Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #33: Pocahontas

 

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

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We’d been working it on it for a couple of months and then Jeffrey calls a “breakfast meeting”. And in the meeting, we have the whole crew from Pocahontas and Lion King. And Jeffrey said “Pocahontas is a home run! It’s West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet with American Indians! It’s a smash hit!  Lion King on the other hand, it’s kind of an experiment, we don’t really know if people are going to want to see it.””

Rob Minkoff, Co-director of The Lion King.

Guys. You know me. I’m not a hatchet artist. I don’t enjoy tearing movies to pieces. I didn’t start this blog because I wanted to take cheap shots, I did it as a cynical promotional tool to advance my writing career because I love this gorgeous, hilarious, deeply weird gaggle of animated films we call the Disney canon. And I know a lot of you have been looking forward to seeing me feast on this thing’s entrails like a rabid boar but I honestly cannot think of anything more dispiriting to write and unpleasant to read than one long, unending rant.
So…
I’m laying down a few ground rules right from the start. Think of these as handicaps to give this movie a fighting chance so that it doesn’t just turn into a complete bloodbath.
  1. I’m not going to mark this movie down for its inaccurate portrayal of Indians, Native Americans, American Indians, Amerindians, Native Peoples
These guys.

These guys.

Not that the movie doesn’t get a lot of things wrong (I have it on good account that it does) but it’s not like I’m an expert so I don’t really feel qualified to call the movie out on its failures in that regard. See, the thing is…it is damn hard to write a portrayal of Those Guys in any medium that doesn’t end up annoying somebody. There are just so many stereotypes and tired tropes floating around that it is almost impossible to write a character that doesn’t fall into at least some of them. (Actually, if there are any Native Americans or people of Native American ancestry reading this I would be very interested to know if there are any portrayals in TV or movies that you feel actually got it right. Let me know in the comments.)  I am under no illusions that by deciding to make this movie Disney wasn’t setting itself up for a lose/lose situation.
Having said that, let’s be clear: They FUCKING LOST.
  1. I’m not going to mark this movie down for its historical inaccuracy.
It’s a cartoon. Not a historical document. So I don’t particularly care that Pocahontas is not twelve and John Smith is not a forty year old ginger. I will still mock this movie like the dickens for comedic effect, but it’s not going to have an impact on the final score.
  1. I’m not going to mark this down for failing to address the issues of genocide, forced relocations, slavery et al.
It’s a movie set in 1607. Short of one of the characters getting their hands on a time machine, how can the movie address events that wouldn’t happen decades or even centuries into the future? Granted, it hangs like a big black hanging thing over the entire movie, but that’s more history’s fault than the film’s. Besides. Do you really want to see a Disney movie that gave a realistic depiction of the Jamestown settlement? (Answer: No, no. Not even a little. No.)
I’m laying down these rules because, honestly, if this movie was good? If I cared deeply about the characters? If I was entranced by the story and thought the script was witty and emotionally satisfying? If I loved the art style and didn’t find the songs insufferably smug? None of the above would matter. You think I care that Mulan is set in the wrong dynasty or that Jungle Book makes no reference to India’s struggle for independence from British rule? Not a bit. So if it doesn’t matter to me when the movie’s good, why should it matter when the movie’s bad?
Oh yeah. The movie’s bad. Really bad. Like, a failure on all but the most technical level. Technically, it’s fine. The story structure is pretty much text-book. The animation is largely excellent if joyless and devoid of any real inspiration. But this thing is dead inside. It’s like someone killed a Disney movie and staged a macabre puppet show with the body. It’s the worst kind of formula driven, corporate movie making trying to hide its soullessness behind  a vague veneer of empty New Agey spirituality. And it’s dumb. It’s really dumb. There are dumb movies, and there are smart movies and the great earth is big and rich enough for both but one thing I cannot stand is a dumb movie that thinks it’s smart.
So. How came we by this travesty?
Being Irish, I know a thing or two about booms and busts and when I read about the giddy optimism that was bubbling through Disney by the mid-nineties I can’t help but feel a little twinge of Celtic Tiger PTSD.
True story. Where I live was right in that thing's crotch.

True story: Where I live was right in that thing’s crotch.

Under the guidance of the Katzenberg/Eisner/Disney triumvirate the Disney animation studio had gone from being a financial liability to a money making machine. Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King. One after the other.

"HEY! WHAT ARE WE, INVISIBLE?!"

“HEY! WHAT ARE WE, INVISIBLE?!”

Four of the biggest animated movies, hell, four of the biggest movies of all time in a six year span. Couple that record box office take with equally record breaking VHS sales and merchandising and you are talking about a billion dollar enterprise. I wouldn’t be surprised if years later it turned out that the real reason Katzenberg left was that Eisner kept cheating during their daily money fights. And, to their credit, Katzenberg and Eisner made sure plenty of that money got to the people who made it all possible. Suddenly, the animators’ parking lot was filling up each day with Bentleys and Jaguars. Generous bonuses were being lavished all around and the animation wing had a brand new state-of-the-art office building built just for them. But there was a cost to all this. Whereas the animation studio that Walt Disney had founded would slowly and methodically work on one film, release it, and then start on the next, Roy Disney had decreed that a new full length animated film would be released every year. As well as working on Pocahontas, the animation studio was finishing off Lion King, prepping for Hunchback of Notre Dame and working on A Goofy Movie and Nightmare Before Christmas. This massive workload resulted in long hours, stress and more than a few ruined marriages. And the toll wasn’t merely psychological either. Watch interviews and footage of the Disney animators of this period and you’ll see a lot of people rubbing their wrists, flexing and unflexing their fingers, squinting…we don’t normally think of artistic fields of endeavour as being physically gruelling but animation can put an absolutely brutal toll on the human body. Then of course there was the tragic death of Frank Wells, a huge psychic shock to the company made worse by the ugly fallout and Katzenberg’s departure from Disney.

It’s not possible to recount why Katzenberg left without getting into a lot of “he said she said” bullshit. From what I can gather Katzenberg’s version of events was that Eisner promised Katzenberg the  position vacated by Wells but then withdrew the offer because he was jealous of how Katzenberg was getting all these press accolades for having turned things around at Disney. Eisner, for his part, says that the position was Katzenberg’s for the taking if he’d just waited a while and not been lobbying for it so soon after Wells’ death. Did Katzenberg resign? Was he fired? Don’t know, honestly don’t really care. The point is, halfway through production of Pocahontas Katzenberg had left Disney vowing revenge.
"Fools! I shall destroy them all!"

“Fools! I shall destroy them all!”

I think all these factors, the over-work, the shock of Wells’ death, the sheer weight of expectation to keep the gravy train on the tracks and the bad blood caused by Katzenberg’s departure all combined to make Pocahontas a thoroughly miserable experience for the animators to work on. I have no proof of that, maybe it was an endless merry go round of delight, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way. There is a sense of joylessness that pervades this thing, like everyone was just gritting their teeth and thinking of the paycheck.

Kind of like me, except I don’t get paid.
Sigh. Let’s just get this over with.
We begin in London where a Virginia Company ship is getting ready to depart to the New World. We see the various sailors boarding, including Thomas, who’s voiced by Christian Bale.
Wait a minute…
Christian Bale’s in this? Well, you can guess which movie I’m going to be referencing all the way through this damn thing as a way of repressing my pain.
Fuck yeah!

Fuck yeah!

We’re also introduced to John Smith, subtly, I might add, by all the sailors standing around and saying stuff like “Say, is that JOHN SMITH? Is JOHN SMITH coming on this voyage? Sure! You can’t fight Indians without JOHN SMITH!”

Smith is voiced by Mel Gibson. You know, it’s easy to make fun of Mel Gibson…

Smith boards the ship in a manner that subtly hints that he is a macho, manly man of manishness.

Cock

"Ah ha ha...WOW."

“Ah ha ha…WOW.”

And the ship sets sail. We cut to a storm battering the vessel and Smith and Thomas work desperately together to stop their massive iron phalluses from going overboard. A wave washes Thomas into the sea and Ben (Billy Connolly) yells to stay on course because he’s already lost. Okay, firstly? Dick move on Ben’s part. He’s just fallen into the sea, it’s not like he touched the floor in a game of Hot Lava. Unless Thomas is related to the Wicked Witch of the West, he should still be alive. Second…why the fuck is there a Scottish sailor on this English voyage? Scotland and England were still two separate countries at this point, and in fact Scotland would embark on its own attempt to colonise the Americas a few decades after this movie is set.

Which went brilliantly, thanks for asking.

Which went brilliantly, thanks for asking.

I know, I know. Rule 2. Still irks me, though.

Well, mortal men may be powerless in the face of water, but that dastardly compound hasn’t reckoned with JOHN SMITH! Smith leaps into the water to rescue Thomas and Ben calls after him “Are you crazy?!”

Beard

This review is simultaneously too hard, and too easy.

Smith rescues Thomas and the other sailors pull them back on board. They congratulate Smith who says “Of course, you’d all do the same for me.” and the other sailors look really awkward.

Well, Jesus would. But I'm not sure about the other two.

Well, Jesus would.  No question. But I’m not sure about the other two.

We now properly meet our villain, Ratcliffe, played by David Ogden Stiers. Hmmm…Ratcliffe, Ratcliffe. What are we to make of you? Well, he’s definitely one of the best things in the movie, Stiers does good work and he does get some of the better lines. But…the whole concept of this character seems lazy to me. He’s an evil upper class British villain in a Disney movie. Feel that? That’s the ground being broken beneath your feet by this movie’s staggering innovation. But that’s not even the problem. Ratcliffe probably would have made a perfectly acceptable villain for something lighter and more comedic like, say, Robin Hood. But this is (supposedly) a serious movie. This movie is trying to grapple with the themes of prejudice and xenophobia (in much the same way that a fish pulled onto a boat and smacked with an oar is trying to swim). To do that, the movie needs a villain who can effectively embody those problems. Ratcliffe, to put it bluntly, is not threatening. He’s a foppish, greedy, not particularly bright oaf. So when the movie has to rely on him to provide the dramatic stakes in the climax of the final act the whole thing just collapses like a wet cake. Oh, we also meet Wiggins, Ratcliffe’s devoted personal assistant who adores and unquestioningly serves his evil employer despite himself being perfectly nice and likeable wait just a damn minute here!

Oh my God. Disney, you whores!

Oh my God. Disney, you whores!

