Russia is being terrorized by an evil witch known as Baba Yaga (Andrea Martin), and the only one who is not afraid of her is Bartok the Magnificent (Hank Azaria). Bartok, an albino bat, has just arrived in Moscow and is impressing everyone with his performances, including Prince Ivan (Phillip Van Dyke). However, Ivan's advisor, Ludmila (Catherine O'Hara), finds Bartok annoying and naive, and she tries to make a Cossack stop his performance. After Bartok's show, a bear suddenly attacks. Bartok saves everyone by stunning the bear, knocking it over, and trapping it in a wagon.
Delighted with Bartok's bravery, everyone around him rewards him with gold, including Prince Ivan, who gives him a royal red ring, much to the displeasure of Ludmilla, who reminds him that the ring is only for members of the Romanov family, not commoners. She asks that he take the ring back, but Ivan disagrees, saying it is time for a change. Ludmilla, seeing that she cannot dissuade him, reluctantly allows it and they leave. When Ludmilla expresses that she is upset that Ivan has given a ring to a commoner, especially a street performer, Ivan retorts that that was his intention, and his friend Vol (Diedrich Bader) agrees that Bartok was funny. Ludmilla, on the other hand, believes that Ivan needs to respect his duty to the crown, which incites Ivan, who is tired of listening to her, to say that he will do as he pleases and it is she who must respect the crown.
Meanwhile, Bartok is counting the money he received when the bear wakes up and scares him. It turns out Bartok's amazing rescue was just another act - the bear is Zozi (Kelsey Grammer), Bartok's business partner. Zozi is apprehensive about Ivan's ring and agrees with Ludmilla, that the ring should be returned. Bartok stubbornly refuses to give it back since it was a gift.
Back in Moscow, Ivan is kidnapped by Baba Yaga, which leads to an immediate investigation. Ludmilla finds one of Baba Yaga's iron teeth, and she informs the people what has transpired. When she asks for someone brave enough to rescue Prince Ivan, two children (Kelly Marie Berger and Zachary B. Charles) nominate Bartok. Bartok and Zozi are on their way to St. Petersburg when Zozi spots the Cossacks coming after them. The pair become worried because they assume that Ludmilla wants Ivan's ring returned. Bartok tries to conceal his identity, but he is brought before the people, who explain that Ivan has been taken by Baba Yaga, and that they are relying on him to rescue their prince. Bartok reluctantly accepts, and he and Zozi head to the Iron Forest to confront Baba Yaga and save Prince Ivan.
They find Baba Yaga's hut, but must answer a riddle given by a giant skull (Tim Curry) to enter. When the riddle is answered, Baba Yaga successfully captures Bartok and explains that to save Ivan, Bartok must gather three items from the forest without any help from Zozi, or they'll "both die": Piloff, Oblie's Crown, and the Magic Feather. However, these tasks are very hard, for Piloff (Jennifer Tilly) is frozen to a boulder, Oblie (French Stewart), 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, using only the boulder Piloff was stuck to and Oblie's crown. He gathers the objects demanded, but Baba Yaga still needs something from Bartok himself. He offers everything he can think of, but Baba Yaga rejects everything and bursts out laughing. Bartok, outraged, begins to yell, and he upsets Baba Yaga by accusing her of lying and cheating, and claiming that everyone hates her. Baba breaks down in tears.
After he apologizes to her, he starts crying and Baba gets the most important ingredient: tears which are from Bartok's heart. She makes a magic potion from the items she had Bartok collect and reveals that she never took Prince Ivan and that the potion she made was meant for Bartok himself. Baba Yaga explains that when Bartok drinks the potion, whatever he is in his heart will show ten times in his exterior. Bartok and Zozi return to town and lead Ludmilla and Vol up to the top of the tower where Ivan is imprisoned.
When they arrive, Ludmilla locks Bartok and Vol up with Ivan and reveals 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 forcibly seize the Russian throne. She steals Bartok's magic potion and leaves Bartok, Ivan, and Vol trapped in a well tower filling up with water. She drinks it, believing her beauty will become tenfold, singing "The Real Ludmilla Comes Out" as she descends the tower, gleefully boasting that she will be unstoppable. Unbeknownst to her, the potion causes her to steadily transform into an enormous dragon as it is what she is on the inside.
