Western Animation / Anastasia
On the wind, 'cross the sea,
Hear this song and remember
Soon you'll be home with me
Once upon a December
's 1997 very loose adaptation
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.
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
, 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.
A stage adaptation was announced for the 2016/2017 Broadway season, with an initial out-of-town tryout in spring/summer 2016. The original songwriting team will return, and the stage version will make some significant changes while maintaining the spine of the film, blending the fairytale tone of the animated film with more of the actual history of post-imperial Russia and the Romanovs.
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 particularly 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.
- A Hell of a Time: Actually Limbo, but it's really boring rather than torturous. The only thing that's really hell-like about the place is being Beneath the Earth and all the bugs, but they're actually OK guys-y'know, for sapient, supernatural beetles...
- 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.
- The Spirit of St. Louis is seen flying over Paris, even though Lindbergh made his historic flight in 1927, a year after the film is set.
- And This Is For...: Anastasia does a rundown of the trope when she destroys Rasputin's reliquary, thereby killing him.
Anastasia: This is for Dimitri! This is for my family! And this... this is for you! Do svidaniya!
- Angel Face, Demon Face: Bartok the bat starts out a little sinister, but is downright cute by the end of the movie when he's given up on serving Rasputin.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Rasputin gets a few lines in "In The Dark Of The Night" that indicate that he knows that he is evil. He refers to his curse as a "dark purpose", and he tells his minions to "let their evil shine".
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Anya and Dimitri don't let little issues like exploding trains and being attacked by giant statues stop them from dishing out the snark.
Dimitri: [After Anya hands him explosives] "What do they teach you at those orphanages?"
Anya: [After pulling Dimitri out of the way of oncoming debry] "And to think that could have been you."
- Character Development: Dimitri goes from a dishonest conman planning to trick Marie for her money to a selfless and principled gentleman who refuses the reward even if it means returning penniless to Russia, and walks away from Anya because he believes she'll be better off without him.
- Anya starts out as insecure and unsure of what she wants or who she is, and becomes much more confident and secure in herself by the end.
- Bartok finally stands up to Rasputin and leaves his evil-sidekick days behind him.
- Chekhov's Gun: Anya gives Dimitri a budding rose during the "Paris Holds the Key" sequence. It turns up later when Dimitri is leaving Paris and finds the rose fully bloomed in his pocket, which prompts him to go back and save Anya from Rasputin in the nick of time.
- Chorus Girls: The "Paris Holds The Key" number features French Chorus Girls who Squee!, bare their shoulders, and ruffle their skirts to make Toulouse-Lautrec proud.
- Clothing Damage: Happens to Anya during the battle with Rasputin, and it was her pimped out princess dress too!
- Comically Missing the Point: After their train car breaks off from the ones behind, Vlad is more concerned about losing the dining car.
- Coming-of-Age Story: After the prologue Anastasia sings a song about wanting to find out who she is and where to find her future. She finds both over the course of the journey. As the audience knows all along she's the Grand Duchess, but she decides her future is with Dimitri.
- Composite Character: Rasputin as he appears in this movie is a mix between the historical character, and a character from russian folklore called Koschei the Deathless.
- Compressed Hair: Anya appears to have a small ponytail for most of the movie, but when she lets her hair down later when she's all dressed up, her hair is much longer than the ponytail would account for. If you look closely, at the small "ponytail", though, you can see that it's actually only the ends of her hair sticking out of a very tight bun.
- Conspicuous CG: 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, and it definitely shows, especially with the following:
- The crashing chandelier looks like it comes from a different movie entirely.
- Ditto the boat and the music box.
- Rasputin's reliquary.
- The train!
- The Pegasus statue (minus the mane which is obviously 2D, creating an odd effect overall).
- Cool Crown: Anya wears a gorgeous sparkly diadem with her princess dress. Though she returns it by the end of the story.
- 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)".
