On the wind, 'cross the sea, Hear this song and remember Soon you'll be home with me Once upon a December
Don Bluth's 1997 very loose adaption of a 1956 Ingrid Bergman film, which itself was already very, very loosely based on the 'life' of the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. The story goes like this...In 1916, Nicholas II, Czar of Russia, and his family, the Romanovs, were very happy until they were cursed by the evil Rasputin and their people revolted against them for some mystical reason, aided by demons. All of the Romanovs apparently died in the attack except the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna Romanova, the Czar's mother. A young kitchen boy helped Marie and one of the Czar's daughters, the eight-year-old Anastasia, escape. However, she and Marie got separated when Anastasia fell from a train and, presumably, died.Ten years later (1926), Anya, an eighteen-year-old orphan making her way in the world for the first time, decides to head for Paris. She hopes to find her family there, guided by the message "Together in Paris" inscribed on the necklace she was found with in an amnesiac state as a child.She heads for St. Petersburg, hoping to get a train from there to Paris, but she does not have the appropriate travel papers. Following the advice of a stranger, she locates a young forger and conman called Dimitri in the old palace. For his part, Dimitri is planning on running a con. Rumor has it that Anastasia may have survived the attack, and the Dowager Empress has offered a huge reward to anyone who can reunite Anastasia with her. Dimitri and his friend Vladimir notice that this young woman who has come to them for travel papers looks strikingly like an older version of Anastasia.The two men put to Anya the idea that she may actually be Anastasia, but don't mention the reward. Vlad then forges the papers to travel out of the country so that they can all go to Paris to meet the Dowager Empress. In the meantime, Rasputin is in limbo until all the Romanovs are dead. His animal sidekick, a bat named Bartok, upon seeing Anya, is pulled into limbo by Rasputin's mystic relic, tells Rasputin about Anya and they realize she must actually be Anastasia.The rest of the film deals with Anya learning to become more ladylike while Rasputin calls upon the powers of hell to try and kill her. The ending, like most animated movies, is a happy one; however, it is enlightening in a few ways. It's better if you see it.Contrary to popular belief, this movie was not produced by Disney. It was actually produced by 20th Century Fox.Got a Direct-to-Video spin-off in the form of Bartok the Magnificentnote though all it has in common with the first movie is...Bartok. And that it's set in an even less historically accurate version of Russia., which deals with the plucky little bat impressing people with his "special abilities". It's important to note that this is the only sequel that Bluth has ever been involved with.
This film provides examples of:
Adult Fear: The opening scene. To wit, The Dowager Empress only manages to get one of her grandchildren out of the violent murdering spree. The apparent instigator tries to kill the only one who got out personally, but survives. Then, finally, when they get on a train to safety, she loses her.
Age Without Youth: Rasputin gets hit particularely hard with the short end of the stick. He never even explicitly wished for immortality in the first place, he just made a vow that he "would never rest until the Romanov line is no more!". The evil forces that he bargained with for his soul took him at his word: so long as at least one Romanov survives, he cannot die even though his body is rotting apart.
Almost Kiss: Anya and Dimitri do this at least twice. They finally get to kiss for real at the end.
Anachronism Stew: It might be more reasonable to identify what isn't anachronistic, but among obvious examples, Petrograd militsyia (police) on horseback are clearly modeled after Soviet cops...from the Seventies, complete with modern uniforms.
And This Is for...: Anastasia does a rundown of the trope when she destroys Rasputin reliquary, thereby killing him.
Anastasia: This is for Dimitri! This is for my family! And this... this is for you! Do svidaniya!
Awesome Moment of Crowning: Sure, the communists have taken over Russia and Anya runs off with Dimitri in the end, but she still gets a sparkly crown. She gives it back before leaving with her boyfriend, though.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Quintessential example between Anya and Dimitri, starting as soon as they get on a train together. Vlad knows exactly what's really going on, even when they don't.
(Anastasia has left the train cabin after an argument with Dimitri) Vlad:(gleefully to Pooka, Anastasia's dog) Oh no! An unspoken attraction? Dimitri: ATTRACTION?? To that skinny little brat? Have you lost your mind?
Bigger Bad: The Dark Forces that Rasputin sold his soul to and gained most of his powers from to get revenge on the Romanov family. The deal he made with them spectacularely backfires; first he's reduced to a decaying zombie stuck in limbo after he drowns and stuck like that until the last Romanov dies, and when his reliquary is destroyed they immediately claim him, and he dies a rather horrific death.
