Anastasia (1997 film)

Anastasia (1997 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Bluth
Gary Goldman
Produced by Don Bluth
Gary Goldman
Written by Susan Gauthier
Bruce Graham
Bob Tzudiker
Noni White
Eric Tuchman
Starring Meg Ryan
John Cusack
Kelsey Grammer
Christopher Lloyd
Hank Azaria
Bernadette Peters
Angela Lansbury
Music by Score:
David Newman
Stephen Flaherty
Lynn Ahrens (Lyrics)
Editing by Bob Bender
Fiona Trayler
Studio Fox Animation Studios
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) November 14, 1997 (1997-11-14) (NY premiere)
November 21, 1997 (1997-11-21) (US)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $53,000,000
Box office $139,804,348

Anastasia is a 1997 American animated musical film produced and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. It was the first feature film to be released by Fox Animation Studios.

The idea for the film originates from Fox's 1956 live-action film version of the same name.[1] The plot is loosely based on an urban legend which claimed that Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last monarch of Imperial Russia, in fact survived the execution of her family, and thus takes various liberties with historical fact.[2]



In 1916, Tsar Nicholas II hosts a ball at the Catherine Palace to celebrate the Romanov tricentennial. At the ball, his mother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna (Angela Lansbury), gives the eight-year-old Grand Duchess Anastasia (Kirsten Dunst/Lacey Chabert) a music box and a necklace reading “Together in Paris” to ease her favorite granddaughter’s loneliness while Marie is away in Paris. The ball is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Grigori Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd/Jim Cummings), a power-mad sorcerer who was banished from the palace by the Tsar. Rasputin sells his soul in order to cast a curse on the Imperial family that sparks a revolution as revenge. The Romanovs are forced to flee from the palace for their lives, but only Marie and Anastasia are able to escape the siege alive thanks to a young servant boy named Dimitri, who shows them a secret passageway in Anastasia's room. Rasputin's minion Bartok (Hank Azaria) immediately alerts him to Anastasia's escape, and Rasputin confronts Marie and Anastasia on their way to the train station, only to fall through the ice and drown. At the train station, however, Anastasia fails to board the moving train and becomes separated from Marie after she falls and hits her head on the platform.

In 1926, Russia is under communist rule and the tsar is dead. Marie is offering a monetary reward for the safe return of her granddaughter. Dimitri (John Cusack/Jonathan Dokuchitz), now a con man, and his partner Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer) are searching for an Anastasia lookalike to present to Marie so that they can collect the reward and end their financial troubles. Elsewhere, the eighteen-year-old Anastasia (Meg Ryan/Liz Callaway), now under the name Anya, is suffering from amnesia because of her head injury ten years prior. Anya turns down a fish factory job in favor of going to St. Petersburg after her necklace inspires her to seek out her family in Paris. Accompanied by a stray puppy named Pooka, she encounters Dimitri and Vladimir, who are impressed by her resemblance to the Grand Duchess and recruit her as their unwitting “fake” Anastasia.

Bartok realizes that the two con men’s “fake” Anastasia is, in fact, the real Anastasia when Rasputin's dormant reliquary (which contains his soul) is revived. The reliquary hauls Bartok to limbo, where Rasputin has existed as a living corpse for the past ten years, unable to truly die since his curse is unfulfilled. When Bartok returns the reliquary to Rasputin, Rasputin’s powers are restored, and he sends out his demonic minions from within the reliquary to kill Anastasia.

After two narrow escapes from Rasputin's minions during their travels by train and ship to France, Anya, Dimitri, and Vladimir arrive in Paris to present Anya as Anastasia to Marie. Marie, however, has recently called off the search for Anastasia. Nonetheless, Sophie, Marie's first cousin and lady-in-waiting, agrees to interview Anya as a favor to Vladimir, whom she flirts with. When Anya dimly recalls Dimitri opening the secret passageway, Dimitri realizes that he and Vladimir have found the missing Grand Duchess. Sophie then arranges for Anya to meet Marie after the Russian Ballet, but Marie continues to stand firm on her decision until Dimitri convinces her to see Anya after presenting her with the music box that Anastasia had left behind during the siege of the palace. Marie remains guarded upon meeting Anya until Anya begins to remember personal childhood moments, and when Anya uses her necklace to wind the music box and recites the lullaby, the two women realize the truth and are reunited at long last.