Upon this discovery, Ludmilla goes on a rampage through Moscow, setting many buildings alight with her newly acquired fire breath ability. Zozi then comes to the rescue, saving Bartok, Vol, and the Prince. Bartok battles Ludmilla and tricks her into climbing the tower. When she gets to the top, the tower starts to become unstable and causes the top of the tower to fall, flooding the streets and dousing the flames. As the townspeople gather around Ludmilla's dead body, Zozi reveals that Bartok is a true hero, not only because he stopped Ludmilla, but because he had showed Baba Yaga compassion. Bartok returns Ivan's ring and Baba Yaga appears, writing "Bartok, The Magnificent" in the sky. Bartok gives Baba Yaga a goodbye hug as she and Piloff depart, counting on seeing Bartok again.Hank Azaria as Bartok
Kelsey Grammer as Zozi
Catherine O'Hara as Ludmilla
Frank Welker as Dragon Ludmilla (uncredited)
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 Oble
Phillip Van Dyke as Prince Ivan
Diedrich Bader as Vol, Ivan's friend and the Captain of the Guard.
Glenn Shadix as Townspeople
Danny Mann as Head Cossack
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".
The film's songs were written by Stephen Flaherty, who, along with Lynn Ahrens, also worked on the vocal music for Anastasia when they earned their two Oscar nominations, in which Bartok made his first appearance along with his former master, Rasputin.Songs featured
In late 1999, pancake purveyor IHOP Corp. started selling 2 versions of Bartok, as part of a promotion for the direct-to-video film "Bartok The Magnificent". 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 the March 2011 release of Anastasia on Blu-ray.
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 and Anastasia trailers, and a Maze Game that features three...mazes that you control with your remote control".
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."
In a review written on January 1, 2000, Dan Jardine of Apollo Guide gave the film a score of 71/100. On December 8, 2004, Michael Dequina of TheMovieReport.com wrote a review in which he scored it 1.5/4, and wrote "This uninspired, but mercifully short, adventure will hold some amusement for little kids but bore everyone else". FamilyVideo said "The film is marked by imaginative scenery, catchy songs, comic characters and Bartok's own funny and neurotic commentary". Hartford Courant described the film as "enjoyable". Indianapolis Star said "'Bartok' is quite good for video-only release". DigitallyObsessed gave the film a Style grade of B+, Substance rating of A, Image Transfer rating of C, Audio Transfer rating of B, and Extras rating of B+ - averaging out to a B+ rating of the film as a whole. It said "Stephen Flaherty's score is very nice". On LoveFilm, the film has a rating of 3/5 stars based on 222 member ratings.
In a 1999 review, John Laydon of Variety explained: "Tykes will likely be charmed by the brisk pacing, vibrant (albeit stereotypical) characters and engaging storyline, while parents may be especially grateful for a cartoon with much better production values than Pokémon. He noted "even very small children will notice early on that Ludmilla...a duplicitous regent, is the real villain of the piece". He said co-directors Bluth and Goldman "do a respectable job of establishing what promises to be a new direct-to-video franchise", adding that "though certainly not as lavish as its bigscreen predecessor Anastasia, the sequel is attractive and involving, with Tim Curry and Jennifer Tilly well cast as supporting-character voices". He said Azaria has "amusing brio", while Grammer "is the real scene-stealer this time". He described the songs as "pleasant but unremarkable". Also in 1999, Fort Oglethorpe Press described the film as "spectacular", "frolicking", and "fun-filled", adding that it is "loaded with breathtaking, feature-quality animation", and "spectacular music", and "enchanting new songs".
The Trades questioned the film's existence, saying "I am unsure what reason this spinoff was made, but regardless, it was a well done one". It added that "the same team directed and produced the second movie, and unlike many direct to video movies, it is animated as well as the first and uses a healthy portion of CGI, something many movies of that nature tend to lack. Backgrounds have the same detail as the original movie, making this a definite worthwhile watch". The Dallas Morning News notes "Bartok the Magnificent does even more disservice to Russian history than Anastasia did".
Bartok the Magnificent was nominated for "Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Home Video Production" at the 28th Annie Awards in 2000, losing to Disney's An Extremely Goofy Movie. It also received Gold Reel Award nominations for "Best Sound Editing" for both television movies and direct-to-video presentations from the Motion Picture Sound Editors that same year, beaten by Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, respectively.