Pocahontas is a 1995 American animated musical romance-drama film and the thirty-third full-length animated feature film in the Disney Animated Canon. The film is the first animated feature Disney film to be based on a real historic character, the known history, and the folklore and legend that surrounds the Native American woman Pocahontas, and and features a fictionalized account of her encounter with Englishman John Smith and the settlers that arrived from the Virginia Company.
The film was directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg and produced by James Pentecost and produced during a period known as the Disney Renaissance.
While it did well at the box office, it received a lukewarm response from critics. Most of which criticize the film for being "contrived" and/or "offensive". It is seen as the Start of a Downfall for Disney Animation.
In 1607 England, a ship carrying British settlers sails for North America on behalf of the Virginia Company in search of gold and other material riches. Among those on board are Captain John Smith (Mel Gibson) and Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogen Stiers). A storm erupts, and Smith saves the life of an inexperienced young settler named Thomas when he falls overboard, befriending him in the process.
In the "New World", Pocahontas is on top of the waterfall where she can dive into the lake to swim and then get on to Nakoma's canoe. She learns to her dismay that her father thinks she should marry Kocoum, one of his finest warriors. But though he is handsome and a fine warrior, Pocahontas does not love him, feeling he is far too serious. This is emphasized by a scene showing several children trying to play with him, while he stalwartly ignores them. She asks the advice from the talking tree spirit named Grandmother Willow. Grandmother Willow tells Pocahontas to listen to her heart and she may understand.
The British settlers land in what will become Virginia and dig for gold under Ratcliffe's orders. Less concerned with gold, John Smith explores the territory, finding the new world to be a place full of adventure. All the time he is followed by the curious Pocahontas, and comes to encounter her. The two spend time together, with Pocahontas teaching John to look at the world in a different way, and to not think of people who are different as 'savages'. Back at the settlement, Powhatan has sent some scouts to learn more about the new arrivals, but they are spotted. Governor Ratcliffe assumes that it is an ambush, and one of the warriors is shot. The warriors retreat, and Powhatan declares that the white men are dangerous and that no one should go near them.
A few days later, John and Pocahontas meet again, during which John learns that there is no gold in the land. They agree to meet at Grandmother Willow's glade again that night.
When Pocahontas returns to her village, she finds that warriors from neighboring tribes have arrived to help Powhatan fight the settlers. Back at the English fort, John tells Ratcliffe there is no gold in the land, which Ratcliffe does not believe. Thinking that the natives have hidden the gold for themselves, he declares that they will eliminate them all.
That night, Pocahontas' best friend Nakoma catches her sneaking off and informs Kocoum that she has gone. Meanwhile, John sneaks out of the fort, and Ratcliffe orders Thomas to follow him. Pocahontas and John meet in the glade, where both Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow convince John to try talking to Chief Powhatan to resolve the conflict. Both Kocoum and Thomas watch from the shadows as John and Pocahontas kiss. Kocoum, overwhelmed by jealously, attacks and tries to kill John, but even as he is successfully being pushed off, Thomas intervenes and kills Kocoum. Hearing voices approaching, John tells Thomas to run. A group of natives take John prisoner, thinking he is the murderer, and Powhatan announces that he will be executed at dawn before the war with the settlers begin.
Thomas returns to the fort and announces John's capture. Ratcliffe sees this as an opportunity to attack and rescue John at the same time, and they arrive just as John is about to be executed. Before Powhatan can strike, Pocahontas throws herself over John, telling him that she loves John and that Powhatan must see where the path of hatred has brought them, asking him to choose his own path. Powhatan thinks about his daughter's words and realizes that Kocoum wouldn't have wanted them to have a war. He lowers his club and orders John to be set free. Ratcliffe orders the settlers to fire anyway, but they too refuse. Ratcliffe fires at Chief Powhatan himself, but John pushes the chief aside and is shot instead. The settlers turn on Ratcliffe, capturing him and sending him back to England to await punishment for high treason.
John survives the gunshot, but he must return to England for medical treatment if he is to survive. Pocahontas and her people arrive to see them off, and John and Pocahontas bid their goodbyes. Pocahontas promises John that she'll always be in his heart.
