At the beginning of the ballet telling the story of the Four Realms, the conductor mounts the podium and conducts an orchestra appearing in silhouette. This is a reference to the Disney classic 'Fantasia,' which included a segment based on "The Nutcracker Suite."
It is a retelling of E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and Marius Petipa's "The Nutcracker", about a young girl who finds a nutcracker doll among the family's gifts and is charged by her parents to take special care of it.
Took over the original release date for Mulan (2020), pushing that film's release back to December 20 2019, then finally to March 27 2020, when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) took over for a December release.
The music was adapted in part from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite" from 1892 by James Newton Howard, updating the original and adding new tracks as well. For the recording, Gustavo Dudamel conducted the London Philharmonic, while Lang Lang was the piano soloist. Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo contributed the original duet "Fall on Me" for the film, which premiered on Dancing with the Stars' "Disney Night" on October 22, 2018.
This is the first live action Disney film since Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) to be shot in the taller 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the first Disney branded film since Cinderella (2015) to be shot primarily on 35mm film.
In the book and ballet, the Nutcracker is a man who was transformed into a wooden robot by an evil spell, and relies on Marie/Clara to help him break his curse, similar to Beauty and the Beast. In the movie the Nutcracker (Captain Hoffman) is an ordinary man with no wooden qualities and no story about a curse.
Morgan Freeman's character "Drosselmeyer," nearly mirrors his "Lucius Fox" character from the Batman movies. As Drosselmeyer the toy maker and mentor to Clara, herself a technical genius, works in his workshop 'down below' just like Lucius Fox in Applied Sciences department at 'Wayne Enterprises,' for Bruce Wayne. A clock work swan Drosselmeyer was working on failed to work properly as it turned backwards. Clara fixed it for Drosselmeyer by fixing the drive gears idler wheel. In The Dark Knight Rises (2012), 'the Bat' flying vehicle that Fox did not get to fix was repaired by Bruce Wayne, who repaired a program patch in the flight software.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Clara first crosses the threshold to Mother Ginger's fair while leading the group of soldiers, the true villain of the film is foreshadowed, as the music in the background is a fragment of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy", from "The Nutcracker Suite".
Towards the end of the movie, Clara's father recognized the song from the egg as the song to which he shared his first dance with Marie. This song is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Pas de Deux," which is played in the ballet when the Nutcracker is dancing with Clara for the first time.