Anastasia (Don Bluth, 1997)

“The daughter of the last Russian Tsar, Nicolas II, Anastasia is found by two Russian con men, Dimitri and Vladimir, who seek the reward that her grandmother, the Dowager Empress Marie, promised to the ones who’ll find her. But the evil mystic of the Tsar family, Rasputin, still wants the Romanov family to be destroyed forever.”

– Anonymous, IMDB.

This version of Anastasia is brought to us by Don Bluth and Fox Animation studios. The film was the first in a long-term deal with Fox to produce a series of animated features. Anastasia was released November 21st, 1997. A week prior Disney re-released The Little Mermaid, which Disney claims is a coincidence. Disney also refused to advertise the film on ABC, and banned its corporate sponsors from airing clips of the movie during commercials. Disney spokesmen denied any allegations of studio rivalry. The film is one of the more well received movies on this blog, receiving a 85% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Some thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below)…
As one might expect from a rapidly aging 90s kid, I saw Anastasia when I was younger and so I have a nostalgic fondness for the film. That said, I do think that this film holds up, even without the filter of nostalgia. It’s likely a result of Don Bluth throwing his hands up and going “Fine! You want Disney, I’ll give you Disney!”.

I find it a little hard to talk about Anastasia because I feel like it’s much easier for me to talk about a bad film than it is to talk about a good film. What little bad I do have to talk about regarding Anastasia feels like nitpicking.

Don Bluth knows how to deliver on impressive visuals. Even in his worst films he usually succeeds in making a visual impact, be it through the backgrounds, animation, or in Anastasia’s case, both. The songs also really stick with me, Once Upon a December in particular is a huge favourite of mine (bolstered by the visuals that accompany the song in the movie). I am definitely not the best judge of music, but I’d like to think that the fact that Anastasia has since become a Broadway musical gives my affection towards the song some validity. Lastly, the story feels well told. Personally, I don’t feel like the film drags at all, everything progresses logically, and there’s never a point in the story where I feel lost.

I will say, I kinda feel like I could do without Bartok. At the very least, I’d be curious to see what the film could’ve been like without him. That said, he does have a role to fill in the movie, so he’s not as bad as some other animal sidekicks we’ve seen, who only exist as an attempt to appeal to younger audience members. I’m just not convinced he was a necessary character.

In other words… if you’re looking for a Bad Princess movie, Anastasia might be too good for you! There’s still some giggles to be had in this one, so maybe treat this one as a palette cleanser after watching a worse movie.


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