December 5 marks 20 years since 20th Century Fox released their epic animated musical, Anastasia, in the UK. Produced by Bon Bluth and Gary Goldman, former Walt Disney Studios directors, it’s no wonder Anastasia so often gets mistaken for a Disney film.
Set in St Petersburg, the film follows Anastasia (or Anya), the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and granddaughter of Dowager Empress Marie. During an extravagant ball to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty, Rasputin, an evil sorcerer, appears and creates terror and destruction, causing everyone in the vicinity to flee for their lives. Anya, in her attempt to escape, falls and hit her head, causing her to develop retrograde amnesia – an inability to recall anything that happened before hitting her head.
10 years later and the world is a very different place. Anya and Marie are the only surviving members of their family, but with Anya still in Russia and Marie living in Paris they’re separated by many miles, as well as the fact that Anya doesn’t remember that she is a princess. With the help of some colourful characters, Anya and Marie are eventually reunited, but, as in all good films, it’s not without a few bumps along the road.
Anastasia received mixed reviews. On the one hand were film-lovers who appreciated the film for what is was: a Russian fairytale constructed into a whimsical film, complete with some very catchy songs and adorable characters (who doesn’t love Pooka?). On the other were a handful of intense history buffs who were appalled by its lack of factuality. It’s true, Anastasia isn’t exactly an accurate documentation of the life and times of the Romanov family, but is that really what you’d expect from a film that contains a talking bat?
To say this was 20th Century Fox’s first animated film, it certainly performed well. Anastasia was nominated for two Oscars and even went on to inspire a Broadway musical. 20 years later, and it’s still a much loved classic adored by adults and children alike. Perhaps it’s the star-studded cast or the magical musical scenes or even the adorable relationship between Anya and Dimitri, but there’s no arguing that Anastasia is a beautiful film that withstands the test of time.