Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (Blu-ray Review)

Brought to you by Olive Films, Tchaikovsky’s classic musical fantasy Nutcracker, The Motion Picture features members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. This is the classic holiday story of Clara, a young girl who dreams of a prince and a magical kingdom of sweets. Led by the odd toymaker Drosselmeier she is guided into a land of enchanted toys, giant mice, and sugary sweets. The film is directed by Carroll Ballard, conceived by Kent Stowell and Maurice Sendak, photographed by Stephen H. Burum, with the music of Tchaikovsky conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. A great film to bring you that great holiday feeling.


Nutcracker: The Motion Picture is a beautiful film directed by Carroll Ballard. The adaptation Ballard made is very faithful to its source material thanks to Maurice Sendak and Choreographer Kent Stowell. It is interesting for me personally to watch this film, having viewed it many times previously as well as many other renditions and live productions. As a former ballet dancer Nutcracker holds a special place in my heart and in my holiday season.

The adaptation we view here seems odd because of its dark tone and sexual subtext, not that it’s new, but because it has not been altered. The film does not soften any of these aspects, but rather plays into them. The Pacific Northwest Ballet does a beautiful job with this classic production with a few differences from what most people would be familiar with, such as the snow forest through which little Clara and her prince pass on their journey to the candy kingdom is full of tall slender birch trees rather than snow-covered firs. The strongest and most impressive of the performance I saw would be Godfather Drosselmeier in all of his great mystery and uniqueness.


The visual style of this film is different. I often find it difficult to watch filmed live theatre as it tends to fall flat. This film is very inventive, the way the close-ups and shots of the entire stage are used together allows one to enjoy the talented PNB dancers without having it feel like just a taping of theatre. This style makes the story feel that much more dreamlike, adding to the obscureness.  Ballard has always been a director who uses movement very well, it seems fitting to have him direct such a film as this.



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Original aspect ratio: 1:85:1

Clarity/Detail: This film looks stunning, from the otherworldly colors to the deeply shadowed scenes, the film is so engaging due to the great look of every scene.

Depth: The depth of the stage performance is used throughout the film quite well. Great lighting and direction make the production look large and dimensional.

Black Levels: Blacks are quite deep and rich in this image. Details are clear.  No crushing witnessed during the film.

Color Reproduction:  Very vivid colors, this movie has that mystical feeling right down to the color reproduction.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance from start to finish.

Noise/Artifacts: There is minor noise in this transfer and the image is sharp with a nice amount of grain.


Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The music of Tchaikovsky provides that very familiar holiday sound with good balance in this film.

Surround Sound Presentation: n/a

Dialogue Reproduction: The few scenes with narration are very clear, every word is understood.




Nutcracker: The Motion Picture is a beautiful yet slightly unsettling film combining a great theatrical production with excellent film-making. A must see for the holiday season. The costumes, design, and ultimately the magic of a ballet looks amazing in this Olive Films release.

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