Pocahontas (1995 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mike Gabriel
|Produced by||James Pentecost|
|Written by||Karey Kirkpatrick
|Story by||Glen Keane
David Ogden Stiers
|Music by||Alan Menken|
|Edited by||H. Lee Peterson|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Budget||$55 million (estimated)|
|Box office||$346 million|
Pocahontas is a 1995 American animated musical romance-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released to theaters on June 23, 1995, by Walt Disney Pictures. The 33rd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is part of the era known as the Disney Renaissance which lasted from 1989 to 1999.
The film is the first Disney animated 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 features a fictionalized account of her encounter with Englishman John Smith and the settlers that arrived from the Virginia Company. It is also Mel Gibson's voice acting debut. The film received mixed reviews (which makes the film the first and only film in the Renaissance Era to receive mixed reviews) but was a financial success by over $346 million in box office.
A video game based on the film was released across various platforms shortly after the film's theatrical release, and the film itself was followed by a direct-to-video sequel entitled Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World in 1998.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Soundtrack
- 5 Release
- 6 Reception
- 7 Historical inaccuracies
- 8 Accolades
- 9 Video game
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In 1607, the Susan Constant sails to the "New World" from England, carrying British settlers of the Virginia Company. On board are Captain John Smith and the voyage's leader Governor Ratcliffe, who seeks large amounts of gold in the New World to assure a strong position at the British court. Along the way, the Susan Constant is caught in a North Atlantic storm, and Smith saves a young, naive crew mate named Thomas from drowning. In the Powhatan Tribe in the New World, Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, dreads being possibly wed to Kocoum, a brave and loyal warrior but whom she sees as too "serious" for her free-spirited personality. Chief Powhatan gives Pocahontas her deceased mother's necklace as a present. Pocahontas, along with her friends, the gluttonous raccoon Meeko and hummingbird Flit, visit Grandmother Willow, a spiritual talking willow tree, and speaks of a possibly prophetic dream involving a spinning arrow, and her confusion regarding what her "path" in life should be. Grandmother Willow then alerts Pocahontas to the arriving British.
Ratcliffe has the fortress Jamestown built in a wooded clearing and immediately has the crewmen dig for gold. John departs to explore the wilderness and encounters Pocahontas. They quickly bond, fascinated by each other's worlds and fall in love, flouting Chief Powhatan's orders to keep away from the British after Kocoum and other warriors engage them in a fight. Meanwhile, Meeko meets Percy, Ratcliffe's dog, and becomes the bane of his existence. Pocahontas introduces Smith to Grandmother Willow and avoids two other crewmen, but Pocahontas' friend Nakoma discovers her relationship with John and warns Kocoum. Later, John and Pocahontas meet with Grandmother Willow and plan to bring peace between the colonists and the tribe. John and Pocahontas kiss, while Kocoum and Thomas witness from a distance. In a jealous rage, Kocoum attacks and tries to kill John but is himself shot and killed by Thomas. Pocahontas watches in horror as Kocoum falls dead, reaching for Pocahontas one last time but instead breaking her mother's necklace. John commands Thomas to leave just before the tribesmen come and capture John. An enraged Chief Powhatan declares war on the crewmen, starting by executing John at sunrise.
Thomas warns the crewmen of John's capture, and Ratcliffe rallies the men to battle as an excuse to annihilate the tribe and find their non-existent gold. A guilt-ridden Pocahontas visits Grandmother Willow, where Meeko hands her Smith's compass. Pocahontas realizes John's compass was the spinning arrow from her dream, which leads her to her destiny. Just as Powhatan is about to execute Smith, Pocahontas throws herself inbetween the two men, successfully stopping Smith's execution and convincing her father to cease the hostilities between the two groups. All parties accept gracefully, except Ratcliffe, who tries to shoot Chief Powhatan in anger, but John who dives in front of the Chief is then shot instead. The governor is then captured and arrested by his crewmen. Meeko and Percy, now friends, give Pocahontas her mother's necklace completely fixed. In the end, John is forced to return home to receive medical treatment. He asks Pocahontas to come with him, but she chooses to stay with her tribe. John leaves with Pocahontas and Chief Powhatan's blessing to return in the future.
- Irene Bedard (Judy Kuhn, singing) as Pocahontas, the daughter of the Chief Powhatan who stops an armed conflict between the Powhatans and the British settlers. She is an adventurous woman who violates her father's prohibition of meeting white people and falls in love with Captain John Smith. Glen Keane served as the supervising animator for Pocahontas.
