- Directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg (his feature directorial debut)
- June 16, 1995 (US)
- Pocahontas-Irene Bedard (voice)/Judy Kuhn (singing voice)
- John Smith-Mel Gibson
- Governor Ratcliffe, Wiggins-David Ogden Stiers
- Meeko (Pocahontas’ pet raccoon)-John Kassir
- Pocahontas’s father Chief Powhatan-Russell Means (voice)/Jim Cummings (singing voice)
- Thomas (friend of John Smith)-Christian Bale
- Ben (settler and friend of John Smith)-Billy Connolly
- Lon (settler and friend of John Smith)-Joe Baker
- Grandmother Willow (a speaking willow tree)-Linda Hunt
- Percy (Governor Ratcliffe’s pet pug)-Danny Mann
- Flit (Pocahontas’s feisty pet hummingbird)-Frank Welker
- Nakoma (Pocahontas’s best friend)-Michelle St. John
- Kocoum-James Apaumut Fall
- Kekata (medicine man of the Powhatan)-Gordon Tootoosis
The story of Pocahontas and her saving of John Smith.
I have heard some people take swipes at Disney’s Pocahontas. When Pocahontas and Smith met he was an adult and she was maybe ten? That is among the most prominent issue I have uttered though there are others such as the general veracity of the whole account. But you do not go to see a movie for historical truth. If you do you would fail any mediocre history test on the subject.
Pocahontas, massive historical inaccuracies aside, is a beautifully animated piece of art. It is smooth and flowing and definitely transports you into its world. Disney could certainly craft beautiful film during this period.
The story starts with a visually impressive scene at a port in London that is perhaps one of the better animated sequences I’ve seen in a Disney film. It has a lot of small details that make it feel very real. We get a vibrant, thriving and very active port that feels real. This gives way to a rather well-done storm scene where John Smith establishes his heroism and general character nature by jumping overboard to save a man who was washed off the deck of the Susan Constant by a wave.
The characterization is not too bad. You get a good feel for what each member of the cast is like with everyone from John Smith and Pocahontas to Governor Ratcliffe and even the supporting cast being mostly well crafted enough for their purposes. Do not expect very dynamic characters with complex motivations. This is Disney animation and what you get is something good enough to fit the bill.
One issue is the romance that the romance that is supposed to be the core of the story does not feel very romantic. While I understand Pocahontas is a Disney movie and its aim is family friendly, the romantic link between John Smith and Pocahontas feels more like a strong friendship than anything romantic. They definitely have chemistry, but it doesn’t quite rise to love. Smith is some cool guy she meets in the woods after having a dream and not a great love. Disney has always had a hard time doing child friendly romance.
Then there is the story which comes off as a small part of a larger story. This movie feels like the first act of a story. The narrative here ends with Pocahontas and Smith parting which should make it the definitive end but as executed feels like the tease to the next part. You expect more but the credits just roll. There’s just something missing from it and aside from a vague “more” I’m not sure what.
We get some nice touches in the film such as an attempt at authentic dress for all the characters as well as the use of dialogue in the Powhatan or Virginia Algonquian language. It gives a depth of authenticity that would be otherwise lacking.
While the character of Grandmother Willow is a great fantasy touch, in a film that is meant to be a work of historical fiction it is really out of place. It is one thing to create a composite character and inserting them. It is another to create a magic character and inserting them. This ain’t 300!
The four biggest drivers of the story are bigotry, racism, fear, and greed. Governor Ratcliffe is driven by greed to find the gold that he assumes the Native Americans most have since the Spaniards have been finding it and fears this is his last chance for glory. That fear leads to ignorance and causes him to jump to conclusions that are completely unfounded. The Native Americans on their part are possessed of a fear of the other and react rashly and try to confront an enemy they know very little about.
Disney’s Pocahontas is a great piece of animation with an okay story that will appeal to children and enough substance for the adults that have to watch it with them. For adults watching solo this is a maybe because this far more for kids than adults and if you are not doing this with your kids you will as why you are doing it at all.
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