As the traditional Nutcracker hits ballet company stages across the country this month, Disney presents an updated take with the film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. A fusion of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and The Nutcracker ballet, the movie follows Clara as she unlocks a box from her late mother and is promptly transported into a fantastical world, where she meets a soldier named Phillip. Together, they adventure through the Land of Snowflakes, the Land of Flowers, the Land of Sweets, and the Fourth Realm, where they must defeat the cruel Mother Ginger. But there's still plenty of dance: Misty Copeland stars as The Ballerina, Lil Buck created the movement for the Mouse King, and Zachary Catazaro and Sergei Polunin both make appearances. Dance Spirit caught up with Lil Buck to get the inside scoop.
Tell us a little bit about your character, the Mouse King.
Lil Buck: It's so cool the way they put this character together in the film. The special effects are incredible and over-the-top. You won't see my face, but you'll see my exact movements, so if you know how I move, you'll know it's me.
What are the Mouse King's movements like?
LB: The choreography is based on my subtle movements, how I walk, etc. There's not much dancing, but I added a lot of signature things. The point was for the Mouse King to always look like he's in motion, even if he's standing still. I had to work on and visualize every part of my body being its own living thing, its own organism.
It's funny because I'd actually trained for this role without even knowing it. When I was 16, I was a part of New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis, TN, and we used to perform a version of The Nutcracker, called Nut Remix, which featured different genres of dance. I was the Mouse King! It's a weird coincidence.
What was the filming process like?
LB: The process was amazing. As a dancer, any film is a big deal. I've been on film sets before, but this studio and set was ginormous. It was like walking into a whole other world, it was so magical.
What about the film excites you most?
LB: There's a lot of action and adventure in this new story. You get to see The Nutcracker in a different way. I'm on the edge of my seat when I watch it, and I'm in it. I can't wait to see all of the people that were a part of this film again at the premiere. I'd always wanted to work with Misty Copeland. It means a lot that Disney kept the dance aspect of the story alive. Dance is such an important part of The Nutcracker, so I'm excited for it to touch people's hearts.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opens in movie theaters across the country on Nov. 2.
A version of this story appeared in the November 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Nutcracker Takes to the Big Screen."