Honestly Wiggins is…well, not the saving grace of the movie because that would imply that the movie is capable of being saved. But he is hands down my favorite character in this entire clusterbollocks. He’s also voiced by Stiers, making him far and away the movie’s MVP. Oh, and lastly we meet Percy, a pug who serves as Ratcliffe’s little animal sidekick. Because this movie…this FUCKING movie…does not so much feature animal sidekicks as it is infested by them.

Ratcliffe feigns relief that Thomas isn’t all drowned and shit and rallies the weary men by appealing to their patriotism. Wiggins praises Ratcliffe’s speech, saying the men were greatly cheered by it and Ratcliffe says “I hope so. I’ll need those witless peasants to dig up my gold.”

BOO! HISS!

BOOOOOOOOO! HISSSSSSSS!

Thomas says how much he’s looking forward to the New World and all the genociding they’ll be doing. No, I’m not kidding. He outright says he’s coming for gold and land and if any Indian tries to stop him he’ll straight up cap him.

All in the game, yo.

All in the game, yo.

But the other sailors say that nobody, fucking nobody, kills Indians like JOHN SMITH kills Indians. And then Mel Gibson sings a song about killing Indians. Badly. It’s really all, quite, quite horrible.

Is it wrong that I still find him slightly more likeable than the actor who plays him?

Is it wrong that I still find him slightly more likeable than the actor who plays him?

Thomas and Smith climb up to the crows nest for some male bonding and Thomas asks Smith what he thinks the New World will be like. Smith is all “Tchah! Whatevs!” saying that he doesn’t expect it to be all that special and that he’s seen “hundreds of new worlds.”

"I 've...seen things. You people wouldn't believe. Attacks ships on fire, off the shoulder of Orion."

“I ‘ve…seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attacks ships on fire, off the shoulder of Orion…”

We now move to the Powhatan village on the coast of what will one day be Virginia and the title credits finally deign to grace us with their presence a full five goddamn minutes into the movie.

Oh! So good of you to take time out of your busy schedule!

So good of you to take time out of your busy schedule.

We get our first proper song of the movie (The Virginia Company is really more of a snippet) Steady as a Beating Drum. The songs for the movie were done by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz and I know a lot of you seem to think that if this movie has a saving grace it’s the songs and the animation. Honestly, I’m not hugely keen on either but this particular song is not too bad. Rule 1 prohibits me from discussing whether or not the Native American music style used to evoke the Powhatans is accurate or not. As I said, I don’t really know enough to go swinging my snark around. But I will say this; when my ethnomusicologist wife watches this scene she starts grinding her teeth and bleeding from the ears.

So we see the Powhatans doing typically Native American stuff like fishing, farming corn and summoning smoke demons.

"The blue bunny of doom?! FLEE CHILDREN!!"

“The blue bunny of doom?! FLEE CHILDREN!!”

The tribe are celebrating because Chief Powhatan has returned from battle, having showed those pathetic Massawomecks what’s what. Powhatan is played by Russell Means, an absolutely fascinating individual who is about to make me the biggest fucking hypocrite in the world. See, despite the Anglo sounding name, Means was an Indian (Oglala/Lakota Sioux and before you get up in my grill he preferred the term to “Native American”.) He was the first national leader of the American Indian Movement, ran for president on the Libertarian ticket and was involved in the AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee and the subsequent standoff against the federal government. He was also an actor, author, musician and a lifelong champion for the rights of native peoples. Now, right off the bat, full props to Disney for actually getting a Native American actor to play this part. But unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that Means is…well…

He’s awful. I’m sorry. He is. He’s stilted, lifeless, almost totally emotionless. It is a terrible, terrible performance. I guess you could say the ends don’t justify the Means.

Oh God, I am the worst liberal in the world. I feel like dirt. Somewhere, in some dark dimension, Rush Limbaugh is feeding on my anguish.

"Good...goooooood...."

“Yes. Good…goooooood….”

Well anyway, Powhatan realises that we are almost eight minutes in an our main character still hasn’t appeared. He asks Kekata (Gordon Tootoosis) where she is, and Kekata says that “She has mother’s spirit. She goes where the wind takes her.”

We did not answer simple, straightforward questions until the WHITE MAN CAME.

“We did not answer simple, straightforward questions until the WHITE MAN CAME.”

The wind then takes us on a magical journey to where Pocahontas is standing on a ledge overlooking a waterfall and just, y’know, being one with nature.

"I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to lift a lion cub."

“I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to lift a lion cub.”

Okay. First thing’s first. Pocahontas is voiced by Irene Bedard, an Inuit actress who is damn good. Seriously, she gives an excellent performance. But the part as written is just awful. I can’t stand Pocahontas for reasons I will get into as we go on. Pocahontas’ BFF Nakoma (Michelle St. John), calls up to her that her father’s returned home and that she’s probably done enough posing for one day. Yeah, you’d think her father returning home from a war would justify leaving the landscape to appreciate its own majesty for a few hours to actually wait for him to come home but nope. Standing on the cliff and listening to all the secrets of the wind is apparently more important than making sure her father is still in one piece. Pocahontas turns to Redundant Animal Sidekick #1 Flit, her hummingbird friend (voiced by Frank Welker who has appeared in so many movies, his Bacon number is NEGATIVE) and says “He’s back Flit!” (right, ‘cos you were contorted with worry). She runs past Redundant Animal Sidekick #2 Meeko, her little racoon chum (voiced by John Kassir) but then stops, and instead of just walking to the bottom of the cliff like a sane person, she decides to dive into the water from at least two hundred feet and give poor Nakoma a heart attack. I like Nakoma, as she’s pretty much the only Native American character in this that managed to sneak a personality out of the personality box when the writers weren’t looking.

Nakoma

This is more of a personal thing, but it really pisses me off. When I see this scene, I’m not thinking “Oh, how gracefully she  dives, like the swooping eagle!” I’m thinking “You’re endangering your life and scaring the shit out of your friend for no reason whatsoever.” She’s like those kids you see riding around with no hands on the handlebars.

You crazy rebel. You're not going to let society tell you what to do.

You crazy rebel. You’re not going to let society tell you what to do.

Meeko then jumps after her, loses his nerve halfway through and tries to use Flit to break his fall.

So let me ask you a question. Why are Meeko and Flit here? What is their purpose in the story?

Happy Meal toy

This is what happens when formula becomes the driving force behind a creative work. There is no reason for Flit and Meeko to be in this movie, they’re here because it worked in Little Mermaid and Aladdin and they’re here because Disney needed something that could be made into happy meal toys. This is why Flit and Meeko and Percy run around like they’re in another cartoon, vestigial little animated tumours growing out of the main story that don’t effect it in any way. And they’re here because no one had the guts to say “Fuck it. Lose the raccoon and the hummingbird. They’re dead weight.”

Pocahontas tips Nakoma’s canoe over and starts a splash fight with her.

Splash fight

"More water."

“More water.”

 And outside the boat, Meeko and Flit engage in a little empty comic business.

Dance, creature. The Lord of Bahia wills it so.

Dance, creature. The Lord of Bahia wills it so.

Flit tries to stab Meeko with his beak but ends up getting embedded into the wood of the canoe. Nakoma and Pocahontas then turn the boat over and Flit is trapped under the water. Drowning. Hoping against hope that his futile, empty little existence may at last come to an end. Nakoma asks if Pocahontas was thinking about “the dream” while she was up there and Pocahontas says she knows it means something, but gosh darn it she just can’t think what it is. She then casually reaches into the water and pulls Flit out. Because she knew he was there the whole time. She just wanted him to come to the very brink of death before pulling him back into his hellish, never ending cycle of meaningless capering.

Bitch is pure. Fucking. EVIL.

They arrive back at the village where Papa Powhatan is honouring Kocoum, who apparently killed more of those pitiful  Massawomeck goons than anyone else. Pocahontas greets her father who says “Seeing you gives me great joy.”

You know what’s interesting? If the script and performance were able to show that Powhatan was happy to see Pocahontas, he wouldn’t actually have to say it. It’s a little trick called “good film-making”. This scene is one of the most frustrating for me because even though this is a Disney Renaissance movie on total autopilot it should still be able to do the one thing that the Disney movies of the Renaissance did better than those of any other period: depicting the relationships between fathers and daughters.  Think about it. Triton and Ariel, Belle and Maurice, Jasmine and the Sultan. These were relationships that were all unique, multi-layered and most importantly authentic. When Triton and Ariel are having a blazing row, when Belle pleads with the Beast for her father’s life it always felt real. You bought it. This movie fails in part because the filmmakers are afraid to let Pocahontas and Powhatan be flawed, real characters. They’re not real people they’re..fucking…nobility mannequins!

"We did not emote, until THE WHITE MAN CAME."

“We did not emote, until THE WHITE MAN CAME.”

Pocahontas tells Powhatan about her dream because he must be interested in that, right? I mean, who wouldn’t be? It’s her dream. She tells him that she thinks it means something exciting is going to happen and Powhatan agrees, telling her “Kocoum has asked to seek your hand in marriage.” It’s actually impressive to work that much clunkiness and redundancy into a nine word sentence. Fuck’s sake, you don’t “seek” to ask something! You ask, or you seek! God!

Pocahontas then has the temerity to say “Marry Kocoum? But he’s so…serious.”

I…I can’t muster enough sarcasm for this. I need to call in an expert. SMOWE?

'Sup?

‘Sup?

Pocahontas just said she can’t marry Kocoum because he’s “too serious”.

Oh. Right. 'Cos your LUCILLE FUCKING BALLE!

Oh. Right, Polka-dots. ‘Cos you’re LUCILLE FUCKING BALL!

Thank you, Maestro.

Pocahontas says that she thinks that her dream is pointing her down a different path (and really, not enough consideration is being given to what the dream wants here). Powhatan tells her that it’s time to take her place among their people (as opposed to…what?) and gives her a necklace that belonged to her mother. He says that she wore it at their wedding, and that it was always her dream to see Pocahontas’ wear it at hers.

Pocahontas’ mother had very, very limited goals. And that makes me sad.

Pocahontas then sings Just Around the Riverbend.  As a song it’s fine, actually very nice. The music is lovely and Pocahontas’ singing voice, Judy Kuhn, is excellent. But there’s something off about it. You might thing that it’s an “I Want” song. But it’s not. Because, Pocahontas never actually states what she wants. There’s some vague implication that she doesn’t want to settle down with Kocoum and be “steady” but…she never says what she does want. It’s an “I do” song, an “I am” song. “I am sailing down the river”, “I look around the corner”. But we never actually understand what she wants. There’s just this void where character motivation should be. In fact, I think that’s why Pocahontas spends so much of this movie jumping off cliffs and riding her canoe over waterfalls. Her life is so hollow and devoid of purpose that she’s just trying to feel something.

