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Fairfield Resident Gets to be the Star of the Animated Movie “Anastasia”

If you’ve ever seen the 20th Century Fox movie Anastasia you’ll instantly recognize the female protagonist with fiery red hair. Anastasia is the beautiful, clever, and adventurous girl fictionalized in this 1997 love story about the daughter of the last Russian Czar. But did you know that Fairfield has its own Anastasia? Anna Pelletier, a longtime resident, was the original human live action model for the animated Anastasia character.

So how do you audition for such a role, not to mention how does a film studio turn a human into a cartoon character? For starters, the opportunity to try out for Anastasia didn’t just fall into Pelletier’s lap; she will tell you that luck had very little to do with it. In fact, similar to her animated character it took a lot of perseverance and faith. There were years leading up to that moment which involved musical roles at dinner theaters, dancing and acting at a 50’s-themed diner, and local radio broadcasting.

She even posed as a video game character and worked as a police dispatcher. Living in Phoenix at the time, Pelletier would grab any job she could to support herself while she pursued her passion. “There were times when I slept in my truck and washed up in McDonald’s. It didn’t matter because I knew I had to support myself while I was out there promoting myself.”

Pelletier’s break came after she saw an ad in a local paper announcing that 20th Century Fox would be holding auditions for a feature animated film. Determined to get an audition, she slipped her resume and headshot under the studio doors and sent multiple resumes.

“I even tried having a large pizza delivered that included my headshot on the inside top of the box. And I’d drawn arrows pointing to my face that said ‘Look at me—I want an audition!’ ” Sadly, nothing worked, until Pelletier signed a new agent who ultimately landed her a spot in the audition room.

At 29, Pelletier was the oldest person to audition for the role, and as she waited for her turn in a room filled with countless teenage girls, she began to lose hope. But her animated gestures, combined with her big green eyes and expressive features, won her a call back. Pelletier was then asked to read the movie lines that Meg Ryan, the voice of Anastasia, had already recorded. Those lines had to be in sync with how Ryan had articulated them—not an easy task.

One week later she was offered the role of Live Action Model for Anastasia. And one month after that the studio got to work positioning Pelletier in different poses, then freezing the filmed scenes so that they could meticulously draw a cartoon of her form, her face, and her movements.

Now, with the opening of the Broadway remake of Anastasia—on the twentieth anniversary of the movie debut—it’s easy for Pelletier to reminisce about the fun of making the film. If you ask her about the whole experience she’ll tell you it was a crazy, wild ride, one that she treasured. But after a few years and some side roles in films such as Night Rider and Bounty Hunter, she felt that her Hollywood life had run its course.

Her next adventure was with her new husband, Eric. They moved put down roots in the Stratfield area of town, where she started teaching at Unquowa School. Pelletier has since become a National Safety Training Manager at Liberty Construction Services where some of those past stunts as Anastasia​ may be paying off.

There are some parallels to Pelletier’s life and that of Anastasia, besides the ironic similarity of their names. In 2010 the Pelletier home went up in smoke as an electrical fire raged through the house, and, tragically, trapping their beloved dogs inside.

Crushed and broken, they returned to Arizona to stay with family as they grieved and planned how to recover both emotionally and financially from the incident. But determination to rebuild their lives finally panned out and in 2011 they moved back to the town they loved. With a newly renovated home and two new Airedale Terriers, Phoenix and Blaze, the Pelletiers started over.

Happily ever afters aren’t just for animated movie characters.

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