- Mel Gibson as John Smith, the love interest of Pocahontas. He is the only one of the British settlers in the Jamestown Settlement who is willing to befriend the natives due to his love for Pocahontas and acceptance of other cultures. John Pomeroy served as the supervising animator for John Smith.
- David Ogden Stiers as Governor Ratcliffe, the greedy and ruthlessly ambitious governor who leads an expedition to Virginia to find gold and other riches (which he wants to keep for himself). Unlike other Disney Villains, he is based upon a combination of real-life historical figures. Duncan Marjoribanks served as the supervising animator for Ratcliffe.
- Stiers also provided the voice of Wiggins, Ratcliffe's manservant. Chris Buck served as the supervising animator for Wiggins.
- John Kassir as Meeko, Pocahontas' pet raccoon who is friendly to John Smith and loves eating. Nik Ranieri served as the supervising animator for Meeko.
- Russell Means as Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas' father and chief of the Powhatan. Jim Cummings did the singing parts of the character. Ruben A. Aquino served as the supervising animator for Powhatan.
- Christian Bale as Thomas, a loyal friend of John Smith and one of the British settlers. Ken Duncan served as the supervising animator for Thomas.
- Linda Hunt as Grandmother Willow, a speaking willow tree that acts as Pocahontas' guide. Chris Buck served as the supervising animator for Grandmother Willow.
- Danny Mann as Percy, Governor Ratcliffe's pet pug. Chris Buck served as the supervising animator for Percy.
- Billy Connolly and Joe Baker as Ben and Lon, two of the settlers. T. Daniel Hofstedt served as the supervising animator for both characters.
- Frank Welker as Flit, Pocahontas' pet hummingbird who prefers Kocoum to John Smith but eventually warms up to him. David Pruiksma served as the supervising animator for Flit.
- Michelle St. John as Nakoma, Pocahontas' best friend who secretly adores Kocoum. Anthony DeRosa served as the supervising animator for Nakoma.
- James Apaumut Fall as Kocoum, a strong and aggressive Powhatan warrior who was asked to marry Pocahontas (whom he cares for). Michael Cedeno served as the supervising animator for Kocoum.
- Gordon Tootoosis as Kekata, the shaman of the Powhatan. Jim Cummings performed the singing parts of the character.
Three actors in the film have been involved in other Pocahontas-related projects. Gordon Tootoosis, who voiced Kekata the medicine man, acted as Chief Powhatan in Pocahontas: The Legend, released the same year as this film. Christian Bale, who voiced Thomas, and Irene Bedard, who did Pocahontas' speaking voice, would ten years later portray John Rolfe and Pocahontas's mother respectively in The New World.
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 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 musical score by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz received two Academy Awards, including one for the song "Colors of the Wind". The film's soundtrack was also successful, reaching number-one on the Billboard 200 during the week of July 22, 1995. It ended up with a triple platinum certification.
The film had the largest premiere in history, on June 10, 1995, in New York's Central Park, followed by a live performance by Vanessa Williams. Disney officials estimated the crowd at 100,000. Dignitaries that attended the premiere included then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Caroline Kennedy, Mariah Carey and then-Disney Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner.
Pocahontas was released on VHS in 1996 as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. January 10, 1996 prototype copies of the VHS release used the 1990 Walt Disney Classics logo, while copies produced from January 10 onwards used the standard Masterpiece logo.
The film first appeared on DVD in 2000 as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection; Pocahontas 2 was released on DVD at the same time. In 2005, a 10th Anniversary 2-disc Special Edition DVD set was released, which featured a new extended cut of the film (adding two performances of "If I Never Knew You") and numerous bonus features.
Disney released Pocahontas alongside its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World on Blu-ray as a 2-Movie Collection in August 21, 2012. In a number of countries, however, both Pocahontas and its sequel were released individually to the format. The Blu-ray was first released in Australia in February 2012, and followed by a May 30 European release and an August 21 American release. The American release is packaged for 2-disc DVD (one film per disc) and 3-disc Blu-ray combo pack, featuring both films on one Blu-ray in addition to the two individual DVDs. The Blu-ray did not retain the inclusion of "If I Never Knew You" through seamless integration, however, only the special features.
