I went to see Anastasia today at the Westgate theatre, during a nice solid rain storm that turned into a furious snow storm on the way back. It's a romance/adventure animated film, much like the Disney feature films of the last few years (see this good story summary in one paragraph or the Anastasia Film Web Site).

General Comments

The film was good, almost as good as current Disney releases in visuals and equal in story (perhaps better than Hercules in story, particularly in the end - it gets better as things advance). Music and sound effects were up to snuff (though played too loudly at the theatre). I wouldn't mind seeing this film again, but I would only recommend it to my animation friends or to people with kids to entertain. Disney's Aladdin is still my favorite (everybody enjoys it).


The sound track was feature film quality - unobtrusive, good ambient sound, and lots of singing. The songs were fine though I think the first song didn't fit in well (too long or too abruptly out of context or maybe I just took a while to warm up to the film). Joe M. would be able to give a better review.

Visuals - 3D & 2D Combined

The visuals had that Bluth feel to it (not quite as lush as Disney visuals). Their new techniques for economising on drawing, as an alternatives to expensive manual labour, give it a different look. They made excellent use of computer generated images for camera movement (render the world - a building interior or moving train or cityscape in 3D - from a moving camera (hard to draw) and then add hand drawn characters to it). It worked pretty well, though sometimes it was restrictive (they animated the music box as a 3D object that had the 2D characters holding it, but the 3D animation wasn't as fluid as the 2D so the charcters ended up holding the box awkwardly - they should have given the 2D guys authority over object motion - but Rasputin's holy relic cylinder of evil was good), and sometimes the 3D models weren't as pretty as a 2D picture (Paris skyline trees looked kind of flat). They also used some computerised colouring - for Anastasia's glittering tiara and other things - that added a bit of flash, but looked slightly out of place (but not as much as the music box - guess it was a colouring effect and not a 3D object - so the 2D guys were able to move it nicely along in the 2D hair).

Visuals - A Fresh Realism

One nice thing that is different from Disney, is that the world is more realistic. The dowager duchess looks a lot more like a real person, than a cartoon character (more lines in the drawing, better movement animation?), while Anastasia and her lover and associates are more cartoony at times, and at times not. The backgrounds can be quite detailed (with cars driving down ALL the streets, not just one car moving in 1926 Paris, and with crowd scenes - like the train station during the Russian Communist revolution), but sometimes they skimp and the backgrounds are static (ballroom scene near the start of the film where the camera is focused on Anastasia and her family, with the ballroom in the unfocused background - but they did animate the snow flakes outside the ballroom windows, go figure!).


The heroine is reminiscent of many recent films (Jasmine from Aladdin comes to mind) in both drawing style (big eyes, expressive hair) and in plot (heroine fights for her place in the world, has her own mind). They pulled that part off very well. The associates are OK on the average - the white bat is kind of artificial along with the boring underworld insects and grubs, while I liked the fat old con artist - nice drawing and good personality. The villain is Rasputin - and he comes off as really evil and obsessed with killing the Romanoff family.

Future Wishes

I'd say that the new Fox studios are off to a good start, if they can keep on working and improve their work it should be good competition to Disney. They just need to stop skimping on the quality here and there.

- Alex

Copyright © 1997 by Alexander G. M. Smith.