Making the Grades
The last of the Russian Czars, Nicholas Romanov II, was brutally executed in 1917 with the rest of his family by revolutionaries frustrated with imperial control of their country. The question is whether one of his five children, Anastasia, managed to escape the massacre.
In the movie, the grandmother of the Romanov family is willing to pay a large reward for the return of her granddaughter. Two enterprising men, both former staff members of the Czar's family, see this as an opportunity to escape St, Petersburg and perhaps pick up the reward. All they need is someone who can pass as Anastasia. Anya, an orphan girl with no history of her past, fits the men's requirements precisely -- perhaps too precisely. The trio are soon on the train and bound for Paris and the inevitable adventures that will happen to them on the way.
While 20th Century Fox has created an animated feast that rivals their competition's recent offerings in the quality of the pictures and music, they have also fallen into the same mold as Disney. Anastasia's paint-by-number plot is (like Hunchback, Little Mermaid, and other titles) based upon an existing event or story of which the ending is not nearly as happy as the movie portrays.
The most discouraging mimicking of Disney is the inclusion of an extreme bad guy, in this case Rasputin. In reality an unofficial advisor to Nicholas's wife, he is depicted as a sorcerer who after falling through the ice and dying, continues to live in his decaying body. This character seems completely out of place from the rest of the film, and I can't believe that escaping from revolutionary Russia wouldn't provide enough opposition for the heros. With his body parts falling off of him, young children may be disturbed by scenes that include this character.
In every other way, Anastasia is a first rate animation that marries traditional and computerized art work. I appreciated a modestly dressed heroine whose character was based more on personality rather than figure. Dump the typecast bad guy, and you would be close to animation perfection.