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Pocahontas (1995) Poster

(I) (1995)

Trivia

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The first animated Disney movie to have an interracial romance.
Animators working on the film regarded it as being one of the hardest films ever produced by the studio. The complex color schemes, angular shapes, and facial expressions meant that the film was in production for five years. The hard work paid off, however. Pocahontas is now frequently cited as being one of the most beautifully, and realistically, animated characters in the Disney canon, her fluid movements mainly being attributed to rotoscoping.
The film's release on June 23, 1995, was also the 400th Anniversary of the real Pocahontas' birth.
The first film to feature Mel Gibson singing.
In their quest for authenticity, the Disney studios hired mostly Native American actors and actresses to do the voices. They also employed Native American consultants, and had a session with a real shaman. Despite these efforts, prominent Native American activists issued an open letter condemning the film for its historical inaccuracies, and stereotyping of the Indian people. However, actor and Native American activist Russell Means (who provides the speaking role and physical inspiration of Powhatan) has referred to the film, in particular the opening, as being the "single best representation of American Indians that Hollywood has ever done."
"Colors of the Wind" was the first song written for the production, and helped define the tone and direction of the film.
In the very first draft of the script, the character of "Grandmother Willow" was written as a male character, who was the spirit of the river, "Old Man River". The song "Just Around the Riverbend" was written for this character to sing. Gregory Peck was offered the role, and as much as it pained him to do it, he turned it down, because he felt the title character needed a motherly figure, to which to turn, for advice. Soon the filmmakers agreed with him, and the character was changed.
The song "If I Never Knew You", heard over the ending credits, was cut after children in test audiences found it boring. Ironically, the adults in test audiences felt the song was too depressing. At the time, it was almost fully animated, with the exception of color. The unfinished sequence was shown in ABC's 1997 airing of the film. For the 10th anniversary DVD release, the animation was completed and the song inserted back into the film, as well as a short reprise in the final scene.
The Disney executives had all the secondary animal characters, such as Meeko and Flit, lose all of their dialogue in order to make the film a bit more serious.
Irene Bedard and Mel Gibson, who provided the voices of Pocahontas and John Smith, respectively, were also the physical models for rotoscoping the animated characters.
Pocahontas is one of only two Disney Princesses to be born in America, the other being Tiana from The Princess and the Frog (2009).
John Candy had provided a large amount of voice work into a character named "Redfeather", a turkey as Pocahontas' sidekick. However, after Candy's death in 1994, the concept was scrapped.
Irene Bedard (Pocahontas) and Christian Bale (Thomas) both went on to appear in The New World (2005) (as Pocahontas' mother and John Rolfe, respectively).
The world premiere was staged at Central Park, New York, on June 10, 1995. 70mm prints were projected on three enormous screens, and the sound was off-set by twelve frames to accommodate the vast seating area. With over one hundred thousand people attending, it holds the record for the largest movie premiere.
Pocahontas is one of only two Disney Princesses to have a visible tattoo. The other being Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001).
In real-life, Pocahontas would have been more likely to be topless. Not to mention covered in tribal tattoos, even her face.
The animation style is of a more flat and geometric appearance, first employed by the studio on Sleeping Beauty (1959), and on 101 Dalmatians (1961). It would be a style that was re-used on Hercules (1997), and, to a lesser extent, on Mulan (1998).
Fifty-five animators were involved in designing the character of Pocahontas.
Howard Ashman was going to write lyrics for the songs of this film, as soon as he finished writing lyrics for the songs in Aladdin (1992). He died of complications from AIDS, before he could finish the lyrics for Aladdin, and therefore did not write lyrics for any of the songs in this film.
Richard White was originally going to voice Governor Ratcliffe, but the filmmakers felt the audience would hear White's distinctive voice, and think of him as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast (1991). So, he was replaced with David Ogden Stiers, who also voiced Ratcliffe's manservant Wiggins. Coincidentally, Stiers was also a cast member of Beauty and the Beast (1991), as the voice of Cogsworth the Clock.
Many at Disney had high hopes for the movie upon initial release. Then-studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg regarded it as a more prestigious project than The Lion King (1994), and even believed that it had a chance of earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, following in the steps of Beauty and the Beast (1991). However, the movie was less successful commercially than was hoped. The film still got good reviews, and did suceed at the box-office, but because the film dealt with more adult themes and tones, it did not appeal to younger children, as much as earlier Disney hits had.
This film was put into production at the same time as The Lion King (1994). Much of the animating talent at the studio opted to work on "Pocahontas", as they saw it as more of a prestige production than the latter.
Pocahontas is one of the few cartoon characters to be granted a proper "photo spread" in Harper's Bazaar. For the June 1995 edition, Gianni Versace, Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, and Isaac Mizrahi all designed special outfits for her, which were then drawn by Disney animators for the magazine.
Sean Bean was considered to voice John Smith. However, Disney felt they needed an actor well known in America.
According to Christian Bale, in a 1995 interview with Disney Adventures, he was sketched by the animators, so they could base his character's (Thomas') movements on his.
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.
Pocahontas gives John Smith some willow bark to "help with the pain". Willow bark contains salicylic acid, the basis of aspirin.
The opening song indicates the English are sailing to America "for Glory, God, and gold." This was actually the motivation of the Spanish conquistadors, who were at the time enemies of England.
John Pomeroy was the Supervising Animator for John Smith, and watched several Errol Flynn movies, as reference for the movements of the character. Once the look of Smith was finalized, fourteen other animators were drafted in to make him come to life.
The guns the Europeans use are matchlock muskets.
Brian Cox, Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry, and Sir Patrick Stewart were considered for the role of Governor Ratcliffe.
Pre-production: According to the behind-the-scenes section in the July 1995 issue of Disney Adventures magazine promoting the movie, there was a title card that featured an early version of the Disney heroine who looked a lot like Disney's Tiger Lily from Peter Pan (1953). It showed her head held up high, eyes closed, arms folded, and surrounded by a few forest animals. Therefore, it seemed it's actually this same Tiger Lily and not just someone who resembled her, but under a different name. And this gave the indication that she might have been considered in the eponymous lead role at one point early on. The title card is what convinced the Disney executives to proceed with the film.
There is foreshadowing of Ratcliffe's character, when the crew is boarding the ship in England. As Ratcliffe goes up the gangplank, in the background, a rat runs up a rope to the ship in the foreground.
There was no back-up plan for the world premiere in Central Park if that day had been rained out. Fortuitously, it only rained very briefly that day, and it happened to be while a correspondingly rainy scene in the movie was playing.
Studio trademark: Habitually barefoot character(s): Pocahontas and Nakoma are both barefoot for the entire movie.
There are some early VHS copies of the film's 1996 VHS release, that have the Walt Disney Classics logo at the start, instead of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection logo.
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Pocahontas' design, as well as much of the human characters, were very much based off of Glen Keane's true drawing style. Keane was Pocahontas' Supervising Animator, and a Story Artist on the film.
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Pocahontas (1995) reunites Mel Gibson and Linda Hunt following their great collaboration on The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). For the film, Hunt received universal acclaim for her performance, and won many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role of 1983.
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The first animated Disney film to have a Native American protagonist.
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Hildegard Knef provides the voice for Grandmother Willow on the German soundtrack version, and can be heard on both the German-language CD and DVD editions.
Mel Gibson (John Smith) was considered for Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman in Batman (1989). Christian Bale (Thomas) would go on to play Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy.
The animation cast includes three Oscar winners: Mel Gibson, Linda Hunt, and Christian Bale.
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Taylor Swift claims that she always cries while watching this movie.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