- Damsel out of Distress: Anastasia at the climax. Though Dimitri arrives and attempts to save her from Rasputin, the latter sics a giant, animated horse statue on him that keeps him from interfering. Anastasia ends up fighting Rasputin all by herself and, with some help from Pooka fetching her the reliquary, defeats him. Rasputin's death is a result.
- Dance of Romance: Anastasia and Dimitri on the Tasha, while Vladimir lampshades this with a brief song. They have another one at the end when they're eloping.
- Dances and Balls: Rasputin curses the royal family during a ball to celebrate the Romanovs' multiple centuries of rule over Russia. It works, because shortly afterwards not-Lenin and the not-Bolsheviks raid the palace and Anastasia barely makes it out of there. Near the end of the film Anastasia is going to be presented at an equally fancy ball but ends up fighting Rasputin and then leaving with Dimitri instead.
- 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". Then for some reason, his powers often manifest as green light.
- Dated History: We're sorry Princess, but DNA testing has now confirmed that you're really most sincerely dead.
- Deadpan Snarker: Anya and Dimitri both spend most of the movie snarking at either each other or the trouble they find themselves in.
- Deal with the Devil: At the beginning, it is made clear that Rasputin has sold his soul in exchange for doom unto the Romanov line. This deal apparently also included being turned into an immortal undead corpse until his revenge is completed or his reliquary is destroyed, although Rasputin might have inadvertently caused that to happen when he swore "I will not rest until I see the end of the Romanov line forever!" Some of the dubs, like the Russian dub, even outright say he gained his powers from Satan.
- Disney Acid Sequence: "Once Upon a December", where Anya half-remembers, half-imagines a ball in the Imperial Palace, complete with Pimped-Out Dress.
- Disney Death: Dmitri.
- Disneyfication: Of the play and history itself. Bluth has admitted he never intended it to be accurate.
- Dream Ballet: The "Once Upon A December" number, where the portraits in the imperial ballroom come to life and dance for Anya.
- Dream Melody: Once Upon a December is sung during the Dream Ballet.
- Dub Name Change: Bartok the bat is renamed as "Bartek" in the Hungarian dub, to avoid any association with Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.
- 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.
- Elopement: Anastasia and Dimitri at the end. They're certainly not having a grand public wedding.
- The End of the Beginning: At the end: "It's a perfect ending!" "No. It's a perfect beginning."
- Everyone Can See It: Vlad definitely can, and Sophie appears to share his suspicions, and the Dowager Empress figures it out pretty quickly. Even random people at the opera think Anya and Dimitri are a couple having a spat.
- 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 to 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 wrecked, the dark forces immediately intervene to claim him and he dies horrifically with, his soul likely in their possession for all time.
- Evil Is Petty: A being who was, by the forces of darkness, given the ability that establishes the Communist Revolution, for god's sake, comes back into this world. What does he intend to do next? Take Over the World? Destroy it? Nah. He is going to devote his entire existence to wrecking one girl's chance for happiness.
- Lampshaded by Bartok when he says, Get A Life!
- 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.
- Evil Sorcerer: Rasputin, even before he sold his soul, is known as a nasty mystic.
- Expy: Vlad is basically Papa Mousekewitz as a human.
- Fake Aristocrat: Dimitri's plan is to set up Anya up as one — not knowing that she's not a fake aristocrat at all.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Rasputin's death was another offender. His body parts melt into nasty green ooze and his cloak collapses to the ground. And then his skeleton emerges, screaming in agony while being shocked by green electricity. His final death comes as a relief. Oh, and it isn't a Karmic Death, Anastasia knows just what she's doing when she destroys the reliquary that is keeping him alive.
- Faux Affably Evil: Rasputin.
- Fiery Redhead: Anya/Anastasia. She has auburn hair and spends much of the movie in a Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic with Dmitri.
- Final Girl: Anastasia, as the only member of the Romanov family to survive Rasputin's curse.