Pocahontas received generally mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 56% approval rating based on 52 critical reviews with an average rating of 6 out of 10, making it the only film from the Disney Renaissance to be received as "rotten" from the site. 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 British. Roy claims that 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.
Critics argue that the film presents damaging stereotypes of American Indians. Some criticism has surrounded the representation of Indian characters, like Grandmother Willow, Meeko, and Flit as animals. These critics contend that portraying these Native American characters as animals has a marginalizing effect. Also, Kocoum and John Smith go head to head in the film fighting for Pocahontas' affection. It has been argued that Smith's victory over Kocoum in this arena is symbolic of the West's domination over the East and the white man's domination over men of color. The lyrics of the song "Savages", in which the British and the Native Americans each accuse the other culture of being evil and subhuman, has received much criticism, specifically accusations of overt racism.
In interviews with both Euro and Native American girls with ages ranging from nine to thirteen years, the film was received in mixed ways. This age group was interviewed because they are the target audience for most Disney films, and as this film is focused in the direction of young girls, it is important to understand how the targeted audience received the film.
Euro American Suburban Girls
Euro-American suburban girls found that the representation of Pocahontas’ body was disproportionate, but that a lot of younger girls would still probably want be like her as she has what they thought every girls wants (boyfriend, beauty, high status within her community, etc). In their analysis of John Smith’s character, they found him to lack their ideas of masculinity, claiming that he was too kind to Pocahontas and too understanding for what a man should be, in their opinion. The girls also remarked that they found that for girls their age (9-13), aspiring to be like Pocahontas was beyond their reach as they found her to be more brave than she could handle. They also found that she seemed very glamorous and this group of girls did not think that they would enjoy that aspect of being like Pocahontas. The girls were very critical of Pocahontas’ actions, claiming that she always wanted the opposite of what everyone else wanted for her, and that she only wanted things that were forbidden from her (John Smith, Kokoum when he was killed). This group of girls also communicated that the representations of Indigenous people within the film was not stereotypical, as they felt that both the English and the Indigenous people were depicted as having similar problems.
Native American Urban Girls
This group of girls found that they did not identify with Pocahontas as a whole, but rather identified with Pocahontas’ various actions. They found that in appearance, they would like to be like her as they thought she was beautiful, and they liked her character (brave, heroic, adventurous). However, the girls readily noticed the differences in environmental factors between their personal lives and Pocahontas’ film life, stating that Pocahontas has a clean, quiet, and beautiful place to live while they lived around gang violence, without clean water, in a dodgier neighborhood. They also questioned the differences in culture between their families and Pocahontas’, examining the difference between the numbers of people in their family in contrast to Pocahontas’ small family, and also the different way that Pocahontas went about her life in comparison to them. Interracial relationships were found to contribute to better social cohesion between two different people with different backgrounds like John Smith and Pocahontas. The girls insightfully found that the film represents Indigenous people in varying lights, voicing that it promoted equality, but it also encouraged the idea that historical violence was initiated by Indigenous populations, rather than colonial ones.
Mixed Native-American, Euro American Rural Girls
This group of girls immediately noted that Pocahontas did not look or behave like anyone else in her tribe, but they also noted her beauty, just as the other groups of girls did. They found that they identified with Pocahontas quite similarly as they thought that they were just as independent as her, and that they were Indigenous just like her. The differences that they noted were mainly appearance-wise, saying that she wore different clothes and looked different than them. In regards to how Indigenous populations were represented in the film, more mixed responses were presented. The girls found that both positive and negative light was shed on Indigenous people, and they found that the song “Savages” was very disturbing. This group of girls was happy with the ending of the film because they felt that if Pocahontas had left, it would have been perceived as betrayal.
All of the groups of girls understood that Disney was trying to get their audience to see that Pocahontas had inner qualities that contributed to the collective peace of her tribe. Intriguingly, the group of rural girls, specifically those that lived on reservations, did not find that Pocahontas represented a fantasy that they were actively a part of or could be a part of, and therefore did not relate to her actions as much as the other two groups of girls did. Neither group that had Indigenous girls mentioned anything about stereotypes, but the Euro-American group did, but this is possibly attributed to the researcher not being Indigenous, therefore reducing the comfort that the Indigenous girls felt about sharing the stereotypes presented in the film.
- Pocahontas' real name was Matoaka. "Pocahontas" was only a nickname, and it means "the naughty one".
