I recently posted an image on Instagram captioned “when you grow up on 60s sitcoms and Dimitri from Anastasia was your first crush, then the only attractive men will be ones that are extremely annoyed with you 95% of the time”.
The response was both hilarious and surprising. I got some DMs and comments from people who never realized just how much either of those aspects of their childhood influenced their adult life. The more I talk to people about childhood interests the more I realize I think a lot about my own formative influences. I had a great childhood, which is a privilege many don’t have, so I can consider things without fear of unearthing trauma, and also cling to aspects that have joyful associations.
The animated movie Anastasia released in theaters in 1997, when I was 8, almost 9 years old. Still carrying around my American Girl doll and reading through the entire Nancy Drew series, boys were not on my radar. I didn’t think they were gross (girls are gross too, like, please) but while friends were chatting about cute boys and crushes at school, I was decidedly still indifferent.
And then, Dimitri.
I don’t know what it was that clicked, but that was it, I could, and did watch that movie over and over and over again. It’s a movie about a young woman who doesn’t know she’s really a long lost princess?? Like?? Already appealing to girls who are about to seek their place in the world (the fact that this was long before superhero and action movies centered around women and gave options other than “princess” is a whole other conversation”), but they added a man who would ultimately influence an entire generation for a lifetime, and may not even realize it.
Dimitri is a balance of rough around the edges with a heart of gold. Tall, fit, with hair that’s constantly tousled and jumping into action without hesitation, he’s essentially laid a foundation for what’s attractive in a man. It’s the first time a major animated princess movie really rounded out the love interest, and since then we’ve seen more men of substance and even ones obviously influenced by him (the parallels between Dimitri and Flynn Rider are uncanny)
The following could explain what appeals to us as adults, if you viewed the movie during the formative early years of puberty. Cliché or not, it is what it is.
Once connected in the past
We know Dimitri spent part of his childhood in the palace as a servant, so his origins are much lower than the princess Anastasia. Right from the start we see his interest either in her, or the life of a royal, both could apply given what we see in adulthood. In the chaos of the overthrow Dimitri essentially sacrifices himself in order to save Anastasia and her grandmother, which sets the foundation for his character development as the situation will arise again in different forms.
Pairing up for selfish gain not planning to fall in love
When we see Dimitri again as an adult he’s using his insider knowledge of the royal family to try and find the perfect impostor of the lost princess to present to the empress and collect a hefty reward. He and Vlad stumble on Anya and convince her she could be the lost princess, knowing she isn’t, only after financial gain. There’s a strong element of deceit and beginning a relationship for all the wrong reasons.
Wit, dry humor, and snarkiess
Dimitri doesn’t hold back with Anya and seems to have met his match in wit and snarkiness. His dry humor is displayed up until he realizes they can’t be together, and he adapts a much more somber dynamic with her, essentially losing himself when he loses her.
Bickering and teasing as flirting
As Dimitri and Anya spend more time together they go at each other’s throats so often, Vlad actually keeps score in a little notebook. An attraction is obviously felt but neither character will face it so the sexual tension manifests in argumentative ways, as the newfound passion has to have an outlet somewhere.
The naivete and her guide
Anya essentially puts her life in the hands of Dimitri, both emotionally and physically. Not remembering half her life, she’s naive to the ways of high society and royalty, relying on Dimitri to teach her everything. They experience multiple things Anya never has before (in her memory) like train and ship travel, new cities, and social expectations. For everything, she relies on Dimitri to teach her, not just how to behave but also teach her who she is. The dominant/submissive, teacher/student dynamic is explored frequently in these situations, he pulling out aspects of herself she didn’t know capable of.
Anya and Dimitri have countless moments of obvious sexual tension, from each being aware how physically close they are to kisses being interrupted before they start.
Enemies to lovers
After constant bickering, they both start to realize their feelings for each other on the steam ship, Dimitri seeing her for the first time in something other than old rags, and Anya giving into his appeal. They share an almost kiss while dancing, then after he saves her from unwillingly almost jumping off the ship to her death, they both give in to a rather intimate embrace.
“We can’t be together” emotional torture and longing
During an initial interview with the empresses companion, Dimitri sees Anya is in fact the real lost princess. He’s realized he’s fallen for her but their soon to be difference in stations will make the relationship impossible. While she celebrates her future he’s wrought with guilt over lying to her, and having to not only let her go, but watch her thrive without him.
Betrayal and self sacrifice to amend
When Anya finds out she was a pawn in his persuit of financial gain and was lied to, Dimitri begs forgiveness and tries to explain that what started out superficially turned into so much more. Anya won’t hear it and never wants to see him again. Dimitri may have come to terms with losing her, but won’t stop trying to give her the life she deserves, and convinces the empress to visit Anya, knowing from that moment on he can’t be a part of her life even if she forgives him, but he believes she’s better off with her remaining family.
It’s all for her
After the empress accepts Anya as her granddaughter she invites Dimitri to her Grand resistance to collect the promised reward. Broken and somber, he refuses, stating that while he would have taken it previously, now he just wants her to have her rightful place in the world. The empress is stunned but realizes that he’s fallen for her and Anya may feel the same.
Dimitri and Anya cross paths on the stairs, he seeing her for the first time dressed in a ball gown, unmistakably royal. Their exchange is cold, and Dimitri is told he must bow to princess Anastasia, which he does, making Anya uncomfortable that this is where their relationship ends. The familiarity of previous bickering and physical closeness is gone for good.
Fighting side by side
When Anya is lured to the gardens where Rasputin intends to kill her, Dimitri unexpectedly appears and rescues her from certain death, then they join forces fighting side by side. Anya ultimately defeats Rasputin, but couldn’t have done so without Dimitri.
Realization of love when it could be too late
During the fight Dimitri is knocked unconscious, appearing dead to Anya, who realizes her love for him when it’s seemingly too late. When he comes to she concludes she’d rather be unroyal with him than a royal without him, Dimitri supporting whichever choice she makes even if that means losing her. But of course, it’s a happy ending 💗💗💗