Rasputin: My curse made each of them pay, but one little girl got away!
- Fingerless Gloves: Anya's purple gloves in snowy Russia.
- Flowers of Romance: Dimitri and Anya give each other budding roses during the "Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart)" sequence. Anya later throws hers away when she discovers his original con. Dimitri finds his - now full bloomed - in his pocket just as he's about to leave for Russia which prompts him to go back to Anya.
- Forgotten First Meeting: Dimitri worked as a servant in the Winter Palace when he was a boy, and he was the one who saved Anya and the Dowager Empress from being captured in the Revolution. By the end, both Anya and Marie remember him and what he did.
- Form-Fitting Wardrobe: The opera gown.
- Freudian Slip: Used in a literal sense when Sigmund Freud, singing along with "Paris Holds the Key," slips on a banana.
- Funny Background Event: A subtle penis joke is made in a scene involving Sigmund Freud slipping on a banana peel.
- 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. This is 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.
- Gag Echo: Dimitri and Anya promising to thank each other in the midst of dire situations.
Dimitri: [While on the careering train] "If we live through this - remind me to thank you."
Anya: [While fighting Rasputin] "Dimitri! If we live through this remind me to - "
Dimitri: "You can thank me later."
- Gay Paree: The song "Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart" shows off the swanky, fashionable and romantic aspect of Paris.
- Genki Girl: Sophie.
- Girliness Upgrade: Anastasia and her outfits become progressively more refined and feminine during the story and as she gets closer to becoming a princess again. In Russia she's dressed in a ragged, peasant tunic and her hair is thrown in a scruffy knot, during the journey she changes into a simple blue dress and lets her hair down, in Paris she wears fashionable flapper and opera dresses and gets her hair done properly, and once she regains her title is decked out in an elaborate court gown and tiara. When she leaves with Dimitri at the end she keeps the court gown but it's damaged and ripped from their battle with Rasputin and her hair is messy again.
- Girls Need Role Models: At the time it was astonishingly rare for any children's movie to have a lead Female Protagonist. Even then the female lead might end up reliant on male characters.note
- Give Me a Sign: When Anya prays for a sign, a dog steals her scarf and runs over to the path to St. Petersburg.
- Gonk: Even before he became a rotting corpse, Rasputin, what with his bone thin physique, pale skin, skull like face with bulging eyes, a pointy nose and ears, messy hair and grotesquely large hands with pointy nails, was not a pretty sight.
- Grand Staircase Entrance: Anya makes her debut as a princess by going down one of these. Dimitri is certainly amazed.
- Greater Scope Villain: 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 spectacularly 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.
- Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: Very little is 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 rather than having diverse public grievances, it's indicated to be the result of Rasputin's rabble-rousing and Deal with the Devil.
- 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.
- Happily Ever After: In the movie, Anya is reunited with her grandmother, but decides to stay out of the spotlight and marries Dimitri.
- Halfway Plot Switch: Well two thirds plot switch, as the story is originally focused on Anya uncovering her lost past and finding her grandmother. After they arrive in Paris the focus switches to the new social barriers between Anya and Dimitri, him struggling against his feelings for her and whether she wants to return to her life as Grand Duchess. Rasputin's plot to kill her lasts throughout the whole film though.
- Headdesk: Before they meet Anya, Dimitri and Vlad are holding an audition for girls to play Anastasia. One prospect is a middle-aged woman, who says in a sultry voice, "Granmama! It's me, Ana-STASIA!" Their reaction is a combination Head Desk and Face Palm.
- The Heavy: The entire plot kicks off because Rasputin used his newfound dark powers to trigger the revolution against the Romanovs, which indirectly causes Anastasia to get separated from her grandmother. It also bears noting that he and Anastasia only encounter each other for a very brief moment at the very beginning, and during the climax—the rest of the time, Rasputin is trying to kill her with his demons while he's stuck in Limbo to get revenge and fulfill his curse, but the heroes are completely unaware of his presence until the climax.