She sails off to see Grandmother Willow, a talking tree voiced by Linda Hunt. She’s greeted by all the animals who just hang around Grandmother Willow like groupies; owls, rabbits, squirrels, the usual Disney Forest Detritus. Pocahontas tells Grandmother Willow that her father wants her to marry Kocoum but that she’s been having a dream, and Grandmother Willow says “Oh, a dream, let’s hear all about it!”

Hmm…that sounds familiar, let me look it up in my book of quotations.

The Disney Way

Pocahontas starts to relate her dream. She’s running through the forest, and she sees an arrow that starts to spin. Grandmother Willow says “How unusual!”

How unusual?! It’s a fucking dream!! Last night I dreamed that I was the Megazord from Power Rangers except I was blue and I had to fight a monster that was kind of like Lady Gaga but sometimes she was the dog I had as a kid if it looked like a purple sheep with half a face and the city we were battling in was actually my old school but like built up all bigger so it was a city but all the buildings were buildings from my school and there was this really big mountain with a waterfall made of unicorns looking over it. And your mind is being blown by one spinning arrow?!

Bull. Shit.

All of it. This whole scene. Pocahontas is just a Mary Sue. The other characters just exist to tell her how wonderful she is, and how interesting and brave and beautiful and blah blah blah. She has no flaws (apart from being irredeemably evil, of course) that she needs to overcome. She starts the movie perfect, she ends it perfect. There’s no arc apart from…oh yeah the dream. Didn’t I tell you? That’s what she wants. She wants to know what her dream means. I mean, putting aside the whole condescending and possibly racist implications of that, that is a pathetically trivial and self centred motivation for a character. Ariel wanted to explore new worlds, Belle and Jasmine were striving for freedom from the intellectual suffocation of small town life and the strictures of royal protocol. Hell, even Snow White, the most regressive and passive of any of the Disney princesses was fighting for her damn life!

This?  I can’t really adequately express how little I care whether Pocahontas finds out what her dream means. You could…you could base a Zen koan around how much I do not care how this plot is resolved.

"Master, how many are the paths to enlightenment?"

“Master, how many are the paths to enlightenment?”

"My son, have you heard of the dream of Pocahontas?"

“My son, have you heard of the dream of Pocahontas?”

"Yes master."

“Yes master.”

"As numberless as the fucks not given by an Unshaved Mouse are the paths to Enlightenment."

“As numberless as the fucks not given by an Unshaved Mouse are the paths to Enlightenment.”

"Whoah..."

“Whoah…”

Grandmother Willow tells her that she has to listen to the spirits around her and that they will guide her on the right path.

"You must feel the force, flowing through you."

“You must feel the force, flowing through you.”

Considering a tree is fucking talking to her, I’m kinda of the opinion that Pocahontas is around as in tune with the spirit world as it’s possible to get. But no, the wind speaks to her and tells her that “strange clouds” are coming. She climbs a tree and sees a ship in the distance and realises that newcomers have arrived.

Judging by the size of their ship, they must be from Brobdingnag.

Judging by the size of their ship, they must be from Brobdingnag.

The Powhatans hold a meeting to decide what to do about all these foreigners who’ve just turned up and no doubt are going to start lowering property values and stealing American jobs. Powhatan asks Kekata to consult the spirit world to get the skinny on these crackers.

Oh sorry, George. Sorry. These "C-Words".

Oh sorry, George. Sorry. These “C-Words”.

Kekata says that the portents are dire.

Oh no, that's a common misunderstanding. Ravenous Wolves Devouring Women and Children is the symbol for change. Or it means you're going to be eaten by wolves.

Oh no, that’s a common misunderstanding. Ravenous Wolves Devouring Women and Children is the symbol for change. Or it means you’re going to be eaten by wolves.

Kocoum offers to lead a force against the English and crush them, just like they did with those filthy Massowomecks. Powhatan tells him to him to cool his jets and take a small party for recon. “Learn more about these pale visitors, and let us hope they do not intend to stay.”

Hope into one hand, Powhatan. Shit into the other. See which fills up first.

Hope into one hand, Powhatan. Shit into the other. See which fills up first.

Meanwhile, JOHN SMITH has gone off to find if there are any Indians about and Ratcliffe instructs the men to start digging for gold. Like, literally digging in the soil for it. He does this with the song Mine, which I quite like. There’s some clever wordplay and some good gags. See? I can be fair! But then it makes the mistake of cutting away from Ratcliffe to John exploring the wilderness and singing and oh my sweet Lord in heaven but Gibson cannot sing. I think I can say without any hesitation that this song is the single most offensive thing to ever come out of Mel Gibson’s mouth.

Anyway,the song over, John continues to explore but starts to feel that something in the forest is…watching him…

Predator-Vision

Alright, credit where credit’s due, the scene where Pocahontas cautiously stalks John through the forest is very well done, with a nicely atmospheric score and some downright beautiful human animation. I don’t like the more realistic style they used for the characters. I think their faces are too expressionless and overly complicated but they do move beautifully. Pocahontas especially, but then she’s animated by Glen Keane so what do you expect?

Smith lays in ambush and leaps out at her but doesn’t shoot because she’s hot and is just standing there, posing like she’s in a perfume ad.

Calvin Klein

Pocahontas runs off but Smith catches up to her and tries to talk to her.

"Hey, sugar tits."

“Hey, sugar tits.”

Now, surprisingly, the movie does not go the typical Disney route of just having everyone being able to speak English. Because this is a serious, important, give-us-an-Oscar-please-that’d-be-swell kind of movie, John Smith and Pocahontas can’t communicate with each other and have to find ways other than language to come to an understanding.

For about…oh, five seconds.

Then Pocahontas, I shit you not, “listens to her heart” and suddenly she can speak English. Really.

So, what? I just have to listen to the wind calling to me and I can speak any language I want? Well Rosetta Stone can kiss my ass!

So long, suckers!

So long, suckers!

Alright, so ignoring this rather egregious voodoo shark we return to the English camp. The men haven’t been having much luck digging gold right out of the goddamn ground (the devil you say!) and Ben and Ratcliffe have the following hilarious exchange:

Ben: We’re slaving away, busting our backs…

Ratcliffe: Fucking and country, I know…

Okay, okay, he actually says “For King and Country, I know” but I swear to God once you hear it you can’t unhear it.

Percy spots one of Kocoum’s men and Ratcliffe sounds the alarm. The English start firing wildly into the forest.

"You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?" "You ever dance with the red rooster in the pale moonlight?" "You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?"

“You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?”
“You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?”
“You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?”

One of Kocoum’s men (I want to say his name is Nanotek?) gets shot by Ratcliffe and the Powhatans break off the assault.

Back at Powhatan village Kekata tries to heal Nanoteck but he doesn’t have any experience treating gunshot wounds. Unfortunately, what’s needed here is an injection of tiny, microscopic robots that could repair the damage on a cellular level. Basically, Nanotek needs nanotech.

1801096-badum_tish_super

Powhatan says “These creatures invade our land, and now this!” but Means delivers the line so lifelessly that he might as well be saying “First, someone was in my parking space at work, and then there was no coffee left in the break room!”

Powhatan announces that they’re going to fight the English, but they can’t do it alone. He sends out a call to every tribe in the region to join them against the invaders.

Oh. God. Cameron. Whore. Etc and so forth.

Oh. God. Cameron. Whore. Etc and so forth.

Meanwhile, Pocahontas and John Smith are making good use of the Babel Fish and she’s telling him the names of the various places and rivers. He says that her funny foreign talk is funny, and she says that he has a very unusual name.

I’m sorry. No.

If you encountered an Amazon Tribe who had never before had any contact with civilization and told them that your name was “John Smith” they’d still ask you if your parents had an imagination-ectomy.

John shows her a handshake, and she shows him how Powhatans say “hello” which is apparently an interpretive dance that lasts like five minutes.

Meeko steals John’s compass but he says it’s fine, he’ll get another one in London (Really? How you going to find your way there, genius?). He describes it to Pocahontas as “a very big village”, because obviously that’s the only way her little native noggin can understand something so huge and complicated.

Pictured: Cahokia, a Native American city on the Mississippi with a population equal to contemporary Paris or London.

Pictured: Cahokia, a Native American city on the Mississippi with a population equal to contemporary Paris or London.

Smith then starts whitesplaining about how the English are going to make this place so much better and this leads us into Colours of the Wind. 

Eeeeerrraahahajahjeaaahahaajaahaajhalejhajalkjakjsakjf;kjkjlasjdffjfjkjlkja…

Oh this song.

Oh this. Fucking. Song.

Alright, let’s get this over with. The music by Alan Menken is actually very good. But Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics? Oh my sweet Lord in heaven. Okay, now I will be absolutely showering Schwartz in rose petals next time when we review Hunchback of Notre Dame, so don’t feel too sorry for him. I don’t have enough space here to go into everything that I detest about this song so I’m just going to cherry pick my least favorite lyrics.

You think the only people that are people…

You’re saying that as he’s pointing a gun at a bear. Bears aren’t people. .

The differences are subtle, yet many.

The differences are subtle, yet many.

Can you paint with all the colours of the wind?

Yup

Yup.

And we are all connected to each other, in a circle, in a hoop that never ends…

So, almost like a Circle of Life…?

"What the? I've been plagiarised!"

“What the? I’ve been plagiarised!”

"Geez, that's awful!"

“Geez, that’s awful!”

But okay, fine. Pocahontas and her people live in perfect harmony with all living things.

What about the Massowomecks

“What about the Massowomecks?”
“Man, FUCK the Massowomecks!”

How high does the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, you will never now…

Ah, of course. Because the Native Americans never cut down trees.

Behold! The might forests of Kansas!

Behold! The mighty forests of Kansas!

And I’m done.

Okay, so what’s next in this piece of shit?

Pocahontas and Smith are getting into some pretty steamy chaste hand holding when they hear the sound of drums. John asks what it means and Pocahontas says it means that baby, baby, baby, you are my voodoo child that there’s trouble a-brewin’.

Back at the camp, Ratcliffe is freaking out because they haven’t found any gold. But then he has an idea. He ask Wiggins why he thinks the Indians attacked them and Wiggins answers “Because we invaded their land, cut down their trees and dug up their earth?”

