The best two versions of this movie are the 1994 and 1949 versions. The 1994 one starring Susan Sarandon has a tinge of a feminist agenda but if not pointed out it could go unnoticed. The 1949 version with June Allyson is really good.
This movie, with its Russian wintery scenery and famous soundtrack which includes the song "Once Upon A December" earns its place among these Christmas movies.
In the post-revolution St. Petersburg, a young con-artist and his assistant hold auditions for any young woman who is willing to pose as the lost Russian Princess Anastasia. But when they run into a young orphan named Anya they try to convince her that she could possibly be the lost princess.
She is willing to travel to Paris to meet the royal family but is unwilling to play into their con. Dimitri and Vladimir only want the reward which is offered to anyone who finds the princess and Anya only wants to find her family. The trio agree that in the end, they all get what they want.
But, Dimitri does not bring into account that the saucy, headstrong orphan is actually quite attractive and he feels himself reluctantly falling in love with Anya. When he discovers a clue which lines up Anya's past and Anastasia's history, he must try to convince Anya further that she is the lost princess, while convincing himself that he needs to move on without her.
Anastasia is a fun cartoon that mixes true facts from history with fiction. It relates the true story of the Romanov family's demise and the role of the sinister figure Rasputin. It also is a sweet romance.
The plot circles around Mary Quite Contrary and her fiancé, Tom Piper. Tom's engagement to Mary has sparked the jealousy of the villain of the story, Barnaby, who hires two goofy henchmen to kidnap and kill Tom, forcing Mary to marry Barnaby.
But when the incompetent henchmen don't pull through and Tom returns, Barnaby must find another way to get rid of him. This film is filled with all the characters that you remember from childhood nursery rhymes including Little Bo-Peep, Jack and Jill, Simple Simon The Pie-Man and Jack Be Nimble.
Although there is no reference to God in the film, there is a strong theme of good versus evil. Barnaby is displayed as bad by use of color as he wears a Dracula-like black suit and uses his over dramatic evil laugh and nasally voice.
This movie does not have any Christmas connection in the storyline but the Toyland aspect has sparked a memory which became popular at Christmastime. In a battle where Tom and Barnaby have been shrunk to toy size, the toys in the shop come alive and pick sides with the hero or the villain. Wooden soldiers and other old fashioned toys join the fray in a stop animation battle.
There is also a theme of Christmas in the unhappy toymaker who, after the children help him clean up the messy toyshop, has a change of heart and feels like making toys for children is not such a bad occupation after all.
The talented singing and dancing is quite memorable as well as the slapstick, innocent humor.