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Meet the animator and director of the 'Anastasia' movie, Don Bluth

Broadway version of Russian tale takes ASU Gammage stage this week

Animator Don Bluth poses with an egg he received during the production of Anastasia

Don Bluth poses with an egg he received during the production of "Anastasia."

October 29, 2019

More than 20 years after the animated film “Anastasia” was released, the director of the film still recalls the magic surrounding the Oscar-nominated fairy tale.

The co-director of 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of “Anastasia,” Don Bluth, is a hidden gem right in the heat of Arizona. 

Bluth, who still has the energy of a child at 82 years old, recalled the making of the 1997 film. 

The tale is inspired by the execution of the Romanov family during the Bolshevik revolution in 1918. The animated film explored one of the rumors that surrounded the theory: What if Anastasia, the youngest daughter, had escaped and suffered amnesia? 

“It’s an interesting bed of information to build this elaborate story on — a girl who got lost and was found,” Bluth said.

The film and Broadway production take the route of fairy tale to tell this alternative twist of fate. 

“Fairy tales help develop the psyche,” Bluth explained. “Let the children take whichever message they want from it, because the kids who hear or read the stories are comforted by it.” 

The seamless tale that is seen on the silver screen began with much excitement, but Bluth faced his fair share of creative roadblocks. 

Bluth, who also drew the animations of the characters, began drowning in a sea of crumpled-up drawings of Anastasia that he felt just didn’t fit “the look.”

“I drew hundreds and hundreds of girls,” Bluth said after drawing and redrawing the animated character, who came to life to embody the mysterious, strong-willed character of Anastasia.

That same energy has been mirrored in Broadway’s production of the tale, with just enough mystery to keep the audience intrigued. 

“When someone takes a movie and turns it into another form, it is an amazing compliment,” Bluth said. “Putting a stage play on, especially Broadway, is an enormous investment and shows that the public is interested in the story that’s been told.”

Bluth also created many other films, including “All Dogs Go to Heaven” and “A Land Before Time.”

“Animation has always been something that can inspire the audience with an idea that might make their life a little more enjoyable,” Bluth said.

When his career in animation began slowing down, he knew his career in the arts would remain much alive. 

In 2005, Bluth opened his own theater with 45 seats in a cozy environment — his living room.

After eight years of inviting audience members into his own home, Bluth decided it was time for an upgrade.  

Now, Bluth owns and directs shows at Don Bluth Front Row Theatre in Scottsdale, always filling the 75-person venue with enthusiastic and supportive guests.

“One of the reasons we’re packing the house is because we are determined to tell a really good story,” Bluth said.

After 60-plus years in show biz, Bluth said his love for theatre has never wavered.

“The value of theater is so important because it instructs in the most secretive way. It’s not didactic, it’s not pounding, but it tells you stories and allows you to decipher what they really mean,” Bluth said.

After a long pause, Bluth finished with a smile:

“That’s worth fighting for.”

Don't miss "Anastasia" when it comes to ASU Gammage on Oct. 29–Nov. 3.

Don Bluth Front Row Theatre is hosting a gala event for the 30th anniversary of “All Dogs Go to Heaven” on Nov. 23. For more information, visit or call 480-314-0841.