The Nutcracker and the Four Realms – Marketing Recap

nutcracker four realms poster3The classic story most famous for its turn as the one ballet everyone has heard of gets another adaptation in this week’s The Nutcracker and The Four Realms. Mackenzie Foy stars as Clara, a young woman who’s still missing her late mother. She’s been searching for a key to unlock a mysterious box left to her by her mother and when she finally finds it she loses it.

The search to find it leads her into a world of magic and mystery as she discovers four fantastic realms, each with its own benevolent ruler save for the Fourth, whose leader Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) is out to take the others by force. It’s up to Clara, then, to restore peace and harmony to the whole of creation.

The Posters

A teaser poster released around the same as the first trailer just shows the movie’s title along with a key that presumably unlocks the four realms. The second poster shows Claire standing on the path leading to a magical-looking castle, the path flanked by guards and an owl looking on from the forefront. “Unlock the mystery” we’re told at the top, inviting audiences in to the world of the movie.

The poster that came out in mid-August seems to be modeled after the one-sheets for the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, putting Clara in the middle of an array that includes locations from the story and a number of the supporting characters, all of which are placed around her. There’s no supporting copy or other tagline here, which is strange. Seems the studio feels the imagery should be enough to get and keep people interested.

A series of character posters put the spotlight on each of the main characters, each in a setting appropriate to their realm and their powers.

nutcracker four realms poster dolbyA Dolby-exclusive poster breaks the design up into four sections, with a primary character in the forefront and supporting characters in the background, each set in one of the four realms. The Real3D poster was a motion poster showing Clara in a music box that’s slowly illuminated as snow falls around her.

It wasn’t clear what they were used or meant for, but a series of “exclusive posters inspired by” the movie were shared on Twitter that were much more creative and artistic than the official versions meant for wide release.

The Trailers

It’s Christmas Eve, we’re told as the first trailer opens, a time of mystery when anything might happen. Anything *does* happen as Clara follows a golden thread from the elegant ball being thrown in her home down hallways and eventually out to a fantastical wooden and snowy landscape. From there we see her encounter tin soldiers, wildly-outfitted characters and more than a little danger.

There’s a more than a little of an Alice In Wonderland vibe here, meaning Tim Burton’s wildly-colored adaptation from a few years ago. The trailer offers on a brief glimpse of Knightly as the Sugar Plum Fairy but promises that we’re going to see the dark side of the legend we all know already.

A short second trailer offers a bit more of the story, showing Clara finding out she’s destined for something greater, part of the path laid out by her inventor mother, though there are obstacles in her way and plenty who don’t want to see her succeed.

The final trailer explains to us – and Clara – there are “troubled realms” out there that she can unlock the secrets of. It’s the first of the series to introduce us to the conflict that lies at the heart of the story, that there’s some sort of war that’s been started in one of the four realms that residents are hopeful Clara will be able to finish.

Online and Social

Disney didn’t create a very robust website for the movie, offering just the trailer, a synopsis, the posters and a small photo gallery. The only other item there is an “Activity Packet” you can download and give to the kids if you’re so interested. There are also Instagram,, Twitter and Facebook profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this began running in late September. They continued playing up, just as the trailer did, how important Claire is and how she had the potential to change the world as well as how this version of the story would be something unexpected for the audience. Another simply presented it as a massive spectacle people wouldn’t want to miss in theaters.

Disney purchased a sponsored Twitter emoji for #DisneysNutcracker showing Clara in her military outfit.

Glade sponsored a pop-up experience recreating the four realms from the movie at The Oculus in New York City that was open to the public and visited by the movie’s stars.

Regal Cinemas offered an exclusive featurette with the cast talking about the movie and its production.

Media and Publicity

EW had the first look still from the movie alongside comments from Foy, Mirren and others in the cast. The movie was also part of the 2018 CineEurope presentation from the studio.

In a significant development the Director’s Guild of America announced that both Lasse Hallstrom, who handled primary production, and Joe Johnston, brought in for reshoots when Hallstrom wasn’t available, would share credit, the first time that’s happened when directors weren’t part of a creative team.

Disney promoted the appearance of some of the movie’s elaborate costumes at Essence Fest in July. A month later EW offered a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. The costumes came back into the spotlight in an interview with designer Jenny Beavan, who talked about how she created the movie’s elaborate fashions. The set design work of Guy Dyas was the subject of this story, which included a clip.

A featurette released in late September had the whole cast talking about the story and how the extensive costume and set work plays into telling that story, as well as how this movie differs from the ballet and other versions people might know. Additional videos focused on Misty Copeland, who plays the ballerina princess and the long time connections the cast has with the Nutcracker ballet and story and all the details contained in the amazing visuals.

Mirren and Freeman both hit the publicity circuit a bit in the days leading up to release to talk about their experience shooting the film and so on.


I don’t mean to sound regressive in my sexual politics, but this seems like Disney is trying too hard to cling to a time when girls just want to be fairy princesses. That may still be true in many cases, but haven’t we moved beyond that in many ways? The campaign tries to update the story and present it as a mix of what we’re already familiar with and The Hunger Games, where a young woman is the sole hope of taking down an oppressive regime, but that only goes so far.

The way the marketing focuses less on the story and more on the visuals – the costumes, the sets and so on – seems to acknowledge one or both of two realities: 1) That audiences are simply looking for spectacle in their film entertainment, and 2) That audiences aren’t going to be motivated by the story itself, so best not to dwell on that.

Picking Up The Spare

The cast talks here about the way the production paid special attention to creating an inclusive film. And Knightly details how she developed the high-pitched voice she uses in the movie. Copeland also explained how she used her movie debut to bring ballet to a broader audience.


Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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