- Held Gaze: Two happen between Anya and Dimitri during the Almost Kiss scenes and another one happens before The Big Damn Kiss scene at the conclusion.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Dimitri hits this hard when he discovers Anya is the real Grand Duchess and realizes he'll barely be able to associate with her anymore, let alone act on his feelings. He quickly gives up on all his hopes for the future; refusing the reward money, pushing Anya away because she can do better and returning to impoverished, oppressive Russia even though there's no life left for him there. Thankfully he snaps out of it by the end.
- High Class Gloves: Both Anya and Marie wear long gloves to the opera, as was the fashion at the time. Marie scenting hers with peppermint triggered Anya's memories.
- Historical-Domain Character: Pretty much everyone except for Dimitri, Vlad, Pooka, and Bartok (obviously...).
- 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 have a very small role in this film. All we see is Nicholas telling Rasputin to leave his party, and given how Obviously Evil he looks, Nick looks good in comparison. In reality they were hardly 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.
- Additionally, the film's Anastasia is essentially Anna Anderson, who was a fraud in real life. Her claim to being Anastasia was debunked before this movie was made. Notably, Anastasia is actually referred to as "Anna" in the 1956 Ingrid Bergman version, which was made at a time when Anna Anderson's story still seemed vaguely plausible. This version refers to her instead as "Anya", perhaps to distance itself from the Anna Anderson legacy.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: While many things have been said of him, the real Rasputin 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 like Grand Duke Felix Yusupov. 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 (this is referenced in his Villain Song by "When the royals betrayed me they made a mistake"). 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.
- Hypnotize the Princess: Rasputin uses magic to make Anya sleepwalk off the side of the ship she's on in a storm. Dimitri fortunately stops her and wakes her up before she can jump.
- If We Get Through This: There's a literal example in dialogue.
Dimitri: If we live through this, remind me to thank you.
(which Anastasia repeats in the ending sequence before Dimitri cuts her off)
Anastasia: If we live through this, remind me-
Dimitri: You can thank me later.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: In the end Anya decides to live a private life with former servant Dimitri rather than return to her old royal lifestyle, which it's implied she was uncomfortable with.
- I'm Not Afraid of You: Anastasia uses this line verbatim near the end of the movie, when Rasputin is attempting to drown her in the river. His response?
Rasputin: I can fix that!
- Inhuman Human: Rasputin Came Back Wrong, and is rather narked about it.
- In-Name-Only: The film was supposedly "based on" the play by Marcel Maurette. Don Bluth turned it into a musical with Rasputin as an undead sorcerer with a talking bat sidekick, among other changes (the play had already been faithfully adapted to a 1956 film starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman).
- Inter-Class Romance: Anastasia whose family ruled all of Russia and Dimitri a former kitchen boy. Played with, as for most of the movie neither of them know who she really is and are both penniless vagrants. Of course this only makes the revelation more painful and gut-wrenching for Dimitri, as before he thought they were both equally poor commoners and he had a chance with her, but now she's hopelessly out of his reach. For bonus angst it's hinted he had a crush on her when they were children meaning he got hit with this trope twice.
Dimitri: "Princesses don't marry kitchen boys.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: A few historical characters show up in the song "Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart": Maurice Chevalier, Sigmund Freud, Charles Lindbergh, Josephine Baker, Claude Monet, Isadora Duncan, Auguste Rodin, and Gertrude Stein. All of them are going shopping on the same night in the same street and all happen to know the words to the song. The movie features a singing Gertrude Stein. This might be the most historically correct part of the movie as both Hemingway and Bennett Cerf wrote of Gertrude's inability to walk by someone playing a piano without sitting down and singing along.
- I Remember It Like It Was Yesterday: Used for irony: a young woman claiming to be Anastasia uses the stock phrase before rattling off a list of facts about Anastasia's childhood in an effort to prove her identity to Dowager Empress Marie. The viewer of course already knows that she's lying, and furthermore that the real Anastasia doesn't remember anything about her childhood.
