I re-watched Anastasia tonight. It’s probably the first time this millennium that I’ve watched this particular film, and it really strikes me as an interesting movie for a number of reasons, the most particular of which I’ll outline in this post.
Anastasia is one of only three traditionally animated films in my lifetime that’s made true blockbuster status that WASN’T made by Disney. (The other two are The Prince of Egypt and The Simpsons Movie) It’s formula is much the same as the traditional Disney princess movies, and that’s probably what made it successful. In fact, when I found out as a fourteen year old that it was made by Fox and not by Disney, I was taken aback – I (and I assume many other children at the time) just naturally assumed it was a Disney film.
Don Bluth (the director/producer of Anastasia) somehow managed to overcome the hurdle and create a film that could rival Disney in terms of quality and entertainment value. The question that I have though, is whether or not they’ll last the test of time, as Disney films have. He’s got quite a challenge in that regard.
Let me elaborate. Put your hand up if you’ve seen Snow White. That was the first full length animated movie, and it was made way back in 1947. Odds are you’ve seen Pinocchio, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty too – and all those movies (and many others) were made before 1960.
Why have you seen them? Because they’re Disney movies. Due to Disney’s continued presence in the movie industry, and the continued trust that parents place in Disney’s animated films, kids keep watching Disney movies. And because I was watching Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin when I was growing up, it meant that I would recognise the brand, and as a result I would want to watch the earlier movies by Disney too. It also means that Disney can keep re-releasing these classic films, and people will keep buying them. Is it because they’re classics, or because they’re Disney? Most people would say that the two are one in the same.
Back to Anastasia, or more specifically, Don Bluth. Anastasia wasn’t his only classic – he also made classics such as All Dogs Go to Heaven, Thumbelina and my personal favourite, The Land Before Time. Interestingly enough, one of his biggest successes came two years before I was born – An American Tail.
I haven’t seen An American Tail. I haven’t even seen it available on DVD. What was supposedly a classic animated film seems only recognisable by those who were kids when it was released. In the same way, kids these days haven’t seen The Land Before Time (unless they’ve seen one of the dodgy sequels), and I doubt they’ll see Anastasia. Not because they’re not good movies, but simply because they’re not recognisable.
I’m still processing my line of thinking here, and this blog has gone on long enough as it is, I feel. But one very, very interesting thought to leave you with – Don Bluth had his start in animation through Disney. So did The Prince of Egypt’s creator Jeffrey Katzenberg. The question I have for you is this – can animated films thrive WITHOUT Disney?