Wiggins?

THANK YOU!!!!!

 You are a little perfect speck of rationality and common sense in a sea of feculent idiocy. I love you. And I want to have your children.

But Ratcliffe says that clearly the Indians are hoarding the gold. He sends some of the men out looking for Smith who’s gone looking for Pocahontas so that he can poke her hontas. Heh heh heh.

No one else will ever be clever enough to think up THAT joke!

No one else will ever be clever enough to think up THAT joke!

Smith eventually comes back after a scene with Grandmother Willow that goes absolutely nowhere and finds that Ratcliffe is preparing for all out war against the Powhatans. Smith is shocked, shocked! that anyone is even considering killing Indians and demands that Ratcliffe stop what he’s doing. He tells the governor that the Powhatans are a noble, peaceful people who only want to live in harmony with all living things.

Um…is this a bad time to mention that the real Ratcliffe was eventually captured by the Powhatans, stripped naked, tied to a tree in front of a roaring fire and forced to watch as the tribeswomen sheared off hunks of his flesh with sharpened mussel shells which they then threw into the fire?

It’s a bad time, isn’t it?

Okay.

Smith leaves the camp to warn Pochaontas, and she leaves the village to warn him. They meet in the forest and talk about what they should do to stop the coming war. Then Percy, who’s been stalking Meeko all through this wretched burlesque, shows up and starts chasing him everywhere. Pocahontas tries to separate them and Smith says “See? Once two sides want to fight, nothing can stop them.”

...

...

"OH! I GET IT! IT IS A META-FOR!

“OH! I GET IT! IT IS A META-FOR!

Alright, well Pocahontas and Smith decide that they have to talk to Powhatan and try to prevent further bloodshed, and celebrate their decision with the kissing of lips with lips.

Unfortunately, they’ve both been followed. Kocoum has been looking for Pocahontas, whereas Thomas has been trailing Smith on Ratcliffe’s orders. Kocoum loses his goddamn shit when he sees the two kissing and attacks Smith. They tustle for a few seconds and Kokoum is about to cut Smith’s neck open when Thomas shoots him dead with his musket.

Oh my God…

No.

No!

KOCOUM NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

NOT KOCOUM! ANYONE BUT KOCOUM! TAKE ME LORD, BUT NOT HIM!!!

AAAAAAAARRRAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

ronburgundy

The only solace I can take from this, the first fatal shooting of an American, is that I’m sure they will learn from this tragedy and ensure that it never, ever happens again.

Oh, and as Kocoum keels over dead he pulls at Pocahontas’ necklace, breaking it. And she is clearly so much more distraught over the necklace than him it’s actually hilarious.

Well anyway, Kocoum’s dead (lucky bastard). Thomas runs off and the Powhatans arrive and think that Smith killed Kocoum. They drag him back to the village.

"He's drawn in a really weird perspective!" "You IDIOTS! We're all drawn in a really weird perspective!"

“He’s drawn in a really weird perspective!”
“You IDIOTS! We’re all drawn in a really weird perspective!”

 He’s held captive in a tent but Nakoma manages to smuggle Pocahontas inside to see him. She says that she’s so sorry but he just shrugs it off and says “What, for this? I’ve gotten out of worse scrapes.”

lethal_weapon_02

hANGINGexecutionmel-gibson-mug-shot_353x455.0.0.0x0.353x455_fullRotten tomatoes

Can’t argue with that.

Meanwhile Thomas runs back to the camp and raises the alarm. Ratcliffe seizes his chance and tells the men that they will attack the Indians at daybreak which leads us into the next song, Savages.

Savages, despite being a fairly transparent retread of Kill the Beast, is probably the best song in the movie because there is real emotion behind. Okay, yes, that emotion is pure seething hatred but at least they commit to it. In the song, Ratcliffe and Powhatan rile their followers into a blood frenzy and to be honest some of the racist rhetoric they use is pretty damn nasty. And you know what? Good. I don’t mind portrayals of racism in children’s movies as long as the movie makes it damn clear that it’s wrong. Look, you can criticise this movie for being a sanitised white washing of history, or you can criticise it for actually giving some sense of the absolutely virulent prejudice of the time. But you can’t do both.

The song takes us to our climax, where the Powhatans are preparing to execute Smith while the English are marching on their camp. Pocahontas is moping with Grandmother Willow when Meeko shows her Smith’s compass. And, oh look, a spinning arrow. Like in her dream. That’s…something. This apparently shows Pocahontas her true destiny (hatethismoviehatethismoviehatethismoviehatethismovie) and she goes off running to save John Smith OH JESUS!

She is actually drawing on the spirits of the animals to help her run faster.

Okay, 99.99999% of you will not get this next joke but I owe it to the people who will.

BRAVESTAAAAR!!!

BRAVESTAAAAR!!!

Pocahontas arrives just in time and lies on top of John to stop Powhatan from killing him with his club. He tells that he’s kind of in the middle of something here, could she please scootch? But she says that this is where the path of hatred has lead them and that she has chosen a different path: Lying on white guys.

Her words move Powhatan and he makes a gesture of peace to the English.

"He's lifting his club! SHOOT HIM!"

“He’s lifting his club! SHOOT HIM!”

The English and the Powhatans stand down, but Ratcliffe orders his men to attack. Even the English realise that would be a dick move at this point, so Ratcliffe grabs a rifle and shoots at Powhatan. John leaps in front of him with a half-hearted “No!”

OH COME ON!

If you’re going to take a bullet for someone it’s a full “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” or what is the fucking point?

Well anyway, John gets shot. Lucky bastard. The English take Ratcliffe prisoner and war is averted. But John is badly wounded (only wounded? Jeez, Kocoum was a pussy!) and they have no choice but to take him back to England for treatment.

I really don’t like the implication that Native American medicine is so backward that a fucking four month voyage gives him a better change of survival but whatever, we’re getting to the end of this.

Pocahontas and the Powhatans arrive at the shore to give the English some supplies for their voyage and presumably to make sure the door to the continent doesn’t hit their asses on the way out. Pocahontas and John Smith say their last goodbyes.

"Are you sure it's okay to leave Ratcliffe here with you?" "Oh yeah. We know how to deal with "shellfish" men. He won't be "musselling" in anywhere else." "Ha!...I don't get it."

“Are you sure it’s okay to leave Ratcliffe here with you?”
“Oh yeah. We know how to deal with “shellfish” men. He won’t be “musselling” in anywhere else.”
“Ha!…I don’t get it.”

And the movie ends with Pocahontas watching from a cliff as his ship returns to England. And they all lived happily ever after.

Rule 3 can bite me.

Rule 3 can bite me.

***

Pocahontas was not a flop, not by any means. The momentum that Disney had built up in the previous six years ensured that any new movie they made would do well and it had the largest movie premiere in history. As the public slowly came to terms with the fact that they had been promised steak and served shoe leather, the box office began to tail off and in the end Pocahontas would make far less than Lion King.  I think Pocahontas did serious harm to Disney’s image, in the same way that Cars damaged Pixar years later. A movie studio that had seemed unstoppable had finally stumbled, and it caused quite a serious break in the Renaissance’s momentum. I’ll be honest, if it hadn’t been for this movie, I think Hunchback and Mulan would today be considered as good or better as the Fearsome Four. But because of Pocahontas, they fell victim to the narrative that Disney movies weren’t “as good” any more.

As you’ve probably guessed, I hate this movie. I actually probably dislike it more than any other film in the canon (full disclosure, I haven’t yet seen a lot of the ones made after the turn of the millennium so maybe that’ll change). If it wasn’t for the excellent animation and music it would probably be the lowest scoring movie that we’ve covered so far. Is there anything good I can say about it?

Well…

It is at least better in its portrayal of Native Americans than their last attempt.  Sure, they’ve swopped out the old stereotypes for some new ones but they did at least try to do better. And yes, full credit has to be given for casting Native Americans in all the Powhatan roles. In its way, it is a step forward, however inelegant and stumbling. It’s not always easy for the mainstream to adjust its view and give an honest and faithful look at the world from a minority perspective. It’s a constant learning process, and at least now Disney can learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that the next time they portray Native Americans it will be in a complex, honest  and respectful fashion.

Hah ha! Oh that Johnny! Such a card! Ha ha...seriously, where's his real costume?

Hah ha! Oh that Johnny! Such a card!
Ha ha…seriously, where’s his real costume?

Scoring

Animation: 15/20

Technically excellent but lacking in flair and I don’t like the more realistic character designs.

The Leads: 03/20

Honestly, if Irene Bedard wasn’t able to inject a smidgen of humanity into this ungodly written Mary Sue it would be a one. And Mel Gibson? If I didn’t make it clear before: FUCK MEL GIBSON.

The Villain: 12/20

Pretty unthreatening, but entertaining enough.

Supporting Characters: 04/20

That four is ALL Wiggins and Nakoma. All of it. The rest get nothing.

Die.

Die.

The Music: 10/20

Menken gives excellent Menken, but I cannot stand the lyrics.

FINAL SCORE: 44%

NEXT TIME:

Hunchback

NEXT UPDATE: 25th July 2013

Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday. Thanks for reading!

150 comments

      1. You didn’t like the sequel either? I mean, I had only seen it once or twice a long time ago and barely remember it, so I don’t have much of an opinion on it.

  1. I’ve said it before but I honestly don’t hate this movie. In fact, I’m pretty ambivalent to it. There are elements I like and elements I think are stupid and terrible and it basically evens out in the end. So let’s just itemize them, shall we?

    Things I like: Most of the songs (Steady as a Beating Drum is the only one I don’t care for at all). The animation style. Ratcliffe and Wiggins. Nakoma. Ben and Lon (the Scottish settler and his friend), though I will admit that’s almost entirely because BIlly Connolly is awesome.

    Things I don’t like: Pocahontas and John Smith. All of the side characters I didn’t mention above. How goddam stupid every character is. The fact that Colors of the Wind beat You’ve Got a Friend in Me for the Oscar for Best Original Song (which really should not have any bearing on whether or not I like the movie but this really bugs me).

    So yeah, in the end it evens out to a net zero.

    Except for one thing. One glorious thing that will forever make me think of this movie somewhat fondly. When I was probably 8 or 9, my family decided to watch this movie. Among this group was my uncle, at the time a 30 year old comic book geek with a love of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (did I mention that he’s an awesome uncle?). So during the movie, he began making sarcastic remarks. I thought they were all funny at the time because I thought everything he did was funny but I don’t remember any of them today. Except one. At the very end of the movie when John Smith is on the boat and Pocahontas is on the cliff watching him, during a closeup of Pocahontas’ face, he decided to chime in with “Oh no! I lent him my GameBoy and he didn’t give it back!” This has since become a running joke in my family and has caused a great deal of laughter among us so for that reason, I think of this movie positively. Not because of any of the movies own merits, but because of a stupid joke my uncle made while we were watching it.

    1. No way. No way! That condescending New-Age tripe beat ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’? Asrhvdsfjkgfgjafdajfdhfhgfhfhfhfgfgwroiqk…

      1. Toy Story came out on November 22, 1995 (in the US at least). Pocahontas came out June 23 of 95. Deprived Randy Newman of probably his most deserved Oscar. Thank god he finally got one for Monster’s Inc

      2. I will admit that I am heavily biased as Toy Story was one of the first movies I saw in theaters and is still to this day one of my favorite movies, but I respectfully disagree with you Jayden-G. Colors of the Wind is a rather pretentious song that tries too hard to be deep and poetic. By contrast, You’ve Got a Friend in Me is a song which uses simplicity to it’s advantage, to convey it’s message of friendship and ends up being more profound that Colors because it so perfectly captures the feeling of love between two best friends

      3. I actually must agree with Jayden-G. I love “Colors of the wind”, which I find very beautiful and atmospheric, while I really don’t care for “You’ve got a friend”, which I only find terribly boring.

      1. I am kind of guilty with that one mouse, and it is alright Lobo. I did not mean to bash the latter, but Colors of the Wind just bonds together better: the lyrics, score, instruments, etc. It is supposed to be big, and it works (at least for me). You’ve got a Friend in Me is a good song and the simplicity works to its advantage, but some of the lyrics are a by weird, and Randy’s voice is not the best here. To each their own

  2. Thanks, Mouse. That’s ninety-odd minutes of my life saved, by the sounds of things. I have watched Nostalgia Chick’s review though, and something that struck me was how immobile their faces were. This seems like a wasted opportunity to me because one of the greatest things about animation is the emotion and expression that can be wrung out of the characters. (Example: I saw Monsters University the other day, and the amount of emotion coming out of Mike – an eyeball with legs! – is just astounding. The slightest little tweak of his mouth and you see all these subtle and complex expressions like ‘a spark of hope, mixed with wary trust, in the midst of utter heartbreak and self-loathing.’) It’s kind of strange that Disney gave us a faceless carpet that had more expression than these human characters in the same few years. Pocahontas doesn’t so much as squeak when she jumps off that cliff – doesn’t whoop, doesn’t shriek in terror, nothin’.
    Oh, hey, and something I forgot to mention about Osamu Tezuka when you did TLK: he originally based his graphic style on old Disney cartoons, at least in part. That’s where the big, glittery eyes came from. (It’s the cir-cle, the cir-cle of inspiration/ appropriation/ plagiariiiiism!)
    Finally, here’s the video I mentioned before but was too lazy to link – ‘After Ever After’. It’s a one-man, a capella choir medley parodying Renaissance Disney songs. Enjoy.

      1. *clenched fist of victory* Yessss! I’m taking that tiny compliment as a massive compliment, because I also want to make a career out of writing, so that means a lot coming from you.
        (Speaking as Amelia to Neil, rather than Alchemist to Mouse – if you’re interested, my first play which I wrote two years ago for my old high school got published this year, much to my surprise: http://www.phoenixeduc.com/shop/item/the-glass-street-ghost . I actually love seeing your career-related posts, because I sort of think of you as a kind of male Irish me in the future NO YOU’RE WEIRD AND CREEPY.)

      2. I actually am Male Irish You from the future. Long story short, a few years from now you mess with the wrong people and have to go deep undercover. Like, “Change your citizenship/gender reassignment surgery/steal a time machine” deep cover. I will definitely read it! Congratulations, you legend!

      3. Uh-oh. I knew complaining about inaccurately represented Australian fauna would get me in trouble sooner or later. They’re sending the homeless dogs in sunglasses after me, aren’t they?
        (But – but – but my play costs money and I read your blog for free! I am not worthy!)

      4. Well, I’m doing a Creative Writing course full-time at university, but I have two plays in production at the moment – my old school again, giving me a leg-up. Right now, there’s another school play I’m working on, based on the ‘Odyssey’, not for anyone but it might come in handy in the future. School plays have accidentally become my niche since ‘Glass Street Ghost’, because there are so few of them written specifically for schools by people who actually care about things like plot and three-dimensional characters. There’s also a steampunkish dystopian novel I’ve been trying to write for years.

      5. Oh my Alan, really? Okay. There is one thing that I have had no meaningful feedback on. It’s being performed on August 2 this year. My old school asked me to write it for the House Drama competition this year (we had Houses like in Harry Potter at my school, it was awesome), so I wrote it to be fun and ridiculous in keeping with the spirit of the event.
        It’s called ‘Shift’, and it’s about a handful of typical fantasy novel stereotypes who journey through different genres in search of careers more suited to their personalities. The comic sidekick wants more out of life than bruises and one-liners, the princess is sick of the hero’s self-centred bullshit, and the demands of villainy are taking their toll on the sensitive and hopelessly romantic Dark Lord Bloodslayer.
        Feedback – especially of the constructive variety – would be much appreciated, since I’m hoping to offer it to other schools afterwards. What’s your email address?

  3. Okay, now I REALLY can’t wait for your review of Hunchback after you said that Pocahontas did more damage to the film then Hunchback deserved on its own merits. Maybe my nostalgia for Pocahontas has blinded me to many of your honest complaints about characters, but seems like Hunchback as a whole gets worse and worse for me as I grow older, Feels like a great movie held back by “Disney standards.”

    1. I guess it depends what you prefer…I don’t think that Hunchback would have been considered as great, even without Pocahontas in the mix. The movie has one of the most generic love-stories ever, boring characters and it just can’t stick to one tone. But at least Hunchback took chances and has some moments which really stick out, while Pocahontas is evenly mediocre.

      I agree though that Mulan would have gotten a lot more love if it had hit the theatres at the start of the Disney Renaissance and not the end. It’s a genuinely good movie and I look forward to this review.

      1. Phoebus and Esmeralda’s relationship is supposed to be secondary, unlike Pocahontas and John Smith’s (my article on the former will be posted today), but they are more interesting that the ones in this movie.

      2. That’s hardly a feat. But being better that Pocahontas and John doesn’t make it good. But you read my By the Book review about Hunchback already, right, so I won’t repeat what I wrote there.

      3. Hunchback is my favorite Disney movie ever, so I will restrain myself from disagreeing with you so hard I through my back out. For now. 😄

        Though I will say I was under the impression that Mulan was rather universally loved? I can’t think of one person to whom I’d say “How do you like Mulan?” and they’d say “Enh, it’s all right.”

  4. *sigh* This was the first Disney movie that disappointed me, but I just can’t find it in myself to hate it. I do like the songs, even “Virginia Company” (is it sad that the one thing that irks me about the song is the phrase “for glory, God, and gold” because that was a Spanish motto, and Spain was the mortal enemy of England at the time?) And I’m going to have to defend the “in a circle, in a hoop that never ends” line because the Sacred Hoop was a Native motif long before Disney Africanized it for some lion movie (Disney, you whore! 😉 ) Anyway . . .

    Wiggins is awesome, I agree. But to give him all the supporting character points . . . Mouse, don’t you think you owe one Supporting Character point to Nakoma, if for no other reason than she emoted more than all the other Native characters combined? *puppy eyes* Pweeese?

  5. I hate this movie too, but nevertheless, I think it deserves more credit for the score (I agree about the lyrics with the exception of Savages and Mine, Mine, Mine, those lyrics are really clever and I can’t express how angry I am that the watered Savages down later on) and a lot more credit for the animation. It’s gorgeous! I admit, the realistic style is a little bit difficult to get used to, but there is a lot of beauty in it, and a lot of work. I especially love the colour scheme.
    A little sad that you skipped over Nakoma, she is an interesting character (I wish the movie were about her….)

    Love your review (and I got the joke, even though mostly because I have a sing for 80s and 90s animated shows with kick-ass openings, even if I never watched the show in itself), you more or less pointed out the weak spot of the movie and I’m glad that you argued based on plot (plot? what plot?) and characters. (BTW, I think that the way the settlers are portrayed is just as insulting and stereotypical as the portrayal of the natives)

    I think the true reason why this movie failed so badly is because “girl rescues boy by telling her father not to kill him” is a very shitty premise for any movie. As climax, it’s a whole bit of nothing.

    The other mistake was including a villain at all. If you make a movie about a topic like that, you should show that humans can succumb to their own prejudices without someone “evil” there to prompt them.

    1. oh, btw, was A Goofy movie done by the animation studios? I thought it was done by the toon studios who also did the TV show

      1. Ah…that explains why it’s so much better than most of the stuff the Toon studios (yes, I know, Toon Studios is not correct, but the history of that particular wing of Disney is so complicated, I just say that all the productions done for TV are done by them, even though it’s not really correct) dish out movie-wise

  6. Good review , I still like the infestation of pointless animal characters…well Meeko mainly , don’t care about Flit or Percy. I’m not as a big a fan of Wiggins as you , I like him for comic relief purposes but apart from the moment of blatant honesty regarding what the English were doing he was just a bit of an odd-ball character.

    Also question about a good point you made, the part where they send John smith back after he’s been shot…with a shipping fleet (right word , I don’t know?) would they not have had a ship doctor sailing with them , particularly given the presence of Ratcliffe? It only dawned on me after you said it.

    This was my favourite Disney movie growing up until I re-watched it a few times. I was pretty disappointed with it. Particularly given that it was post Beauty and the Beast , the little mermaid and Aladdin. I wish they had developed the leads better and given more time and more of a role to Nakoma. Anyway I’m just waffling on at this stage.

    It was a good review and as always I enjoyed the read.

    1. I assume they would have a doctor on board. I don’t know if the medical facilities back in London would be much better than what was on the ship. Either way he’s probably not going to get much better than “prayers and leeches”.

    2. Ship doctors were usually not very good…they were basically the kind of doctors who couldn’t work anywhere else. And considering that the part about John Smith getting send home for healing after he got shot is actually true, I don’t think to much about it…I just think that it doesn’t make much sense that they act as if this is a goodbye forever. In the reality of the movie, I really don’t see why John Smith can’t travel back as soon as he is healthy again.

