Unfortunately, The Secret of N.I.M.H. was not a box-office success and Don Bluth was reduced to making far less ambitious, although generally passably enjoyable middle-of-the-road animated fare like An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988) and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). Sadly however, Bluths work in the 1990s Rock-a-Doodle (1991), Thumbelina (1994), A Troll in Central Park (1994), The Pebble and the Penguin (1995) sank to an insipid banality far below what Disney as putting out at their worst. The great irony then was that Disney from about 1991 onwards started to recapture their own classic tradition with a series of epic animated features the likes of Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and Hercules (1997). The triple irony for Bluth is that Disney were so successful at returning to what they do best that he then found himself re-employed by a rival studio 20th Century Fox wanting to market their own brand of high-quality artistic animated features in the same Disney tradition.
The good news is that Anastasia is easily the best film Don Bluth has made since The Secret of N.I.M.H.. He has been granted the budget to make a film that uses a large-screen artistic canvas. Anastasia also emerges as a much less pretentious and better animated film than the last few Disney films Pocahontas, Hunchback and Hercules have been. It gets the balance just right some marvellously exciting action sequences aboard a runaway train; a light but not excessive line-up of songs; just a touch of romance; a likeable supporting cast of small cuddly talking animals and winds everything into an enjoyably well-rounded story. Perhaps in the end sight, Anastasia falls short of standing up there among the great animated Disney classics like Snow White, Bambi or Fantasia, but is one that can ably hold its own at least among the second rung of Disney films such as Cinderella (1950), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) or The Aristo Cats (1970).
My only quibble with Anastasia might be its dubious historical authenticity. As the unearthing of the Romanov familys remains at Ekaterinberg in 1991 and DNA testing conclusively proved (except to all bar the Russian Orthodox Church), Anastasia did not manage to escape the same fate as the rest of the Romanovs of being assassinated by the Bolsheviks in 1917. This leaves Anastasia in the embarrassing position of basing itself on a proven fraudulent story (that of Anna Anderson and several other impostors who claimed to be Anastasia following the Russian Revolution). The unearthing of the Romanov remains was well publicised and the film could hardly not have known about this when it went into production.
Even more amusing is the storys managing to sweep aside almost all details of the Russian Revolution. Seemingly as though Hollywood is still haunted by the spirit of the McCarthy blacklisting of Communists, not a single mention will you find anywhere of Lenin and the Bolsheviks who were the crucial instruments of the Russian Revolution and the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. The film rather amazingly comes out to state that the entire Revolution was not a peoples uprising against a cruel and incompetent aristocracy but was instead all down to the black-hearted Rasputin selling his soul in revenge for being banned from the Tsars court. (The Communist Revolution all down to Satanism one wonders if they might not be able to make a case for an ultra-right fundamentalist subtext somewhere there!).
Don Bluth later made a video-released sequel Bartok the Magnificent (1999), which spun off the character of the titular talking bat voiced by Hank Azaria, who is now made into the hero rather than being Rasputins sidekick.