It's Christmas at the Stahlbaum home. There' s a huge tree, and many guests arrive to celebrate with the family. Clara's godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, makes magical toys. He entertains the guests with two life-sized dolls that dance around the room. Then he gives gifts to the children, and gives Clara a very special gift of a nutcracker. Her brother, Fritz, is jealous, and grabs the nutcracker and it gets broken! Clara is very upset, so Herr Drosselmeyer repairs the doll before handing it back to her.
Soon after, all the guests leave and the children go to bed. Clara gets up in the night and goes downstairs to get her nutcracker from under the tree. She falls asleep there, and is transported into Christmas fantasy where her nutcracker has grown to the size of a human. When the Mouse King attacks, the Nutcracker Prince tries to valiantly defend young Clara, but is struck down in the battle. Clara in turn saves her Nutcracker Prince by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King and defeating him.
With the nasty Mouse King out of the way, Clara runs to the Nutcracker Prince. When she kisses him, he turns into a human! Then she and her Prince are whisked away through the Enchanted Forest, where they see dancing snowflakes and other wonders. Then they travel further to the Kingdom of the Sweets.
In the Kingdom of Sweets, Clara and the Prince behold the wondrous beauty of the Sugarplum Fairy. She invites the couple to stay for a while and enjoy the entertainment of her subjects. Clara and the prince watch in awe as the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Sweets dance before them.
When the dancers are finished, Clara and her Prince sail home in a magic sleigh made of ice and candy. On Christmas morning, Clara wakes under the tree holding her nutcracker doll.