Once upon a time, in the distant past of 1997, I was a doe eyed little seven-year-old girl who believed in the romantic concepts of being a princess. Obviously, I’ve done some growing up since then. However, if there’s one princess movie from my childhood that I will forever hold very close to my heart, it’s Anastasia.
Anastasia (1997) tells the story of Anya, an orphaned girl who has no memory of her past. The only clue that she has is a necklace with the phrase “Together in Paris” engraved into it. Upon leaving the orphanage, she seeks out a man named Dimitri to help her get out of St. Petersburg and to Paris so she can start her search into who she is. However, Dimitri, having his own agenda, convinces Anya that she may be the lost Romanov princess, Anastasia, whose grandmother is now living in Paris and is searching for her. But is it possible that Anya actually could be Anastasia Romanov?! (SUPRISING SPOILER ALERT THAT ISN’T SO SUPRISING AFTER ALL: She is.)
The film stars the voice talents of familiar names such as Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Lloyd, Angela Lansbury, and Hank Azaria and was directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman.
The film is loosely based on the story of the real life Romanov family who were killed during the rise of Soviet Russia. I use the term “loosely” because, historically, this film is NOT accurate whatsoever. But I don’t think historical accuracy was what the filmmakers had in mind when making Anastasia. I will say this, however: after I dragged my dad to the movie theaters to see this back in 1997 (bless him), he showed me the real life story and actual pictures of the real Anastasia and the real Romanov family and the “mystery” that apparently surrounded the whereabouts of Anastasia Romanov and whether she was killed with her family or somehow survived. In 2008, her remains were actually found, proving that she was executed along with the rest of her family. Basically, I can trace back the start of my interest in history to this film.
Watching this movie now, at the age of 22, I first want to say kudos to me for idolizing a character like Anya! Compared to other animated female characters at the time (with some exceptions), she is a really strong, independent girl who doesn’t take any crap from anybody. Even at the end of the film, in a situation that typically should result in the damsel in distress getting saved by the knight in shining armor, the tables turn and Anya is the one who saves herself, as well as her knight (who is actually a con man…). With that point being made, this is also the first film I remember seeing where the male character was not the quintessential “perfect hero”. Dimitri’s actions at the beginning of the film are all geared toward helping himself. He’s a con man who only wants money. However, as you get further in the story and the situation, his intentions gradually change. (More recently, you can see this with the character of Flynn Rider in Tangled).
I still really enjoy this movie. Of course it has its flaws and there are some plot holes that can be filled if you suspend your disbelief (I mean, there’s a talking bat and an un-dead villain with flying green minions for crying out loud). However, the film itself is fun and entertaining.
There’s a definitive charm to Anastasia that was able to captivate me when I was seven. It’s still there today.
What were some of your favorite movies growing up?