Hayao Miyazaki’s Nutcracker Illustrations Are Pure Holiday Magic

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There’s certain holiday magic in the fusion of this classic Nutcracker story and Hayao Miyazaki’s signature style.

Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have often drawn from Western literature when crafting their own masterful anime films. This holiday season, official Studio Ghibli art based on The Nutcracker has been spreading over social media, leading some fans to speculate they might be looking at concept art for an upcoming production, or perhaps from some unmade Ghibli film.

It turns out this art wasn’t for a film at all. From 2014-2015, an exhibit opened at the Ghibli Museum centered around the classic Nutcracker story. This art, much of it by Miyazaki himself, was only meant for the exhibit and sadly does not imply there ever was a film in the works. Regardless, there’s certain holiday magic in the fusion of this classic Christmas tale and Miyazaki’s signature style.

What Is The Nutcracker About?

The Nutcracker started life as a story called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann. It has become more famous for the ballet of the same name with the music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as well as multiple adaptations over the years. Recently, Disney released The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, which received a mediocre to negative response from audiences and critics.

The story focuses on a girl named Clara on Christmas Eve who is given a nutcracker as a present. She immediately becomes infatuated with the toy, which, that night, comes to life and grows to the size of a human. An invasion of rats ultimately pushes Clara on a magical adventure through another realm of enchantment, confronting her with the Rat King while dancing with fairies and other magical entities.

At some point in his retirement, Miyazaki became obsessed with The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It’s easy to see how this story of transforming creatures, magical worlds and whimsical strangeness would appeal to the auteur’s sensibilities.

So Why Does This Ghibli Nutcracker Exhibit Exist?

This art exhibit came to be because, at the time Miyazaki did not want to make another movie, but still wanted to apply his artistic skills to something else. In 2014, Hayao Miyazaki had already retired following the release of The Wind Rises, and Studio Ghibli had gone on hiatus from producing new films following the production of When Marnie Was There.

However, Miyazaki wanted to still create experiences for children and was always trying to make the Ghibli Museum a special experience. While he and the studio would eventually return to feature films and start production on the upcoming movies Earwig and the Witch and How Do You Live?, Miyazaki would spend the years before that focusing primarily on exhibits and short films for the Ghibli Museum.

The exhibit was an interactive art exhibit for children of all ages. The artwork is illustrated either by Hayao Miyazaki himself or Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who directed both Arriety and When Marnie Was There. For those enthusiastic both about Christmas time and the magic of Studio Ghibli, these works of art are beautiful slices of enchantment.

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