Western Animation: Bartok the Magnificent

Bartok the Magnificent is a 1999 direct-to-video Semi-prequel to Don Bluth's Anastasia. This film is interesting for a couple of reasons:

  1. On the Don Bluth trope page, we mentioned that because he does not own the rights to the films he directed, his films tend to suffer from Sequelitis. Bluth had absolutely nothing to do with any of the sequels to any of his movies... except this one. This is the only sequel he directed. (If you're wondering, if it isn't "better" than most sequels spawned off Bluth films, then at least it is one hell of a lot weirder.)
  2. And, funnily enough, it barely counts as a prequel to Anastasia. It's really more of a Spinoff (Bluth himself put it "somewhere between a movie and a very expensive video"). The only things connecting Bartok the Magnificent to the previous film are the Russian setting and Bartok himself.

In this movie, Bartok is a traveling entertainer and a conman traveling Russia with a bear named Zozi, pretending to be a great hero and adventurer. His facade as a hero backfires when Tsarviech Ivan Romanov disappears, kidnapped by the mysterious Baba Yaga. Ludimilla, Ivan's advisor hires Bartok to get him back, and the bat finds he can't say no. So the pair set off, and Bartok might become a hero yet.

Has nothing to do with the composer Béla Bartók.


Examples:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Bartok was hardly a villain to begin with in his debut, but here he becomes a straight up hero, with some mild trickster elements.
    • Baba Yaga is portrayed as a sympathetic character in the movie once its revealed shes not the real villain, and that her reputation as a child kidnapper and eater is unfounded. She even (indirectly) helps Bartok save Prince Ivan.
  • Anti-Hero: Bartok starts off as this. He's a traveling performer who brags about feats he's obviously never done, and uses Zozi (who acts like a feral bear out of control) as part of his act to trick people into thinking he's a hero, conning the townspeople out of a great deal of money, and Prince Ivan of a ring. By the end, he ends up becoming a hero for real and actually does feats similar to what he bragged about in the opening.
  • Anachronism Stew: Oh sweet sanity, where do we start? The setting is supposed to be pre-revolutionary Russia, but it mixes Imperial Russia (18th-19th centuries) with Russian folklore from the first millennium AD, features a fictional Romanov prince based on a fairy tale character from said folklore, a witch who sings jazz (which wasn't invented until either the late 19th or early 20th century), and it only gets worse from there.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The stuff Baba Yaga puts in the potion. Especially that mysterious glittery liquid she wrings out of Piloff.
  • Ascended Extra: The main character was nothing more than a comic relief Punch Clock Villain in Anastasia.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Ludmilla upon "discovering" Prince Ivan has gone missing.
  • Bat Deduction: Puns aside, when Bartok sees the dragon rampaging outside the castle, he immediately deduces that its Ludmilla having been transformed by the potion.
  • Big Bad: Baba Yaga is set up to be the main villain, but that turns out to be a charade—Ludmilla turns out to be the real villain of the film, having Prince Ivan kidnapped with the intention to kill him, and framing Baba Yaga for kidnapping him, all as part of her plan to usurp the throne.
  • Bizarrchitecture: True to Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga's dingy old hut is seated right on top of two giant chicken legs.
  • Blatant Lies: When the Cossacks arrive to escort Bartok back to Ludmilla, he denies being himself even though his wagon has a sail with his name and face proudly displayed on it behind him. He notices and hastily paints over the A in his name with an E to pass himself off as someone else. The Cossacks don't buy it for a second.
  • Bond One-Liner: Just before the water tower collapses with Dragon Ludmilla on it, Bartok quips to her "Have a nice trip, see you next fall!"
  • Bragging Theme Tune / "I Am" Song: The opening song number, "Bartok The Magnificent".
  • Brick Joke: After getting the potion from Baba Yaga, Bartok asks Baba for a hug for the heck of it, and she warns him not to push his luck and shoos him off. In the ending, Baba shows up and grudgingly lets Bartok hug her, since he saved the day.
