Disney's upcoming live-action film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, feels like a bit of an outlier for more reasons that one.
First off, while Disney has never shied away from re-telling stories (see their recent success with turning their library of classic animated films into live-action ones), making baseless live-action versions of stories in the public domain has not been their style in recent years. They prefer surer bets, which is why every other film they've released this year has either been a remake, sequel, or spin-off to a Dinsey-owned property.
But what if The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is more than just an adaptation of the classic ballet? What if it actually is part of a pre-established Disney property?
In 1940, Walt Disney Studios released what many consider to be their magnum opus; Fantasia. A daring animated film that combined classical music orchestrations with some of the most visionary art the studio has ever created, it was misunderstood in its time but has come to be revered as a classic. And one of the sequences from Fantasia just so happens to feature pieces of music from Tchaikovsky's original Nutcracker ballet.
So what if The Nutcracker and the Four Realms isn't just a feature-length live-action adaptation of this Fantasia sequence, but also a film meant to kick off a Fantasia Cinematic Universe?
This may sound crazy but there's precedent. For starters, in the first full-length trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a single shot from the original Fantasia sequence is briefly shown.
And while the narrative of the upcoming film may not look all that similar to the Fantasia sequence's on the surface, it's important to remember that the bit in Fantasia was only covering snippets of Tchaikovsky's ballet. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, on the other hand, is adapting the entirety of the ballet, so there's a strong chance that audiences will see the Fantasia sequence recreated.
But perhaps more importantly, Disney has been hungry for live-action versions of the Fantasia sequences for years. Fantasia features seven full animated sequences, each of which has become iconic in their own right and each of which offers ample but vastly different creative opportunities.
All the way back in 2010, they attempted this with a live-action version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice starring Nic Cage, with the film ultimately flopping. But they've also had a live-action adaptation of the Night on Bald Mountain sequence in varying stages of development for years now that they've been suspiciously too quiet about recently. THR broke that Disney was actively working on it all the way back in 2015 but there has been little-to-no word on it since then.
There's an update every-other-week on their other live-action works, but not hardly a word on this since 2015? It's almost as if Disney is deliberately keeping things hushed, as if there's some big news on the horizon...
Disney has learned first-hand the value of cinematic universes and of making live-action remakes of their beloved animated films. Which is exactly why The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is going to see the studio attempting to kick off a series of films that combine the two, remaking sequences from Fantasia into full-length, interconnected films.