Disney switches fairy tales for history in the next stop on our retrospective series: Pocahontas…
The One Where: In the 17th century, British settlers come to the New World looking for gold, while the handsome explorer John Smith looks for adventure. Meanwhile, flighty Powhatan princess Pocahontas has to find her path in life…
Star Turns: After the vibrant personality of the previous three, it’s understandable that Pocahontas has fewer great characters. Irene Bedard makes for a spirited lead, but she doesn’t have the gusto of others. Likewise, Disney regular David Ogden Stiers tries his best as Ratcliffe, even if he is disappointing villain overall. Hungry little raccoon Meeko is a classically cute sidekick, though.
Oh, and here’s a fun fact: you know the young timid solider Thomas? That’s only future Batman, Christian Bale!
Best Song: Despite being the last of the Renaissance films to win the Best Score Academy Award, my personal opinion is that it is one of the weaker scores of the era. There are a couple of good ones, however. The Oscar-winning ‘Colors of the Wind’ isn’t bad, but I particularly like ‘Savages’ which cleverly intercuts between the Native Americans and British preparing for battle.
Verdict: It is clear that Disney really wanted another hit sweeping romance like Beauty & The Beast with this – unfortunately, they forgot to add in the charm that made that one work. While Pocahontas breaks new ground by featuring the first non-white Disney Princess, it largely lacks the imaginative sparkle of its contemporaries, with the imposed serious tone threatening to make it dull. Plus, Mel Gibson’s half-hearted accent is just distracting.
Hidden History: There is no historical evidence to support the fact that Pocahontas and John Smith were lovers (in fact, she was only eleven when they met!). She actually married another Englishman, John Rolfe, and lived in England with him. This is the basis of straight-to-video sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World.