This is the first Disney film to be censored before going to theaters, due to "racial slurs in 'Savages'". Some lyrics where changed for the film, as they were viewed as inappropriate (even though authentic to the setting):
  • 1. "What can you expect/from filthy little heathens?/Their whole disgusting race is like a curse!" was changed to "What can you expect/from filthy little heathens?/Here's what you get when the races are diverse!"
  • 2. "Let's go kill a few, men!" was changed to "Let's go get a few men!"
  • 3. "Dirty redskin devils, now we sound the drums of war!" was changed to "Dirty shrieking devils, now we sound the drums of war!"
If you watch the scene in the film, its obvious the animators had no time to match the mouth movements with the new lyrics. Interestingly, for some unknown reason, the original motion picture soundtrack still features the earlier lyrics.
After Ratcliffe wounds John, Pocahontas gives him some willow bark to "help with the pain". Native Americans actually chewed willow bark to relieve pain, because it's been proven to contain salicylic acid, which became the basis of Aspirin.
In the scene where Kekata reads the smoke to find out more about the white men, he compares them to "ravenous wolves." The wolves then circle Kocoum, and Powhatan stops them with his arm. This foreshadows the end of the movie, when Thomas (a white man and "wolf") kills Kocoum, and Ratcliffe attempts to kill Powhatan.
Pocahontas was only ten years old at the time she saved John Smith, as seen at the end of the movie, while this film portays her around her early 20s. Many fans were uncomfortable with finding out the age difference between the real-life characters, but were relieved to learn that they actually weren't in love at all.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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