It is a sad day when people cannot remember a great film and even worse when they can remember the terrible films, good or bad we all had these kinds of movies in our lives and unfortunately for it, Anastasia lands in the forgotten category. No one really knows why, maybe being from Fox Animation or maybe because it just did not reach to a Disney standard but it has become a piece of my for sure forgotten childhood.
Disney have pretty much had the majority shareholder when it comes to animated princess films and if the story is in fact true to life that’s even better but let’s extract all the negative or horrific actions from the true story and make a cute and sparkly version, whether it be a grim fairy tale or a piece of history you can pretty much guarantee Disney have covered it.
So when Don Bluth and Fox Animation prepped to release Anastasia in 1997 is it any wonder everyone assumed it was Disney but the same year Disney were too busy releasing Hercules. Where Don Bluth was now a household name in the animation world Anastasia follows the bankruptcy of Sullivan Bluth bringing Bluth and Gary Goldman back to the US only to be head hunted and hired by Fox to be the creative side of the animation studio which was founded in 1994.
To date Anastasia is the most profitable film for both Don Bluth and Fox Animation which shut its production doors in 2000 after a string of direct to video releases and the flop of its final film Titan A.E.
Don Bluth was never one to shy away from a difficult subject matter and often made them the focus of his animated classics, whether it be about starting a new life far away while animating the “American dream” in An American Tail or simply the uncomfortable subject matter of death itself in All Dogs Go To Heaven. Anastasia since based on a “true” story for the most part could be his riskiest move yet having a literal history altering story and putting some sparkles on there for good measure, bringing in objections from many historians for the retelling of the story.
Despite all going against it Anastasia was actually a success in the box office bringing in over $139 million worldwide and was even nominated for two Academy Awards for “Best Original Song” and “Best Original Musical or Comedy Score”.
My Full Experience
I am a Disney girl through and through meaning I am a loyal follower of the main mouse but this film even as a child opened my eyes to a whole new experience. That sounds dramatic but when I think about it I saw this film when I was seven and even then I could tell it was not Disney and it was possibly better than Disney could be. Why? Because it treated all viewers the same, sure there was some adult humor in there for parents but there was universal enjoyment in it because as a child you were not being treated as a stupid little person and adults could enjoy it without feeling like a child. Even when it fools my own mother who brought it home thinking it was Disney.
If you haven’t guessed already this films origins is ripped right out of our history books, we all know the story without actually knowing it. Set in the early 1900’s and is based around the real life Anastasia Romanova, the Grand Duchess of Russia. In these interpretation however Anastasia escapes the Russian Revolution which leads to the Soviet Union forming. The film’s story follows an 18 year old orphan named Anya who teams up unknowingly at first with two con men who make her believe she is the missing Grand Duchess, all Anya hopes is she is the Grand Duchess and can find her family, the family she knows she has, somewhere out there and the only clue she has is a locket that reads “together in Paris”.
A heavy material to cover to be sure but Don Bluth as always does it with such finesse that you nearly want to believe his version of events although tragic, it is far better than the real life one.
This film brings to life a range of fantastically thought out plots and characters, even bringing magic into the mix while making out that it was Rasputin’s curse on the imperial family that began the Russian Revolution. The narrative was excellently thought out and executed, Anya as a character is very well voiced with Meg Ryan at the mic but the character herself is brilliantly designed, she is a rough round the edges orphan who can talk the talk and walk the walk, she stands up for herself and is not afraid to get her hands dirty but she is a relentless dreamer of who she could be and dreams of sparkles with ballrooms full of friends of family. Her character is realistic for her time and engages with those around her brilliantly.
I cannot understand why people forget about this film, it literally has everything. A fantastic history based narrative, outstanding dialogue and characters, beautiful animation, all that 90’s CGI we love to hate and a musical score that could make even the most cynical watcher well up. Anastasia has only grown better with time and remains an animated classic even now, if you have not seen it go watch it, you won’t be disappointed.