Yes, this movie is based on a true story, though it does stretch the truth quite a bit. If you're not familiar with the history, Pocahontas did exist, and she did befriend the settlers, though she was probably about ten years old at the time. So there was no romance between her and John Smith, and historians debate the story about whether or not she actually saved his life. Regardless, it makes for a good Disney movie.
Pocahontas has lots of the elements that I love about an animated Disney film. It's both fun and serious. There are funny moments and funny characters (most notably Percy, the dog, and Meeko, the raccoon). It has some good music. I both like and admire the main character. And finally, it has some mystical/magical elements to it as well. We have Grandmother Willow, the talking tree, and Pocahontas's amazing ability to speak English. Maybe that's a bit of a cop-out on Disney's part, but the movie certainly wouldn't be as exciting if we had to sit around and watch Pocahontas learn English. And finally, the movie has a good message - not only about respecting nature, but also about how we judge other people.
Despite all of this, Pocahontas is not one of my favorite Disney movies, and that's because of the ending. This Disney movie doesn't have a happy ending, and for me that's one of the things I need in a Disney movie. I love Disney because they're feel good, happy movies. Sure, John Smith doesn't die, but he and Pocahontas aren't together. And yes, the settlers leave, but if we think about the history and what we know, all the future holds is more bloody battles, more settlers invading, and the Native Americans losing almost everything. The least Disney could do would be to spare John Smith, or have the Native Americans cure him, or something so they could be together! With a Disney movie, I want a sappy romance and the happy ending.
And don't even look at the straight to video sequel to Pocahontas. That's a whole different rant.
Pocahontas has pretty good music. The score is by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. It doesn't have quite as many hits as, say, The Lion King or Aladdin, but there are a few good ones. "Colors of the Wind" is by far the best song in the movie, next I would say "Just Around the Riverbend," with the rest being not so memorable. Though I will add that apparently Mel Gibson did his own singing, and it wasn't bad.
As far as villains go, Ratcliffe is just so-so. Yeah, he's greedy and he's a jerk, but he doesn't do much till the very end, when he accidentally shoots John Smith. But also, nothing much really happens to him at the end - no dramatic death scene, just tied up and thrown in the boat. Really as far as Disney villains go he's pretty lame, but I suppose much of the "evil" in this movie actually comes from how we judge one another and how we treat people that are different from us, so they didn't need as much of a villain.
Later in this blog I plan to keep track of rankings of the best (worst? Most evil?) Disney villains. I don't think Ratcliffe will be making the top five. Or even the top ten.
Disney World Connection
There used to be a show in the Animal Kingdom called "Pocahontas and her Forest Friends," which taught about the importance of animals and nature, but it stopped in 2008. Pocahontas does makes an appearance in Hollywood Studios' show Fantasmic! You can also find her wandering around the parks for meet and greets.
My rating: 7 out of 10
Jason's rating: 7 out of 10
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Pocahontas!