- Ironic Echo: "Do svidaniya!" Said first by Rasputin as he's about to kill Anya, then repeated by her when she's breaking his reliquary.
- Also "All men are babies" which Anya tells Dimitri when he complains about how hard she hit him when they were squabbling. He repeats the line after they've defeated Rasputin and she thought he'd been killed. It's also a sign of how far their relationship has come and how differently Anya views him.
Dimitri: [gasping] "Yeah, yeah I know - all men are babies." (Anya hugs him)
- It Has Only Just Begun: When Sophie refers to Anya and Dimitri's elopement as 'the perfect ending', the Empress corrects her, saying 'No, it's a perfect beginning.'
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
- Dimitri, shown most clearly when he refuses the reward money for reuniting Anastasia and her grandmother.
- The Empress after realizing that Dmitri saved Anastasia and refused the reward because he loves her granddaughter tells Anastasia that no matter what she decides with her life or where she decides to go, the Empress will be content knowing Anastasia is alive. Hence she gives a bittersweet smile after Anastasia returns her crown.
- "I Want" Song: "Journey to the Past", sung by Anya as she dares to travel to Paris, to find a real family. Then "Once Upon A December" where she struggles with her empty past.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dimitri is a con-artist who is perfectly willing to manipulate a young orphan in order to scam an old lady out of her money... and yet, when it comes down to it, he does the right thing.
- Karma Houdini: Vlad had zero problems with helping Dimitri scam the Duchess out of her money and, unlike Dimitri who goes through a Change Of Heart borderline Heel–Face Turn and at least gets a beating from Rasputin's magical minions near the end, never suffers any kind of repercussions or learns a lesson. If anything, his life only improves after setting out on such a cruel scheme!
- Keep the Reward: After Dimitri returns Anastasia to her grandmother he refuses the reward and leaves without telling Anya what he did, so as to draw her contempt and hoping to sever any ties so that she could live happily without him to drag her down.
- Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: In the climax Anya defeats Rasputin decked out in a ball gown, royal sash and crown jewels. Granted, the dress ends up rather more ripped and bedraggled than it started out, but still.
- Large Ham: Rasputin loves shouting and gesturing with his Soul Jar. (considering his voice actor, this isn't surprising) His acting is about as subtle as a screaming hyena.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Dimitri plans to take advantage of an innocent girl and heartbroken old woman by making Anya pose as Anastasia to get the reward money for himself. He ends up falling in love with Anya and then discovers she is the real Anastasia, meaning his actions have placed the woman he loves out of his reach and actually reunited the people he tried to con. Luckily karma works both ways because his change of heart, refusing the reward money and walking away so Anya will be happy, results in her choosing to marry him anyway.
- Meaningful Echo: During the "Paris Holds the Key" sequence, the main chorus is "Paris holds the key to your heart" but Dimitri uses "Paris holds the key to her heart" instead. (Referring to the fact that the city is the key to Anya finding her past and family, but the luxury and life Paris represents is inaccessible to him so he's actually lost her heart.)
- Memento MacGuffin: Anya's "Together in Paris" necklace key and matching music box which her grandmother gave to her so they could be together even when separated. In a twist while Anya has the necklace half, her grandmother doesn't have the music box half...Dimitri does. Which foreshadows the fact that her grandmother isn't the only person to help Anya discover who she is and where she belongs.
- Minion with an F in Evil: Bartok is not particularly evil for serving such a dark master, and not very competent either; he almost kills Rasputin when he tries to break his phylactery on a whim.
- Mood Whiplash: The "Paris Holds the Key (To Her Heart)" sequence alternates between Sophie and the crowd taking the main characters around Paris with zany antics, and Dimitri brokenly reflecting on how he's lost Anya forever.
Sophie and the Can Can Girls: "Everyone can can can! You can can can too!"