      1. Okay, that makes sense. Yeah they really do. Didnt she eventually travel to England? Not specifically for smith but for another reason?

      2. She actually was first held prisoners by the settlers, then forced into marriage with John Rolf and basically kidnapped to England. During her time there the Pocahontas legend became shape, I suspect mostly because the society was fascinated by her. During this time John Smith told the story about her rescuing him for the first time, so you should take this with a grain of salt. She died shortly after. Which isn’t exactly surprising. Natives Americans were not equipped to deal with a lot of illnesses the Europeans were already gotten used to (and the other way around).

  7. I was 9/10 when this came out and when I first saw it was under the impression I really enjoyed it. So, I never really understood why all subsequent viewings ended about 10 minutes in.

    I realise now it was because I’d put it in the video player, watch a bit, get bored, turn it off and do something else.

    I now understand why.

      1. I’m enjoying it thoroughly! Never really thought too hard about the Disney films of my childhood and finding pretty much every entry an eye opener.

  8. A new Nostalgia Critic AND a new Unshaved Mouse review on my birthday? What a great surprise. 😀

    Anyways, I really don’t think I remember Pocahontas coming out in theaters. Granted I was 5 at the time and I’m sure I went to see it, but all of the other Disney animated movies from the 1993 Snow White re-release on I actually remember going to see in the theaters. I guess it just didn’t leave any impression on me (then again, Toy Story came out the same year and I was really into that so my memories of it probably just got overshadowed). To be honest I never really got into any of the Pocahontas-to-Tarzan Renaissance films in the way that I was into the Walt-era films or the Little Mermaid-to-Lion King films. Hell, I think I watched Oliver and Company more than I watched Pocahontas. Maybe I was just getting older and more set in my ways, I don’t know.

    But enough of my nostalgic ramblings, let’s talk about Pocahontas. And by “talk” I mean “agree with pretty much everything you said”. I watched it for the first time in years last December, and holy crap was it tough to sit through. Like you said I really don’t have a problem with the historical inaccuracies, it’s just that this film is so… awkward to watch. Definitely the first Disney movie since The Aristocats for me to really have that “designed by committee” feel to it (and unfortunately not the last, as you’ll later see with a lot of the films they made in the Millennium). This was actually the first Disney movie in which Consumer Products had a say in the way that the film was made, and I mean that quite literally – people from the merchandising department would sit in on the animator’s story meetings and throw out “suggestions” for scenes (there’s a bit in the film where Meeko braids Pocahontas’ hair, a scene which serves no other purpose than to be recreated as a toy where kids could “braid” Pocahontas Barbie’s hair with an electric Meeko braiding toy). While they were held off for most of the 1990s, when Peter Schneider left his job as the head of Feature Animation in 1999, Michael Eisner greatly expanded their power over the films when he set up the Strategic Planning Division – a bureaucratic department led by executives who had final say over every project that the company had in development, and would only green light a film/TV show/theme park ride if it tied back into a franchise or could be easily merchandised. Thankfully it was one of the first things to go when Bob Iger stepped in the door, but it still remains the center of a pretty dark period in the company’s history.

  9. Awesome review, but I have to point out that it wasn’t a dick move for Ben to want to leave Thomas behind- if sailors fall into water then that’s it. They’re gone, and it’d be stupid and dangerous to try get them back (but John Smith is superman apparently so whateves).

  10. Interesting review! I just thought I’d show up as… one of the few FANS of the movie. Ha.

    Seriously, I am. I always put it this way: I’m a fan of this movie, in that we can be fans of “not-so-good” movies. I’m well-aware that this movie is technically not close to being Disney’s better movies at all.
    I liked this movie because I like the (Myth and true story, simultaneously) of Pocahontas. And yeah–this movie does work for me as simply another take on her story. I’ve seen other adaptations of her story, and honestly this is actually one of the more entertaining ones! Go figure. Another big factor in my devotion to this movie is the ANIMATION. Sure, it’s not flashy or fun, but I think it’s often incredible. Disney really did something different, with the look of this movie. I can’t deny that. I still think it’s one of the most unique-looking movies in their canon.
    The songs weren’t up to the usual Disney standards, but I think they were all uniformly good in the context of the movie, not in the context of Disney history. I will concede that “Colors of the Wind” is a polarizing song because while Menken injected it with superb instrumentation, Schwartz went the didactic route with the lyrics, which is always unnerving.

    Now with the flaws of the movie:
    I agree that Pocahontas the character was too “Flawless”, probably ’cause they tried to hard to be p.c. Yes, she was boring. But she looked great and did cool things, which is shallow but fun to watch. All the other characters, white or Native American, fared even worse. No need to explain.
    The story is slow and weak, I agree. I don’t even need to point them out, as you already did.

    We all know the back story (hinted in the introductory quote of your review): “Pocahontas” started out like any of the other great Disney Renaissance films, but ultimately was marred by the “design-by-committee” efforts of Katzenberg and company. This is also a story as old as time: Once a group/society becomes successful at something, it can lead to corruption, greed and misguided intentions.

    To sum it up: When someone creates a work of art purely for art, it will feel real. When they don’t (“Let’s make an Oscar-worthy movie with this!”), it shows.

    Simple as that.

      1. Oh yeah. Of course. And like I said: even “not-so-good” movies have fans. We can like something, and know it’s not very good!!!
        I’ve always been strangely, strangely drawn to “Pocahontas”. To this day, even. If anything, it’s just very interesting to see all the discordant elements of this movie tied together through splendid animation!
        And as a footnote, I love the best Disney movies too. So it’s not like I have poor taste, ha.. but sometimes it’s interesting when something isn’t “perfect”. And there’s nothing more imperfect than this one!

  11. If you thought the animal sidekicks were already insufferable, not only was it planned at first that the animals would talk, but Pocahontas was meant to have a THIRD one! A turkey voiced by John Candy! Would that have helped…ehh, most likely not. Like you said about Wiggins, even John Candy couldn’t have saved this movie.

    I watched this almost immediately after the Lion King review two weeks ago, and not only was it boring as hell, it felt like a realm missed opportunity, because historical inaccuracies aside, the premise never felt broken, just sorely misused. Immediately after Pocahontas I watched Mulan, which holds up extremely better.

    Mouse, this has got to be one of your funniest reviews yet. “Fucking country” had me cracking up in the middle of work, and your Bravestarr reference was so clever I am now genuinely surprised no other reviewer has done it before. I do agree with you that, all things considered, Radcliffe was not the worst part about the film, but I still really hate him, on the grounds that his character type would show up a few more times in Disney movies, all of them far more detestable.

    So the Hunchback review is coming out on my birthday? Awesome!

    1. I seem to have contradicted myself; if John Candy were to be included in the film as is, not as a different or altered one, definitely still wouldn’t have been a saving grace.

      1. Scorpio, I disagree.
        The turkey, which had a name “Redfeather”, was part of a DIFFERENT version of “Pocahontas”–an initial conception–before its death-by-committee, c/o Katzenberg’s lofty ideals, shortly after.

        Would you believe that talking candlesticks and clocks could make an epic movie like “Beauty and the Beast”? Don’t bash an idea til you see it.

        By all accounts, “Pocahontas” was originally supposed to feature a younger heroine and hero, who were consequently less statuesque and “serious”, and with talking animals–which was more akin to the true Disney spirit of imagination and fun.

        Obviously, we’ll never know how it would’ve turned out. But it sounded like it had one MAJOR thing going for it: It wasn’t taking itself so seriously, which is what ultimately lead this movie off the rails into a misguided project.

      2. It as in development since 1990, and he passed in 1994, so I think the turkey was included in the newer version as well. I saw earlier drafts, and it reminds me of Aladdin. I think the earlier draft would have still been more offensive.

      3. “the earlier draft would have still been offensive.”
        -….. I sense biasness here. Like I said: Who would’ve thought talking objects would’ve worked for Beauty and the Beast? On paper, it’s terrible.

      4. What I meant by that is that with the original draft, they were going to make it something along the lines of Aladdin. Apparently, it was supposed to be a huge comedy, and the natives would have been upset that Disney mane their history a joke, and by making the characters look like stereotypical Natives (the feather on her head, the Tiger-Lily dress) the stereotypical native outfit. It would have been extremely insensitive to the Natives with what the original draft was going to be like, it is not me being biased.

        I never said that it would not work, I just said that it could most likely would have been even more offensive. It might have worked, but still offend a lot of people even more than what we got in the end.

      5. Fair enough. But not sound like a know-it-all lol: those drawings were prolly just concept drawings. They weren’t exactly polished finals.

  12. Great review. I agree with practically everything you said (despite it being a guilty pleasure). I do agree with you that it did to Disney as what Cars did to Pixar.

    The characters and the main relationships could have been more developed, but I do not think Poca is a Mary-Sue (or more than Belle). She is indecisive, and avoids confrontation (with her father about Kocuom, and with him himself). The plot is non-existent in the first half, and contrived in the second.

    The animation and music is great though.

    This film may be bad, but some of the Post-Renaissance films makes this look like The Lion King…. I am not kidding. It is a shame that people overlooked the 4 latter films because this film disappointed. Cannot wait for your next review.

  13. Awesome review (as always)! Pocahontas is one of the few Disney movies that I’d honestly say I enjoyed much more as a child than an adolescent (seriously though, I’m really a 15-year-old reading your blog). This movie was a childhood favorite of mine and it remained one of my favorites growing up. Last year, I re-watched Pocahontas, expecting it to be some kind of overlooked gem in the Disney canon and I nearly fell asleep through the middle of the film. It was a bit of a boring experience watching it again but I can’t say that it is as awful as most people make it out to be. It’s not that bad but it isn’t very good either so my overall opinion on Pocahontas is very… meh.

    I’d agree that the main problem with it is that the majority of the characters are extremely dull. Pocahontas and John Smith are quite possibly the most boring Disney couple ever. Even Taran and Princess Eilonwy are a better and more interesting Disney couple than them. The side characters (except for Wiggins and Nakoma) are largely useless and serve little to no purpose in the story. Ratcliffe is also one of my least favorite Disney villains in the canon.

    But there are two things about this movie that hold it back from being completely horrible; the gorgeous animation and the outstanding music. Pocahontas, whilst not a good film, is both a good-looking and good-sounding film. This movie has some of the best songs in any Disney movie, IMO. Nakoma would have to be my favorite character because, as you already stated in the review, she’s like the only one who managed to have a genuine personality compared to everybody else in this movie.

