The cartooning in ''The Nutcracker Prince'' is almost crude, but the animated feature, based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman, goes by in a hurry, and the very small children who attended an advance screening sat very still for it. That may be the ultimate test.
The film, the first full-length animated feature to be done by Lacewood Productions in Canada, also provides us with a very clear vision of the plot. Those who have sat through the ballet without knowing what was going on will know what is going on in the film.
The producers use Tchaikovsky's ''Nutcracker Suite'' as background. It is performed by the London Symphony Orchestra with Boris Brott conducting. That's a plus. So are the voices of Phyllis Diller and Peter O'Toole. Diller speaks for the Mousequeen, and O'Toole is Pantaloon, aide to the Nutcracker.
Kiefer Sutherland does the voice for the Nutcracker, or the young man who has been turned into a Nutcracker by the evil Mousequeen. Canadian actress Megan Follows, who starred in the ''Anne of Green Gables'' television productions, is the voice of Clara, the young lady who is asked to help break the spell that has transformed a handsome prince into a toy.
The producers of the film, done in Ottawa, used rotoscoping for the dance sequence. The Disney people have been using the same technique for years. In this instance, real dancers, who were filmed as they waltzed, served as models for the cartoon images.
This may be the most fluid sequence in the film. The rest is relatively jerky, only a little better than Saturday morning television cartooning. The Lacewood company produces ''The Raccoons,'' a cartoon series done for Canadian television.
''The Nutcracker Prince'' is showing at local theaters. It isn't a long film, and the music, as always, is very easy listening. Adults can always concentrate on that.
The characters play like vintage Disney. The villains are of the darkest hue, and the good guys are so sweet, you can hardly begin to believe them. Would that we could.
Lou Cedrone is the movie critic for The Evening Sun.
''The Nutcracker Prince''
** Animated version of the E.T.A. Hoffman story about a young lady who hopes to turn a toy nutcracker back into a prince.
VOICES: Kiefer Sutherland, Megan Follows, Mike MacDonald, Phyllis Diller, Peter O'Toole.
DIRECTOR: Paul Schibli
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes