Fox/1997/97m/WS 2.35/PS 1.47

     Absolutely sparkling family entertainment! Anastasia scores with grand, classic-style animation, sophisticated song-writing, a score reminiscent of classic Hollywood musicals, and a simple script that reminds viewers of the best fairy tale writing. 

To the ballet!  ©Fox

     For the uninitiated, Anastasia is the story of the lost daughter of Czar Nicholas of Russia. When the Czar's family is destroyed, in this animated cartoon by the evil powers of mad monk Rasputin, Anastasia flees from harm with the aid of a young palace servant. Unfortunately, she fails to board the train taking her grandmother away to Paris and freedom. A bump on the head takes her memory and makes ten years pass at the blink of an eye.  Anastasia is a beautiful woman called Anya, brought up as an orphan. The only clue to her identity is a medallion she wears around her neck with the inscription "Together in Paris." This moves her to find her way to that great city, and in trying, she hooks up with Dimitri and Vladimir, who have some ideas of their own concoction about making it to Paris and finding wealth. The setting include the wintry Russia countryside, old world St. Petersburg and the magical city of Paris.  
     Directors Bluth and Goldman  wisely chooses to focus on a few characters in this mature children's adventure. Each character is given enough screen time to be meaningful. Rasputin, alive and dead, has some terrific animation pratfalls, losing parts of his body as he foams at the mouth. Anastasia never seems overly cute. Perhaps this works against the kiddie audience but it certainly makes for better adult entertainment. All the elements are well integrated and the pacing outstanding.
     The animation marries traditional cell work with computer power. The result is a sweeping, natural style, with a delightful color palette. Movements of the characters is natural and subtle touches make them almost seem live. The cityscapes are wonderfully drawn and the characters each take on personalities that work well with the actors' voices. Anastasia is voiced by Meg Ryan with innocent charm laced with imperious spunk. John Cusack is effective as the imaginative Dimitri and Kelsey Grammer is delightful as Vladimir. Christopher Lloyd works up a positive lather as Rasputin.  Hank Azaria is very entertaining as Bartok the albino bat, Bernadette Peters adds characteristic energy as Sophie and Angela Lansbury is appropriately regal as Grand Duchess Marie.  
     Fox gives DVD viewers a choice for Anastasia in  widescreen 2.35 or PS 1.48. There are some typical NTSC artifacts associated with quick movement, which is more pronounced in the widescreen version which utilizes less of the system's existing line structure. Colors are consistently rich and varied in tone. The picture is very sharp. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround is provided with outstanding directionality. Effects have dynamic impact and the songs and music are rendered with delightful energy and balance. Included in the limited special edition are two overlapping making of productions. Both give some fine insight into the animation and the thought process of the creative team. There are also two sing-a-longs, and trailers for Anastasia and Bartok the Magnificent.

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