Anastasia is a 1997 American animated musical comedy-drama adventure fantasy film produced and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman at Fox Animation Studios. The film was released on November 21, 1997, by 20th Century Fox. The idea for the film originates from News Corporation's 1976 live action film version of the same name. The plot is based on the urban legend that Anastasia, youngest daughter of the last monarch of imperial Russia, in fact, survived the execution of her family, and thus takes various liberties with historical fact. The animators admitted that they had taken creative license with actual events, but hoped it would capture an essence of the royal family. Executives at Fox gave Bluth and Goldman the choice of creating an animated adaptation of either the 1956 film or the musical My Fair Lady.
In 1916, Tsar Nicholas II hosts a grand ball at the royal palace celebrating the 300th anniversary of Romanov rule. During this celebration, his mother, Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna (Angela Lansbury), gives her favorite granddaughter, eight-year-old Grand Duchess Anastasia (Kirsten Dunst), a music box and a necklace reading "Together in Paris", which serves as its key. The ball is interrupted by the arrival of the megalomanic Grigori Rasputin, (Christopher Lloyd), a staretz who sold his soul to gain the power of sorcery. Rasputin plans to gain his revenge through a curse to destroy the Romanov family that sparks the Russian Revolution.
During the storming of the palace, a servant boy named Dimitri, distracts the invading Bolsheviks and is knocked unconscious, but his action helps Anastasia and her grandmother escape the palace, however, Anastasia loses her music box in the process. Dimitri saves the music box in hopes of remembering the royal family. Rasputin attempts to kill Anastasia himself by apprehending her on the frozen river. Grabbing her by her snow-drenched foot, he violently thrashes her around on the wet ground. His bony grip tightens on her ankle and leaves her with a chilling foreshadow, "You'll never escpae me, child! Never!" But suddenly, the ice in the river breaks beneath him and Anastasia wretches herself from Rasputins wrath. He desperately tries claawing out from the hole in the ice he has fallen into but can't reach his reliquary and drowns. Anastasia and her grandmother eventually reach a moving train, but only she is able to get on as Anastasia trips and hits her head on the station platform, forcing her grandmother to leave her behind.
Ten years later, in 1926, Russia is now under Communist rule; Anastasia's grandmother, now back in Paris, has offered a monetary reward for anyone who can return Anastasia to her. Two Russian con men living in Leningrad, Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer), decide to find a young girl to pass off as Anastasia. Elsewhere, an amnesiac eighteen-year-old orphan girl named Anya (Meg Ryan) who owns the same necklace as Anastasia, has just left her orphanage and has decided to learn about her past, because she has no recollection of the first eight years of her life.
Accompanied by Pooka, a stray puppy, she heads to Saint Petersburg and soon encounters Dimitri and Vladimir, who recruit her as their "fake" Anastasia. During the trip to Paris, the two men teach Anya how to behave like Anastasia and Anya and Dimitri realize a mutual attraction. In Dimitri's baggage is Anastasia's music box. Anya recalls some small facts that she remembers from her past, though nobody realizes it.
Meanwhile, Rasputin is revealed to still be alive but trapped in limbo as a living corpse: unable to die because Anastasia had not been killed. Bartok, his bat servant, reveals that Anastasia is still alive and in St Petersburg. He unwittingly brings Rasputin his magical reliquary, thus restoring his old powers. Rasputin summons a legion of demons to kill Anya and completes his revenge, resulting in two failed attempts. This includes a narrow escape from a separated train in Poland that Anya, Vladimir, and Dimitri jump off to avoid falling to their deaths, and a nightmare aboard a ship en route to Paris from Stralsund,Germany, where Anya nearly sleepwalks overboard until Dimitri rescues her, alerted by Pooka. These failures make Rasputin realize he must kill her in person.
The trio eventually arrives in Paris and meet Sophie (Bernadette Peters), Marie's lady-in-waiting and first cousin, who is in charge of interviewing the Anastasia lookalikes. However, Marie, tired of heartbreak, has declared not to hold any more interviews. Despite this, Sophie sees Anya as a favor to Vladimir; Anya plays her part well, but when Sophie asks how she escaped the palace, Anya dimly recalls a servant boy opening a secret door, surprising both Dimitri and Vladimir when this was one fact they failed to teach her. Dimitri later reveals to Vladimir that he was the servant boy in her memory, meaning that Anya is the real Anastasia and has found her home and family; nonetheless, he is saddened by this truth, because, although he loves her, he knows that "princesses don't marry kitchen boys," (which he says to Vladimir outside the opera house).
