appears to be The Nutcracker ballet. 

At 0:37 the intro is over and we hear much more modern musical atmospherics amidst vocals and busy strings with plaintive pitched percussion; the ticking has grown only more prominent. The tremolo strings get more intense, and finally at 0:58 we hear some classic epic percussion, announced in triplets, sounding fairly similar to, for example, this teaser for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

At 1:08 we hear something very clever – almost subliminally, the glockenspiel plays a modified version of the Sugarplum motif just beneath all of the other orchestration. It’s subtle enough that the casual moviegoer might not even pick up on it identifiably until about 1:12, when it surfaces for a moment with the title cards, assiduously integrated with the rest of the track.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms arrives in theatres November 2nd.

– Curtis Perry