Bartok the Magnificent, directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, is a 1999 direct-to-video spin-off and prequel to the 1997 film Anastasia, which features Hank Azaria as the voice of Bartok, Kelsey Grammer as the voice of Zozi, and Jennifer Tilly as Piloff. It is a "family adventure...animated comedy" film, according to Fort Oglethorpe Press.
Although the film was released after Anastasia, it takes place before the events of the first film due to the fact that this film centres around the kidnapping of the young czar whereas the original film, Anastasia, takes place after the Russian revolution. While some of Don Bluth's films have received sequels, shows and spin-offs, this is the only spin-off Bluth has directed. Variety writer John Laydon explained how the films were connected: "The literally batty sidekick who swiped scenes throughout 1997's Anastasia is rewarded with his very own animated adventure in Bartok the Magnificent, a lightly diverting direct-to-video opus". He also argued that the film was a prequel "since the setting is pre-revolutionary Russia"
Albino bat Bartok arrives in Moscow and makes himself known by performing for the locals. His grand finale involves defeating a grizzly bear. Delighted with Bartok's bravery, the townspeople shower him with gold, including the young czar Ivan Romanov, who gifts Bartok with a royal ring, much to the chagrin of Ivan's assistant Ludmilla. After the show, Bartok counts his earnings and is startled by the stirring bear, revealed to be his business partner Zozi. Although Zozi is apprehensive about the ring, Bartok refuses as it was gifted.
When Ivan is kidnapped by the witch Baba Yaga, there is an immediate investigation. In seeking a rescuer, two children nominate Bartok, who, with Zozi, was already on his way to St. Petersburg when spotted by Cossacks. Bartok is brought before the townspeople, who are relying on his courage to save Ivan. Reluctantly, Bartok accepts, and he and Zozi set out for the Iron Forest. Upon arriving at Baba Yaga's hut, the duo must answer a riddle given by the entrance, a giant skull. With the riddle solved, Bartok is then captured by Baba Yaga, who explains that, in order to save Ivan, Bartok must retrieve three artifacts from the forest, without any assistance: her pet Piloff, Oblie's Crown and the Magic Feather. However, Bartok quickly finds that these tasks are difficult, as Piloff is frozen to a boulder; Oblie, a giant blacksmith surrounded by an aura of fire, must be tricked into letting his crown be stolen; and the Magic Feather must be obtained without flight, utilizing only the previous two items.
Returning to Baba Yaga with the objectives completed, the witch reveals that she needs something from Bartok himself. Baba Yaga rejects all his offers, and, outraged, Bartok lashes out at her, accusing her of lying and cheating, and claiming that everyone hates her. Suddenly stricken with guilt, Bartok apologizes and cries, allowing Baba Yaga to obtain the most important ingredient: tears from the heart. She conjures up a potion from the objects, and reveals that she never kidnapped Ivan and that the potion was intended for Bartok himself; it will make whatever he is in his heart ten times on the outside. Bartok and Zozi return to town and lead Ludmilla and Vol, the Captain of the Guard, up to the top of the tower, where Ivan is imprisoned.
There, Ludmilla locks Bartok and Vol in with Ivan, revealing that she had Vol kidnap the prince (telling him to "get him out of the way" as in kill him, while Vol misunderstood and locked him up, supposedly for his own safety) while she framed Baba Yaga as part of her scheme to steal the throne. She steals Bartok's potion and leaves her prisoners in a well tower, quickly flooding with water. Ludmilla consumes the potion, thinking her beauty will become tenfold. Unbeknownst to her, the potion, in fact, causes her to transform into a giant pink dragon, as it unveils her true wickedness. After seeing her reflection, Ludmilla's mind degrades to a mere beast, and she goes on a rampage, burning the town with her fiery breath.
