Anastasia (1997)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2015) I’ve been seeing so many Disney animated movies lately that I’d forgotten what sub-par Disney imitators could feel like, and here’s Fox Animation’s Anastasia to remind me of what I hadn’t missed.  There’s an amazingly ill-conceived blend of elements at the basis of Anastasia’s premise: Taking the rather tragic real world story of Anastasia, a Russian princess killed at a young age by revolutionaries, as a springboard on which to build an animated musical action/comedy film with the reanimated corpse of Rasputin as antagonist, musical numbers and funny animal sidekicks.  What the heck?  At times, it’s not clear whether we should be toe-tapping or howl in historical outrage.  All of this being said, though, the film is often quite better than its nearly-insane premise:  The visual details are fascinating, Anastasia herself is drawn attractively, some of the action sequences are exciting, the musical numbers are catchy and by the time the film comes to an end, the insane premise has been beaten down to quasi-normalcy.  The similarities with the classic Disney animated playbook are obvious and generally work.  (The one exception is the rather uneasy blend of CGI and classic animation, although to Fox Animation’s credit, no one was getting it right in 1997 –it would take until Disney’s 1999 Tarzan until that breakthrough). So it is that Anastasia still ends up a moderate success, although there’s a substantial hump to pass in the first few minutes in order to settle down with the rest.

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