Like all Disney villains, Ratcliffe is incredibly power hungry. He is unbelievably greedy, as evidenced by his insatiable craving for gold, which would make him a very wealthy man. He is also highly xenophobic (even for the period in which he lives), ruthless and incredibly manipulative. It is also interesting how he shares this similairty to Henry Bowers from the novel and film It by Stephen King While he exudes great confidence and gives the impression of being rather vain, Ratcliffe in fact seems to take a rather dim view of himself, admitting in a rather sad tone of voice that he has never been a popular man. This, in addition to the fact that his fellow members of the court consider him a "pathetic social climber" make him quite a sympathetic character in spite of his villainy. His mission to colonise the Native-Americans is his last chance to make a name for himself. Ratcliffe's lack of self-esteem stands in contrast to the egomania of most Disney villains, such as Sarousch, making him somewhat unique. Despite his self-confessed lack of popularity, Ratcliffe seems quite charismatic and commands the respect of his troops until the end of the film.
Along with Judge Claude Frollo Ratcliffe actually believes that he is a good person and refuses to find fault in himself. He believes what he does to be in the name of the crown and even goes as far to call John Smith a liar, sees the land he found as his own, believs what Pocahontas told Smith to be lies and even calls his own men traitors at the end. He also believes himself to be powerful. When he says that when Thomas has Ratcliffe chained and sent to England Ratcliffe says he wil have him hanged or his men executed.
Ratcliffe leads an expedition to Virginia to find gold and other riches (which he wants to keep for himself). He fails to tell any of the other crew of his real reason of going to Virginia and recites the "Adventure of our lives" and "Freedom" speech to cover it. When they see land, Ratcliff meets with John Smith, whom the crew admire, about his plan on dealing with the "savages" and "filthy little heathens" (what he calls the Native Americans) and Smith assures his success and the meetings through. Ratcliffe arrives on the Shore of Virginia shortly after Smith and Thomas, a new recruit, then takes some land in the name of King James and calls it Jamestown.
After Smith leaves to search for the Indians, Ratcliffe orders men to build a fort and clear the ship while he has the rest men dig for gold. When John Smith returns Ratcliffe orders him to prepare the men for battle so they can destroy the Indians and take the gold. But Smith tells Ratcliffe that there is no gold and that they don't to find the Indians because he met one of them and they can help them by showing them their land but Ratcliffe doesn't believe it and says that the land belongs to him and that he says Anyone who so much looks at an Indian without killing him on sight will be tried for treason and hanged! When he sees John Smith running off somewhere that night, he sends Thomas to follow him, hoping the "poor excuse for a soldier" will be able to prove his worth. He later overhears the men talking about Smith's capture (Smith had been attacked by a warrior named Kocoum, whom Thomas had promptly shot dead during the fight, but had been ordered to flee the scene for Smith to take the blame) and wages war against the Indians to rescue Smith and take their gold for himself (although he merely tells his men it is a rescue mission to ensure their support). After the two sides march their way to one another, they are stopped abruptly by Pocahontas who tells everyone that they were led onto the path of hatred. All the men on both sides are deeply touched by the woman's love and wisdom, and lower their weapons. The would-be combatants now make it clear that the battle will not occur.
Ratcliff is the only one not moved by this, and orders his men to open fire anyway, but they refuse. Outraged, Ratcliff grabs the gun of one of his men and prepares to shoot Powhatan himself. John Smith jumps in the way and takes the bullet (although not fatally). Finally seeing Ratcliffe for the corrupt, greedy monster that he truly was all along, Thomas and the other settlers rebel, bounding and gagging him and sending him back to England to await punishment for his crimes.
When John Rolfe, who had been sent to Jamestown to bring back Powhatan for questioning, returns with Pocahontas, Ratcliffe immediately plots to get rid of her, convincing James to invite Pocahontas to the Hunt Ball, where he has planned a bear baiting with a jester since he knows Pocahontas's savage instincts. Pocahontas, at first, impresses the King with her manners taught by Rolfe, but naturally becomes outraged at the bear baiting, especially when the snobbish aristocrats attending do nothing but laugh at the creature's torture, and openly insults Ratcliffe and James, calling them savages. Ratcliffe convinces James to imprison her and sentence her to death, and is allowed to take his armada to Jamestown for war with the Powhatans. However, Ratcliffe's lies are finally exposed when John Smith, who survived his ordeal with Ratcliffe, aids Rolfe in breaking Pocahontas out of prison and shows himself in the King's court. Realizing that he has been fooled, James orders Ratcliffe to be stopped.
In the subsequent battle, Ratcliffe attempted to end Pocahontas's life until Smith intervenes and he duels Smith and almost kills Smith for real, but is subdued by Rolfe and thrown overboard. Before he falls into the ocean, Smith says to Ratcliffe the same thing Ratcliffe said to him: "Pity. I so would have preferred to see you hanged." Governor Ratcliffe makes it to shore where King James and his soldiers were waiting. When Ratcliffe tells King James that the "fugitives are getting away," King James quotes "No more lies" and has his soldiers arrest him. His sentence for high treason is currently unknown, though it is possible he could have been put in prison for life and/or executed.
