Pocahontas (1995 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Gabriel
Eric Goldberg
Produced by James Pentecost
Written by Karey Kirkpatrick
Carl Binder
Susannah Grant
Philip LaZebnik
Story by Glen Keane
Joe Grant
Ralph Zondag
Burny Mattinson
Ed Gombert
Kaan Kalyon
Francis Glebas
Robert Gibbs
Bruce Morris
Todd Kurosawa
Duncan Marjoribanks
Chris Buck
Starring Irene Bedard
Mel Gibson
David Ogden Stiers
John Kassir
Russell Means
Christian Bale
Frank Welker
Jim Cummings
Linda Hunt
Music by Alan Menken
Edited by H. Lee Peterson
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • June 23, 1995 (1995-06-23)
Running time
81 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55 million (estimated)
Box office $346 million[1]

Pocahontas is a 1995 American animated musical romantic-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 33rd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, and was produced during a period known as the Disney Renaissance.

Directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg, the film is inspired by the known history and folklore surrounding the Native American woman Pocahontas, and portrays a fictionalized account of her historical encounter with Englishman John Smith and the Jamestown settlers that arrived from the Virginia Company. The voice cast features Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Russell Means, Christian Bale, Billy Connolly, and Linda Hunt. The musical score was written by Alan Menken, with songs written by Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz.

Pocahontas was released on June 23, 1995, to a mixed reaction from critics, who praised the film for its animation and music, but criticized the film's story and historical accuracy. Nevertheless, the film was a commercial success, grossing $346 million at the worldwide box office. Pocahontas received two Academy Awards for its achievement in music; Best Original Score for Menken's score and Best Original Song for "Colors of the Wind". A direct-to-video sequel entitled Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, was released 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, naive crew mate named Thomas from drowning. In the Powhatan Tribe in the New World, Pocahontas,18 year old young woman, 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.He is the main antagonist. 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 (Jim Cummings, singing) as Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas' father and chief of the Powhatan. 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 (for whom he cares). Michael Cedeno served as the supervising animator for Kocoum.
  • Gordon Tootoosis as (Jim Cummings, singing) Kekata, the shaman of the Powhatan.

Additional voices were provided by Dano Petronas, Louis Honeyman, James Pickford, Hayden Rees, Isaac Baker, Owen Stevenson, Rebecca Montgomery, Tom Dodd and more.

Three actors in the film have been involved in other Pocahontas-related projects. Gordon Tootoosis, who voiced Kekata the shaman, 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.[2] 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.[2]

Gabriel first conceptualized the idea for the film over Thanksgiving weekend in 1990, after finishing The Rescuers Down Under.[2] 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.[2] As the production began, the crew traveled to Jamestown, Virginia to study and draw the trees and landscapes.[3] This group included Pentecost, art director Michael Giaimo, and others involved in artistic development.[2] They also reported meeting with the Algonquin nation in Virginia, in efforts to accurately represent the tribe.[2]

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”.[4]

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.[5]

Due to the complexity of the color schemes, shapes, and expressions in the animation, the production of Pocahontas lasted five years.[6] For instance, a total of 55 animators worked on the design of Pocahontas' character alone.[6] For the total team, over 600 animators, technicians, and artists were employed.[2] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry, and Patrick Stewart were other choices to voice Ratcliffe.


Howard Ashman died during production of Aladdin, marking this the first Disney movie with Alan Menken's music but without songs by Ashman.[9]

The musical score by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz received two Academy Awards, including one for the song "Colors of the Wind".[10] The film's soundtrack was also successful, reaching number-one on the Billboard 200 during the week of July 22, 1995.[11] It ended up with a triple platinum certification.[12]


"Pocahontas" playing at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

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.[13] Disney officials estimated the crowd at 100,000.[13] Dignitaries that attended the premiere included then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Caroline Kennedy, Mariah Carey and then-Disney Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner.[13]

The film was a box-office success, earning $141,579,773 in the United States and $346,079,773 worldwide.[1] The film's release occurred around the same time as Pocahontas' 400th birthday.[2]

Home media[edit]

Pocahontas was released on VHS in 1996 as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. Some prototype copies of the VHS release used the 1989 Walt Disney Classics logo, while copies produced from February 28, 1996 onwards used the standard Masterpiece Collection logo.