- John Pomeroy (John Smith)
- Glen Keane (Pocahontas)
- Duncan Marjoribanks (Governor Ratcliffe)
- Ruben A. Aquino (Powhatan)
- Chris Buck (Percy, Grandmother Willow, and Wiggins)
- Michael Cedeno (Kocoum)
- Anthony DeRosa (Nakoma)
- Ken Duncan (Thomas)
- T. Daniel Hofstedt (Ben & Lon)
- David Pruiksma (Flit and Forest Animals)
- Nik Ranieri (Meeko)
- Irene Bedard: Pocahontas
- Mel Gibson: John Smith
- David Ogden Stiers: Governor Ratcliffe/Wiggins
- John Kassir: Meeko
- Russell Means: Chief Powhatan
- Christian Bale: Thomas
- Linda Hunt: Grandmother Willow
- Danny Mann :Percy
- Billy Connolly: Ben
- Joe Baker: Lon
- Frank Welker: Flit
- Michelle St. John: Nakoma
- James Apaumut Fall: Kocoum
- Gordon Tootoosis: Kekata
The film was directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg, who previously worked on The Rescuers Down Under (1990) and Aladdin (1992) respectively. The producer was James Pentecost, the associate producer was Baker Bloodworth, and the film was edited by H. Lee Peterson, who also previously worked on Aladdin.
Gabriel first conceptualized the idea for the film over Thanksgiving weekend in 1990, after finishing The Rescuers Down Under. He pitched his idea as a love story amidst "two clashing worlds," which was immediately picked up due to its similarity to Disney's at-the-time interest in creating an animated Romeo & Juliet film. As the production began, the crew traveled to Jamestown, Virginia to study and draw the trees and landscapes. This group included Pentecost, art director Michael Giaimo, and others involved in artistic development. They also reported meeting with the Algonquin nation in Virginia, in efforts to accurately represent the tribe.
These accuracy attempts were furthered when Shirley “Little Dove” Custalow McGowan was hired as their chief Native American consultant. However, soon after she became actively involved in the film, it came to light that historical accuracy was not being pursued to the extent she had hoped. McGowan has voiced her feelings of shame she felt in conjunction with her work on the film, saying, “[she] wish[ed her] name wasn’t on it”.
Animators who worked on the film have regarded it as one of the most difficult films the studio has produced. Eric Goldberg, the assistant director and previously the animator of The Genie, had expected the film to be more comedic and cartoonish like Aladdin but the studio wanted something more serious in the vein of Beauty and the Beast and the concurrently produced The Lion King. This led to much of his animation to be thrown out and caused strain between production and the executives. Goldberg took freelance for Chuck Jones studio at this time under a pseudonym.
Due to the complexity of the color schemes, shapes, and expressions in the animation, the production of Pocahontas lasted five years. For instance, a total of 55 animators worked on the design of Pocahontas' character alone. For the total team, over 600 animators, technicians, and artists were employed. In addition, during this time, The Lion King was also in production in the studio; however, many animators chose to work on Pocahontas over The Lion King because they believed Pocahontas was a more prestigious project.
The animals were originally supposed to talk and Pocahontas was to have a third sidekick, a turkey named Redfeather voiced by John Candy, who supplied much voice work. But Candy died in 1994, and Disney cut his character out and decided to drop the animals speaking. Richard White, the voice of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast was supposed to voice Ratcliffe, but the crew was worried he might sound too much like Gaston, so he was replaced by David Ogden Stiers. Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry, and Patrick Stewart were other choices to voice Ratcliffe.
