Anastasia centers around the idea that the Princess Anastasia managed to escape the seize of the castle in the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. Rumors are swirling in St. Petersburg that Anastasia is alive and her grandmamma is willing to pay a large sum to the person who delivers her precious granddaughter back to her. This is the opportunity Dmitri has been waiting for. This is his chance to escape bleak St. Petersburg, and he auditions girls to try out for the role of Anastasia. Aided by his friend Vlad, they stumble upon a girl who bears remarkable resemble to the princess. And Dmitri would know—he’s the one who helped Anastasia and her grandmother escape the palace. What follows is a thrill-filled musical as the trio, along with Anastasia’s dog, Puka, travel from St. Petersburg to Paris, France. But their trip is not without hazards as the evil, Rasputin, who sold his soul and cursed the Romanovs, and has vowed to kill the last of Romanovs.
Of course, the movie is not accurate in regards to Russian history. Rasputin’s powers of darkness are cited as the reason for the Bolshevik revolution. Rasputin’s appearance in the movie is not terrible far off from the real Rasputin’s appearance though. Both are creepy. Rasputin in the movie can be downright terrifying. The movie is rated G, but adults should be aware of some scenes that might scare children. In the first few minutes of the movie, Rasputin sells his soul to the powers of darkness, a swirling green mass of cylindrical lights. The powers rip Rasputin’s skin from his body, leaving nothing but bones until they restore his flesh. He falls beneath the ice while chasing Anastasia through the town and gets trapped in limbo. When his faithful servant, a bat named Bartok, finds him in limbo, he is literally falling apart. His mouth moves down his beard, his neck and stretch until he hits the top of his skull-covered home. His arm stretches and the tendons are visible as his skin melts away. His hand pops off, leaving nothing but a stump with a piece of bone visible and red muscle around it. He actively tries to kill Anastasia by invading her dreams and trying to make her jump off the ship in the middle of a storm. This is after trying to kill her on the train by breaking the cars apart and tearing down the bridge.
Rasputin is a remarkable villain, but Anastasia is a more remarkable princess. Coming more than a decade by Disney’s feisty Princess Merida in Brave and Queen Elsa and Princess Anna in Frozen, and a year for Mulan, Anastasia speaks her mind and saves not only herself, but Dmitri. She accidentally hits Dmitri in the face when he wakes her and he grumbles about it. Anastasia remarks under her breath that all men are baby. She is not looking for a prince, for love, but looking for connections to the past she can’t remember. Anastasia remembers nothing before the orphanage and her first musical number is her desire to find her past, to find herself, and to find a home. Though she does find love, because it’s almost impossible for a princess movie to not include romance, it is simply something that happens to Anastasia as it often does in real life.
In the final climatic scene, Rasputin has reappeared and breaks yet another bridge and tries to send Anastasia into the frigid waters below. Dmitri swoops in and helps her back from dangling off the ledge of the crumbling bridge, but it isn’t long before he is knocked unconscious. Anastasia is left battling Rasputin by herself and kicks his butt. She captures his glass vial that contains his powers. She smashes is with her foot, smashing it for Dmitri and for her family. With a final smash of heel, Rasputin turns to dust. She was a super action hero princess before there was such a term or trend.
While the movie does have some disturbing parts, children are sure to love it. The songs are just as catchy as anything Disney produces. For the children and adults, go watch this for nothing except to get “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” and “Let It Go” out of your head. I’ve included a two YouTube clips, one for “There’s a Rumor in St. Petersburg” and “Once Upon a December” for your viewing pleasure. It balances the dark and the humorous rather well. While Bartok is Rasputin’s batty sidekick, he is hilarious as it Puka, the dog. Ultimately, the movie is about the importance of family, friends, honesty, and most importantly finding oneself.
The movie can be used for both younger and older children. For older children who may know a little about Russian history, it can be used to contrast the reality versus the fantasy the movie puts forth. For any child who might have already heard of Anastasia—the rumors for many years that she did survive—this movie will thrill and delight. For those who haven’t heard of Anastasia, a good book to start with would be the Royal Diaries about Anastasia. It could serve as a very brief introduction to Russian culture by providing students/patrons with factual books about Russian culture and history.
ASCAP Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty for the song “At the Beginning”, 1999
Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Feature Production: Hank Azaria for “Bartok”, 1998
Blockbuster Entertainment Award: Favorite Animated Family Movie, 1998
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards: Best Family Film, 1998
Casting America Society, USA: Best Casting for Animated Voice Over, Brian Chavanne, 1998
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA: Best Sound Editing-Music Animation, Brent Brooks & Tom Villano, 1998
Young Artist Awards: Best Family Feature Film-Animation, 1998
Bibliographic Information: Anastasia. By Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. Perf. Meg Ryan, John Cusack. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 1997. DVD.
The Princess and the Frog