With Anastasia, FOX studios demonstrate exactly why Disney retained its “monopoly” on animated films over the years. If FOX is to challenge that monopoly, it will have to outsmart Disney. Fox has the Disney style down cold — perhaps a bit too much. The problem with Anastasia is that it bears some all-too-striking resemblances to some Disney movies (even by the cliche ridden standard of animated films).

The story of Anastasia basically reduces the Russian Revolution to a big kaboodle of cuteness, which may give kids the wrong impression of what actually happened. Also kiddie-sized is the complicated fate of Anya, a woman who posed as Royal Princess Anastasia and really turned out to be her. The story would have made a great live-action flick if it at least mentioned violence, the Revolution and maybe even Communism, which, of course, the G-rated Anastasia didn’t do. Mind you, that is not a critisizm, since I wasn’t expecting the movie to talk about those issues.

The music is good, but (now here’s an odd one) there was an overwhelming amount of it. There was probably more singing than in most previous animated films.

I couldn’t help but sigh when I saw directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman so obviously taking elements from previous films. Now — animated films always have their share of cliches — there is the hero, the evil villain, the usually stupid henchman who always gets hurt, the damsel and the wisecracking sidekick. Here, however, those trademark characters are identical to those of previous movies. There is the song that the pointless villain Rasputin sings called In the Dark of the Night. I noticed right away that the setting for the song, the “choreography” (if you want to call it that) of the characters, even the melody, were exactly like a song called Be Prepared sung in The Lion King (****). The little bat henchman was just like Iago of Alladin (****), from the way he talked to what he did at the end. And when I say the ending of Anastasia I almost died. I just sat there with my mouth wide open. It was IDENTICAL to that of The Return of Jafar (***1/2), the wonderful straight-to-tape sequel to Alladin.

I just couldn’t believe that these filmmakers couldn’t come up with anything original. To beat Disney, Fox had to come up with something daring, appealing, original, something that would turn kids’ heads in their direction. What does it do? It combines a bunch of elements from previous films and turns them into a story unfit for kids’ animation. Actually, I take that last criticism back. The story for Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (****) also seemed totally unfit for childrens’ animation, but it turned out to be one of the best animated films ever, second to only The Lion King. For them it worked, here it didn’t.

Not a terrible movie exactly, Anastasia just doesn’t measure up. Memo to FOX: Back to the drawing board.

-- Eugene Novikov

One Comment

  1. Gisele says:

    I actually admired how the movie managed the horrors of the Revolution and subsequently the problems derived from Communism, and I have lived Communism myself…

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