    PS: Can’t wait for your review of Hunchback! It’s my favorite Disney flick yet, flaws and all! 🙂

  14. The only part I hated about Hunchback of Notre Dame was the gargoylesn, and Quasimodo’s singing. Other than that I loved it.

    1. The gargoyles, I honestly don’t hate them that much but Quasimodo’s singing voice isn’t that bad. These are like my least favorite things about the movie, too.

  15. I dunno, I’ve always liked this movie. I guess it’s just a matter of “This thing that bothers you doesn’t particularly bother me.” I have the capacity to be interested in/amused by pretty much anything ^o^

    Everyone rips on the extended opening before the title shows, and Pocahontas herself not actually showing up until a while in, but that’s actually something I quite like. It’s funny since that sort of extended opening in a book would annoy me (fuck you A Tale of Two Cities, fuck you very much), but because there’s actual stuff going on in it, I find it a really enjoyable way to set up the atmosphere and the minor characters. I’m kinda a sucker for ensemble casts so anything intimating towards that is okay by me.

    You’re UNTIL THE WHITE MAN CAME had me cracking up every time.

    I’m pretty sure Irene Bedard was also in Smoke Signals, which is an indie film based on “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” by Sherman Alexie, who’s probably the most successful contemporary Indian writer (which isn’t saying much, sadly). If you ever get a chance to look up the movie or the book, go for it; they’re both quite good. This would be an example of Getting It Right, I think, but that’s because it was actually made by Indians about Indians for…well, everyone, I suppose.

    1. So, Hunchback is your favorite Disney movie, eh? Same here. Us Hunchback fans ought to stick together and defend the movie for its many flaws in time for UM’s next review! ^_^

      1. I am actually inclined to view HoND as almost entirely flawfree. I don’t even dislike the gargoyles, which I know is like blasphemy to admit in any Disney forum. I find the dated-CGI crowd scenes more annoying than the gargoyles, and then that’s more of a LOL-inducing thing than a teeth-grinding thing.

      2. I have to agree with you on the gargoyles. They don’t particularly ruin the movie for me either and I think there are way worse Disney sidekicks within the canon. But I actually never noticed the CGI crowds looking that dated. I guess I’ve been looking to much at the beautiful backgrounds and character animation rather than the movie’s atmosphere as a whole.

      3. I didn’t notice the CGI crowds for YEARS, but now I can’t unsee them and it’s a bit jarring, compared to how spectacular the hand-drawn animation is. But it’s more amusing than movie-ruining for me.

  16. So glad to see a fellow fan here.

    I agree w/ you: Even though I know it’s weak points, I still enjoy this movie. I never said it was great.

    I’m not saying everyone is like this, but many haters of this movie simply love being “hatchet artists”, I believe. They just like to gang up on something weak.

  17. I have to be honest; I think if it HAD been more accurate to history, with some creative liberties taken, Pocahontas would have been a much better movie. I think it would have worked well if the movie had featured most of her life as a coming of age story. I remember when I was in fifth grade and my class went to see a play about Pocahontas…from what I remember it showcased her life in a way that was accurate but did not show us the gory details, and it kept our attention.

    From what I’ve heard, the Disney company had a great opportunity to show us a better movie that was historically accurate IF they had listened to the current Powhatan tribe at the time. Yes, the Powhatan tribe wanted to offer input, because who better than them would provide the best source material Disney could draw from?

    But nope. According to Chief Roy Crazy Horse, this is what happened:

    “In 1995, Roy Disney decided to release an animated movie about a Powhatan woman known as “Pocahontas”. In answer to a complaint by the Powhatan Nation, he claims the film is “responsible, accurate, and respectful.”

    We of the Powhatan Nation disagree. The film distorts history beyond recognition. Our offers to assist Disney with cultural and historical accuracy were rejected. Our efforts urging him to reconsider his misguided mission were spurred. ”

    Read more here: http://www.powhatan.org/pocc.html

    Now, I’m sure there is a side to every story, but unless I hear a good reason why Roy Disney did this, it brings down some of the great respect I have for him. I’ve always believed that if you are telling a true story about a real person, you have to be extremely careful in your way of telling it, and this case Disney was not.

  18. Guess I’m in the minority of people who enjoy this movie. Not my favorite by a long shot, but I’m never bored watching it. I honestly think Meeko, Flit and Percy do a great job adding some levity to the story. I always thought the character animation on Meeko, (his facial expressions and timing) are some of the best animation done during the Renaissance period. In any case I’ll take Pocahontas ten times over before watching Brother Bear again.

  19. Something I noticed: the movie seemed to forget the first scene between John Smith and Pocahontas, as ridiculous as it was. Pocahontas seems to be able to communicate with Thomas when he tells her that Smith will die if he stays. and vice versa with Smith when Chief Powhatan calls him his brother.

    1. Then again, they all must have been “listening to their hearts.”

      Also, I don’t think anyone would expect a Jungle Book movie to make a reference to India’s struggle for independence from British rule, because that’s not what it’s about. It would be more criticized for not staying true to the book, which it didn’t; also, it’s fiction. Pocahontas IS a true story of both our history and the Powhatan tribe’s, which is why it would be criticized for not staying true to history.

  20. Well, I like Pocahontas’s two songs (“Just around the riverbend” and “Colors of the wind”). But yeah, most of this movie is just mediocre. And even though the ending is actually historically correct, I still don’t like it.

      1. Fair enough.

        But I think it’s so cliche to hate this movie, the way you did. Hate the game, not the player. Ha.

        This movie has epic moments that still take my breath away.

  21. There’s some merit, bitch! Stunning art direction and design. Ha. I know cliches are what they are for a reason. I’m just not letting up.

  22. I’m actually kind of surprised how many people I know like “Pocahontas.” It has some of the lowest ratings for Disney standards (6.4 on IMDb, 56% on Rotten Tomatoes) and yet a strong fan base. Heck, I was even surprised Siskel and Ebert liked it!
    (In their review, I think it was implied that Siskel would rank this over “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.” If that’s true, then I am depressed.)

      1. Ebert started his written review for “Pocahontas” with this: ‘Pocahontas’ is the best-looking of the five recent Disney animated movies.

        Suck it, haters.

  23. To all the haters, I finally found a voice of (very reasonable) defense of this movie–while handily acknowledging its weaknesses as well. I wish people would be more measured and constructive in their criticism of “Pocahontas”, as this:

    http://www.dallasobserver.com/1995-06-22/film/uncharted-waters/

    Best insights from this article:

    Of all the big-budget, feature-length cartoons released by Disney in the past six years, this one– this is the most original, daring, and flawed.

    Pocahontas paddles through uncharted waters, occasionally banging the banks, sliding over rocks, even threatening to sink. But I always applauded its courage.

    It’s only through movies like Pocahontas that an art form long viewed as a pacifier for wide-eyed children, both young and old, can finally grow up.

    Flawed art has its virtues. What a concept!

      1. I knew someone was gonna make that point. And actually, I agree–but this article was obviously written before “Hunchback”, so it should be seen in that context. Again, I don’t expect you to have a change of heart about “Pocahontas”. I simply want to voice the opposition, praising the virtues of this movie more 🙂

        I don’t know if this particular issue has been addressed on here, but: Disney does deserve credit for trying something new with “Pocahontas”–in terms of subject, style, and themes… Ultimately, they failed, yes. But they really stepped into a new direction with this movie, when they could have been complacent w/ the more kid-friendly films. And yes, they went even further with “Hunchback”, with varying degrees of more/less success….

        In fact, I will quote another article from the time of its release, by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine:

        “Disney deserves praise for raising the ante on its ambitions in animation. Next time, though, a little less civics lesson and a little more heart.”

        Word.

      1. No problem. BTW, I recognized that beginning quote from “Waking Sleeping Beauty” (which I just got for Christmas) right off the bat. I had literally just watched it a month or two before I read this review.

  24. As a “Simpsons” fan, I loved how you compared Wiggins to Waylon Smithers! In fact, there is a piece of DIALOGUE from “The Simpsons” episode “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” that reminded me of a similar conversation from Disney’s Pocahontas, in which the bad guy admits to his (good-hearted and effeminate!) manservant that NOBODY likes him, even though his manservant both reassuringly and ENTHUSIASTICALLY tells him that HE likes him:

    Ratcliffe: I’ve never been a POPULAR man.
    Wiggins: I like you.
    – Disney’s “Pocahontas”

    ————————————————————————–

    Mr. Burns:(frowns) I thought I had everything: money, good looks, strong, sharp teeth. But what’s it all worth when nobody likes you?
    Smithers: I like you, sir.
    – The Simpsons episode “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” (season 10)

  25. I can’t help but wonder…if Disney wanted to take on Native American mythology, why didn’t they do an adaptation of Hiawatha?

    Yes, I know they did a short cartoon in the thirties or forties of “Little Hiawatha.” But a more-or-less straight adaptation of Longfellow’s poem would probably have been more in line with what Disney liked to do. It had fantasy elements (with Hiawatha’s animal buddies), plenty of spotlighting of Native American culture, the romance between Hiawatha and Minnehaha, and plenty of heroics. And if they wanted to end it on a happy note, they could just pull a Happily Ever Before and only adapt the parts of the poem that take place BEFORE Minnehaha’s death.

    Plus, although Hiawatha was apparently a real person, his life is far more shrouded in myth and legend than Pocahontas’ was, so by sticking mainly to the poem instead, they’re less straitjacketed by history and wouldn’t be messing around with it to suit their purposes.

    (Maybe they could begin it with a prologue of Longfellow being inspired to write the poem.)

  26. Y’know, I think it may probably be another sign of my age that I don’t completely hate Pocahontas. I can understand why it isn’t as liked so much by other viewers, but it came out when my sister and I were toddlers, so Pocahontas became the new, cool Disney princess on the block for my sis. Well, until Mulan came along and totally showed her up, being Mulan. Though I still was actually kind of surprised the first time you casually mentioned it being bad as if that was just something everyone knew. The plot is pretty meh, I guess, but it has catchy enough songs that I have at least two of them on my iPod (I have three from Tarzan, does that cancel it out enough?), and its animation is good enough that it seriously showed The Little Mermaid up during a movie marathon we had once (we were certain the screen needed adjusting for the first few moments of The Little Mermaid). Fancily-coloured leaves are fun.

