Capt. John Smith leads a rag-tag band of English sailors & soldiers to the New World to plunder its riches for England (or, more precisely, for Governor Ratcliffe, who comes along for the ride). Meanwhile, in this "New World," Chief Powhatan has pledged his daughter, Pocahontas, to be married to the village's greatest warrior. Pocahontas, however, has other ideas. She has seen a vision of a spinning arrow, a vision she believes tells her change is coming. Her life does indeed change when the English ship lands near her village. Between Ratcliffe, who believes the "savages" are hiding the gold he expected to be plentiful, and Powhatan, who believes these pale newcomers will destroy their land, Smith and Pocahontas have a difficult time preventing all-out war, and saving their love for each other. Written by
Joe Sewell <email@example.com>
At the time, Disney cartoons traditionally featured a show-stopping musical number. Previous examples would include the "Kiss the Girl" segment from The Little Mermaid (1989), "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast (1991), and "Friend Like Me" from Aladdin (1992). This proved to be problematic, however, with "Pocahontas" as the story didn't really lend itself to such an ornate production number. Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken penned several songs, of which the leading contender was a song called "In the Middle of the River", but it was eventually dropped when it was decided that the song simply didn't fit within the dramatic context of the story. See more »
The film depicts Pocahontas as a woman in her twenties or perhaps late teens, thus making a romance with John Smith, who was in his late twenties at the time, more acceptable. In reality, Pocahontas was a girl of around 12 or 13 when she met John Smith. See more »
When Pocahontas originally came out, Disney's wave of recent hits came to a crashing halt. The film was labeled as racist or at least insensitive to Native Americans and the goodwill that Disney had established with its audiences quickly evaporated. You could say they have never been the same since.
The "fearsome foursome" that is The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the Lion King has no equal, except perhaps the last four Pixar movies. Pocahontas is not, unfortunately in that "club" and never will be. Disney spent the next four to five years trying to recreate the "magic" with films like Hunchback, Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan. Unfortunately, none of those films had the surprise and "good feeling" of the earlier Disney hits, and except for maybe Mulan, none of those films, as films, were as good either. And although Pocahontas is and was the point where the schizm occurred, in retrospect, it's a pretty damned good movie. So what went wrong?
First, it wasn't the Lion King. They could have put out something "safe" after the Lion King, and it still probably would have paled in comparison to what was then a great big giant behemoth of a movie. That movie earned over THREE HUNDRED MILLION in its theatrical run in 1994 - not as common then as it is now - thing was a juggernaut. Pocahontas, following on the heels of this bad boy, was not going to live up to expectations.
People blamed the fact that it was about PEOPLE and not animals, and that it was based on ACTUAL history rather than a fairy tale. THEN they blamed the fact that the history part of it was botched and that the film's portrayal of Native Americans was at best insensitive, racist at worst.
I'll grant you that making Pocahontas' mentor a talking tree and having her learn English "instantaneously" because she listened to her heart is a wee bit ridiculous, but racist? Come on. The message of the film - that love can conquer hate - is anything but racist and if anything, the film shows the "Indians" in a more human light than the English, who are their usual, stereotypical pig-headed selves.
Here's what else is good about the movie: The SONGS. Remember 'Colors of the Wind'? Could there be a better song about reconnecting with nature and valuing the earth more? We NEED this song right now, especially, with the world seemingly sliding ever more into a consumerist "bliss," what better than to see some beautiful chick running through the forest teaching that rugged white man how to value LIFE? And what the hell is wrong with that I ask?
And what about some of the other songs? The one about the RIVER BEND and making choices - good stuff. And the whole montage ending song that repeats SAVAGES SAVAGES BARELY EVEN HUMAN from both sides - showing that BOTH SIDES misunderstand each other. It gives me chills when Pocahontas is running and you see the war superimposed behind her and she sings "HOW LOUD BEAT THE DRUMS OF WAR!" - makes me want to cry! Don't we need this now I ask you?
But, by far the best thing about this movie is - the animation. It is absolutely GORGEOUS. The design for this film is sumptuous, with mostly blues and a seamless style that never gets in the way and illustrates the action (and the feminine nature of the film) so beautifully. Compared to the dreck that is the HUNCHBACK - that film is ugly as sin
and the absolute HIDEOUSNESS of Hercules - the animation in that is
strictly straight-to-video, Pocahontas absolutely ROCKS. Only Mulan, with its chirpy story and colorful style match up to the grandeur of this one.
While Pocahontas didn't have the grand ending that the Lion King had (it was a downer, remember?), the story bucks tradition by making it about people instead of animals, and its' message outweighs the "historically inaccurate" complaint. What movie IS historically accurate? Disney took a chance with this one and they got BURNED, which is why they went back to doing "safe" crap like Hunchback, which tanked anyway. They should have done the SCARLET LETTER or something like that
really start pissing people off. How about the MARQUIS DE SADE?
There's some history for you!
Watch Pocahontas again without the weight of expectations. You'll be surprised by how good it really is.
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