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Anastasia
Anastasia-don-bluth.jpg
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
Angela Lansbury
Kelsey Grammer
Christopher Lloyd
Hank Azaria
Bernadette Peters
Music by David Newman
Editing by Bob Bender
Fiona Trayler
Studio Fox Animation Studios
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) November 14, 1997 (1997-11-14) (World premiere)
November 21, 1997 (1997-11-21) (United States)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $53,000,000
Box office $139,804,348[1]

Anastasia is a 1997 American animated musical drama-adventure film produced and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. It was the first musical feature film to be released by Fox Animation Studios. The film features the voices of Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria, Bernadette Peters, and Angela Lansbury.

The idea for the film originated from 20th Century Fox's 1956 live-action film of the same name.[2] The plot is loosely based on an urban legend which claimed that the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the youngest daughter of Nicholas II–the last Emperor of Russia–in fact survived the execution of her family, and thus takes various liberties with historical fact.[3]

Anastasia premiered on November 14, 1997 in New York City, and was released on November 21, 1997 in the United States and, despite the objections of some historians to its fantastical retelling of the life of the Grand Duchess, enjoyed a positive reception from many critics. The budget of the film was $53,000,000 and globally it grossed $139,804,348, making Anastasia a box office success. The film also received nominations for several awards, including two Oscars for Best Original Song ("Journey to the Past") and Best Original Musical or Comedy Score. It is the most successful film from Don Bluth and Fox Animation Studios to date.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released a direct-to-video spin-off called Bartok the Magnificent in 1999. The film features the adventures of Bartok, Rasputin's bat crony.[4] Fox Interactive published a PC game based on the film titled Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok in 1997.[5]

The live entertainment company Stage Entertainment acquired the rights to produce a stage adaptation of Anastasia in 2012. The adaptation, currently in development for a future European premiere, will feature five songs from the original film as well as fifteen new stage-only songs.[6] A 29-hour reading of the adaptation featuring Kelli Barrett as Anastasia, Angela Lansbury as the Dowager Empress, Aaron Tveit as Dimitri, and Patrick Page as Vladimir was held in Manhattan in late July 2012.[7] Lansbury was the only actress to reprise her role from the animated film for the stage reading.[6]

PlotEdit

In 1916, Tsar Nicholas II hosts a ball at the Catherine Palace to celebrate the Romanov tricentennial. His mother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna (Angela Lansbury), is visiting from Paris and gives a music box and a necklace inscribed with the words “Together in Paris” as parting gifts to her eight-year-old granddaughter, the Grand Duchess Anastasia (Kirsten Dunst). The ball is suddenly interrupted by Grigori Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), a sorcerer who was banished by the Tsar for treason. Rasputin had then sold his soul in exchange for an unholy reliquary, which he uses to cast a curse on the Romanov family in revenge, sparking the Bolshevik revolution, which forces them to flee the palace. Only Marie and Anastasia are able to escape, thanks to a young servant boy named Dimitri, who shows them a secret passageway in Anastasia's room. Rasputin confronts the two royals outside, only to fall through the ice and drown. The pair manage to reach a moving train, but only Marie climbs aboard while Anastasia falls, hitting her head on the platform.

Ten years later, Russia is under communist rule, and Marie has publicly offered ten million rubles for the safe return of her granddaughter. Dimitri (John Cusack) and his friend and partner Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer) thus search for an Anastasia lookalike to present to Marie in Paris and collect the reward. Elsewhere, Anastasia (Meg Ryan), now under the name "Anya", leaves the rural orphanage where she grew up, having lost her memory prior to arriving there. She turns down a job at a fish factory 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. In the deserted palace she encounters Dimitri and Vladimir, who — impressed by her resemblance to the "real" Anastasia — decide to take her with them.

Bartok (Hank Azaria), Rasputin's albino bat minion is nearby and notices his master's dormant reliquary suddenly revived by Anastasia's presence; it drags him to limbo, where Rasputin survives. Enraged to hear that Anastasia escaped the curse, Rasputin sends demonic spirits from the reliquary to kill her; despite two attempts, the trio manage to (unwittingly) foil him, forcing Rasputin and Bartok to travel back to the surface.

Anastasia, Dimitri, and Vlad eventually reach Paris and go to meet Marie, who refuses to see her, having been fooled numerously before by imposters. Despite this Sophie (Bernadette Peters), Marie's cousin, quizzes Anastasia to confirm her identity. Dimitri and Vladimir had taught Anastasia all the answers, but when Anastasia independently (though dimly) recalls how Dimitri saved her ten years ago, the two men finally realize that she is the real Grand Duchess. Sophie, convinced as well, arranges for her to meet Marie after a Russian ballet. However Marie wants nothing to do with Dimitri, having heard of him and his initial scheme to trick her. Horrified that Dimitri was using her, Anastasia storms out. Dimitri, having fallen in love with Anastasia, manages to change Marie's mind by presenting her with Anastasia's music box, which he had found after their escape. Anastasia's memory returns upon meeting Marie, and the two women are reunited at long last.