  • Butt Monkey: Bartok.
  • Call Back / Foreshadowing: Everything Bartok does during the climax is a reference to something he claimed he had done in his show at the beginning of the movie, from defeating a dragon to dousing a city in flames.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Baba Yaga calls herself evil when she first meets Bartok, but it's revealed later that she was just doing that to roll along with her bad reputation and test Bartok's character.
    • Ludmilla compares herself to Attila the Hun when singing about what kind of ruler she'll be.
  • Cartoon Creature: Piloff has a face that vaguely calls to mind a rodent, but she has the limp body of a ragdoll snake. Her species is completely indeterminate.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The potion Baba Yaga makes and gives to Bartok. It was supposed to help him rescue Prince Ivan, but Ludmilla steals it and uses it for her own end. Ironically, the potions effects on her indirectly end up leading Bartok to saving the day.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Baba Yaga's "magic intuition" is briefly mentioned in her song number "Someones in my House Tonight", and seems like it was just there to justify her knowing Bartok was hiding in her house. After Bartok completes her challenges and shows her compassion, she uses the same intuition to reveal that not only did she not kidnap Prince Ivan, but that he never even left the castle.
  • The Cameo: Rasputin...possibly. When Bartok returns from Baba Yaga with the potion and begins talking about its effects, an old man who bears a striking resemblance to Rasputin (albeit less evil-looking) comes over to him. Considering Bartok The Magnificent is a prequel to Anastasia, perhaps this is how Rasputin and Bartok first met?
    • Creator Cameo: The villager crying for more water during the climax appears to sport Don Bluth's mustache.
  • Classically Trained Extra: Zozi. Of corse, he's played by the guy who also did Sideshow Bob.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Ludmilla seems to shop at the same store as Maleficent and Jafar, as much as her color scheme (not to mention the Spikes of Villainy) just screams villain.
  • Cool Old Lady: Baba Yaga turns out to be this. She gets a jazzy song number to herself, and even helps Bartok save the day.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover art for the film proudly proclaims "The lovable hero from Anastasia is back!" Bartok was the sidekick to the villain of that movie and while he was hardly what you'd call "evil", he didn't really do anything heroic either, unless you count him abandoning Rasputin in the end.
  • Dark Is Evil: Ludmilla dresses in black, is drawn in an angular, bony physique as cold as her vain personality.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Baba Yaga is a witch, mildly gruesome looking and lives in a dingy old house on chicken legs within a far out of the way area, but it turns out she's not evil, just an antisocial person with a bad reputation.
  • David Versus Goliath: Bartok, an albino bat barely a couple inches tall, fighting the downright titanic Dragon Ludmilla in the climax.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Some of Ludmilla's prisoners sing snark in her direction during her Villain Song.
    "More than just the peasants are revolting!"
    "Hide, run away or go on a vacation!"
    (while about to be killed and presumably thinking of the idea of Ludmilla being queen) "Gee the future looks great!"
  • Disney Villain Death: Dragon Ludmilla is lured to the top of the castle by Bartok, and the watertower can't support her weight and comes falling down, crushing her to death under it.
  • Domestic Only Cartoon: A rare example of a direct-to-video sequel being produced in-house at the studio that created the original. And boy can you tell!
  • The Dreaded: As the opening song tells, Baba Yaga has this reputation among Russian folk, but that turns out to be out of gossip more than anything else.
  • Eats Babies: Baba Yaga has a reputation for kidnapping and eating children, but that turns out to be false.
  • Eat the Camera: Ludmilla as she drink's Baba Yaga's potion.
  • Everything Dances: Baba Yaga's introduction song, Someone's in my house.
  • Evil Chancellor: Ludmilla again.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: The first thing we learn about Ludmilla is she hates entertainment, and wants to have Bartok shut down.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Ludmilla. She even drinks dramatically.
    • She even hams up sitting down on a throne.