Bilingual Bonus: Anya's pet dog is named Pooka (пука), which sounds similar to the Russian for "farting", "pukat' (пукать)". A 'Pooka' (or Phouka) is also a mischievous fae-creature that often takes the form of a dog, though the dog is usually scary and black. Still, considering the mysterious origin of Anya's pet...
Conspicuous CG: Like whoa. This is the first movie where Don Bluth swapped out his almost-trademark "oh, let's just build a small model of this horrifically hard-to-draw-and-animate thing and rotoscope it" special effect for computer generated imagery. You can tell.
And the Pegasus statue (minus the mane which is obviously 2D, creating an odd effect overall)
Costume Porn: The movie is full of this. Most notable examples would have to be Anya's yellow silk Dream Sequence dress, the svelte navy and sparkly Parisian Opera dress, her blue court dress at the beginning of the movie, and her yellow court dress at the end of the movie.
Crowd Song: "A Rumor in St. Petersburg" and "Paris Hold the Key (to Your Heart)".
Dark Is Evil: Rasputin is the darkest-coloured character, says he obtained his powers by selling his soul to "the Dark Forces", and his musical number is called "In The Dark Of The Night". For some reason, his powers often manifest as green light, though.
Easy Amnesia: Or at least, it was easy for her to get it... The bump to her head caused no other damage, and as far as we can tell, only made her forget who she was. As pointed out by the manager of the orphanage, Anya never stopped behaving like a princess.
Everyone Can See It: Well, Vlad definitely can, and Sophie appears to share his suspicions, and the Dowager Empress figures it out pretty quickly.
Everything's Better with Princesses: The real Anastasia was recognised as "Grand Duchess". While the movie does drop the Grand Duchess title a couple of times, most characters use "princess" for convenience's sake.
Evil-Detecting Dog: Pooka always begins bark or notice the reliquary's demons just before each of Rasputin's attempts on Anastasia's life.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Rasputin was so blinded by his hate for the Romanovs that he really didn't think his deal with the dark side through. Swearing "not to rest until the last Romanov is dead" unwittingly turns him into a decaying lich, then when his Soul Jar gets damaged the dark forces immediately intervene to claim him and he dies absolutely horrifically, his soul likely in their possession for all time.
Evil Plan: Everything is kicked off by Rasptutin's desire to kill the Romanov family. He continues with this plan after the time skip once he realizes Anastasia's still alive.
Family-Unfriendly Death: Rasputin after his reliquary is destroyed. Green lightning emerges from the sky which strikes him, he melts down to his skeleton, which then breaks down to ash, and the ash is scattered by the wind. All the while he's frantically screaming and struggling.
Fandom Nod: Look closely, and you'll see little visual shout-outs to other movies from Don Bluth's history. (The squirrels look like they've walked right off the set of Sleeping Beauty, Bartok is sucked into Hell just like Charlie, there's a spooky thorn bush near the end that Brutus might be guarding, and so on).
Game Changer: Dimitri schools Anya with every fact regarding the lost Princess Anastasia that he can think of. When Sophie asks something he hadn't thought to tell Anya about, he thinks the con is blown - until Anya describes, vaguely but correctly, how it was she managed to escape the riots at the palace, something that only Grand Duchess Marie, Dmitri, and Anastasia herself could possibly have known about. Only then does Dmitri realize that, rather than a lookalike, he's found the real Anastasia.
Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: Very little is really mentioned in the way of politics after the fall of the Romanovs (as well as before, for that matter). The original script for Anastasia inverted this; during the scene where Anya attempts to get train tickets, several of the people waiting in line were going to be refraining from making complaints about the Soviet government in case they were being watched. One guy later would, and was going to be abruptly abducted and taken away. There are several 'blink-and-you-will-miss-it' moments though:
Vlad complains when the colour of the ink for travel papers changes from blue to red, blowing his forged ones: "That's what I hate about this government, everything is in Red!"
We see (presumably) Mensheviks storm the palace, but it is said that this is due to Rasputin's curse causing people to hate the Romanovs, because why the heck not?
When Anya tries to get a ticket, the man at the ticket counter does in fact have a hammer and sickle on his hat.
On the train, the camera momentarily looks over one of the character's shoulders at his tickets. One can make out 'Union of Soviet Socialist Republics' with the attendant emblems.
Historical Fantasy: All the complaints about the movie's historical inaccuracies seem a little weird when you stop and think that it also includes an undead wizard and a talking bat.
Historical Hero Upgrade: The Romanovs were not exactly ideal rulers, leaning toward oppression of ethnic minorities among other things. The story also starts in 1916, but their mismanagement of World War I is not even mentioned. They've historically gotten a pass simply because the Soviets were so much worse, or possibly because Everything's Better with Princesses.