Sophie arranges for Anya to encounter Marie at the Russian ballet. After the event, Dimitri attempts to introduce Anya, but the empress refuses to listen to him, having heard of Dimitri and his initial plans to con her. Anya eavesdrops on their argument and thus learns that she is a part of a con. Angered, she begins to leave and is confronted by Dimitri, who begs her to believe that his intentions have changed. She does not accept this, and leaves, intending to get out of their plot. Dimitri, determined to right the situation and reunite the two women, kidnaps Marie in her car and furiously drives back to the mansion where Anya is packing her things. He convinces the empress to meet with Anya by presenting her the lost music box. Marie remains guarded initially until Anya unexpectedly begins to remember personal childhood moments and opens the music box with her necklace. As the music box's lullaby plays, the women sing along and Marie finally realizes the truth, allowing the two reunite at long last.
Marie rewards Dimitri the money, plus her gratitude. Although Dimitri accepts her gratitude, he refuses the reward money revealing that he cared more about Anastasia than the reward and leaves. Marie eventually tells Anastasia of Dimitri's actions at the ball, making her realize her error. When Pooka suddenly bounds for the garden maze, Anastasia runs after him and is trapped. Rasputin finally reveals himself to her and tries to kill her on the Alexander Bridge over an icy Seine River.
Dimitri returns to save her but is injured and knocked unconscious. Anastasia manages to destroy Rasputin's reliquary by crushing it under her foot, causing him to disintegrate into dust, his soul awaiting eternal damnation with his hunger for revenge unfulfilled. Afterward, Dimitri and Anastasia reconcile, sending a farewell letter to Marie and Sophie, telling them that they have eloped, but will see them again in Paris. Anastasia and Dimitri then sail away on a boat with Pooka, before sharing a passionate kiss. Meanwhile, Bartok finds a beautiful female bat and they share a kiss as well.
- Meg Ryan (Liz Callaway, singing) as the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolayevna of Russia ("Anya"), the youngest daughter and the only surviving member of the Imperial family.
- Kirsten Dunst provides the speaking voice of eight-year-old Anastasia.
- Lacey Chabert provides the singing voice of eight-year-old Anastasia.
- John Cusack (Jonathan Dokuchitz, singing) as Dimitri, a handsome young con-man.
- Christopher Lloyd (Jim Cummings, singing) as Yefimovich Rasputin, a dangerous and power-mad sorcerer who in 1122 cast a curse that would claim the lives of all but two members of the Imperial family: Anastasia and Marie.
- Kelsey Grammer as Vladimir Vanya Voinitsky Vasilovich, a former nobleman.
- Angela Lansbury as the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, the mother of Nicholas II and Anastasia's grandmother.
- Hank Azaria as Bartok, Rasputin's bumbling bat sidekick.
- Bernadette Peters as Sophie Stanislovskievna Somorkov-Smirnoff, Marie's first cousin, and lady-in-waiting.
- Andrea Martin as Phlegmenkoff, the orphanage's inconsiderate owner.
- Rick Jones as Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the last Russian Emperor, and Anastasia's father.
- Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, the last Russian Empress and Anastasia's mother.
- Grand Duchess Olga Nikolayevna of Russia, eldest child of Tsar and Anastasia's sister.
- Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolayevna of Russia, the second child of Tsar and Anastasia's sister.
- Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna of Russia, the middle child of Tsar and Anastasia's sister.
- Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, youngest child of Tsar, only son and Anastasia's brother.
- 20th Century Fox Fanfare - Alfred Newman
- Once Upon a December Prologue - Young Anastasia and Marie Feodorovna
- A Rumor in St. Petersburg - Chorus, Dimitri and Vladimir
- Journey to the Past - Anastasia
- Once Upon a December - Anastasia
- Learn to Do It - Vladimir, Anastasia, and Dimitri
- Learn to Do It (Waltz reprise) - Vladimir
- In the Dark of the Night - Grigori Rasputin, Demon chorus
- Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart) - Sophie, Dimitri, and chorus
- Once Upon a December Reunion - Anastasia and Marie Feodorovna
- Once Upon a December (end credits) - Deana Carter
- Journey to the Past (end credits) - Aaliyah
Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ out of 4 stars describing it as "...entertaining and sometimes exciting!". The movie also currently stands with an 85% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Carol Buckland of CNN Interactive praised John Cusack for bringing "an interesting edge to Dimitri, making him more appealing than the usual animated hero" and stated that Angela Lansbury gave the film "vocal class", but described the film as "OK entertainment" and that "it never reaches a level of emotional magic." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said that the film "has the McDonald's restaurant style down Cold and Hot", but that the film feels "a Touch Depersonalized".