Zozi comes and rescues Bartok, Ivan and Vol. Bartok battles Ludmilla and tricks her into climbing the tower. When she reaches the top, the tower crumbles, crushing Ludmilla and unleashing a wave of gushing water that douses the flames. As the townsfolk gather around the wreckage, Zozi hails Bartok as a true hero, not only for defeating Ludmilla but also for showing Baba Yaga compassion.
Bartok returns Ivan's ring and Baba Yaga appears, writing "Bartok, The Magnificent" in the sky. Bartok bids Baba Yaga and Piloff goodbye, undoubtedly counting on seeing him again someday.
- Hank Azaria as Bartok
- Kelsey Grammer as Zozi
- Catherine O'Hara as Ludmilla
- Frank Welker as Dragon Ludmilla
- Andrea Martin as Baba Yaga
- Tim Curry as The Skull, the entrance/guard to Baba Yaga's hut.
- Jennifer Tilly as Piloff, Baba Yaga's pet
- French Stewart as Oblie
- Phillip Van Dyke as Prince Ivan Romanov
- Diedrich Bader as Vol, Ivan's friend and the Captain of the Guard.
- Glenn Shadix as Townspeople Ensemble
- Danny Mann as Head Cossack
A young Grigori Rasputin makes a silent cameo among the crowd at the Romanov castle.
A spin-off film was devised as "Hollywood audiences went batty over the impish Bartok in Fox's 1997 animated musical Anastasia". Chris Meledandri, then-president of 20th Century Fox Animation said "Once we thought about a lot of ideas, our favorite idea was the one you see".
In late 1999, pancake purveyor IHOP started selling two versions of Bartok, as part of promotion. The company planned "to sell about 500,000 of the six-inch-high toys - Bartok Puppet and Turban Bartok - for $2.99 with any food purchase". It was "also offering $2 mail-in rebate coupons for the $20 video...and free activity books for children".
Bartok the Magnificent was first released on VHS and DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on November 16, 1999, and was later re-released in 2005 as part of a 2-disc set alongside Anastasia entitled Family Fun Edition. Bartok the Magnificent was also included as a special feature on Anastasia Blu-ray, released in March 2011.
The tape and DVD conclude with sing-along segments that reprise the ... original tunes by Stephen Flaherty ... and Lynn Ahrens" - "Bartok the Magnificent", "A Possible Hero", "Someone's in My House" and "Once Upon a December" (from Anastasia). Other DVD extras include also include Bartok the Magnificent and Anastasia trailers, and a Maze Game that features three ... mazes that you control with your remote control".
Visual and audio
The aspect ratio is 1.33:1 – Full Frame. The DVD release has the original aspect ratio, and it is not anamorphic. As the source is video and not film, and because there is no widescreen aspect ratio available, the quality is at the same level of the original film. Digitally Obsessed says "The colors are nicely rendered, with a minimum of bleeding" but when viewed on "a 115 foot projection screen through a progressive scan player...the image was fairly grainy and uneven". The film has English and French audio. Digitally Obsessed says "The DS2.0 mix is more than adequate for this fun little bat romp [though there is a] lack of directionality in the mix. The dialogue is clear and center speaker weighted". It concluded by saying "This is a great DVD for kids, because besides just watching the movie they can enjoy the three sing-alongs or try to find Prince Ivan in the mazes. Bartok teaches moral values in a way that kids can understand" According to LoveFilm, the film has been dubbed into: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Dutch. It has subtitles in: Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish. Fort Worth Star-Telegram implied this was one of the rare direct-to-video films that is great quality, saying "the made-for-tape bin can yield an undiscovered bargain [such as] Bartok the Magnificent". Lexington Herald-Leader said "to my surprise...the movie overall [is] quite good."
The film's songs were written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, both returning from Anastasia.
- NAPSI (November 17, 1999). "No tall tail-bats are making a comeback in some areas". Fort Oglethorpe Press. Retrieved on October 23, 2015.
- Joe Leydon (1999-11-28). "Bartok the Magnificent", Variety. Retrieved on 18 October 2013.
- Bartok the Magnificent on Wikipedia