Historical Villain Upgrade: While many things have been said of him, the real Rasputin of course wasn't an evil undead warlock who sold his soul to the forces of evil for revenge on the Romanovs. Rasputin was an enigma but undoubtedly an ally of the Romanovs. The important ones, anyway. Several relatives kinda hated him and plotted his death. *cough* Grand Duke Felix Yusupov *cough*. In one of the older drafts for the film, Rasputin only became a bad guy after surviving the historical assassination attempt against him, leading him to orchestrate their downfall out of a genuine desire for revenge. He would also justify this trope in a later scene by revealing his lying low over the years meant historians never realised how connected he was to the fall of the Romanovs.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Realistically speaking, every character in this movie should have had some kind of European accent. But in the main cast, the only ones who made any attempt were Kelsey Grammer, who honestly does a pretty good job making Vlad sound Russian, and Angela Lansbury, who uses her natural British accent as the Dowager Empress. (The real Marie Feodorovna was actually born Princess Dagmar of Denmark.)
Not My Driver: Dimitri hijacks the Dowager Empress's car in order to force her to see Anastasia and be convinced that she's the real deal.
Throughout most of the movie, it's fairly easy to tell that Anya is almost as tall as Dimitri is. Contrary to that, in the scene where Dimitri rescues her from sleepwalking overboard, when she presses close against him, she's very plainly almost a full head shorter than she's supposed to be. Her knees buckling could explain some of it, though.
The dress Dimitri buys for Anya when they get on the ship, the one she wears when learning to waltz, changes from the scene in which he gives it to her to when she's first seen wearing it. When he gives it to her, it has distinct white ruffles on the collar and sleeves. When she emerges on deck actually wearing it, it's a plain blue dress. That could have been due to Anya changing it though, as she expressed a dislike for its original appearance.
Ominous Russian Chanting: During the prologue's recapitulation of the coup set off by the curse, the chorus is singing in Russian pretty ominously. It happens again in the finale during Rasputin's death scene.
Slava revolyutsii! Mnogo nas ubito Legche zhalet' kakogo-to sytnogo, rasputnogo Vsė naprasno - luchshe kostėr!
Slava revolyutsii! Mnogo nas ubito (Ah...) Nechego teryat'! Svoboda? Yesli by... Vidit Bozhe, my idėm k novym mestam, ey...
Slava revolyutsii! Mnogo nas ubito Tekh, kogo na-na-naado. (nado) Vo slavu revolyutsii! Kto vyderzhit, tot skazhet: "Slava! Slava!"
Glory to the revolution! Many of us have been killed. Its easier to take pity on the rich and depraved, But all is in vain, so flames are better!
Glory to the revolution! Many of us have been killed. (Ah...) We have nothing to lose! Freedom? If only... God looks on, as we head to new places.
Glory to the revolution! Many of us have been killed, Those whose deaths were necessary. Onward to revolutionary glory! Those who remain will say: Glory! Glory!
Orphan's Plot Trinket: The "Together in Paris" necklace, which the viewer knows from the start of the movie is a key to a music box the Dowager Empress had commissioned for Anastasia as a child. Additionally, Dimitri and the music box that goes together with the necklace.
Our Liches Are Different: Rasputin is a pretty straightforward example, except for lacking a real drive for immortality or power above all else, which were more a byproduct of his quest for vengeance than his main objectives. He was already a powerful sorceror before he made his Deal with the Devil, but he became undead upon selling his soul (not after he went to Limbo; he loses all his flesh when he gives up his soul, and restores it with the powers he gains).
Parental Abandonment: Like clockwork, this element is always in Bluth films. But this time, we do get to know a little more about her family, and Anya's lack of family identity isn't incidental to her character. It's the driving force behind her journey throughout the film, which is a nice change of pace for a trope that in animation is often just tacked on for the sake of it.
Pig Latin: Dimitri tells a terribly lovestruck Vlad this: "Ix-nay on the Ophie-say!"
Pimped-Out Dress: Three! Though only two figured prominently in the marketing - the yellow silk Dream Sequence dress and the svelte navy and sparkly Parisian Opera dress. They did make an Anastasia Barbie with the blue sparkly dress, as well as the Disney Acid Sequence dress, AND a line of dresses that didn't appear the movie at all, but were 'inspired by' it and made to fit the Anastasia doll.
Pretty in Mink: A few, like the fur-trimmed coat she wears to the opera, and her grandmother's fur wrap.
