Adaptation Displacement: The 1997 animated film seems to have pretty well eclipsed the 1956 live-action film of which it was a loose remake. And that's not to mention the stage play which the 1956 version was based off of.
Could very well be the Trope Codifier. This film is mistaken for Disney more than any other animated film out there, due largely in part to it copying many aspects of the "1990s Disney Princess formula" thanks to Don Bluth being at the helm. It is mistaken for a Disney film so often that, at one point, if you were to search "Anastasia" on Google, one of the very first search suggestions would be "anastasia disney".
Lindsay Ellis: This was Don Bluth throwing in the towel. This was him saying: "All right, Disney, you win. With your princesses, and your musicals, and your Coming Of Age stories with sweeping, snarky romances... you win." If you can't beat them, join them. Copy the Disney formula and marketing strategy, and you will make money.
The theatrical adaptation doesn't help this train of thought. As most Broadway musicals based on animated films are Disney-based, Anastasia gets mixed in.
Further not helped by the fact that Disney actually does own it now, after buying up Fox, and you could buy the DVD and Blu-ray from the Disney Movie Club beginning in 2021.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Vlad is never portrayed as anything other than a cuddly, Big Fun, Cool Old Guy and yet he was perfectly comfortable with what was a very cruel scheme: swindling a sad, lonely old lady out of a lot of money by faking what would probably be her last hope of happiness. Unlike Dimitri, who learns a lesson and becomes far less of a Jerkass by the movie's end, Vlad never seems to learn anything or feel the slightest bit of guilt for what they tried to do. So a bit of a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing or someone who has a set of very self-centred morals? Another possibility is if he were working on the same plan as Dimitri. As he says "I was a member of the imperial court" and so he could have known the Dowager Empress personally. Could it be that he was trying to create a Replacement Goldfish? Make a fake so convincing that she wouldn't be able to tell the difference?
Awesome Art: Part of the reason this film is often mistaken for a Disney production is its stellar animation, especially as this was one of the very last hugely successfully hand-drawn animated films; the layouts fully embrace the richness of Russian culture during the scenes in St. Petersburg and later of Paris which eventually takes the form of a series of Van Gogh paintings during the "Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart" sequence.
Base-Breaking Character: Anya. Is she well-developed and worthy of being remembered alongside the likes of Ariel and Belle? Or is she just a bitchy snob who tries too hard to be "Disney-like" and ends up abandoning her own grandmother, whom she's spent all her life looking for, for a boyfriend?
The Rasputin subplot for a lot of people. On the one hand, people love Rasputin and think he's a very charismatic villain - also lending to a very action-packed climax. On the other, some fans feel that the story of Anya trying to find her family is interesting enough on its own without a villain needed. Notably Rasputin disappears for a good chunk of the film after they meet Sophie. The stage musical removes him completely, replacing him with a Chekist officer, splitting fans who can't agree whether this is an improvement or not.
Then there's also the premise - Anastasia surviving the revolution, which has since been disproven as of 2007. For some, this alienates them off the story completely. Others don't mind, considering the film was never marketed as historical fact to begin with.
Regarding the soundtrack, does "At the Beginning" join the ranks of classic, love-affirming movie theme duets or is it a sickeningly-cheesy Cliché Storm?
Delusion Conclusion: Due to Dated History and the ambiguous line in the prologue's narration ("my beloved granddaughter... I never saw her again"), some fans suggested that the rest of the movie could just be the Empress's fantasy of if Anastasia survived.
Sophie is very popular despite her small screen-time. Fans love her for being a desirable Big Beautiful Woman and see her as a positive example for unconventional body-types.
Bartok, Rasputin's sidekick, is rather popular due to his snarky attitude towards his master and is not the typical cowardly henchman which was considered an overused trope at the time of this film's release. He even got to star in his own movie two years later, which was directed by Don Bluth himself!
Evil Is Cool: Rasputin is a very popular villain for someone who only appeared in one movie and for barely 15 minutes at that. His "In the Dark of the Night" song number is also a popular choice for fanmade music videos.
Fandom-Enraging Misconception: In the past, there was an understanding that you should never call the film a Disney film. For some, this is still a thing, as it was made by Don Bluth's production studio, not Disney. Nowadays, it's not much of a problem, as Disney bought much of Fox's assets and the film is on Disney+ as of 2020. Even the people who still assert the line have given up on explaining the situation to people, since most don't really get the distinction anyway.
