Anastasia is a 1997 animated musical fantasy adventure film produced by Fox Animation, released by 20th Century Fox, and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman.
The evil wizard Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd) puts a hex on the royal Romanovs and young Anastasia (Meg Ryan) disappears when their palace is overrun. Years later, the Grand Duchess (Angela Lansbury) offers a reward for Anastasia's return. Two scheming Russians (John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer), planning to pawn off a phony, hold auditions and choose an orphan girl with a remarkable resemblance to the missing princess. They bring her to Paris for the reward, not knowing she's the real Anastasia.
Why It's A Journey To The Past
- Beautiful and impressive animation that's an amazing step-up from Don Bluth's previous movies such as An American Tail, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Secret of NIMH.
- Great and talented voice acting, such as Meg Ryan, Christopher Lloyd from The Addams Family, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Back to the Future trilogy, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer (who voiced Prospector Pete in Toy Story 2 and Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons), Hank Azaria and Angela Lansbury from Beauty and the Beast.
- In spite of the story of the film and the actual historical events being like night and day when they're compared, it actually manages to execute its plot well, much like Disney's version of Pocahontas released two years prior. Because unlike films like The King & I or Titanic: The Legend Goes On, it manages to not come off as disrespectful towards its historical source material that it takes liberties from, but rather as it's instead its own take on the events.
- The characters are all great and likable.
- Anastasia "Anya" Romanov is a great and very strong protagonist who was raised as an orphan after losing her memory of Rasputin's attack on Russia in her childhood, and sets out on a journey to discover her true heritage. She has an endearing and plucky personality, similar to other fun-loving and adventurous Disney princesses created since the Disney Renaissance era like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Moana from the film of the same name, amongst others.
- Dimitri is a young con-man, a former servant of the Romanovs, and Anastasia's love interest. He goes through a great amount of character development over the course of the film, as initially he was sarcastic, cunning and sly, with a hint of an arrogant streak, which often upset Anya. However, as the film progressed, Dimitri matured and developed into a considerate, understanding and kind-hearted young gentleman.
- The main antagonist, Grigori Rasputin, voiced by Christopher Lloyd (as mentioned above), is an incredibly terrifying villain. And his villain song "In The Dark of the Night" is simply phenomenal with an amazing beat and some truly intense vocals.
- Bartok is a great comic relief servant of the big bad, similar to Iago from Aladdin and LeFou from Beauty and the Beast.
- Pooka is a cute character. And unlike most animal sidekicks in animated films, he actually serves some use in the story. Not much, but he can actually sense danger and warned Dimitri about Anastasia's sleep walking after failing to fight the spirits sent to hypnotize her. Also he started to bark aggressively the moment he felt the demons presence in the train.
- The film stays true to Russian history, despite a few changes.
- Epic score by David Newman, who also composed music for The Brave Little Toaster and Ice Age.
- The musical numbers are great, well-composed and excellent, such as "Once Upon a December" and Rasputin's villain song "In the Dark of the Night" (as previously mentioned in WIR# 4.3).
- The showdown between Anastasia and Rasputin is awesome. Especially its ending, which features Anastasia saving Dimitri and by smashing the sorcerer's reliquary with her foot a total of three times.
- The film could be considered a form of alternate history, as if "What if Anastasia survived the destruction of the Romanov Dynasty?".
- Unlike Pocahontas, which was received poorly in its home country America, it was a huge success in Russia, meaning that the film succeeded in catering to and entertaining its target country.
- It also marked a brief comeback for Don Bluth, after a series of flops over the past five years. Because given how many Don Bluth's films at the time had bombed and received poor reviews from critics, this film helped get the studio back on track by not just being a well-received box office hit (in a similar manner to some of his previous films), but also by actually becoming Don Bluth's most successful film to date. In fact, this might as well be considered the best Don Bluth film since the 1980s.
- Disney buying 20th Century Fox opens the doors for the possibility of Anastasia being added to the Disney Princess lineup.
- Rasputin might be considered too scary for a G-rated film, and his death is pretty disturbing.
- The 2D and CGI blending is hit-and-miss. For example, the bicycles in the song segment "If I Can Learn To Do It".
- Since the real life discovery of Anastasia's corpse in 2007, the whole film can feel not so great like when it was first released, as Anastasia didn't really survive the Russian Revolution, though to be fair, the discovery didn't take place until ten years later after the film was released.
Anastasia was acclaimed by critics, who praised its animation, story, voice acting, characters, and narrative. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 86% based on 56 reviews and an average rating of 7.11/10. The website's consensus reads, "Beautiful animation, an affable take on Russian history, and strong voice performances make Anastasia a winning first film from Fox Animation Studios." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 61 out of 100 based on 19 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
A limited release of Anastasia at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on the weekend of November 14, 1997, grossed $120,541. The following week, the wide release of Anastasia in the United States made $14.1 million (for an average of about $5,692 from 2,478 theaters), which placed it as the #2 film (behind Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) for the weekend of November 21–23, 1997. By the end of its theatrical run, Anastasia had grossed $58.4 million in the North American box office and $81.4 million internationally. The worldwide gross totaled up to about $139.8 million, making it Don Bluth's highest-grossing film to date and beating out his next highest-grossing film, An American Tail, by about $55 million. This was Don Bluth's first financially successful film since All Dogs Go to Heaven.
- This film was the first to use the 1997 20th Century Fox fanfare conducted by David Newman and played by the 20th Century Fox Studio Orchestra.
- Peter O'Toole was the first choice for Rasputin, but Christopher Lloyd was cast based off his connection to the three Back to the Future films. In addition to O'Toole, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Pryce, Tim Curry, Ian McKellen, John Cleese, Sam Elliott, Dennis Hopper, Lance Henriksen, William Hurt, Ralph Fiennes, James Caan, and Willem Dafoe were all also considered to voice Rasputin.
- Bartok was written for Woody Allen to play, but they were reluctant to offer it to him after his abuse accusations came out. In addition to Allen, Samuel E. Wright, Dave Foley, Billy Connolly, Billy Crystal, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Ernie Sabella, John Goodman, Rowan Atkinson, Martin Short, Danny DeVito, and Rodney Dangerfield were all also considered to voice Bartok.