Marie rewards Dimitri with ten million rubles and her gratitude. Dimitri, however, refuses the money and makes preparations to return to Soviet Russia because even though he loves Anastasia, his social class, as well as his shame at having initially conned her, forces him to part ways with the Grand Duchess. Later, at a celebration being held in Anastasia’s honour, Marie informs Anastasia of Dimitri’s actions, and promises her granddaughter that they will always have each other even if Anastasia chooses a life with Dimitri. When Pooka suddenly bounds for the garden maze, Anastasia runs after him and is trapped by Rasputin, who tries to kill her in a battle on the Pont Alexandre III. Dimitri returns to save her, but is injured and knocked unconscious. In the end, Anastasia manages to destroy Rasputin's reliquary by crushing it under her foot. This releases the minions Rasputin sold his soul for, and they promptly reduce his body to dust. Afterwards, Dimitri and Anastasia reconcile and send a farewell letter to Marie and Sophie. The newly eloped couple promises Marie and Sophie that they will see them again in Paris, and Anastasia and Dimitri sail away on a boat with Pooka. Meanwhile, Bartok also finds true love with a female bat and shares a passionate kiss with her.

Voice cast

Voice Actor Singing Voice Character
Meg Ryan Liz Callaway Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova
Kirsten Dunst Lacey Chabert Young Anastasia
John Cusack Jonathan Dokuchitz Dimitri
Kelsey Grammer Vladimir Vanya Voinitsky Vasilovich
Angela Lansbury Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna
Bernadette Peters Sophie Stanislovskievna Somorkov-Smirnoff
Christopher Lloyd Jim Cummings Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin
Hank Azaria Bartok

Musical Score

The musical score for the film was composed, co-orchestrated, and conducted by David Newman, and the songs were written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.[3] The film's soundtrack was released in CD and audio cassette format on October 28, 1997.[4]


  1. "Once Upon a December Prologue" - Young Anastasia and Marie (Lacey Chabert and Angela Lansbury)
  2. "A Rumor in St. Petersburg" - Chorus, Dimitri and Vladimir (Jonathan Dokuchitz and Kelsey Grammer)
  3. "Journey to the Past" - Anastasia (Liz Callaway)
  4. "Once Upon a December" - Anastasia (Liz Callaway)
  5. "Learn to Do It" - Vladimir, Anastasia and Dimitri (Kelsey Grammer, Liz Callaway and Jonathan Dokuchitz)
  6. "Learn to Do It" (Waltz reprise) - Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer)
  7. "In the Dark of the Night" - Rasputin, Demon bug chorus (Jim Cummings)
  8. "Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart)" - Sophie, Dimitri and chorus (Bernadette Peters and Jonathan Dokuchitz)
  9. "Once Upon a December (Reprise)" - Anastasia and Marie (Liz Callaway and Angela Lansbury)
  10. "At the Beginning" (end credits) - Donna Lewis & Richard Marx
  11. "Journey to the Past" (end credits) - Aaliyah


Box office

A limited release of Anastasia 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 $14,242,807, which placed it as the second highest-grossing film between November 21-23, 1997. By the end of its theatrical run, Anastasia had grossed $58,406,347 in the domestic box office and $81,398,001 worldwide.[5] The worldwide gross totaled $139,804,348, making it Don Bluth's highest-grossing film to date.[6]


Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ out of 4 stars describing it as "...entertaining and sometimes exciting".[7] The movie also currently stands with a 85% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[8] Carol Buckland of CNN Interactive praised John Cusack for bringing "an interesting edge to Dimitri, making him more appealing than the usual animated hero" and stated that Angela Lansbury gave the film "vocal class", but described the film as "OK entertainment" and that "it never reaches a level of emotional magic."[9] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said that the film "has the Disney house style down cold", but that the film feels "a touch depersonalized".[10]

Reception in Russia

Anastasia was a hit in Russia, despite the fact that the film took great artistic licenses with Russian history. Gemini Films, the Russian distributor of Anastasia, stressed the fact that the story was "not history", but rather "a fairy tale set against the background of real Russian events" in the film's Russian marketing campaign so that its Russian audience would not view Anastasia "as a historical film".[11] As a result, many Russians praised the film for its art and storytelling and saw it as "not so much a piece of history but another Western import to be consumed and enjoyed".[11] A number of Russian Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, found Anastasia to be an offensive depiction of the Grand Duchess, who was canonized as a passion bearer in 2000 by the Russian Orthodox Church.[12] Some of Anastasia's contemporary relatives also felt that the film was distasteful, but most Romanovs have come to accept the "repeated exploitation of Anastasia's romantic tale ... with equanimity."[2]


