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Section Header
Songs Composed and Co-Produced by:
Stephen Flaherty

Songs Co-Produced and Lyrics by:
Lynn Ahrens

Songs Orchestrated by:
Douglas Besterman
William D. Brohn

Score Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
David Newman

Score Orchestrated by:
Xandy Janko
Daniel Hamuy
Douglas Besterman

Atlantic Records

Release Date:
October 28th, 1997

Also See:
The Prince of Egypt

Audio Clips:
2. Journey to the Past (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

3. Once Upon a December (0:32):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

11. Prologue (0:31):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

16. Finale (0:33):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (266K)
Real Audio (165K)

Regular U.S. release. There was a concurrent soundtrack release featuring all songs and no score.

  The song "Journey to the Past" and the score were nominated for Academy Awards. The songs "Journey to the Past" and "Once Upon a December" were nominated for Golden Globes.

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Buy it... if you became disillusioned with the later 1990's musicals by Disney and Alan Menken and your love of the genre sends you in search of an intelligent and entertaining alternative.

Avoid it... if you are interested in the commercial album for Anastasia solely for David Newman's score, which is relegated to a small corner of the product amongst an abundance of unnecessary pop song recordings.

Anastasia: (Stephen Flaherty/David Newman) At a time when Disney's domination over the animated musical was coming to an end, Twentieth Century Fox put forth one valiant effort to steal the genre away. And while the two-dimensional animation genre was in its dying days, Fox managed to do exactly that. Disney had concluded its long run of success with composer Alan Menken after an absolutely hideous entry in Hercules earlier in 1997, and the stage was set for another studio to take some of the action. Despite critical praise and a handful of major awards nominations for its music, Anastasia only grossed $58 million at the box office, and the marketability of 2-D musical animations seemed lost to the more visually spectacular, non-musical efforts by Pixar. Compared to its predecessors, the animation in Anastasia was quite decent, and with a compelling story and direction from animation veteran Don Bluth, the film merits attention from genre fans. Strong cast performances from mainstream actors Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lloyd, among others, were another highlight. In the six cast songs written by Stephen Flaherty (with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens), however, only half of the cast was allowed to perform its on vocals, creating discrepancy in the film itself. The team of Flaherty and Ahrens was best known at the time for their collaboration for the Broadway show Ragtime, and the spirit of the songs thus strays far closer to the sensibilities of a Broadway production rather than the classicism with which Alan Menken had defined the genre through the decade. Unlike the Menken musicals, Flaherty would not write the score for Anastasia, and despite some hope that Bluth would reunite with composer James Horner for the endeavor (in which case, he probably would have written his own songs anyway), Fox would hire David Newman for the task. Newman had already been mired for years in projects beneath his talents, and despite having the ability to maintain careers like those of his relatives Thomas, Randy, and Alfred, Anastasia failed to snap him out of his rut and he still writes music for ridiculously dumb comedies ten years later.

The six cast songs by Flaherty for Anastasia are satisfyingly contemporary while maintaining enough Russian spirit to address the story of the legendary princess. The appropriately Russian "A Rumor in St. Petersburg" introduces all the major elements of the story with clever rotations between the town's characters. Obnoxious in parts, the song does what is necessary, and it'll be a distant memory once you get to the following ballad and waltz. The songs "Journey to the Past" and "Once Upon a December" both feature the vocals of Liz Callaway, and their appeal as the "leading lady's songs" are equally attractive. The first song is the hopeful and energetic major-key representation of the entire film, wrapping the story together with the necessary positive spirit. The second one is the haunting melody in a waltz rhythm meant to address the sadness of Anya's loss. While "Journey to the Past" is reprised in two pop songs and is conveyed victoriously at the conclusion of Newman's score, it is "Once Upon a December" that better tells the film's story. Appearing in short vocal reprises throughout the score, this song is the connecting element between Anya and her lost grandmother, and the Russian sensibilities of the waltz are far more interesting than the rather straight-forward ballad. The villain's song for Rasputin isn't particularly popular, and some may even wish that Christopher Lloyd had attempted his own vocals. Yet, the deep male vocals paired with high female ghost hauntings are very creative, and outstanding lyrics and a fine balance between the Russian doom and gloom and the slight comedy needed for the genre is decently accomplished. The bass region is well treated in this song, too. The two outright comedy songs are the weaknesses of the album, though "Learn to Do It" once again offers impressive lyrics and alternating banter. Bernadette Peters' performances in "Paris Holds the Key" are the worst that Broadway can carry over from Flaherty, however. Fox chose to saturate the end credits sequence (and, of course, the album) with pop variants of two of Flaherty's cast songs, as well as one written specifically for the purpose of light rock. The unique entry is the tolerable "At the Beginning," which seems to have been meant to be the centerpiece of the pop songs but was overshadowed in popularity by the cast song adaptations.

