Fox debuted its new animation studio with this 1997 feature, directed by An American Tail veteran Don Bluth and co-director Gary Goldman. Taking several liberties with the historical record (all of which the studio freely admitted) and working from the 50's Broadway play of the same title, the directors animated the story of a young girl who may or not have been heir to the Czars of Russia.
The story of Anastasia begins “Once Upon a December” in pre-revolution Russia, where the Romanov line is threatened by mad monk Rasputin. The Russian Revolution begins, killing off the Czar’s family with the exception of the Dowager Empress Marie and her granddaughter Anastasia. Tragically, the girl gets separated from her grandmother and ends up an orphan with a lost memory.
Years later, would-be con artists Dmitri and Vladimir find the grown Anastasia (who now goes by “Anya”), and noting the resemblance take her to Paris to claim (for them) the reward the Dowager Empress is offering. Rasputin, now an undead servant of the netherworld, finds out the girl’s real identity and sets out to finish his vengeance.
The big-budget production took full advantage of the widescreen format, with large-scale dance numbers, fantasy sequences, a spectacular train wreck and a climactic showdown between good and evil. Mixing drama, adventure, romance, music and comedy (much of it from Rasputin’s bat sidekick, Bartok), Anastasia took viewers on an enchanted “Journey to the Past” in grand animated fashion.