- In the Disney film, Pocahontas is a young adult; in reality, she was around 10 or 11 at the time John Smith arrived with the Virginia Company in 1607.
- In the Disney film, Smith is portrayed as an amiable man; in reality, he was described as having a harsh exterior by his fellow colonists.
- In the Disney film, Pocahontas is treated as Powhatan's only child, when John Smith writes of encountering at least one son of Powhatan in his letter to Queen Anne.
- Historically, there is no evidence of a romantic relationship emerging between Pocahontas and John Smith.
- A year after John Smith's departure, Pocahontas married Kocoum. He did not live to marry her in the film. English colonists led by Samuel Argall captured her three years later; she converted to Christianity in Henricus and later married to John Rolfe (who appears in the sequel), who was known for introducing tobacco as a cash crop.
- There is much controversy over whether or not Pocahontas actually rescued John Smith from being slain by her father's tribe. Many have argued that Smith fabricated the story of Pocahontas saving his life in order to gain popularity.
- The controversy surrounding whether or not Pocahontas saved John Smith exists largely because Smith wrote two very different accounts of his captivity. The first one, published in 1608, included a generally flattering description of Powhatan and his tribe. This first account contained no mention of almost being slain by Powhatan. It was not until Smith released his second account around 1622 that he described any cruel treatment by Powhatan. Also, this second account contains the first mention of Pocahontas rescuing him. Because Smith's two accounts consist of very different facts, and because the second was released only after Pocahontas had gained prominence in England, many hypothesize that Smith embellished the story of his captivity with respect to Pocahontas.
- Albeit captain of The Discovery, John Ratcliffe was not the first governor of the Jamestown Settlement.
- John Ratcliffe in real life was not a greedy man. He stressed the importance of trade, and died because the Native Americans tricked him with a lure for food, then burned him at stake.
For more information see: Pocahontas
|Academy Awards||"Colors of the Wind"
(Alan Menken, Composer; Stephen Schwartz, Lyricist)
|Best Original Song||Won|
|Alan Menken (Composer), Stephen Schwartz (Lyricist)||Best Musical or Comedy Score||Won|
|Annie Awards||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Nik Ranieri (Supervising Animator for "Meeko")||Individual Achievement for Animation||Won|
|Chris Buck (Supervising Animator for "Grandmother Willow")||Nominated|
|David Pruiksma (Supervising Animator for "Flit")||Nominated|
|Alan Menken (Composer)
Stephen Schwartz (Lyricist)
|Best Individual Achievement for Music in the Field of Animation||Won|
|Michael Giamo (Art Director)||Best Individual Achievement for Production Design in Animation||Won|
|Rasoul Azadani (Layout Artistic Supervisor)||Nominated|
|Artios Awards||Brian Chavanne
|Best Casting for Animated Voiceover||Won|
|ASCAP Awards||"Colors of the Wind"||Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures||Won|
|Top Box Office Films||Won|
|BMI Film Music Awards||Alan Menken (Composer)||Won|
|Environmental Media Awards||Best Feature Film||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||"Colors of the Wind"||Best Original Song||Won|
|Alan Menken (Composer)||Best Original Score||Nominated|
|Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing – Music Animation||Won|
|Grammy Awards||Colors of the Wind"||Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media"||Won|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Family Feature – Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- Colors of the Wind – Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Animated Film
A video game based on the movie with the same title, Pocahontas, was released on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive on January 1, 1996. The Sega title was developed by Funcom on contract with Disney. It was followed by a later release for the Game Boy on June 10, 1996, nearly a year after the film's premiere. A Super NES version of the game was under development around the same time as the Genesis version, but was canceled due to development being too far behind to coincide with the Genesis release.
In the game, the player plays as Pocahontas and Meeko, switching between the two frequently to overcome various obstacles, with the help of NPC Flit. Along the way, as Pocahontas, the player gains various new abilities from various animal spirits by helping them. The game, like most film-based games, follows the plot of the movie, but with many variations in situations and events.
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- Pewewardy, Cornel. "The Pocahontas Paradox: A Cautionary Tale for Educators". Journal of Navajo Education. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
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- Pocahontas – SNES Central
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Pocahontas|
- Official website
- Pocahontas at the Internet Movie Database
- Pocahontas at Box Office Mojo
- Pocahontas at Rotten Tomatoes
- Pocahontas at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition DVD Review and Interview