Once Upon a December

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"Once Upon a December"
Song by Liz Callaway, from the album Anastasia
Released October 28, 1997
Recorded 1996 - 1997
Genre Film music, Pop ballad
Length 2:48
Label Atlantic Records
Writer Lynn Ahrens
Composer David Newman and Stephen Flaherty
Producer Lynn Ahrens, David Newman and Stephen Flaherty
Cover versions
Deana Carter, Angela Lansbury, Lacey Chabert

Once Upon a December is a song from the 1997 Fox Animation Studios film Anastasia. It is sung by the character Anya who is voiced by Liz Callaway. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.[1] A pop version with vocals by Deana Carter was also featured on the film's soundtrack and was released as a music video. The song is heard during the film's prologue and is performed by Angela Lansbury (as the Dowager Empress Marie) and Lacey Chabert (as young Anastasia) and later in the film performed again by Lansbury but with Callaway when the Dowager Empress and Anastasia are reunited.


The melody of this song reprises a lullaby sung to Anya by her grandmother the Dowager Empress Marie. The Dowager Empress commissions a music box that plays the lullaby as a gift for young Anya, to comfort her while her grandmother is away. The recurring melody serves as a narrative device in the film since Anya's memory of the lullaby, and the music box's necklace keys are her only ties to her forgotten past. The theme of memory is further enhanced by composer David Newman recurring use of the melody throughout the film's score, also incorporating variations of the song "Journey to the Past".[1]


The full album version of "Once Upon a December" is sung by Anya after entering the now derelict Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. The repressed memories of her past are stirred by her unknowing return to her childhood home, triggering a musical dream sequence in which the palace is returned to its former glory.

Critical reception[edit]

DVDReview describes it as "the showstopper in the film". LegendOfFlaura wrote "The two fan favorites are Anya’s songs, “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December,” both of which rival any mezzo-soprano solo by Menken/Ashman."[2] FilmTracks argues both these songs' "appeal as the 'leading lady's songs' are equally attractive. The site compared December favourably to Past, writing "Once Upon a December that better tells the film's story. Appearing in short vocal reprises throughout the score, this song is the connecting element between Anya and her lost grandmother, and the Russian sensibilities of the waltz are far more interesting than the rather straight-forward ballad".[1] DVDTa;l described the song as intimate [3] DarkRealmFox said it was "a fabulous musical number".[4] CineMatter said "only two [of the film's songs) (Journey to the Past, and Once Upon a December) have any lasting presence".[5] FilmVault says it is "fairy-tale lovely".[6]

FilmTracks said the pop version is "the highlight of all the songs, despite the somewhat lazy vocal rendering".[1] AllMusic describes it as an example of copying the "Disney formula of balancing big show tunes from the film with re-recorded MOR pop versions of the same song".[7] DVDReview describes it as a "Karaoke-style sing-a-long".[8]


  1. ^ a b c d "Anastasia (Stephen Flaherty/David Newman)". Filmtracks. 1997-10-28. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  2. ^ "Film Review: Anastasia (1997) | animate this". Legendoflaura.wordpress.com. 2013-09-16. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  3. ^ http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/20609/anastasia-family-fun-edition/
  4. ^ Dark_Fox. "Blu Ray Film Reviews - Anastasia |". Darkrealmfox.com. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  5. ^ "Anastasia". Cinematter.com. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  6. ^ wil gerken, nathan hendler, doug floyd, john banks. "Anastasia . The Boston Phoenix . 11-24-97". Filmvault.com. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  7. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1997-10-28). "Anastasia [Music from the Motion Picture] - | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  8. ^ "Anastasia". DVD Review. 1998-11-01. Retrieved 2014-07-20.