Dimitri: "Paris hold the key to her past. Yes, Princess, I've found you at last. No more pretend, You'll be gone, that's the end..."
The crowd: "Paris holds the key to your heart!"
- Mr. Fanservice: Dimitri. When they originally animated him, they thought he was too "obviously cute" - so they added the bump on his nose to tone it down. It backfired.
- The Musical: There are many songs in this movie concerning things like character motivation, cultural appeal, young love.
- Musical Exposition: The first song, "A Rumor in St. Petersburg", picks up after the prologue and a Time Skip. It introduces two of the main characters, Dmitri and Vlad, and establishes their plan and motives.
- Natural Spotlight: Anya's lit face. The eyes are the ones in focus, which makes one wonder whether or not she notices; most people would certainly be blinded by such thing.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Bartok the bat for Rasputin and Pooka the dog for Anya. Bartok talks, Pooka doesn't.
- No Place for Me There: Dimitri says this to Pooka when the dog and Vlad both object to Dmitri leaving, but Dmitri insists he doesn't belong in Anastasia's world of royalty that Anastasia had rejoined.
- Nostalgic Musicbox: Literally. Dimitri has carried Anastasia's music box for years in hopes of clinching the Imposter Princess deal.
- Not Afraid of You Anymore: Anastasia says this to Rasputin at the end right before killing him again.
- 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 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.
- Not Using the "Z" Word: Two examples with Rasputin, one of which gets bonus points for involving the Trope Naming creature:
- Though he gets progressively more gruesome throughout the film, "zombie" is never used, nor even "undead".
- It's said that he sold his soul but the Devil is not brought up, he only ever refers to those he sold he soul to as "the dark forces". Some of the foreign dubs do make it explicitly Satan.
- Nurture over Nature: Alluded to as Anya seems to feel uncomfortable with the old, royal lifestylenote after spending most of her life as an ordinary citizen, and chooses to leave with Dimitri to live privately instead. Her grandmother indicates she's realized her situation as well.
Dowager Empress Marie: "You were born into this world of glittering jewels and fine titles. But I wonder if this is what you really want."
- Off Model:
- Anastasia looked very different and oddly emaciated on the "Family Fun" DVD case◊ than she does in the movie. Fortunately, corrected◊ versions are available.
- 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.
- 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.Alternatively...
- Oh God, with the Verbing!: "Enough with the glowing and the smoke people!" Well said, Bartok.
- Old-Timey Bathing Suit: In Anya's dream sequence on the ship, her family is wearing these.
- Ominous 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
Vsë naprasno - luchshe kostër!
Slava revolyutsii! Mnogo nas ubito
Nechego teryat'! Svoboda? Yesli by...
Vidit Bozhe, my idëm 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.
It’s 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.
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. And of course Dimitri has the music box that goes 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 sorcerer 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: Anya's entire family got decimated in the revolution, and ten years later she seeks to reunite with whoever is left, guided by a cryptic message. Unusual for an animated film in that this is a driving force behind her journey throughout the film instead of just being there for the sake of it.
- Also Dimitri who was an orphan even at the beginning of the film when he was working as a kitchen boy, and in the intervening years Vlad is clearly the closest he had to a parental figure.
- Parental Favouritism: Or rather, Grandparental Favourtism as Anya seems to be the Empress's favourite grandchild, which makes it all the more heartwarming when they reunite.
- Pet the Dog: When Dmitri does his Keep the Reward moment and tells the Empress that what he wants is something she can't give him, she comes to realize that he saved her and her granddaughter during the siege as the kitchen boy, and reunited them because he loves Anastasia. Thus when Anastasia plans to enter the grand ballroom, she tells Anastasia that Dmitri didn't take the money, and that knowing Anastasia is alive is enough for her.
- Pig Latin: Dmitri 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 made 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 in the movie at all, but they were 'inspired by' it and made to fit the Anastasia doll.
