From one princess to another: Carrie Fisher ghostwrote Anastasia’s most memorable scene

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Nov 24, 2017, 6:32 PM EST

If you’re from the generation that grew up singing “Journey to the Past” and other tunes from Anastasia, you might be as surprised as we are to learn that a very different kind of princess played a pivotal part in making the Russian duchess' oh-so-hummable first song — and its landmark scene — come to life.

In an extended interview with the film’s songwriters, Entertainment Weekly learned that none other than Carrie Fisher — Princess Leia herself — served as the uncredited creative force behind the number’s crucial setting early in the 1997 film’s story.

In the film, Anastasia — embarking on her journey as an amnesiac girl named Anya — stands on the cusp of decisions that will set her adventure in motion when she sings “Journey to the Past,” an Oscar-nominated number that ended up charming its way into the late-1990s zeitgeist.

But had it not been for Fisher, it’s a scene that would have turned out much differently.

“Princess Leia wrote that scene,” Anastasia composer Stephen Flaherty told EW. “It was interesting, because they really wanted to get into the psyche of Anya.”

Flaherty and collaborator Lynn Ahrens already had written another song for that crucial moment, one that was supposed to accompany Anya as she rode a bicycle and pondered her choices. But Fisher’s influence helped tip the balance in favor of taking Anya off the bicycle to sing “Journey to the Past” instead.

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“This is a song that really felt absolutely right, and the idea of not being on a bicycle, not being on the journey yet, but on the cusp of the journey that was crucial to creating the song,” Flaherty said.

While it’s surprising to learn 20 years after the film’s release that Fisher was likely its most famous ghostwriter, it’s less surprising to think that she was anything but up to the task. The daughter of one of Hollywood’s most famous (and musical) couples, it’s no secret Fisher’s childhood gave her a front-row seat to a lifetime’s worth of music and theater.

It’s pretty cool, then, to think that creators like Flaherty and Ahrens found a way to make good use of Fisher’s creative judgment behind the scenes … even if Princess Leia and Duchess Anastasia’s universal stories just so happened to unfold in different galaxies.