Captured on Kodak film in Super 35mm and large format 65mm, Walt Disney Pictures’ fantasy adventure, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, has been praised for its sumptuous looks and lovely lensing, created by Oscar-winning cinematographer Linus Sandgren FSF (La La Land, 2016).
Co-directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, and written by Ashleigh Powell, the feature film is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and Marius Petipa's “The Nutcracker.” The narrative follows a young girl who is given a locked egg, with secrets inside passed on from her deceased mother, and who sets out on a magical journey to find the key. The movie stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman.
Under Sandgren’s cinematographic auspices, filming began in October 2016 in South Kensington, London, and then on large and elaborate sets, created by BAFTA-winning production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, that were built at Pinewood Studios, UK. These included the imaginary Land of Sweets, Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and the Land of Amusements, also known as “The Fourth Realm.” Within this scope, the sets encompassed a grand palace with a mighty drawbridge and magnificent ballroom, as well as the Christmas Tree Forest, where the key to the egg hangs in the center of a tree. The costumes were designed by Jenny Beavan, a multiple Oscar-nominee for her work on productions such as The King's Speech (2010), and the double Academy Award-winner for A Room With A View (1985) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Production on The Nutcracker and the Four Realms wrapped in late January 2017.
“The beauty of film is that, unlike digital, it automatically suits a wide variety of different styles and looks,” says Sandgren, who shot Damien Chazelle’s dance musical La La Land and Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris’ 1970’s tennis movie Battle of the Sexes on Kodak 35mm film. Sandgren who followed up The Nutcracker with Chazelle’s Oscar-touted space adventure First Man using a combination of different film formats.
“My decision to use film once again for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms came from the script and Lasse’s desire to create something that would look visually spectacular – a classic movie that would be viewed over and over again during many years to come.
“As soon as I walked on to Guy Hendrix Dyas’ incredible sets at Pinewood and saw the rich and beautiful detail in Jenny Bevan’s costume design, I knew that the best way to present this fantasy adventure and to preserve all of that incredible work would be to use film. Furthermore, the peerless qualities you get with film – such as the details in the highlights and dark shadows, as well as the rendition of firelight and skin tones – went without saying.”
To support the movie’s lavish visual aesthetics and to record what he calls “the best possible look in-camera,” Sandgren adopted a multi-format approach to the production. Typically this saw him using KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213 3-perf Super 35mm film on close-ups and mid-shots, while deploying KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 5-perf 65mm film to capture the details in the sets and costumes on wider-angled shots. Sandgren further developed this multi-format approach on his next production, First Man, using a combination of Kodak film in Super 16mm, 35mm and IMAX formats to support the emotional storytelling.
Regarding his choice of Kodak stocks for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Sandgren remarks, “The 200T and 500T both have a lovely natural look and match very well together in terms of their color rendition. But I knew I could also harness their individual, innate characteristics to support different aspects of the storytelling. For example, the 200T has a slightly finer grain and slightly more dense quality, which I knew would help to bring out the shiny, crispy elements in the set designs, such as the Christmas Tree Forest.
“I have always loved the 500T for the beautiful life it has to itself. With a little more grain and texture than the 200T, it can feel quite romantic. Additionally, in its larger, 65mm, 5-perf form, the image quality is amazing. It has a certain sharpness which I knew would render the intricate details, depth and shadow nuances in the wide shots, and that would also look great when downsized later in post-production to match the 1.85:1 aspect of the final production.”
The 35mm film footage for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was processed at Kodak Film Lab, based on the lot at Pinewood Studios. The 65mm material was developed at Fotokem, as large-format processing was not then available at the Kodak lab in the UK.
“For me, film still remains the best way to provide emotional engagement for the audience,” Sandgren concludes. “The result of using film is that The Nutcracker and the Four Realms has vibrant, captivating images that look magical and intriguing. I am particularly happy with how the 65mm film, with its extraordinary image quality, complemented and revealed the amazing set and costume design.”