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For soundtrack collectors, the song "At the Beginning" is interesting in that it included contributions by two composers still on the rise, including piano performances by Anne Dudley and string arrangements by Aaron Zigman, for whom it would be another ten years before his name would be widely known. Both of the songs "Journey to the Past" and "Once Upon a December" would be nominated for Golden Globes, with the former also receiving an Oscar nomination. The pop version of "Once Upon a December" is the highlight of all the songs, despite the somewhat lazy vocal rendering. The album's most irritating and baffling track is the Spanish-language variant of "Journey to the Past." If the producers of the album wanted a version of one of the songs in a different language, would it not have made sense to record a Russian cover rendition? What about the story of Anastasia says "Latino?" Not a damn thing, and the album loses a star in its rating simply for this trashy attempt by Fox to expand their marketing capability to the Latino market when it flies in the face of all artistic logic. Instead of this ridiculous song, perhaps a few more minutes of David Newman's score would have made more sense. His material is limited to 23 minutes on the commercial album, leaving some interesting portions unreleased. Newman remarkably adapts the "Journey to the Past" and "Once Upon a December" themes into his material, which alone is fully orchestral with elegant choral accompaniment. He does his best to extend the mysticism of the story into his music, and the choral highlights in the final two score tracks are the best on the album. Not much of Newman's own stylistic voice is to be heard outside of some of the brass-led crescendos heard in the first and last minutes of the score. The last moments of "Finale" feature a monumental, glorious Newman-style eruption that will remind of the finales to Bowfinger and Galaxy Quest. Overall, however, there is really too little score to be satisfied, and the infusion of four pops into the mix by Fox and Atlantic is unforgivable. So much about the production is praise-worthy, and yet the presentation on album leaves much to be desired. Even Disney fell into this trap in its waning days atop of the genre. With all its strengths, Anastasia deserves better. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.89 Stars
Smart Average: 3.63 Stars*
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   Re: Russian lyrics in "Prologue"
  msrini -- 5/24/14 (5:15 p.m.)
   Re: During the third song, I realized....
  Burger King of Mordor -- 1/22/11 (4:35 p.m.)
   Re: They ARE russian, and here they are
  Ivan Komarov -- 6/29/07 (9:27 a.m.)
   Re: They ARE russian, and here they are
  J.E. -- 2/11/07 (7:29 a.m.)
   Re: Russian lyrics in "Prologue"
  J.E. -- 2/11/07 (7:26 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 57:13

• 1. A Rumor in St. Petersburg - cast song (3:25)
• 2. Journey to the Past - cast song (2:55)
• 3. Once Upon a December - cast song (2:48)
• 4. In the Dark of the Night - cast song (3:21)
• 5. Learn to Do It - cast song (2:36)
• 6. Learn to Do It (Waltz Reprise) - cast song (1:45)
• 7. Paris Holds the Key (to your Heart) - cast song (3:02)
• 8. At the Beginning - performed by Richards Marx/Donna Lewis (3:40)
• 9. Journey to the Past - performed by Aaliyah (4:04)
• 10. Once Upon December - performed by Deana Carter (3:34)

• 11. Prologue (6:23)
• 12. Speaking of Sophie (2:36)
• 13. The Nightmare (3:05)
• 14. Kidnap and Reunion (4:29)
• 15. Reminiscing with Grandma (3:17)
• 16. Finale (2:59)

"Bonus Track":
• 17. Viaje Tiempo Atras (Journey to the Past) - performed by Thalia (3:07)

(total and track times not listed on packaging)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains lyrics for each song and extensive credits, but no extra information about the film or score. At the time of its release, the packaging for the album emitted a terrible odor, merging the sickening aroma of glue, plastic, and foul body stink.

  All artwork and sound clips from Anastasia are Copyright © 1997, Atlantic Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/28/97 and last updated 2/17/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.