Maurice Sendak and Carroll Ballard’s Nutcracker

Published September 16, 2009 by Graham


Adapting a beloved ballet into a children’s film is tricky business. Cinematically emulating a child’s wonder at the grandiosity of the theater, especially the jaw-dropping spectacle of The Nutcracker, is almost a futile pursuit, even for a true blue auteur of the genre like Caroll Ballard. The director responsible for The Black Stallion, Fly Away Home, and 2005’s criminally underseen Duma could easily have made a rare misstep with Nutcracker: The Motion Picture. Luckily, however, Ballard had oodles of help from Maurice Sendak.

Sendak’s production design, costumes, and general creative input on the film provide the perfect layer of gritty, craggy humor to a tale that traverses through a dichtomy of dark and light, but often threatens to veer into the saccharine. The dazzling strangeness of Sendak’s subtly sinister influence more than makes up for the unavoidable inadequacies of this ballet-to-film crossover. Nutcracker: The Motion Picture is entirely salvaged by Sendak’s unique ability to immerse us in his breathing, pulsating aesthetic, slicing through the preciousness with a twisted genius almost on par with Herr Drosselmeyer himself.

Watch the full movie here:

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One comment so far

  1. Nadine says:

    I saw this ballet several times growing up in Seattle. Nordstrom’s Christmas window displays were all Maurice Sendak’s miniatures of the sets. Still remember the ballet and window displays fondly.