- Pretty in Mink: A few, like the fur-trimmed coat Anya wears to the opera, and her grandmother's fur wrap.
- Product Placement: Sophie takes Anastasia shopping at a Chanel store during the Shopping Montage in Paris.
- Protagonist Title
- Pygmalion Plot: Two con-men, Dimitri and Vlad, style an orphan to pass for the Empress's long-lost granddaughter, and the younger, Dimitri, is smitten when he sees his creation succeed. Unbeknownst to all of them, she really is Anastasia. Though, of course, he loved her all along.
- Quest for Identity: Anastasia goes to St. Petersburg in the hopes of finding her original self, i.e. her past.
- Rags to Royalty: Inverted, played straight and then averted as Anya goes from Royalty to Rags back to Royalty and to presumably fairly comfortable but not royalty. The ending is rather ambiguous as Dimitri refuses the reward, but it's possible Anya may her have own income or inheritance now or the Empress could be providing her with money. (As the ending established Anya and her grandmother were going to remain close). If nothing else, Dimitri and Anya are more than capable of supporting themselves, especially now they're out of impoverished Russia.
- 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 includes 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.
- Reality Ensues: The Dowager Empress has offered a ten million ruble reward to anyone that can reunite her with her granddaughter Anastasia? Seems easy enough for Dimitri and Vlad to con the money out of her with an Anastasia lookalike and the "jewelry box" she gave her. Once they get to Paris, it turns out the same reward money that tempted them has tempted countless conmen with their own Anastasia lookalikes, to the point the Dowager Empress has grown fed up with being disappointed time and time again, and refuses to see any more girls claiming to be Anastasia... before they even roll into town.
- Really Royalty Reveal: Anya, Dimitri and Vlad spend most of the movie having Anya learn to act like royalty, only for them all to discover she really is the Grand Duchess and the last member of the Russian royal family. True to this trope, Dimitri immediately thinks he's not good enough for her.
- Reformed, but Rejected: Dimitri is rejected by The Dowager Empress and "Anya" once they learn about his "Anastasia Auditions". Even after he tries to make up for it Anya still rejects him, thinking he was Only in It for the Money and then the climax happens. The Empress, however, realizes that he did it out of love for her granddaughter.
- The Remake: The film is officially a Disneyfication/fantasticization of the 1956 Ingrid Bergman film (itself a play adaptation).note
- Road Trip Romance: Dimitri and Anya travel from St. Petersburg, Russia to Paris, France and by the time they arrive they are deep in Belligerent Sexual Tension. Then they elope and leave Paris.
- The Roaring Twenties: "Paris Holds the Key" is a montage of this era.
- Rotten Rock & Roll: Rasputin's Villain Song, "In the Dark of the Night", has a rocking tune, complete with electric guitars.
- Royal Blood: Anastasia is the last of the royal Romanov bloodline, although there's no throne to reclaim since the revolution. This is why Dimitri is so devastated when he realizes the woman he's in love with is a genuine royal rather than a fake as he knows there's no way a former servant could marry into the Russian royal family.
- The Dowager Empress Marie and her cousin Sophie are also of royal blood by association
- 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.
- A more contained example with Anastasia's tiara: After she's defeated Rasputin, she and Dimitri go to kiss, only for Pooka to interrupt them to give her the crown so she's holding it between the two of them - not so subtly symbolizing how her princess status is separating them. In the final scene the tiara is gone and they can kiss with nothing coming between them.
- 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."
- Satellite Love Interest: Taken to its logical extreme. Bartok the Bat abandons Rasputin near the end, and is rewarded with a pink bat who flies in and kisses him. Averted with Dimitri who is remarkably fleshed out for a Princesses love interest in the period of animation.
- Scenery Porn: The usage of CinemaScope really shows off some great views of St. Petersburg, Paris, and the interiors of palaces.
