Carrie Fisher Wrote Anastasia's Best Scene

Many might be surprised to learn that Carrie Fisher had a prolific career off-screen as well as on. She was a writer of memoirs ("Wishful Drinking," "Shockaholic"), fictional novels ("Surrender the Pink," The Best Awful,"), films ("Postcards from the Edge"), as well as an uncredited ghostwriter for many notable movies such as "Star Wars" and "Sister Act." Fisher was a reputable script doctor, a writer hired by filmmakers to improve certain aspects of an existing screenplay. She also worked on the beloved animated classic "Anastasia," the animated feature that /Film considers one of Don Bluth's best films.

In a 2017 Entertainment Weekly interview, the songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty revealed that Fisher was an important part of the "Anastasia" success story. The film tells the tale of an orphan with amnesia named Anya, who is secretly the lost daughter of the Russian Romanov dynasty. Anya is a spunky female protagonist that is not afraid to say what's on her mind or stand up for herself. She's a heroine that young girls can admire for her bravery, humor, and kind heart. In many ways, she's a lot like Carrie Fisher herself. This is what made Fisher the perfect person to "get into the psyche of Anya" and improve her characterization.  

Ahrens told Playbill in 2017 that when they hired Fisher, "She punched up the emotional, romantic moments [...] Carrie, just sort of wrote the stream of consciousness of this romantic stuff." Fisher also worked on the witty banter between Dimitri and Anya. The two frequently argue but have an electric chemistry that somewhat resembles Han Solo and Princess Leia. As was revealed in the interview, Fisher also worked on one of the most pivotal scenes in "Anastasia."  

Anya's life-changing decision in 'Journey to the Past'

Carrie Fisher was brought in to give Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty ideas for the crucial "Journey to the Past" sequence, which features the uplifting anthem about Anya's yearning for home and a family. When she stops at the fork in the road that leads to Fisherman's Village or St. Petersburg, she must make a life-altering decision. At first, Ahrens and Flaherty had a different song where Anya was riding on a bicycle, but as they told Entertainment Weekly, the pair became more intrigued by the idea of her "not being on the journey yet, but on the cusp of the journey."

Using this structure, Fisher teases out Anya's anxiety and excitement about her future. The scene before the "Journey to the Past" song highlight's Anya's humor and bright personality. For example, the song begins with her making fun of Phelemenkof, the dowdy orphanage headmistress. Later in her monologue, Anya works out whether or not she wants to stay an orphan and work in the fish factory or go on an adventure to find her family in Paris. She begs the universe for a sign, and when a little dog named Pooka leads her to St. Petersburg, she quips, "Okay, I can take a hint." Anya has a quick wit that feels reminiscent of Carrie Fisher.

Fisher's contribution creates a significant moment that "embodies hope and fear and those are universal emotions that every woman, everybody feels as they step into their lives and take control of their lives and know that I'm at that no turning back moment in life," recounts Ahrens. Carrie Fisher's bold, unique voice is what makes the "Journey to the Past" scene so authentic, and makes Anya's character a vivacious and unforgettable heroine in one of the best animated movies