Ratcliffe appears as a minor guest character in the show. He appears in House of Genius, where he is seen behind Fagin.
Ratcliffe can be found at the Disney Parks as a meetable character usually rare depending on the park. He also appears as one of the villains of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game.
Ratcliffe plays a notable part in Disney's Hollywood Studios' version of the show. Ratcliffe and his men claim the mountain as King James' land and battles the Indians, whom he still believes are savages.
In Frontierland and Liberty Square, Ratcliffe is freed from prison by Hades (in the guise of Lord Indigo) and makes a deal to take control over Frontierland in exchange for the crystal of the Magic Kingdom. Ratcliffe agrees, but soon enough, Ratcliffe begins to panic as the crystal is nowhere in sight, but being that Pocahontas knows the land, he kidnaps Meeko to force her into helping him find it. Fortunately, the guests defeat Ratcliffe by blasting him with magic, having him fall overboard.
Wiggins, also voiced by Stiers, is Ratcliffe's manservant. In sharp contrast to his villainous master, Wiggins is light-hearted, timid and very playful (in one scene, he is seen cutting topiary from Virginian shrubs). Although he could in no way be considered an "evil" character, he nonetheless appears to be very loyal to his master and Ratcliffe, though constantly annoyed by his shenanigans, seems to trust him implicitly. At the first film's end, he expresses regret at seeing Ratcliffe for the greedy monster he truly is, and even sobs. He does not appear in Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World.
Percy was originally Ratcliffe's pet pug. He appears spoiled and seems to have an irritable personality, especially in the first film. Percy and Meeko spend most of the first film fighting, usually over food with Meeko always coming out on top, only to apparently become friends by the film's end. Percy leaves Ratcliffe at this point and remains with Pocahontas and her people. Ratcliffe never reacts to the fact Percy isn't with him anymore in Pocahontas II. Percy, on the other hand, seems to have had a change of heart and does not want to go back to Ratcliffe, at one point cowering underneath a carriage in Ratcliffe's presence.
Ratcliffe has been part of a couple of Pocahontas songs during the two films.
- Ratcliffe's confession that he is not a popular man, ironically also seems to apply to real life. While he has a small, but dedicated fanbase and in spite of his obvious panache, he is in fact one of Disney's greediest and most unpopular villains. As Ratcliffe first appears, he is seen boarding the Virginia Company in a dignified, yet snobbish manner.
- In the foreground, a rat can be seen boarding the ship in exactly the same manner (thereby pronouncing the 'rat' in 'Ratcliffe'). Governor Ratcliffe is the third 'John' in the Pocahontas series. Due to this fact, his first name was never mentioned.
- Despite being the main antagonist of the first film, Ratcliffe does not interact with Pocahontas once, their first true meeting taking place in the second film.
- In the final scenes of both films, Ratcliffe is wearing his armor.
- The Governor Ratcliffe action figure doesn't come with the hat or cape.
- He appears in Disney theme parks all over the world as a meetable character.
- Governor Ratcliffe wasn't among the antagonists in Mickey's House of Villains.
- Ratcliffe symbolizes the deadly sin of Greed, due to his obvious and insatiable craving for gold.
- Ratcliffe bears similarities to both Horned King and Frollo, in the sense that all three employ henchmen to do their dirty work while they sit around for most of the film, and only in the climax of their film do they deliver a blow to the protagonists personally. Ratcliffe and Frollo are also similar in their hatred of a certain race and they also obtain a high rank in authority and political influence.
- Ratcliffe is the second villain from the Disney Renaissance that didn't die at the end of his debut film, the first being Jafar (though Ratcliffe didn't die in the sequel either), and the third being Hades (only because he is a god and so is immortal).
- Voiced by David Ogden Stiers, who also voices Wiggins.
- He is the modernised version of other villains including Rameses and Pharaoh Seti I from The Prince of Egypt and Zoser from Aida . They are all upper class characters, are all the main antagonist and look down on others lower down from them However it is Rameses who is the main antagonist in the prince of Egypt.
- Ratcliffe is similar to Captain Hook as they both have a voice actor who voices another character in their films. Ratcliffe is voiced by David Ogden Siers who also voices Wiggins and Captain Hook was voiced by Hans Conried but now by Corey Burton who also voices George Darling
- Ratcliffe has also some physical similarities with Hook. They have the same shoes, and their hair, and mustache also have similarities.
- Ratcliffe is also similar to Shere Khan and Edgar Balthazar. Although they are all the main antagonist they do not interact with the protagonist at first.
- For more pictures and screenshots of Governor Ratcliffe, click here.