Anastasia was harshly criticized by many historians because it presents a "sanitized, sugar-coated reworking of the story of the [Tsar's] youngest daughter."[13] While the filmmakers acknowledged the fact that "Anastasia uses history only as a starting point", others complained that the film would provide its audience with misleading facts about Russian history, which, according to the author and historian Suzanne Massie, "has been falsified for so many years."[2] Similarly, the amateur historian Bob Atchison said that Anastasia was akin to someone making a film in which "Anne Frank moves to Orlando and opens a crocodile farm with a guy named Mort."[2] At the same time, however, Atchison recognized the possible benefits of Anastasia, noting that "if 900,000 kids go to 'Anastasia' and of that, 10,000 kids become really interested in Russian history and go on and find the truth and pursue it, it's worth it."[2]


Anastasia won 8 awards and was nominated for 16 others, including two Academy Awards in the categories of "Best Original Musical or Comedy Score" and "Best Original Song" for "Journey to the Past".[14] The R&B singer Aaliyah performed her pop single version of "Journey to the Past" at the 70th Academy Awards.[15]


Award Year Category Recipient(s)
Academy Award 1997 Best Original Musical or Comedy Score Stephen Flaherty (music), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), David Newman (score)
Academy Award 1997 Best Original Song ("Journey to the Past") Stephen Flahery (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics)
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Theatrical Feature Fox Animation Studios
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production Don Bluth and Gary Goldman
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Effects Animation Peter Matheson
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production Stephen Flaherty (songs), Lynn Ahrens (songs), and David Newman
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Producing in an Animated Feature Production Don Bluth and Gary Goldman
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production ("Marie") Angela Lansbury
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production ("Anastasia") Meg Ryan
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Production Eric Tuchman (animation adaption), Susan Gauthier, Bruce Graham, Bob Tzudiker, and Noni White
Golden Globe 1998 Best Original Song - Motion Picture ("Once Upon a December") Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics)
Golden Globe 1998 Best Original Song - Motion Picture ("Journey to the Past") Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics)
Golden Satellite Award 1998 Best Motion Picture - Animated or Mixed Media Don Bluth and Gary Goldman
Golden Satellite Award 1998 Outstanding Original Score David Newman
Golden Satellite Award 1998 Outstanding Original Song ("Journey to the Past") Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics)
Golden Satellite Award 1998 Outstanding Original Song ("Once Upon a December") Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics)


Award Year Category Recipient(s)
ASCAP Award 1998 Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures ("At the Beginning") Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Annie Award 1998 Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Feature Production ("Bartok") Hank Azaria
Blockbuster Entertainment Award 1998 Favorite Animated Family Movie
Critics Choice Award 1998 Best Family Film
Artios 1998 Best Casting for Animated Voiceover Brian Chavanne
KCFCC Award 1998 Best Animated Film
Golden Reel Award 1998 Best Sound Editing - Music Animation Brent Brooks (music editor) and Tom Villano (scoring editor)
Special Award 1998 Best Family Feature Film - Animation


Due to Anastasia's success, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment created a direct-to-video spin-off called Bartok the Magnificent (1999), featuring Rasputin's albino bat crony.[16] A video game based on the film, titled Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok, was released for the PC by Fox Interactive in 1997.[17]


  1. ^ Beck, Jerry. The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press, 2005, p. 20
  2. ^ a b c d e Goldberg, Carey (November 9, 1997). "After the Revolution, Comes 'Anastasia' the Cartoon". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  3. ^ "The Making of Anastasia: The Music of Anastasia". 20th Century Fox. Archived from the original on 1998-01-11. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  4. ^ "Anastasia (Atlantic) - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  5. ^ "Anastasia (1997) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  6. ^ "Don Bluth Movie Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 21, 1997). "Anastasia". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  8. ^ "Anastasia (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  9. ^ Buckland, Carol (1997). "'Anastasia': A not-so-imperial effort". CNN Interactive. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  10. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (November 14, 1997). "CZAR CHILD (1997): WITH ANASTASIA, THE ANIMATED TALE OF A RUSSIAN PRINCESS, FOX SINGS DISNEY'S 'TOON". Entertainment,,290275,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  11. ^ a b Saffron, Ingra (March 19, 1998). "A Cartoon 'Anastasia' Charms a New Russia / Bolsheviks Get Written Out.". The Philadelphia Inquirer: p. A01. 
  12. ^ Mattingly, Terry (November 28, 1998). "'Add Anastasia' to the list of offenders". The Dallas Morning News: p. 4G. 
  13. ^ Holden, Stephen (November 14, 1997). "FILM REVIEW; A Feeling We're Not in Russia Anymore". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  14. ^ "Anastasia (1997) - Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  15. ^ "Remembering Aaliyah". Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  16. ^ "Bartok the Magnificent (Video 1999)". IMDb. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  17. ^ "IGN: Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok". IGN. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 

External links

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