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"Once Upon a December" is a song from the 1997 Fox Animation Studios film Anastasia. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.[1]

"Once Upon a December"
Song by Liz Callaway
from the album Anastasia: Music from the Motion Picture
ReleasedOctober 28, 1997
Composer(s)Stephen Flaherty
Lyricist(s)Lynn Ahrens
Producer(s)Lynn Ahrens, David Newman, Stephen Flaherty

The song and its lyrics are heard three times through the course of the story, twice as a lullaby, and once as a complete song with a bridge. The lullaby is heard first during the film's prologue (performed by Angela Lansbury as the Dowager Empress Marie, and Lacey Chabert as the young Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia) then as an a cappella version toward the end of the film when the Dowager Empress and the adult Anastasia are reunited (sung by Lansbury, and Liz Callaway as Anastasia). Callaway also sings the complete version (which does not include the lullaby lyrics) during the film's second act.

A pop version with vocals by country singer Deana Carter was also featured on the film's soundtrack and was released as a music video.


Production and synopsisEdit

The melody of this song reprises a lullaby sung to Anya by her grandmother:

On the wind, 'cross the sea, sing this song and remember
Soon you'll be home with me, once upon a December

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 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, and she remembers singing the tune as a child with her grandmother.

Other languagesEdit

In the Flemish version of the movie, only young and adult Anastasia and Dimitri were dubbed in Flemish. For the rest of the characters, the Dutch dub was used.

Besides the official dubs, several TV dubs were made along the years (e.g. Albanian, Egyptian Arabic, Czech, Polish, Taiwanese Mandarin, Korean, Slovak, Vietnamese, and so on).[2]

"Once Upon a December" in other languages
Language Performer[2] Title Translation
Arabic Rasha Rizk "أغنية عن شهر ديسمبر" ("Ughnya a’an shahri December") "A song about the month of December"
Brazilian Portuguese Juliana Franco "Foi no mês de Dezembro" "It was in December's month"
Bulgarian Елена Павлова (Elena Pavlova) "Някога през декември" ("Nyakoga prez dekemvri") "Once upon a December"
Canadian French Catherine Léveillé "Un beau jour de Décembre" "In a beautiful December day"
Cantonese Unknown "於那天再度記起" ("Jyu1 naa5 tin1 zoi3 dou6 gei3 hei2") "Remember that day once again"
Castilian Spanish Virginia Martínez "Una vez en diciembre" "Once in December"
Catalan Virginia Martínez "Molt aviat un Desembre" "Very soon a December"
Czech Alice Bardová "Krásný příslib setkání" Beautiful promise of meeting
Danish Nicoline Møller "For længe siden en vinter" "One winter a long time ago"
Dutch Vera Mann [nl] "Dat december zal komen" "That December will come"
European French Katia Markosy "Loin du froid de Décembre" "Far from the cold of December"
European Portuguese Lúcia Moniz "Uma vez em Dezembro" "Once upon a December"
Finnish Petra Karjalainen [fi] "Kerran joulukuun aikaan" "Once in the time of December"
Flemish Sanne Denotté "Dat december zal komen" "That December will come"
German Jana Werner [de] "Es war einmal im Dezember" "It was once upon a December"
Greek Μαντώ Σταματοπούλου (Mantó Stamatopoúlou) "Κάπου, Κάποιον Χειμώνα" ("Kapoo, kapion khimona") "Somewhere, some winter"
Hebrew לימור שפירא (Limor Shapira) "שוב כאז בדצמבר" ("Shuv k'az be’detzember") "Again as then, in December"
Hungarian Pápai Erika [hu] "Volt egy régi december" "There was an old December"
Icelandic Svala Björgvinsdóttir "Eitt sinn" "Once"
Italian Tosca "Quando viene Dicembre" "When December comes"
Japanese 鈴木ほのか (Suzuki Honoka) [ja] "懐かしい歌を" ("Natsukashii uta wo") "A nostalgic song"
Korean 이정화 (Lee Jeong-Hwa) "그 어느 해의 겨울" ("Kŭ ŏnŭ hae-e kyŏul") "That year's winter"
Latin American Spanish Thalía "Una vez en diciembre" "Once in December"
Norwegian Anita Skorgan "En gang uti desember" "Once in late December"
Polish Katarzyna Skrzynecka "Lecę w dal" "I’m flying in the distance"
Russian Masha Katz "В зимний вечер когда-то" ("V zimniy vyecher kagda-ta") "Once a winter night"
Swedish Helen Sjöholm "Längesen i december" "Long ago in December"
Thai จันทร์จิรา นิ่มพิทักษ์พงศ์ (Chanjira Nimpitakpong) "ครั้งหนึ่งในฤดูเหมันต์" ("Krung nueng nai rue doo hay mun") "Once upon a winter season"
Turkish Tuğba Önal "Aralıkta bir zamanlar" "Once upon a time in December"

Critical receptionEdit

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."[3] FilmTracks argues both these songs' "appeal as the 'leading lady's songs' are equally attractive. The site compared December favorably 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 straightforward ballad".[1] DVDTa;l described the song as intimate [4] DarkRealmFox said it was "a fabulous musical number".[5] CineMatter said "only two of the film's songs) (Journey to the Past, and Once Upon a December) have any lasting presence".[6] FilmVault says it is "fairy-tale lovely".[7]

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".[8] DVDReview describes it as a "Karaoke-style sing-a-long".[9]


  1. ^ a b c d "Anastasia (Stephen Flaherty/David Newman)". Filmtracks. 1997-10-28. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  2. ^ a b "Anastasia". Charguigou. Archived from the original on 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2016-08-23.
  3. ^ "Film Review: Anastasia (1997) | animate this". 2013-09-16. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Dark_Fox. "Blu Ray Film Reviews – Anastasia". Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  6. ^ "Anastasia". Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  7. ^ Jeffrey Gantz (24 November 1997). "Anastasia". The Boston Phoenix . Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  8. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1997-10-28). "Anastasia [Music from the Motion Picture] – | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  9. ^ "Anastasia". DVD Review. 1998-11-01. Retrieved 2014-07-20.