I’m a big fan of animation, whether it’s stop-motion, 3D or 2D animation, I’m all for it… except for when they’re musicals. Usually, I’m not the biggest fan of the songs, I find that the build-up to these songs isn’t particularly great and it always feels kind of odd why they’d sing in the first place. I also thought that of musicals in general, but then I saw LA LA Land, which I really liked. I didn’t know a lot about Anastasia going in, except that it had gotten quite a big fan base over the years. And then they started to sing. And then I already thought that the film was doomed. And then I was pleasantly surprised. Mind you, not amazed.
So maybe let’s start things off with the thing I loved the most about Anastasia: the characters. Well, I didn’t love all of them, but we’ll get to that in a minute. I was really surprised by how they handled Anastasia’s character. For it being a relatively old film, I was expecting to see a fairly hollow character that didn’t really have a “character”, but I was amazed to find out that she was a well-written female character that was able to stand up for herself, make up her own mind and act like a normal human being rather than the plot thriving shell that I was expecting. She was independent without coming across as corny or cliché, but rather as refreshing and good. Often enough films will try to write a strong female lead, but they’ll just end up with a stereotypical badass who isn’t really a badass. They also never really tells us outright “look at me, I can do things on my own and I don’t need men to do things for me”, but they handle it respectfully. Anastasia felt like a strong independent woman, rather than a masculine female. She was likable and strong and very fun to see on screen. By the end of the film, you’d like to see more of her. Her chemistry with Dimitri was also something special and something I couldn’t get enough of. The way their relationship developed was very lovely to see and I would’ve loved if the film focused more on that. Dimitri undergoes an arc throughout the film, but unfortunately, this was a relatively predictable one from the moment he walked on screen.
The characters I didn’t like though, were Rasputin and his bat pet. Their characters felt redundant and overly evil at times. They were evil for the sake of being evil, without any well-established motivation. They could’ve been left out of the film entirely it would’ve benefited from it. The writers just would have had to come up without some other excuses for one or two plot points, but other than that, there isn’t much that should be changed. The time we spend with them could then be spent developing Anastasia’s and Dimitri’s relationship some more. Even though their characters might not have been the best, there’s no denying that the voice acting of Rasputin and the Bat was really good. I really liked Meg Ryan as Anastasia and John Cusack as Dimitri as well.
The animation too was really good. The way characters danced around when a song was playing was absolutely gorgeous. If I remember correctly, they used rotoscoping for these scenes and the result really looks nice. It makes it all feel very fluid and satisfying to look at. Now, one thing that I didn’t really like from the animation, was how they integrated 2d and 3d looking items with each other. The 3D drawn objects could often look weird and they sometimes interacted with 2D animated objects in an odd manner. The way some shadows were drawn also didn’t really mesh well with the overall drawing style. It felt really out of place at times. The character design of Rasputin also wasn’t the greatest. It felt like an accumulation of different Disney villains, rather than an original and creative idea. The drawing style is nothing spectacular and is never filled with tons of detail, but it was decent, except for some facial features that looked weird. The backdrops, though, were fantastically done. Outside of the dancing sequences, there were other moments where the animation was quite impressive as well, like the train scene, for example. It’s a thrilling scene as a whole, due to decent directing and a well-made soundtrack, but the animation in that one’s really spectacular.
Here’s a short word about the songs; I wasn’t annoyed by them. The songs were decent and never interrupted the flow of the film, unlike Rasputin’s storyline. There wasn’t an overflow of them, which I also really liked and sometimes they gave us some insight into how the characters were feeling, as songs are supposed to do in a musical.
Anastasia was a pretty decent film. The titular character was a breath of fresh air and her dynamics with Dimitri was fun to watch. I did feel like the antagonist’s character was a bit redundant and that the film would’ve worked better as a straight-up romance/adventure film, without having a personified villain. The animation was fluid, but how 2d objects interacted with a 3d object could feel odd. The character design for Rasputin also felt more like a cliché than it did like an original and new idea. And to my surprise, the songs didn’t annoy me. All in all, Anastasia is certainly worth your time, if you don’t have anything else to watch.