Archive for the Oddities Category

Flight Themes in the Four Realms

Robert Chapin

A Balloon Basket in the Land of Sweets

For a pop culture moment, let’s consider the mysterious flight elements of Disney’s movie from last winter, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

I say “mysterious” because there are some hidden clues as to why several flight-related themes appear, mostly very subtle, throughout the movie.  For the most part, there is no clear metaphor, no overt allusion, and very little background information that points to this in the story.  As an aviator, these things simply catch my attention.


Birds are portrayed in almost every scene.  Look for this when you watch the movie.  Drosselmeyer’s owl appears every so often as a sort of creepy non-speaking narrator or family member that helps to connect some of the scenes together, but never contributes to the story.  This is one clear flight theme with no greater purpose.  And as I said, the other elements are subtle.  There are birds on the walls, birds in the furniture, birds as lawn ornaments, and less pervasively in the costumes.  But look at the hats.  They all have swans.

Another live bird, a raven, is employed to call out a sense of foreboding as Clara leads an army into the Land of Amusements.

One of the rare acknowledgements of the bird “motif” comes from an interview of the production designer, Guy Dyas.  In his description of Clara’s peacock-and-angel-wings princess throne, he mentions that, “Peacocks, traditionally, are a sign of good luck and goodwill.”  The throne itself is “one of those winks or nudges to the audience to look just a little bit closer behind the meaning behind the visuals that they’re looking at.”

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4 Jul 2019


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