The film first appeared on DVD in 2000 as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection; Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World 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.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Pocahontas, alongside its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, on Blu-ray Disc as a 2-Movie Collection in August 21, 2012.[14] 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[15] (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.[16] The Blu-ray did not retain the inclusion of "If I Never Knew You" through seamless integration, however, only the special features.


Critical response[edit]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

Critics argue that the film presents damaging stereotypes of American Indians.[21] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[21]


Ceremony Recipient Category Result
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
Ruth Lambert
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

Historical accuracy[edit]

  • Pocahontas' real name was Matoaka. "Pocahontas" was only a nickname, and it means "the naughty one".[25]
  • 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.[25]
  • 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.[25]
  • 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.[26]
  • 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.[26]
  • 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.[27]
  • 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.[28]
  • Albeit captain of The Discovery, John Ratcliffe was not the first governor of the Jamestown Settlement.[29]
  • 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 the stake.

Video game[edit]

Cover of the Sega Genesis video game

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.[30]

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.


  1. ^ a b "Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Siegel, Robert. "The Making of Walt Disney's Pocahontas". blu-ray.com. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Pocahontas". magicalkingdoms.com. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Edgerton, G.; Jackson, K. (1996). "Redesigning Pocahontas: Disney, The "White Man's Indian," And The Marketing Of Dreams". Journal of Popular Film and Television 2 (24): 90–98. 
  5. ^ http://vimeo.com/94773430
  6. ^ a b c "Pocahontas Trivia". sharetv.org. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
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  10. ^ "The Official Academy Awards Database". AMPAS. Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  11. ^ Billboard profile
  12. ^ Morris, Chris. "`Pocahontas' piles up RIAA metal". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c Carrie Rickey (1995-06-11). "Disney Takes Over N.y. Park For Premiere Of 'Pocahontas' To Many, The Four-screen Event Was Woodstock For The Family.". philly.com. Philadelphia Media Network (Digital) LLC. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  14. ^ "Pocahontas Two-Movie Special Edition (Pocahontas / Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World) (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging): Mel Gibson, Christian Bale, David Ogden Stiers, Linda Hunt, Irene Bedard, Billy Connolly, James Apaumut Fall, Joe Baker, John Kassir, Danny Mann, Russell Means, Michelle St. John, Gordon Tootoosis, Frank Welker, Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg, Carl Binder, Susannah Grant: Movies & TV". Amazon.com. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Pocahontas Two-Movie Special Edition (Pocahontas/Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World)". Amazon.com. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Pocahontas Two-Movie Collection (Pocahontas/Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World)(Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack in Blu-ray Packaging)". Amazon.com. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Pocahontas - Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster. Retrieved January 27, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Pocahontas". metacritic.com. Metacritic. Retrieved January 27, 2011. 
  19. ^ "The Pocahontas Myth - Powhatan Renape Nation - the real story, not Disney's Distortion". Powhatan.org. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  20. ^ Aleiss, Angela. "Maidens of Hollywood: 'Pocahontas' is the Pure Expression of Filmmakers' Fantasies about Indian Women", Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1995.
  21. ^ a b c Pewewardy, Cornel. "The Pocahontas Paradox: A Cautionary Tale for Educators". Journal of Navajo Education. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  22. ^ Kutsuzawa, Kiyomi. "Disney's Pocahontas: reproduction of gender, orientalism, and the strategic construction of racial harmony in the Disney empire". Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  23. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  24. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  25. ^ a b c Crazy Horse, Chief Roy. "The Pocahontas Myth". Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  26. ^ a b Weston, Tamara (December 9, 2009). "Top 10 Disney Controversies". TIME Magazine. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  27. ^ Birchfield, Stan. "Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith?". Stanford University. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Curriculum: 1. Pocahontas". Stanford University. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  29. ^ "History of Jamestown". Preservation Virginia. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  30. ^ Pocahontas – SNES Central

External links[edit]