It’s 1916 in Russia and Grand Duchess Marie (voice of Angela Lansbury) is planning a trip to Paris. She gives her eight-year-old granddaughter, Anastasia, a musical box with which to remember her. Before she leaves, however, Rasputin (voice of Christopher Lloyd), an evil sorcerer, casts a spell over the family and the Russian revolution quickly follows. Ten years later, Anya (voice of Meg Ryan), who doesn't remember her past, sets off to find her true identity and family. She runs into Dimitri (voice of John Cuzack), who hopes to find a young woman who can pass for the long lost Anastasia and claim a handsome reward.
Review by Louise Keller:
A stunning achievement in animation, Anastasia dazzles with an engaging tale succinctly scripted which incorporates song as part of the narrative. Cleverly told on two levels - there is much to captivate younger audiences on a simplistic scale, while teens and adults can be drawn into the world set against a background of Imperial Russia, with much to keep them entranced.
Although the tale is complex, the script is remarkably uncluttered, with the song lyrics adding integral plot elements. Good and evil are clearly defined while the basic essence of the story emphasises the importance of home, love and family. With exquisite sets and production design of bewitching and complex detail, we are privy to a great sense of realism rarely shown in animation featuring layers of rich colours and textures.
We embark on a journey of discovery and anticipation beginning in lavish, regal ballrooms, through snowy landscapes, sun-drenched forests and bumpy seas, eventuating in the city of romance itself, Paris. And for lovers of the French capital, there’s plenty to be nostalgic about, as we visit Montmartre, Moulin Rouge, Folies Bergères, take a ride up the Eiffel Tower and even glimpse the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe with the twinkling lights below. We stroll into Chanel, visit the ballet and cruise down the Seine in the bateaux-mouches. The characters are engaging, the voices delightful, the sequences splendidly imaginative.
A successful blend of larger-than-life and suggested realism, we have an evil villain who keeps losing body parts. The buxom, irrepressible Sophie and roguish Vladimir are scene stealers, while there’s lot of appeal in Meg Ryan’s and John Cusak’s hero and heroine. I am constantly amazed at the skill in matching singing voices to that of the stars - Liz Callaway sounds just how Meg Ryan would sound if she sang like an angel! Angela Lansbury is the only star who actually sings with her own voice, and she is wonderful as the Dowager Empress Marie. A rare treat not to be missed.
Published April 22, 2004
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ANASTASIA: DVD (G)
VOICES: Meg Ryan, Kelsey Grammar, Angela Lansbury, John Cusack, Hank Azaria, Christopher Lloyd
DIRECTOR: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
SCRIPT: Susan Gauthier, Bruce Graham, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White (based on play by Marcelle Maurette, as adapted by Guy Bolton, and screenplay by Arthur Laurents)
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
PRESENTATION: widescreen 16: 9
SPECIAL FEATURES: none
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: March 31, 2004