  • Evil Is Petty: Besides the convenient smokescreen of sending a local hero on a quest to save Prince Ivan, its implied Ludmilla sent Bartok off on his quest out of spite against him.
  • Evil Witch: Subverted with Baba Yaga. She has all the hallmarks of one at first, but she was framed for kidnapping Prince Ivan—she's not evil, just a loner.
  • Expy: Oblie is a hairless Tasmanian Devil.
  • Fan Disservice: Ludmilla's transformation into a dragon is intentionally made to be bizarre, if not downright grotesque, to watch.
    • During the climax, Zozi crossdresses as a disguise, and it is not a pretty sight.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Bartok when the story starts. Ludmilla exploits this by sending Bartok on a quest to save Ivan from Baga Yaga, solely because she believes it would mean a nuisance would be out of her way and would smokescreen her secret kidnapping of Ivan.
  • Fetch Quest: The middle act of the film is Bartok being sent by Baba Yaga to go fetch three objects around the area, which she uses as part of a potion that she gives to Bartok.
  • Filler: The giant talking skull scenes are just there to pad out the films length—they contribute virtually nothing to the plot at all.
  • Flying Broomstick: Baba Yaga makes her first appearance riding on one, but her classic flying mortar and pestle also make an appearance in the end.
  • For the Evulz: This is about the extent of Ludmilla's characterization; she's sadistic and vain and wants to usurp the throne from Prince Ivan by kidnapping and assassinating him.
  • Frame-Up: Ludmilla has Vol kidnap Prince Ivan while disguised as Baba Yaga, and leaving behind a piece of bark from the Iron Forest, so that she could conveniently frame the witch for Ivan's kidnapping and subsequent assassination.
  • Gag Boobs: Not really boobs, but when Ludmilla is transforming into a dragon and her dragon chest pops out it resembles ludicrously large breasts before her dragon belly pops out to go with it.
    • Amusingly, the filmmakers apparently felt this part was worthy of making it into the freeze frames in the credits.
  • Gag Nose: Baba Yaga has the largest nose of all charcaters.
  • Genre Shift: Anatasia was a historical fantasy with some romantic elements (albeit its ties to history are very, very loose) while this movie is a straight-up magical fantasy with comedic elements.
  • Good All Along: Baba Yaga is revealed to just be a witch with a bad reputation, and not actually evil.
  • Go Out with a Smile: During "The Real Ludmilla" three men sentenced to death just lie back and accept it, happy that they won't have to live under Ludmilla's rule.
  • Gratuitous Animal Sidekick: Played with. Bartok, who was a sidekick himself In Anastasia, becomes the hero and gets his own sidekick, Zozi, a talking bear who is fascinated with acting. Ironically, Bartok is barely an couple inches high, while Zozi is very large.
  • Hartman Hips: Taken to ridiculous proportions when Ludmilla transforms into a dragon; the result with the "gag boobs" above is very similar to one of those ancient fertility goddess figurines.
    • Even when Ludmilla is skinny her hips are quite a bit wider than the rest of her.
  • Heel Realization: Not a full example, but Ludmilla is apparently very surprised that "the real Ludmilla" is a fire-breathing dragon as apposed to a beautiful queen or something.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dragon Ludmilla is crushed to death under the same water tower she intended to drown Bartok and Ivan in.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: "The Real Ludmilla", although Ludmilla isn't aware of her transformation until after the song ends.
  • Identical Grandson: Prince Ivan looks like a male version of Anastasia, so he must be one of her predecessors since this takes place before Bartok even met Rasputin.
  • Jerk Ass Facade: When he meets her, Baba Yaga calls herself evil and threatens to kill Bartok if he doesn't get what she needs or relies on Zozi for help. Of course, her behavior turns out to be a Secret Test of Character so she could see if Bartok was capable of saving Prince Ivan from Ludmilla.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bartok is a shameless thief and rather whiny and sarcastic, but he's good natured at heart.
  • Karmic Transformation: Ludmilla's transformation into a fat, purple dragon.