Rags to Royalty: Or Royalty to Rags back to Royalty to presumably fairly comfortable but not royalty. Dimitri refuses the reward. Not that he and Anya can't support themselves, but it is possible the Empress could be sending them something to live on. The ending more or less implies that Anya and Grandma will remain close.
Rasputinian Death: Rasputin 'dies' three times in the movie, and only the last one sticks. (The real Rasputin's death was an aversion of this trope, ironically.) The first time he is stripped to the bone due to his soul trade, but he restores himself with the powers he gains. His second death does include one element from the apocryphal real life story. He falls through some ice, and drowns. The third and last one involves Anastasia smashing his phylactery. What results from this is itself pretty Rasputinian; see Family-Unfriendly Death above.
Rule of Symbolism: By Word of God, the reason for the seeming Big Lipped Alligator Moment, "Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart", is not merely to show off Bernadette Peters, nor 1920's Paris, but a reflection of both cultural progress at the time and Anastasia's Character Development. On the one hand, by the '20s the Soviet republics were reeling from the White Army and foreign invasion, something Europe did not contend with, with much of this renaissance based in Paris; on the other hand, this ties into Anya leaving a dead world for one vibrant and alive, paralleling her leaving behind an empty, soulless existence for one where she could bloom, grow, and begin a new, happy life.
Runaway Train: Complete with a graphically-explosive crash to top it all off, and Dimitri commenting afterward "I HATE trains, remind me to never get on a train again."
Scenery Porn: The usage of CinemaScope really shows off some great views of St. Petersburg, Paris, and the interiors of palaces.
She Cleans Up Nicely: Yes, Dimitri, that is the "skinny little brat" you're ogling at the ballet. Now close your mouth, honey, you're gonna catch flies.
Shipper on Deck: Vlad catches on pretty quickly that Anya and Dimitri have a Slap-Slap-Kiss thing going. He also gets the two to dance and sings a song about this... on the ship to Paris. It's also fun watching his face in the background as the two interact.
Shopping Montage: When Anya and co. get to Paris, Dowager Empress Marie's cousin Sophie takes them shopping while "Paris Holds The Key (To Your Heart)" is sung. They also go sightseeing during the song.
All of the bathing suits worn by Anastasia, her father, and her sisters during the dream sequence, and the sailor suit worn by her little brother, are also reproductions of the actual suits worn on their frequent family vacations.
Even the notion of Rasputin cursing the Romanovs is based off of an anecdotal account that, on one of the few occasions Nicholas and other nobles became worried about the influence he had over Alexandra and foreign policy, Rasputin threatened the family with a pox if he were dismissed from court.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Literally at the end, where Anya accidentally smacks Dimitri in the face, and then cradles his face in her hands for an Almost Kiss.
Soul Jar: Rasputin's reliquary. It was already a powerful magical weapon before it became this, but Rasputin turned it into a phylactery as part of his devil bargain, as well as the source of his magic. Whether or not it siphons off his soul's power is up for debate.
Unlimited Wardrobe: Anya/Anastasia, counting the clothing she wears as a child, has 13 different outfits during the course of the movie (although two are completely hallucinatory). Blue court dress, nightgown, overcoat, peasant outfit, yellow Disney Acid Sequence ballgown, blue short-sleeved dress, pajamas, sailor bathing suit thing, 2 flapper dresses during a musical number, blue evening dress, pink pajamas, court dress (make it 14 if you count the Clothing Damage incurred on the last court dress as a costume change). To compare, Ariel in The Little Mermaid had 7 (her purple Seashell Bra, a ship's sail wrapped around her, a pink dinner dress, a pink nightgown, a turquoise dress, a blue sparkly dress and a wedding dress).
Uptown Girl: Anastasia for Dimitri. Heartbreaking because for most of the movie, they're equal penniless vagrants. (Despite their past lives as Grand Duchess and servant). When Dimitri finds out the truth, he immediately feels inferior and cut below her.
The real Anastasia was just shot alongside her family in July 1918 at the age of 17. After this movie was made, the actual Romanovs were dug up and DNA typed. All the Romanov children were in the graves, including Anastasia. The Other Wiki has the details. Two of the children were discovered in a grave near Ekaterinburg, apart from the original discovery site in early 2008: Alexei and one of his other sisters, either Marie or Anastasia.
Rasputin was an ally of the Romanovs, and was murdered before their own demise. He was also (probably) neither a lich nor powered by demons. And bats can't talk.
A very, very small one: In the Rasputin-created dream sequence where Anya sees her family swimming, her father greets her by calling her "Sunshine." In the actual Romanov family, this was the nickname of Anastasia's little brother.