The next day, Marie offers Dimitri the reward money, but to her surprise he refuses it and leaves for Russia, convinced that he cannot be with Anastasia. That night, at Anastasia's return celebration, Marie informs her of Dimitri's gesture and leaves her to her thoughts. Anastasia then wanders through a garden and onto the Pont Alexandre III, where she is trapped and attacked by Rasputin. Dimitri returns to save her, but is injured and knocked unconscious. Anastasia manages to kill Rasputin by crushing the reliquary under her foot. With Rasputin's soul having been tied to the object, he promptly dies and turns to dust.

Afterwards, Dimitri and Anastasia reconcile; the two then elope and Anastasia sends a farewell letter to Marie and Sophie, promising to return someday. The film ends with the couple sharing a kiss as they sail out of Paris with Pooka, while Bartok falls in love with a female bat who kisses him.

Cast and charactersEdit

  • Kirsten Dunst provides the speaking voice of eight-year-old Anastasia.
  • Lacey Chabert provides the singing voice of eight-year-old Anastasia.

ProductionEdit

MusicEdit

The musical score for the film was composed, co-orchestrated, and conducted by David Newman, whose father, Alfred Newman composed the score of the 1956 film of the same name.[8] The songs, of which one was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, were written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.[9] The film's soundtrack was released in CD and audio cassette format on October 28, 1997.[10]

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

The film received mostly positive reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ out of 4 stars describing it as "...entertaining and sometimes exciting".[11] The movie also currently stands with a 86% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[12] 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."[13] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said that the film "has the Disney house style down cold", but that the film feels "a touch depersonalized".[14]

Critical reception in Russia was also, for the most part, positive despite the artistic liberties that the film took 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".[15] 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".[15]

Certain 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.[16] Many historians echoed their sentiments, criticizing the film as a "sanitized, sugar-coated reworking of the story of the [Tsar's] youngest daughter."[17] 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."[3] 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."[3]

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."[3]

Box officeEdit

A limited release of Anastasia at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on the weekend of November 14, 1997 grossed $120,541.[18] 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 North American box office and $81,398,001 internationally.[1] The worldwide gross totaled $139,804,348, making it Don Bluth's highest-grossing film to date.[19]

AccoladesEdit

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".[20] The R&B singer Aaliyah performed her pop single version of "Journey to the Past" at the 70th Academy Awards.[21]

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Anastasia (1997) - Box Office Mojo. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2009-09-21.
  2. Beck, Jerry. The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press, 2005, p. 20
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Goldberg, Carey. "After the Revolution, Comes 'Anastasia' the Cartoon", The New York Times, November 9, 1997. Retrieved on 2010-12-31. 
  4. Bartok the Magnificent (Video 1999). IMDb. Retrieved on 2010-12-30.
  5. IGN: Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok. IGN. Retrieved on 2010-12-30.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Chatter, Rialto (July 28, 2012). Exclusive: Crawford, Barrett, Halston, Page Join Tveit, Lansbury, Lazar in ANASTASIA Reading!. Broadway World. Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved on 2012-07-01.
  7. Jones, Kenneth (July 30, 2012). Anastasia, a Musical by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally, Gets NYC Reading. Playbill.com. Playbill, Inc.. Retrieved on 2012-08-09.
  8. Newman. MTV. Retrieved on 24 November 2012.
  9. The Making of Anastasia: The Music of Anastasia. 20th Century Fox. Archived from the original on 1998-01-11. Retrieved on 2010-12-30.
  10. Anastasia (Atlantic) - Original Soundtrack. AllMusic. Retrieved on 2010-12-30.
  11. Ebert, Roger. "Anastasia", SunTimes.com, November 21, 1997. Retrieved on 2009-05-19. 
  12. Anastasia (1997). Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. Retrieved on 2009-05-19.
  13. Buckland, Carol. "'Anastasia': A not-so-imperial effort", CNN Interactive. Retrieved on 2009-05-19. 
  14. Gleiberman, Owen. "CZAR CHILD (1997): WITH ANASTASIA, THE ANIMATED TALE OF A RUSSIAN PRINCESS, FOX SINGS DISNEY'S 'TOON", Entertainment Weekly.com, November 14, 1997. Retrieved on 2009-05-19. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Saffron, Ingra. "A Cartoon 'Anastasia' Charms a New Russia / Bolsheviks Get Written Out.", March 19, 1998, p. A01. Retrieved on 2010-12-31. 
  16. Mattingly, Terry. "Upset about Anastasia's movie portrayal", November 29, 1997. Retrieved on 2012-08-09. 
  17. Holden, Stephen. "FILM REVIEW; A Feeling We're Not in Russia Anymore", The New York Times, November 14, 1997. Retrieved on 2010-12-31. 
  18. Welkos, Robert W.. "Moviegoers Track 'The Jackal'", The Los Angeles Times, 1997-11-18. Retrieved on 2012-06-07. 
  19. Don Bluth Movie Box Office Results. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2010-12-30.
  20. Anastasia (1997) - Awards. IMDb. Retrieved on 2010-12-30.
  21. Remembering Aaliyah. BET.com. Retrieved on 2010-12-30.

External linksEdit

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