  • Kick the Dog: After Bartok finds out about Ludmilla's scheme and kidnapping of Ivan, she locks in up in a cage, steals his potion, smashes the tower floor so he, Ivan and Vol can drown, and she rubs the situation right in their faces before closing the door.
  • Lean and Mean: Ludmilla, except for the hips.
  • Leitmotif: An instrumental of "Bartok The Magnificent" plays pretty much every time Bartok does something heroic, or gets a heroic idea.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Bartok is a Talking Animal, his grotesque bear companion is almost anthropomorphic, there are a couple of monsters and Ugly Cute oddities of indeterminate species, and everyone else is human.
  • Lighter and Softer: The film is considerably less dark than Anastasia in both tone and aesthetic, the main leads are cartoon animals and explicitly fictional characters, and the comedy and fantasy elements are played up a lot more.
  • Meaningful Name: Piloff is frozen to the top of a boulder, and it's Bartok's job to "peel" her "off."
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Sort of happens to Ludmilla at the end. Baba Yagas potion makes anyone who drinks it "ten times the person" they are inside. Ludmilla drinks it thinking it will turn her into what she thinks she is: beautiful, sweet and graceful as a flower, but since inside she's rotten and villainous she instead turns into a monstrous dragon. Her manner of speaking noticeably becomes much less sweet and controlled — and more manic and aggressive - over the course of her Villain Song, but she doesn't even realize anything's changing until she gets a look at herself in the mirror. Up until that point she was still talking about how she's going to be the golden ruler to the people of Russia - by the time Bartok gets to the city she's a rampaging beast setting everything on fire, and she doesn't talk at all or act like anything but a feral monster for the rest of her appearances. Since she's the villain anyway it's less noticeable - and it's more of a "mind is a plaything of the body which is a plaything of the inner self" type deal - but it's definitely an example.
    • If you interpret the events to mean that Baba Yaga knew Ludmilla would steal the potion and therefore she made it a "turn into dragon" poison from the outset, then it's a completely straight version of Mind Is A Plaything of The Body.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Vol. When Ludmilla told him to "get [Prince Ivan] out of the way" he didn't realise she meant "kill him" and instead locked him in the tower.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Baba Yaga. The film sets her up to be a villain, but she's really just a solitary witch with a bad reputation. At worst, she's just a jerk to Bartok.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Again, sort of. Ludmilla's last words are a shocked "oh, my goodness" and gasp when she realizes that Baba Yaga's potion is turning her into a monster, but by then it's far too late.
  • Noodle People: Ludmilla, sort of. Everything above her shoulders is normal and the rest of her body is noodly, which looks...odd.
  • Non-Action Guy: Zozi the Bear, Bartok's business partner and sidekick contributes almost nothing to the plot, and otherwise just serves as comic relief—he's even specifically forbidden from helping Bartok by Baya Yaga's orders. The only plot relevant scenes he has are contributing to Bartok's fake hero charades in the opening, and later freeing Bartok and then rescuing Prince Ivan from the watertower while Bartok deals with Dragon Ludmilla.
  • Obviously Evil: Ludmilla dresses in wasp like colors, is drawn very lean and angular, and has a cold, condescending personality. Even before the reveal, it's clear that she's a villain.
  • Off Model: The film has surprisingly good animation for a direct-to-video film, but there are some goofs or odd bits of animation here and there. In Bartok's opening song number, there are scenes of animation in crowd shots that are clearly unfinished and have extremely choppy animation. There's also some occasionally digital shrinking of Bartok during his song, which looks rather strange in motion compared to the rest of the animation.
    • One intentional bit of off-model is used as a "blink and you'll miss it" story point—when Prince Ivan is kidnapped, if you pay close attention you'll notice Baba Yaga is subtly taller and leaner in her first appearance than in the rest of the movie. This, of course, is a visual clue that it was actually Vol in disguise, framing Baba Yaga for it.
    • During the "Possible Hero" song, at Zozi's line "You're unafraid...", for no clear reason you can see the background right through him and Bartok.
