'Nutcracker and the Four Realms' Team on Diversifying the Classic Tale

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Mackenzie Foy (left) and Misty Copeland

"For me to be a brown ballerina representing ballet with this platform, it's incredible," Misty Copeland said at the L.A. premiere of the film on Monday.

The story of The Nutcracker has spread wide into popular culture since its origin in the 1800s, but Disney's newest rendition, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, is aiming to be relevant in 2018. 

At the film's world premiere on Monday night, held at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre, executive producer Sara Smith spoke about the importance of bringing a diverse cast onboard the project.

"We want the movie to look like the world today," Smith told The Hollywood Reporter. "We don't want to be living in the past, we want to be part of the present and the future and that's our world, so we were very considerate about that, I think. We have an amazing cast as a result."

For ballerina Misty Copeland, who performs the major ballet numbers in Nutcracker and the Four Realms, this inclusive casting was particularly meaningful and allowed her a space to represent as a groundbreaking African-American dancer. "It's such an honor to be part of a Disney film, to have such a diverse cast, and for me to be a brown ballerina representing ballet with this platform, it's incredible," Copeland explained on the red carpet.  

As the film is largely based on the 1816 novel The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the story did not originally include any ballet numbers or a role for Copeland, until the filmmakers decided to write her part in. That part is one the dancer is very familiar in, as Copeland said The Nutcracker was "the first ballet I ever saw, the first ballet I ever performed in, and I can't even count how many times I've performed in The Nutcracker. The story, I know it inside and out, I've probably portrayed every single character within the ballet, so it just made sense for me to be a part of it."  

Nutcracker and the Four Realms stars Mackenzie Foy, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jayden Fowora-Knight and Eugenio Derbez, and was directed by Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston. At the premiere, Foy, who plays Clara, detailed how she had been "mesmerized by the beauty and artistry" of The Nutcracker when seeing the ballet as a young girl. 

Preparing for her first starring role, and an iconic one at that, meant plenty of research for Foy, with "a lot of figuring out the dialect, figuring out Clara's emotional complexity, who she is, who she will be, a lot of little things like that. So basically it was just a lot of sticky notes and highlighters and me flipping through the script," she said. 

At the premiere, guests were invited to a pre-party in the Ray Dolby Ballroom, which was transformed into a real-life version of the Four Realms, equipped with stilt walkers, a Sugar Plum Fairy-approved candy bar, crafts and costumes from the movie on display. 

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms hits theaters Friday.