Anastasia (1997)

 
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Release date: Nov. 14, 1997

Based on: Anastasia (1956 film directed by Anatole Litvak) and "Anastasia" (1955 play written by Marcelle Maurette

Directed by: Don Bluth and Gary Goldman

Starring: Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria

Budget: $50 million

Box office: $140 million

A Russian amnesiac orphan who hopes to find some trace of her family joins two con men who want to pass her off as the missing princess Anastasia

Coming from the director of some of the best animated films of the 1980s not from Disney, Anastasia should be so much better than it actually is. The story is good, but bloated with too much thrown at the audience. In one film, there’s a road trip from Russia to France with the characters beset by human antagonists as well as supernatural forces, a revenge plot, a romance, and a journey of self discovery. There’s just too much here and feels as if there is enough for two seperate films. There was enough turbulence in the 1920s following the Great War and Russian Revolution to warrant plenty of opposition from humans on the characters journey, which could have completely replaced the supernatural element.

Additionally, the romantic element within the film comes off as forced. The two characters who end up together spend most of the film arguing, barely agreeing on anything and when they are, they’re usually trading sarcastic barbs with each other. The time they start to connect does not give the impression they actually like each other. Rather, it’s perceived as the filmmakers trying to shoehorn in an unnecessary romance simply for the sake of having one.

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However, the music always delivers. The songs are fun and while one or two of them don’t fit into the overall flow of the film, they’re still enjoyable in their own right. The latter of these songs is the most egregious as the film’s artistic style completely shifts and throws in a number of references to 1920s culture. This number seems as if the filmmakers were trying to show off their knowledge of the era in one spot. Nevertheless, all the other songs are done well, adding to the overall story.

The animation is also decent throughout most of the film and extends to excellent during the scenes involving dark, supernatural forces. All the colors when the darkness becomes the focal point of a scene become more shaded, yet still vibrant enough to maintain the audience’s captured attention. It’s juxtaposed well with the other colors in the film, too. As for the cinematography, it’s pretty average. Still, there are scenes employing fantastic use of environment to bring about some visually appealing shots.

There’s plenty here for for an entertaining experience, but this lacks the magic to take it from good to great.

Awards

Won

Annie Awards

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Feature Production (Hank Azaria, for playing “Bartok”)

ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures (For the song “At the Beginning”)

Blockbuster Entertainment Awards

  • Favorite Animated Family Movie

Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Family Film

Casting Society of America, USA - Artios Awards

  • Best Casting for Animated Voiceover

Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Animated Film

Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Animated Film

Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA - Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing - Music Animation

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • Best Animated Film

Young Artist Awards

  • Special Award - Best Family Feature Film - Animation

Nominated

Academy Awards

  • Best Music, Original Song (For the song “Journey to the Past”)

  • Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score

Annie Awards

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production (Angela Lansbury, for playing “Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna:)

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production (Meg Ryan, for playing “Anastasia”)

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Production

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Producing in an Animated Feature Production

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement for Effects Animation

  • Outstanding Individual Achievement in an Animated Theatrical Feature

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Animated Feature

Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA - Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing - Animated Feature

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Original Song - Motion Picture (For the song “Journey to the Past”)

  • Best Original Song - Motion Picture (For the song “Once Upon a December)

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • Best Voice-Over Performance (Hank Azaria, for playing “Bartok”)

  • Best Voice-Over Performance (Angela Lansbury, for playing “Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna”)

  • Best Voice-Over Performance (Meg Ryan, for playing “Anastasia”)

  • Best Music, Original Comedy/Musical Score

  • Best Music, Original Song (For the song “Once Upon a December”)

Satellite Awards - Golden Satellite Awards

  • Best Motion  Picture, Animated or Mixed Media

  • Best Original Score

  • Best Original Song (Song: “Journey to the Past”)

  • Best Original Song (Song: “Once Upon a December’)