  • Oh God, with the Verbing!: As in the original film, Bartok is prone to this. A lot.
  • One-Winged Angel: During Ludmilla's Villain Song. She downs a potion Baba Yaga gave to Bartok (it was supposed to turn him into a heroic creature capable of saving the day) and turns into "the real Ludmilla" - a none-too-intimidating purple dragon.
  • Prequel: The movie is supposed to be a prequel.
  • Public Domain Character: Baba Yaga, the famous witch of Slavic folklore.
  • Reused Character Design: Piloff bears a passing resemblance to a Small Annoying Creature from an unfinished project of Bluth's called Jawbreaker.
  • Red Herring: Ludmilla has her lackey kidnap Prince Ivan while disguised as Baba Yaga and locked up in the tower (with the intent to kill him), framing Baba for the kidnapping and planning to claim the throne from Ivan in his absence. She sends Bartok out to find Yaga and retrieve Prince Ivan just to get him out of her way, honestly believing he wouldn't come back.
  • Secret Test of Character: Baba Yaga puts Bartok through four challenges, which seem like what he has to do to get Prince Ivan back from her, but are revealed to be a test of his good nature and necessary to make a potion that will allow him to save Prince Ivan from his real kidnapper.
    Bartok: "Wait a minute. You mean, the whole time I was doing all that stuff for me?"
    Baba Yaga: "Mm-hmm. Now, leave me and save the prince."
  • Sexy Walk: Ludmilla walks like this a lot. YMMV on whether it is actually sexy or not.
  • Shout-Out: A couple to Looney Tunes: The scene of Bartok attempting to get Piloff off of the boulder is clearly borrowing a few ideas from Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoons, right down to the backgrounds resembling Maurice Nobel's paintings. The ogre they later encounter is a spoof of the Tasmanian Devil.
  • Small Annoying Creature: Bartok himself. Also Piloff the... pink... squishy... thing.
  • Spin-Off: The movie is ostensibly a prequel, but its setting and tone has few ties to Anastasia, that it really feels more like this.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Ludmilla has several superfluous spikes over her wardrobe, just in case you didn't realize she was the villain.
  • Stock Sound Effect: For some reason, Baba Yaga's flying uses the same sound effect as Rocky Squirrel's flying.
  • Super Serum/Psycho Serum: Baba Yaga's potion, which turns whoever uses it into their inner self, can be either depending on who drinks it. If taken by a repressed hero like Bartok, it would have supposedly made him into a heroic superbat. However, when taken by Ludmilla - a repressed murderous sadist - it instead turns her into a violent fire-breathing dragon. This noticeably surprises her, but not Bartok or the audience.
  • Swiss Army Tears: The final ingredient Baba Yaga wanted for her potion is Bartok's tears, shed because of "compassion". Awww...
  • Took a Level in Badass: Bartok by the end of the movie. He succeeds in distracting and taking down a dragon on his own, and without even laying a finger on her.
  • Toilet Humor: A mild example, but after wolfing down Baba Yaga's potion, Ludmilla makes a very loud, vulgar burp, complete with expelling a technicolor odor to go with it.
  • The Unintelligible: Oble, with the exception of a few key words, like "crown"... or "buggler."
  • The Villain Sucks Song: The opening number, "Baba Yaga," which of course turns out to be a fakeout.
  • Villain Song: "The Real Ludmilla". "Someone's In My House Tonight" would seem like one on the first viewing, until its revealed that Baba Yaga isn't a villain.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Part of Ludmilla's motive was wanting to usurp a prince she didn't feel was taking his royal responsibilities seriously. It doesn't hide her cruel, sadistic and vain personality.
  • Wham Line: When Baba Yaga reveals that she never kidnapped Prince Ivan, and that he never even left his castle.
    Bartok (seeing the tower of Ivan's castle): "Whoa, whoa. The tower...Uh, you never took him, did ya?"
    Baba Yaga: "I never said I did."
  • Wicked Cultured: Ludmilla.