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No, Disney+ Didn’t Pull ‘Anastasia’ as a Statement about Russia’s War in Ukraine

The film's removal has to do with a preexisting contract dispute.

ANASTASIA, the Dowager Empress Marie (voice: Angela Lansbury), 1997. © 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection


20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wages on, Hollywood has taken a strong stance against Vladimir Putin’s war. Russian movie theaters will not be showing many upcoming American films, as studios are refusing to show movies such as “The Batman” in Russia as long as the war continues. Disney has taken as strong of a stance as anyone, vowing not to release any upcoming films in Russia and devoting resources to helping Ukrainian refugees.

So when it was revealed that “Anastasia,” the 1997 animated film from 20th Century Studios that Disney acquired when it bought Fox, was no longer streaming on Disney+, many suspected that it was an act of protest against Russia. After all, “Anastasia” is set in Russia and is based on the Russian legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia, a daughter of the Romanov dynasty who is separated from her family by an evil wizard and grows up in an orphanage without knowledge of her royal lineage.

However, it looks like Disney’s decision to pull “Anastasia” from Disney+ was not a bold act of political defiance. The reality is likely a much less exciting example of a standard contract dispute. The film is still streaming on Disney+ in other countries, and is simply unavailable in America, making it more likely that it was pulled due to a dispute over the American streaming rights to the film. The blog whatsondisneyplus.com, who broke the story, wrote that “this removal from Disney+ has nothing to do with the current crisis involving Ukraine and Russia.” Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox was an extremely complicated deal that involved many films and shows that were co-produced with other studios, so this likely will not be the last time a film is pulled from the service due to a preexisting contract.

That said, Disney did halt the release of its upcoming Pixar film “Turning Red” from Russia. “Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming ‘Turning Red’ from Pixar,” the company said in a statement released last week. “We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.”

For up-to-date info about Hollywood studios’ responses to the Russian invasion, check out IndieWire’s list of films pulled from Russia.

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