- Sexual Karma: Rasputin's bat sidekick abandons him at the climax and is awarded a female bat at the end with no explanation.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- Subverted when Anya starts packing her bags after learning about Dmitri and Vlad's con. Before she can leave, Dmitri kidnaps the Empress and convinces her to meet Anya and give her a chance.
- Subverted again when Dmitri after claiming to Anya that he won't miss Russia prepares to go back after the Empress identifies her long-lost granddaughter. After smelling the rose that Anya gave to him, he decides to go back and saves her in the nick of time from Rasputin.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Yes, Dimitri, that elegant lady in the Parisian Opera dress 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.
- The Empress gets on board pretty quickly after realizing Dimitri was the boy who saved them at the palace, and he refuses her reward. She even encourages Anya to be with him rather than becoming a princess again.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Just before the final confrontation, Bartok decides he's had enough of Rasputin obsessing over murdering an innocent girl, and abandons him.
- 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.
- Shown Their Work: Despite the historical liberties taken (some for the sake of the medium and length, some to spare children the grisly truth about the Russian Revolution, and some for simple poetic license) and myths bought into (aside from the urban legend about Anastasia herself, nods are given to Rasputin's alleged exaggerated death), a great deal of work was done to otherwise display geographical and biographical accuracy.
- Photography, including aerial shots, enabled startlingly true-to-life likenesses of St. Petersburg and Paris and the inside of the Winter Palace;
- Period costumes and trains were duplicated, as well as historical figures living in Paris at the time;
- Actual relics of the Romanovs were scanned into the computers and inserted within the movie, including photographs of the family shown on Marie's wall and the drawing Anastasia made when she was eight years old, which was drawn by the real Anastasia...
- 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.
- In the number "Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart" the backgrounds all look very Impressionistic, and that was the popular painting style at the time.
- Pooka bears some resemblance to Anastasia's real dog, a springer spaniel named Jimmy who died with the family in 1918.
- Show Within a Show: Anya, Dimitri, and Vlad are treated to the Parisian ballet by Marie's assistant (and Vlad's "cream puff"), and the ballet in question is Cinderella - what do you mean, there's no parallel?
- Sickly Green Glow: Rasputin's reliquary oozes with this, as do his phantom minions.
- Simple Yet Opulent: Anya's blue dress for the opera looks simpler than her other ones but is no less elegant.
- 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.
- Slasher Smile: Rasputin shows this in his first entrance. Bonus points for this happening as the narrator talks about the danger he presents.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Good lord Anastasia and Dimitri. They start at it from basically the minute they meet, and keep going through the emotional near-death finale.
- Somewhere Song: "Journey to the Past". Anastasia dreams of going to Paris, which she believes holds all the answers to her mysterious childhood.
- Soul Jar: Rasputin's reliquary was already a powerful magical weapon before it became this, but he 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.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Sadly, Anastasia herself - it was finally confirmed in 2008 that the real Anastasia did in fact die with the rest of her family that night.
- Stealth Pun: One of the historical cameos is Sigmund Freud, who slips on a banana peel.
- Stripped to the Bone:
- Rasputin has his flesh torn off as a result of his deal with the dark forces. He is forced to restore it with his phylactery.
- Averted during Rasputin's death scene. He melts down to the bone and writhes briefly, but he then decays further into dust.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The film loves this trope, mostly for the effects animators to show off (such as the Runaway Train violently exploding in a large, stereotypical Hollywood explosion with sparks flying upward!).
- Suddenly Suitable Suitor: Inverted. Rather than Dimitri taking the reward money or trying to become a suitable husband for a Grand Duchess, Anya chooses to leave her wealthy world and elopes with him to live an ordinary life.
- Take My Hand: During Anastasia's and the Empress's escape from St. Petersburg, the Empress gets on a moving train, and tries to grab hold of Anastasia's hand. She fails, and Anastasia is left behind.
- Technicolor Death: Rasputin decomposes in flashes of green light after the title character steps on his talisman.