Pocahontas (1995 film)
|Directed by||Mike Gabriel
|Produced by||James Pentecost|
|Written by||Carl Binder
David Ogden Stiers
|Music by||Alan Menken|
|Studio||Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Feature Animation
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Running time||81 minutes|
|Budget||$55 million (estimated)|
Pocahontas is a 1995 American animated epic musical romance-drama film and is the 33rd animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. It was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and was originally released to select theaters on June 16, 1995 by Walt Disney Pictures. It belongs to the era known as the Disney Renaissance from 1989 to 1999.
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 features a fictionalized account of her encounter with Englishman John Smith and the settlers that arrived from the Virginia Company.
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, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World in 1998.
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, inexperienced Thomas from drowning. In the Powhatan Tribe in the New World, Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, dreads being possibly wed to Kocoum, a brave warrior whom she sees as too "serious" for her 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 Englishmen.
Ratcliffe has the fortress Jamestown built in a wooded clearing and immediately has the crewmen dig for gold. Smith 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 Englishmen 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 Smith and warns Kocoum. Later, Smith and Pocahontas meet with Grandmother Willow and plan to bring peace between the colonists and the tribe. Smith and Pocahontas kiss, while Kocoum and Thomas witness from afar. In a jealous rage, Kocoum attacks and tries to kill Smith but is himself shot by Thomas. Pocahontas watches in horror as Kocoum falls dead, reaching for Pocahontas one last time but instead breaking her mother's necklace. Smith commands Thomas to leave just before the tribesmen come and capture Smith. An enraged Chief Powhatan declares war on the crewmen, starting with executing Smith at sunrise.
Thomas warns the crewmen of Smith'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's tree, where Meeko hands her Smith's compass. Pocahontas realizes Smith's compass was the spinning arrow from her prophetic dream, which leads her to her destiny. Just as Powhatan is to execute Smith, Pocahontas throws herself in the way, successfully stoping 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 with Smith taking the bullet. The governor is captured and arrested by the crewmen. Meeko and Percy, now friends, give Pocahontas her mother's necklace completely fixed. In the end, Smith is forced to return home to receive medical treatment. He asks Pocahontas to come with him, but she chooses to stay with her tribe. Smith 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 forbidding 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 English settlers in the Jamestown Settlement 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 actual 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's 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's 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 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's 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's xenophobic 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's best friend who secretly adores Kocoum. Anthony DeRosa served as the supervising animator for Nakoma.
- James Apaumut Fall as Kocoum, a brave and firm 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 this 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 Pocahontas. Christian Bale, who voiced Thomas, would ten years later portray John Rolfe in The New World. Irene Bedard, the speaking voice of Pocahontas, portrayed Pocahontas' mother in a flashback sequence in The New World.
The film was directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg, who previously worked on The Rescuers Down Under and Aladdin 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.
Due to the complexity of the color schemes, shapes, and expressions in the animation, the production of Pocahontas lasted five years. As a result, animators who worked on the movie have regarded it as one of the most difficult films the studio has produced. 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 voicework. 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. Disney officials estimated the crowd at 100,000; police officials put the number at about 70,000. The film was a box-office success, earning $141,579,773 in the United States and $346,079,773 worldwide. The film's release occurred around the same time as Pocahontas' 400th birthday.
Home video release
Pocahontas was released on VHS in 1996 as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. February 20, 1996 prototype copies of the VHS release used the 1989 Walt Disney Classics logo, while copies produced from February 28 onwards used the standard Masterpiece logo.
The film first appeared on DVD in 2000 as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection; Pocahontas II 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 2: 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.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 56% approval rating with an average rating of 6/10 based on 52 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Pocahontas means well, and has moments of startling beauty, but it's largely a bland, uninspired effort, with uneven plotting and an unfortunate lack of fun." 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.
However, 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.
Misrepresentation of Native Americans
- Many 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.
- In the film, Cocoam and John Smith go head to head fighting for Pocahontas' affection. Critics argue that Smith's victory over Cocoam 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 the film has received much criticism, specifically accusations of overt racism, although the song is reasonably balanced, showing both sides as being racist. Some of the lyrics are as follows:
(Sung by the English) What can you expect
From filthy little heathens?
Their whole disgusting race is like a curse
Their skin's a hellish red
They're only good when dead
They're vermin, as I said
(Sung by the Native Americans) They're savages! Savages!
Barely even human. Savages! Savages!
Drive them from our shore!
They're not like you and me
Which means they must be evil.
We must sound the drums of war!
- Many argue that the visual appearance of Pocahontas reproduces gender stereotypes. They claim that the animated character is dark skinned with Asian facial features, yet her body type is undeniably Caucasian. Thus, critics contend that visually, Pocahontas reproduces stereotypes of the ideal exotic beauty, according to white males.
- In the film, Pocahontas is initially portrayed as the heroine when she saves John Smith from being killed by her father, Powhatan. Later in the film though, Smith jumps in front of a bullet being fired at Powhatan. By comparing these two acts of heroism, critics argue that the focus of the film shifts from Pocahontas to Smith. Critics claim that comparing these two acts means that the film, which was originally intended to be about a brave female heroine becomes more about the triumph of a male hero, John Smith.
For more information see: Portrayal of Native Americans in 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.
- Historically, there is no evidence of a romantic relationship emerging between Pocahontas and John Smith.
- A few years after John Smith's departure, Pocahontas was captured by colonists; she was converted to Christianity and then married to John Rolfe, who was known for introducing tobacco as a cash crop.
- There is much controversy over whether or not Pocahontas actually saved John Smith from being killed by Powhatan'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 killed 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 saving 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 the governor of the Jamestown Settlement.
For more information see: Pocahontas
Use of artistic license
- Grandmother Willow is depicted as a weeping willow, which is native to Asia and would not have been found in Virginia in 1607. Native willows have an upright growth habit.
- Meeko, a raccoon, is depicted as Pocahontas' sidekick, and is around at all time, even in the daytime. However, raccoons are nocturnal, and are mostly active at night.
|Academy Awards||"Colors of the Wind"
(Alan Menken, Composer; Stephen Schwartz, Lyricist)
|Best Original Song||Won|
|Alan Menken (Composer), Stephen Schwartz (Lyricist)||Best Original Music 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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- "Pocahontas Two-Movie Special Edition (Pocahontas/Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
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- "Pocahontas (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
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- "The Pocahontas Myth - Powhatan Renape Nation - the real story, not Disney's Distortion". Powhatan.org. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
- Aleiss, Angela. "Maidens of Hollywood: 'Pocahontas' is the Pure Expression of Filmmakers' Fantasies about Indian Women", Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1995.
- Pewewardy, Cornel. "The Pocahontas Paradox: A Cautionary Tale for Educators". Journal of Navajo Education. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
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- Crazy Horse, Chief Roy. "The Pocahontas Myth". Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- Weston, Tamara. "Top 10 Disney Controversies". TIME Magazine. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- Birchfield, Stan. "Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith?". Stanford University. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
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- Pocahontas – SNES Central
- Official website
- Pocahontas at the Internet Movie Database
- Pocahontas at Box Office Mojo
- Pocahontas at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Big Cartoon DataBase entry for Pocahontas
- Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition DVD Review and Interview