The song "Rumor in St. Petersburg" has a woman selling the alleged pajamas of "Count Yusupov." This is funny (in a dark way) for history buffs, as it refers to Felix Yusupov, a wealthy relative of Tsar Nicholas II, best known for his role in the murder of the film's main antagonist, Rasputin, in 1916.
The final confrontation takes place at the Alexander III bridge, named for Anastasia's grandfather (and her father placed its foundation stone). Appropriate in several ways.
"Anya" may not be short for "Anastasia," but it is Russian diminutive for "Anna," as in Anna Anderson.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Anastasia was well received in Russia and a box office hit, since its distributors took care to market it as not history but a historical fairy tale, letting the audience watch it with a fair dose of MST3K Mantra. Not that it spared the film from any sort of criticism though—a number of Russian Orthodox Christians took umbrage at the fictional depiction especially as the real-life Anya was canonized as a new martyr in 1981 by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, seeing the film's portrayal of the Duchess as distorted and sugar-coated.
Harsher in Hindsight: Even if the film was never intended to be historically accurate, it can be a little depressing on subsequent viewings after future studies revealed that the real-life Anastasia was in fact killed during the revolution. Though anyone savvy even before the discovery would've guessed as much.
Moral Event Horizon: If Rasputin hadn't crossed this already by placing the death curse on the Romanovs at the start of the film, he definitely crosses it when he ambushes an 8 year old Anastasia and tries to kill her himself.
Narm Charm: Rasputin has one of the coolest villain songs ever... and his musical accompaniment consists of hundreds of singing cartoonish, Ugly Cutebugs in the background. Doesn't make the song itself any less awesome though, thankfully.
One-Scene Wonder: The middle-aged actress who tries out for Vlad and Dimitri's auditions — strutting into the middle of the stage, dropping her fur coat and crying: "Grandma! It's me! Anastasia!" She was reborn as a Memetic Mutation with the release of The Hobbit trilogy and Lee Pace's similarly dramatic cloak tosses.
Popularity Polynomial: "Journey To The Past" was well-received when the film was released, getting an Oscar nomination, before fading from public consciousness. In The New '10s it has suddenly enjoyed a massive surge in popularity, with The New York Times even calling it "The 'Let It Go' of the 90s". Unshaved Mouse admitted to being blown away, saying Liz Callaway's performance was "Jodi Benson good". It has seen plenty of covers and recreations on YouTube too.
Signature Scene: Two strong contenders, each appealing to a different sensibility.
The nightmare that Rasputin uses to compel Anastasia to attempt Psychic-Assisted Suicide. With eerie music and creepy butterflies that create a pretty dream of her going swimming with her siblings and father, it establishes that Rasputin may be undead, but he is still dangerous and willing to use Anastasia's repressed memories against her.
The hauntingly beautiful "Once Upon a December" sequence: Anya investigates the abandoned palace and the ghosts/memories of the court spring from the stained glass to perform a grand waltz in the ballroom, visions of the royal family welcome Anya, she undergoes Gorgeous Garment Generation, and she dances with her father the Czar.
They Copied It, So It Sucks!: Many critics have criticized it as being an attempt to copy the formula most Disney films followed at the time, and while it does have many Disney-like elements (such as the Non Human Sidekicks and "I Want" Song), it has conversely been praised for including unique elements such as the princess protagonist being a Deadpan Snarker and the handsome male lead being a con man who only falls in love with who he's conning later on.
Vindicated by History: The movie had a decent-at-best box office showing of $58.4 million in the United States (equating to $117.8 million at 2019 ticket prices) and $81.4 million overseas, for a total of $139.8 million worldwide. This was not exactly the blockbuster Fox was hoping for with its new animation arm. However, once released on VHS, it gained a word-of-mouth following and spent over a year consecutively on the monthly best-selling VHS charts. Additionally, the Romanovs themselves were initially not too keen on the film. Over time they warmed up to it.
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Following in tradition with other Don Bluth works (like All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Secret of NIMH), this is a dark film. There are moments of death, extreme violence, dark peril, Stuff Blowing Up very realistically, ghostly spirits and corpses, not to mention the death of Rasputin, involving him melting into a convulsing skeleton that crumbles into dust. His next film, Titan A.E., was even worse.
