Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova is the main protagonist of the film of the same name.
The youngest daughter of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, and his Tsarina, Alexandra, she was the younger sister of Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, and Marie, and the older sister of the Tsarevich Alexei.
During the revolution, she and her grandmother Marie Feodorovna are reputedly the only members of the Romanov family to escape assassination. However, eight-year-old Anastasia is separated from her grandmother during the escape and left behind in Russia, where she lives as an anonymous orphan named "Anya" for the next ten years.
She is played by Meg Ryan as an adult and Kristen Dunst as a child.
The youngest of the Tsar's four daughters, Anastasia was known for her ability to put a smile on any face with her quick wit and youthful mischief and was always ready to entertain. She spent many hours with her brother during which the two would entertain themselves (and anyone else within earshot) by playing loud music, dancing, and painting.
She had a close relationship with her paternal grandmother, Marie Feodorovna, who resided in Paris. During the revolution, they manage to escape the assassination at the palace, but are separated at the train station. Left amnesiac after the revolution, Anastasia spends ten years in a state-run orphanage under the alias "Anya". She develops a strong-minded and independent personality and deeply longs to find her family, despite having no clues regarding her past identity.
In 1908, the Romanov family celebrates its tricentennial with a ball. Anastasia, a carefree eight-year-old girl, is given a music box by her grandmother, Marie Feodorovna (Angela Lansbury) that plays their lullaby, "Once Upon a December," as a gift to ease their separation. Accompanying the music box is a necklace shaped key inscribed with the words "Together in Paris", a promise from Marie to her beloved granddaughter.
The ball is soon disrupted by Grigori Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), the Tsar's former confidante, who has been exiled for attempting to overthrow the Romanovs. Rasputin has sold his soul and curses the Romanov family. Soon afterward, the people are incited to revolution and soldiers storm the palace. Anastasia, remembering her music box, returns to her room to recover it with Marie. They manage to escape thanks to a kitchen boy opening a secret passage used by the servants, though Anastasia's music box is left behind. Upon escaping the palace, Rasputin finds them at a frozen river and manages to catch Anastasia. However, the ice cracks under his weight and he is left to drown as Anastasia and Marie reach a train station. Though Marie manages to board a train, she is unable to pull Anastasia on board and as her granddaughter slips from her grasp, Anastasia falls and is knocked unconscious.
Anastasia spends the next ten years at a state-run orphanage; without any memory of her past except the "Together in Paris" necklace, she is given the name Anya. Upon coming of age, the orphanage caretaker sends to take a job at the Fisherman's Village. However, Anya longs to find her lost family and remember her past. Encouraged by a lost puppy she names Pooka, Anya decides to go to St. Petersburg in hopes of finding passage to Paris. Lacking the appropriate papers, she is directed to find a man named Dimitri (John Cusack) at the old Catherine Palace.
At the Catherine Palace, Anya senses a familiarity in the building. Soon afterward, she is found by Dimitri and his associate Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer), who are both struck by her resemblance to the lost Anastasia. Unaware that they are con artists, they convince her that she may be Anastasia, the missing granddaughter of the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, who now resides in Paris. Anya agrees, but her presence in the Catherine Palace unwittingly alerts Rasputin, trapped in limbo since his death, that his curse is incomplete. He begins a plan to kill the last Romanov after his servant Bartok brings the reliquary containing Rasputin's soul back to him.
Though the group initially travels by train, Rasputin's minions quickly find Anya and attempt to derail the train. The group escape by jumping from the train and travel overland to Germany, where they will take a boat across the North Sea to France. During the journey, Anya is outraged at the idea that she will have to lie to the Dowager Empress regarding her identity, though Dimitri and Vladimir persuade her that it would not be a lie if she was truly Anastasia. The two men educate her on Anastasia's past and are surprised when she is able to recall information that they do not remember teaching her. When they begin sailing across the North Sea, a budding romantic relationship begins to develop between Anya and Dimitri. Anya also finds Anastasia's music box, which Dimitri, who had been the kitchen boy who aided her escape, had recovered and kept; however, she does not recognize it. Rasputin, in another attempt to kill Anastasia, infiltrates her dreams and causes her to sleepwalk during a storm on the ship. Anya near leaps off the boat, but is saved by Dimitri, who Pooka had woken up.
Upon arriving in Paris, Anya is interrogated by the Dowager Empress's cousin, Sophie, who considers Anya to be a strong candidate to be a true Anastasia but admits that Marie now refuses to see any more claimants after being fooled by so many imposters over the last ten years. Unbeknownst to Anya, Dimitri realizes that Anya is the true Anastasia when she is able to answer the unexpected question of how she escaped from the palace during the siege. Sophie manages to engineer a meeting for Anya and Dimitri at the Paris Opera as a favour to Vladimir, her old boyfriend.
At the Paris Opera House, Dimitri is determined to reunite Anya with Marie out of his love for Anya. His insistence to meet the Dowager Empress offends her and she reveals how she knows that he is a con artist who wanted to find a believable imposter to fool Marie into giving him the enormous reward she offered for finding Anastasia. Anya, upon learning Dimitri's original intentions, storms off in anger for being tricked and used. After returning to Sophie's townhouse, Anya is surprised to be greeted by Marie, who was forcibly brought to the townhouse by Dimitri and presented with Anastasia's music box. The meeting allows Anya to remember her past through the music box and convinces Marie that Anya is Anastasia, happily reuniting them at last.
To celebrate Anastasia's return, Marie arranges a ball for the Parisian elite, where Anastasia will make her debut. Seeing that Anastasia is feeling dubious about entering the world of royalty, Marie reveals that Dimitri did not accept the monetary reward when offered. Being happy to have found her granddaughter and seeing the woman she has become, Marie encourages Anastasia to follow her heart. Instead of appearing at the ball, Anastasia is distracted when Pooka abruptly flees from the palace to the Pont Alexander III, where Rasputin appears to her in person at last to kill her. Anastasia recalls the curse he set upon her family ten years ago and a struggle soon ensues.
While Rasputin has the upper hand with his minions, Dimitri appears to try and save Anastasia. Dimitri is quickly injured and knocked unconscious, leaving Anastasia to save herself. She manages to crush Rasputin's reliquary, the source of his power, which causes his body to crumble into dust. Dimitri regains consciousness and they reconcile. The movie concludes with Anastasia leaving a note with her grandmother before eloping with Dimitri.
- Character animation supervised by Len Simon.
- Anastasia is one of the most popular Non-Disney Princesses along with Thumbelina and Odette (The Swan Princess).
- In reality, Anastasia died with the rest of her family on July 17, 1918. She had no descendents and her death was the most tragically famous until Anne Frank (1929-1945).
- In order to get Meg Ryan to voice Anastasia, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman took a scene from Sleepless in Seattle and animated it. Ryan liked the results and signed on to the project.