I'd say that like most of the Disney films that came out before (and especially during) the Renaissance period for Disney, Pocahontas is very strong in the music department! Before I ever saw this movie, I remember being in awe of the song "Colors of the Wind", which is the scene that appeared in the previews for the VHS of The Lion King. In spite of the shallow character development (which I will highlight in this review), Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz did a fantastic job on the songs and the score in this movie. For me, the song "If I Never Knew You" takes the cake for best song in this movie and it's only sung in the credits for the theatrical version of the film. I liked how deep the lyrics are as they highlight the meaning behind John Smith's line "I'd rather die tomorrow than live 100 years without knowing you", which he quotes to Pocahontas right before he is to be executed the next dawn. I do wish that they left the song in the final cut of the film, but it is on the special edition DVD/Blu-Ray version. I also enjoyed the song "Savages" mainly because it highlights the animosity that the settlers have towards the Native Americans for capturing John Smith as well as the animosity that the Native Americans have towards the settlers and John Smith for the death of one of their own (even though it wasn't him that pulled the trigger). The song serves as a reminder to us that we should never justify killing/wanting to kill someone out of hatred just because they might be different than us.
Now for the weaknesses of the film. Oh boy, where to start! While the movie is based off of the Native American legend and the Disney animators did the right thing by going to Jamestown to get the inspiration for their animation, they definitely missed the ball in a few areas. Let's touch on some of the historical inaccuracies for a bit. In 1607 (the year that the settlers arrived to Jamestown and which the movie is set), Pocahontas (who was born in 1596) was around 10-11 years old when she met John Smith, who was 26-27 years old at the time. Did that matter to Disney though? No, because they just had to make this a love story in the vein of Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid. However, unlike Pocahontas, those stories are fairy tales. This is key part of American history and now that I'm older I definitely think that Disney did a great disservice to children by taking what could've been an educational introduction to the Native American legend by giving them a love story that didn't happen in real life. Anyways, as far as character development is concerned, while not nearly as dull, wooden, bland, and static as Aurora, Snow White, or Cinderella, Pocahontas (voiced by Irene Bedard) is still a pretty boring and one-dimensional character with very little motive to her, which is a shame with her being the main protagonist and all. While also underdeveloped and one-dimensional, I found her best friend Nakoma to be a much more interesting character than that of Pocahontas. The rest of the Native Americans such as Chief Powhatan (voiced by Russell Means) and Kocoum (who is your basic stereotypical jock placed in colonial times) were pretty flat and boring too. I actually found the settlers to be much more entertaining, mainly the comic screwball Wiggins! As far as John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) is concerned, I would've much rather seen him portrayed with the harsh and gruff exterior that he showed to his men in real life. The best characters in this film were Meeko, Flit (voiced by Frank Welker), and Grandmother Willow (voiced by Linda Hunt), who is by far one of the wisest characters that Disney has ever created. Another thing that made the four films which preceded this one (and a few that came after it) was a strong, round, and dynamic Disney antagonist. In this one we get Governor Ratcliffe (voiced by the late great Disney legend David Ogden Stiers). While he did a good job (as he always does) of voicing the character, Ratcliffe still remains a forgettable villain when compared to the likes of Scar, Jafar, Hades, Frollo, and other villains in the Disney catalog as he lacked that despicable, disgusting nature that is trademark of a memorable Disney villain.
So, while I think that this movie as a whole is the weakest of this era of Disney magic in regards to story (not being historically factual) and character development (being shallow and one-dimensional), it was still a decently animated film with great songs and music that deserves at least one viewing. Not my favorite (even though I did own it on VHS growing up), but still worth showing to your kids on family movie night! Rating: 7/10.