Disney’s new Christmas movie The Nutcracker And The Four Realms inspires the courage to be yourself

Renowned film maker Lasse Hallström and leading Hollywood stars Keira Knightly and Helen Mirren take the magic of Christmas to new and boundless heights in Disney's latest movie, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms – see it in New Zealand cinemas from November 22.

We all know and love the Christmas tale of The Nutcracker, but in this all-new version Clara – who is played by exciting new young talent McKenzie Foy – finds herself on an extraordinary journey to a parallel world as she searches for a special key that will unlock a gift from her late mother. This world is both baffling and beautiful, filled with magical lands and intriguing inhabitants.

In Disney's version of The Nutcracker, Clara, played by up-and-coming Mackenzie Foy, is a 14-year-old girl who loves science and engineering.

Keira plays the role of Sugar Plum Fairy, the beloved regent of the Land of Sweets (the yummiest of the realms with gingerbread architecture and gum drop decor!). She is virtually unrecognisable with pink cotton candy hair and white porcelain skin and wears a gown that sparkles like crystalised sugar.

"Keira Knightly is magnificent. She brings so much to the character," says producer Mark Gordon.

Helen Mirren brings a new character to life, the much-feared leader of the dark Fourth Realm, Mother Ginger. Helen says the best thing about playing a new character like Mother Ginger is that "you can put into this character whatever you can imagine".

"I just love the idea that she's slightly piratical. She has a wooden sword, her clothes are all tattered and torn and she's not in pristine condition like Sugar Plum. Mother Ginger is very rough and ready."

Just as Disney broke new territory with Frozen, with a theme that celebrated the love between sisters instead of the rather tired 'girl-meets-boy-boy-rescues-girl', the themes in The Nutcracker And the Four Realms centre around realising your potential and finding your strength through the love of your family.

"I love you because you're so different. You see the world in a unique way. When you realise that's your greatest strength, you can change the world, my girl," Clara's mother Marie says to Clara before she dies.

McKenzie explains that Clara is not your typical young Victorian girl. She is complex and curious and "an outcast for being an intelligent young woman in a Victorian society".

Clara has a special bond with her wise but eccentric godfather Drosselmeyer, who is played by the formidable Morgan Freeman.

Filmed in England at Pinewood Studios and various locations in and around London, Lasse Hallström and Mark Gordon worked alongside director Joe Johnston and producer Larry Franco. Sara Smith and Lindy Goldstein are executive producers.

And while the all-new movie isn't a ballet, filmmakers felt the story wouldn't be complete without paying homage to the ballet that endeared the story in the hearts of audiences around the world. Principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre Misty Copeland portrays the Ballerina Princess and celebrated Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin dances as Sweet Cavalier.

Director Lasse Hallström reveals that The Nutcracker inspired his daughter to take up dancing. He enthuses, "This film combines all of the best filmmaking elements — drama, comedy, music, special effects and dance. It was a heavenly experience."

"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is the best kind of Christmas story," adds Joe Johnston. "It's exciting, dramatic, heartwarming and life-affirming."

"There's real heart to the story," says Mark Gordon. "As the father of three young girls, I am very excited to be able to bring this story to the screen."

Magical, aspirational and universally relatable, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms celebrates the real magic of Christmas – the love of family and having the courage to be yourself.

And with its star-studded cast, magical aesthetic and spectacular costumery it's a visual feast and a must-see for the whole family.

See it in New Zealand cinemas from November 22.

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