The fact that the film portrays the Russian Revolution as being the result of a dark spell, courtesy of Rasputin (as opposed to perceived injustices of society) could easily be taken as a Take That! to revolutionaries as being pathetic dupes of evil men. Although the only thing we are shown Rasputin do to cause the revolution is open a gate to the revolutionaries into the palace, rather than stir them up in the first place, it still shows the revolutionaries being used as pawns by an evil man.
Right before the "Journey to the Past" song number, Anya is at a fork in the road where she has to choose between going to the left, which would mean embracing life under the communist system, or going to the right, which would mean reclaiming her monarchical heritage. Coincidence?
Win Back the Crowd: After a long string of critical and financial flops in the '90s, Anastasia was seen by many as a welcome return to form for Don Bluth, and provided a brief Career Resurrection for him.
The Woobie: Try finding a major character who doesn't qualify.
Anastasia is the only surviving member of her immediate family after her parents and siblings are all killed, then she loses her memories and gets left behind in an impoverished, violent Russia. She grows up as an unwanted orphan totally alone in the world, just wanting to find her family and her lost identity. Even when she finds her grandmother and regains her memories, the rest of her family are still dead and Rasputin tries to kill her again. Thankfully she does get her wish to find both her past (her grandmother and memories of Anastasia) and her future (Dimitri).
Dimitri has shades of a Jerkass Woobie as an adult and transitions into straight out Woobie as his situation only gets more miserable. He's orphaned even younger than Anya and ends up working as a servant before he's even turned 10 which leaves him with a lingering insecurity and inferiority complex right into adulthood. He risks his life to save Anastasia - who it's hinted he has a crush on - which only gets him hurt and then lives through the brutal takeover of the Soviets, who probably treated him harshly for resisting and working at the palace. As an adult he's hardened into a cynical con man and when he finally begins to soften, try to become a better person and falls in love, he discovers the woman he's in love with is actually the same princess he served as a kitchen boy and he'll never be good enough for her or have a shot at a future together. He then gives up the reward money and any dreams for his life to return to Russia and live in poverty again. His utter certainty that Anya deserves better and would never want to be with a commoner like him is heartbreaking. However he does get his happily ever after in the end when Anya chooses to marry him instead of becoming a Grand Duchess again.
The Dowager Empress: Her son, daughter-in-law and all but one of her grandchildren are brutally killed, she almost saves her favorite and last remaining granddaughter but loses her just seconds away from getting them both to safety. Then when she tries to find Anastasia, countless people try to con her just to win the reward money, and she resigns herself to living out the rest of her life believing Anastasia is dead. As with the others things do improve during the film, as Anastasia returning gives her joy "she never thought she'd feel again".
Genius Bonus: Everyone taking the train to Paris pauses to sing "Stay, I Pray You" as they bid farewell to their homeland. There's a real tradition in Russia that's lasted to this day, where before you go on a long journey and are just about ready to leave, you sit down and wait for a little while before setting off.
Replacement Scrappy: Many fans feel this way about Gleb, largely due to the fact that Rasputin was such an entertaining antagonist that any attempt to replace him wouldnt work. It doesn't help that a lot of these fans also see Gleb as a knockoff of Rolfe Gruber as well.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: In the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation, Rasputin and Bartok were Adapted Out. Fans of these characters did not take it well. On the other hand, people who felt the more "Disney-ish" elements of the original film that didn't work well appreciate that they were axed in the musical, instead allowing for more historical context, a more appropriate mood, and character development — even if they do lament the loss of "In the Dark of the Night".
The stage version of Anastasia takes what was already in the animated film and adds more to the pile: She carries more trauma from what happened to her, despite not remembering who she is, and spent years struggling and starving on the backroads of Russia because, as in reality, she would have been too old to stay in an orphanage for long by the time she lost her memory.note The real Anastasia was 17 years old at the time of the Romanov execution.
The stage version of Dimitri has him growing up on the streets of St. Petersburg rather than as a servant in the royal household, so he had even less security before the Soviets got there. It also highlights how hard it is for him leave Petersburg and Russia, despite its many faults, as it is the only home he has ever known. However, he takes pride in how he has survived so long by being clever, making him more of a Stoic Woobie.