- "The Virginia Company" - Chorus
- "Ship At Sea" (Score)
- "The Virginia Company (Reprise)" - Mel Gibson & Chorus
- "Steady As The Beating Drum(Main Title)" - Chorus
- "Steady As the Beating Drum (Reprise)" - Russell Means
- "Just Around The Riverbend" - Judy Kuhn
- "Grandmother Willow" (Score)
- "Listen With Your Heart" - Linda Hunt & Bobbi Page
- "Mine, Mine, Mine" - David Ogden Stiers, Mel Gibson & Chorus
- "Listen With Your Heart" - Linda Hunt & Bobbi Page
- "Colors of the Wind" - Judy Kuhn
- "Savages (Part 1)" - David Ogden Stiers, Jim Cummings & Chorus
- "Savages (Part 2)" - Judy Kuhn, David Ogden Stiers, Jim Cummings & Chorus
- "I'll Never See Him Again" (Score)
- "Pocahontas (Instrumental)"
- "Council Meeting" (Score)
- "Percy's Bath" (Score)
- "River's Edge" (Score)
- "Skirmish" (Score)
- "Getting Acquainted" (Score)
- "Ratcliffe's Plan" (Score)
- "Picking Corn" (Score)
- "The Warriors Arrive" (Score)
- "John Smith Sneaks Out" (Score)
- "Execution" (Score)
- "Farewell" (Score)
- "Colors of the Wind (End Title)" - Vanessa Williams
- "If I Never Knew You (End Title)" - Jon Secada & Shanice
If I Never Knew You 10th Anniversary Edition
In 2005, Disney released the tenth anniversary edition of Pocahontas, which had the song fully animated and integrated into the film, but was an optional feature that you could refuse and watch the original theatrical version instead, due to seamless branching. It was performed by Mel Gibson (John Smith) and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas) within the film's narrative. It was recorded for the original film in 1995.
Pocahontas opened on June 23, 1995 to mixed reviews. As of September 2010, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "rotten" rating of 56% based on reviews from 50 critics and reports a rating average of 6 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 58 based on 23 reviews. The film was harshly criticized by Chief Roy Crazy Horse as historically inaccurate and offensive for glossing over more negative treatment of Pocahontas and her tribe by the English. He claims that Roy Disney refused the tribe's offers to help create a more culturally and historically accurate film. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times pointed out America's fascination with the Indian princess who was rarely shown as having anything more important in her life than her male relationships.
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).
The film opened at #1 with only $29 million on its opening week. It went on to gross $141 million in North America and $346 million worldwide. Though the film was successful, it failed to surpass The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. However, it did beat out The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, Hercules, and The Little Mermaid.
- Main article: Pocahontas (video)
Pocahontas, together with the second film, were re-released in a combo pack on Disney Blu-Ray and DVD.
- This was the fifth and last Disney feature during the Renaissance to win the Academy Award for both Best Original Score and Best Original Song. The previous films were The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. After this film onwards, Disney features either won or were nominated for score and song, but did not win both.
- Gordon Tootoosis later portrayed Powhatan in another Pocahontas movie called "Pocahontas: the Legend".
- Pocahontas is the only Disney Renaissance movie to have a "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes
- It is one of the two previews to the 1995 video release of The Santa Clause. The other preview is Toy Story.
- Meeko and Flit don't speak, this is to make the movie more serious.
- Disney animators said this was one of the hardest films to produce because the complex colors, angular shapes, and facial expressions took longer to create.
- As Roy Disney said in the VHS tape of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1994,"It's the adventure of a young Native American woman who fought against hatred with the power of love.".
- Pocahontas was in production at the same time as The Lion King.
- The animation is flatter and has a more geometric appearance. Movies such as Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians carry the same style.
- "Colors of the Wind" was the first song to be written and the first step in the Pocahontas movie process.
- John Candy had provided a voice for "Redfeather" a turkey who assisted Pocahontas, but when Candy died this idea was taken out.
- In the first draft of the film, Grandmother Willow was written as a male character who was the spirit of the river, but then when realizing Pocahontas lacked a motherly figure, Grandmother Willow was created.
- 55 animators created Pocahontas.
- Richard White was originally going to voice Governor Ratcliffe , but his voice was too distinct as Gaston to have him voice again.
- Disney animators felt that they needed a well known actor to voice John Smith.
- The film released on June 23, 1995 was the four hundredth anniversary of the real Pocahontas' birth.
- In the scene where Kekata reads the smoke to find out more about the white men, he compares the white men to "ravaging wolves." The wolves then circle Kocoum and then Powhatan stops them with his arm. This is a foreshadow of Kocoum's death and Ratcliffe attempts to kill Powhatan.
- Pocahontas is one of the few animated Disney features that does not have any of its characters in the Kingdom Hearts series, though it is possible that the characters will be featured at some point in the game in the future.
- Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz later worked on the music for The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- The message of Pocahontas is that the color of someone's skin doesn't matter. It's what's on the inside that counts not the outside.
- Even though "If I Never Knew You" was cut from the movie If I Never Knew You Music can be heard near the end of "Pocahontas" before the end credits roll.