    Also, if a cynical promotional tool to advance your writing career is what this series of reviews was, let me tell you, it worked. You’ve got me hooked hard and I’m really enjoying your book series. Well, pandering aside (and considering it’s all you get for posting these, I hope mine suffices), I’m glad you decided to take the higher road even with this panning. Especially considering that it would kind of be going out of its way to address the cruelty of the settlers later on, you have stated before that Disney does not do bleak, so I don’t think it would make much sense. That said, you did say one of Song of the South’s failings was that it made the relationship between Remus and his former owner lack the tension it should, but then again, that was ignoring something that would have happened before the story, not after.

    Ha ha, I remember learning that the sucker who got John Smith screwed was actually Batman. Probably kind of a nasty moment for any fans of those movies. Also, dang I watched Nostalgia Chick’s review of Pocahontas and she had the exact comment on Smith’s introduction as you did. Apparently that’s not hard to miss. Guess who missed it. Yeah, speaking of that, I guess that review was Lindsay’s first and she’s gotten much better since way back then, but wow, this one kind of showed it up. On a level of Pocahontas’s animation’s showing up the Little Mermaid. I think I enjoyed this review more than you did.

    …Wait, so did you just mention Scottish-English relations in a review of a movie featuring Mel Gibson and not reference Braveheart? Ehh, guess I can’t honestly say I’m less disappointed than the I am at the lack of A-Team references in a movie that has a John Smith in it. Also, is there some sort of rule that in history-based movies featuring English men who interact with foreigners, the guy who the protagonist rescues against the advice of the others has to end up shooting someone and make rocky international relations turn ugly? Or did that actually happen to Tom Edward Lawrence?

    I’m not sure I can agree about Ratcliffe though. Watching the movie recently, I found him to be the movie’s biggest problem. Most Disney plots are heavily moved forward by its villains’ clever, conniving schemes. Most of Ratcliffe’s contribution to the plot comes from his stupidity and blind determination to fruitlessly show his rivals up. He and Wiggins kind of remind me of a poor man’s Prince John and Sir Hiss. The foppish, pompous wannabe upper-class guy who lords over the lower class to try to combat an inferiority complex from nobles in better positions and his quivering right-hand who shows signs of being more sensible, but is too busy kissing up to his master to ever talk sense into him. And of course there’s the fact that both of them are given villainous traits that are actually quite upside-down in relation to the real-life people they were based on. Though I think Percy probably got it the worst in that regard. Apparently he was actually a real guy, but a person in real life. I sometimes like to picture what the real people portrayed in Disney movies would think of how the movies made them look. I somehow imagine the look on Percy’s face when he finds that he literally got given the part of Ratcliffe’s pet to be priceless.

    Speaking of the animals, funnily enough, the screenwriters actually did remove a third animal friend for Pocahontas. Though you’ve probably heard of Redfeather already. I think Meeko and Flit have the same nostalgia forcefield that Frank has for you in The Rescuers Down Under. Flit’s basically the 90s’ answer to the 50s’ Tinkerbell, and he and Meeko’s comic relief is funny enough for me, even if useless. And your dark, poetic commentary on his little bit was plain perfect. So was Europe’s dig. If I hi-five Europe, I wouldn’t flatten *too* many Spaniards to death, would I?

    Wait a sec, did you just state that being told someone had a dream never catches anyone’s interest after quoting Martin Luther King of all people? I have to wonder how that guy ever managed to draw a crowd for his most famous speech if that were true. Also, I guess my family is weird for actually telling each others our dreams a lot. Maybe we just have particularly bizarre subconscious minds.

    Ha ha, loved your bit about the Powhatans’ first reaction to the coming foreigners. Though it is kind of sad that it’s actually pretty true. The shots at the Powhatans seemingly being in touch with every being in the world except the Massowomecks were also funny. Not sure why they should be considered more hypocritical for having enemies despite their whole world-as-one stance than the lions are, but I guess the Lion King lets you forget it more. In any case, even if we’re both not in the opinion that the Lion King is plagiarism, Kimba’s jab made me laugh a lot. Hmm, I wonder if the Massowomecks and the Powhatans patched things up once the Brits arrived. Hell, I wonder if the lions and hyenas would call a truce if McLeach joined forces with the hunters from Bambi and Clayton’s hunter posse to bag ’em some wildlife. …If this is what my conscious mind thinks, I guess my subconscious’s being noteworthy is less of a surprise.

    Was Kocoum’s getting shot really the first fatal shooting on American soil? I thought Kocoum and his army-mates knew archery. And give the guy a break for not surviving that shot, Smith had a breastplate.

    …Wait, so do you like the Black Cauldron more than Pocahontas? Oy. Well, I guess your final affront to the Horned King can be that his movie failed to instil more inkily-obsidian hatred in you than any movie of the franchise. Real fun review, and I kind of liked that you decided to be at least somewhat open-minded in ways.

  27. Loved the review! I can see this movie’s plot holes and sanctimony just gets under your skin, and it made for an utterly hilarious read! “Nobility Mannequins” is one of the most perfect descriptions I have read in a very, very long time, and you are completely right about how all the other Disney Renaissance films understood fathers and daughters so much better.
    In fact, your review even inspired me to finally put in pixels all the issues I have with Pocahontas…once I wrote it all down it turned out it was quite a lot! Here’s part 1:
    http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/blogs/latest/entry/how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-pocahontas-part-1
    The rest of the series will be an outline for a version that I think actually would have been a good movie–yes, I actually think there’s enough in there that with a few rewrites it could have been saved!

    1. So, I just put up the final installment of my Pocahontas series yesterday! It seems like kind of a long time ago that I decided I Have Things To Say About This, and now I’ve quibbled and nitpicked and suggested and lamented and told Mel Gibson to fuck off and gravedanced over plotholes … and strangely I feel much calmer than when I started.

      Mouse, did you happen to have a chance to look at any of it yet? I know it’s a bit insanely long but I’d really appreciate hearing your thoughts!

      1. I skimmed over your review. While I understand your logic there are a few things I want to bring up for anyone reading.
        1. Jafar wasn’t Jasmine’s father and was obviously a villian to her. In general, people of color don’t celebrate speaking out of place the same way Caucasians do, which I’m sure was much more strictly observed back then. When her father was discussing her future or reprimanding get, she wouldn’t proudly and openly protest like a modern child.
        2. Kocoum didn’t go mad all because Pochantas chose John Smith. Through his eyes, he saw the settlers take over the land, shoot lightening, and slowly move in on there village. Now one was seducing the chiefs daughter. They essentially stole “everything” just as you implied below. The implication was there he also had an obligation to uphold his superior’s dignity.
        3. Being a more serious movie about a race most people never come in contact with, they wanted to make Pocahontas an agreeable representation. They probably could have put in a few more jokes but they wanted to make her dignified as opposed to kirky-cute-clumsy, a pretty victim, or fiesty (loud mouth).

      2. Daniel:

        1) I think that’s actually really condescending and othering. I mean it’s one thing not to value talking back, but it’s damned irresponsible to just let somebody straight up die, and I think that’s pretty much basic human decency. I also think that just because a culture says you shouldn’t do something doesn’t mean FOR A SECOND that people don’t actually do it. In Ireland up until a few years ago, it was (as far as official cultural pronouncements go) unthinkable to have sex out of wedlock…but a LOT of people did, and the Magdalene Laundries wouldn’t exist if people actually behaved like their culture expected them to. Muslim theocracies wouldn’t have to keep stoning people to death for adultery if people, being people, didn’t keep on doing the things people tend to do whether they like it or not.

        2) Your entire second point centers on Kocoum perceiving Pocahontas as a thing and/or symbol, and completely denies her agency. That is seriously fucked up and the point about him being an abusive asshole still stands. Also, the fact that you think that what you just wrote mitigates what he did is SERIOUSLY NOT OKAY and you should invest some quality time for introspection.

        3) They failed. And one-dimensionally dignified is still othering and dehumanizing in much the same way one-dimensionally insulting is (and it means the privileged people who view these representations think they’re enlightened if they value minority lives and experiences only to the extent that they’re as impossibly perfect as the one-dimensional dignified portrayals they are given). Also, see everything Unshaved Mouse said in the review about Nobility Mannequins.

      3. How is pointing out cultural differences condescending? Just because cultures are equal doesn’t make them identical. You implyed I need history sanitized yet you seem to have written the book on political correctness. And who was let to die? In the version I saw she was immobilized by fear, guilt, etc but saved John in the end.

        Why do I need serious introspection for describing what I believed the motivation of the characters was? I’m not sure if I explicitly said whether his actions where good or bad, I just have the rational. In also not sure Pocahontas inadvertently getting pushed away wrote trying to break up a brawl caused by a fit of passion counts as abusive. So because he pushed her once in the heat of the moment, hes a monster who deserves death and that’s that? Isn’t that othering?
        She was a symbol in a time long ago when people cared about their reputation.

        I think that’s open for interpretation. A lot probably did think themselves enlightened but as I stated, the movie crew knew this would be a lot of peoples sole representation of Natives and probably wanted to right wrongs from Peter Pan/general pop culture. They also knew a lot of the audience would involuntarily have trouble connecting to the villagers because they where in fact “other”. If they made the Indians too aggressive and/or “natural” and the English too positive they would have automatically gotten the attention.

      4. Daniel:
        1) You are being othering and condescending because you are simplifying people from other cultures to an absurd degree, even to the point of letting someone die rather than speak out of turn. (Moreover, your justification falls completely flat in terms of the actual movie, since she does speak up against her father, she just doesn’t do so effectively or communicate any useful information.) And, stating that her culture would make it unthinkable to question her elders and stating she is paralyzed with guilt and fear are mutually exclusive statements. Either explaining the situation is impossible in the cultural context OR she herself is not strong enough to do it: if she’s not speaking up because of a cultural stricture (never mind the fact that that is absurdly oversimplified and invalidated by the rest of the actual script) then she would be determined to intervene but unable, OR she is not speaking up because of her personal guilt and fear, in which case she is able to speak up but lacking in determination.

        Finally, having someone be overcome and unable to do the right thing because of their personal shortcomings is certainly a valid route of a work of fiction, but the work itself has to identify the protagonist as having a character flaw and then show them overcoming it. Having someone who is shown as bold and willful and free-spirited all of a sudden clam up when the story needs a misunderstanding is weak and contrived. Take, for instance, “The King’s Speech”: it’s not a big obstacle for most people to make a speech, but we understand the unique pressures and vulnerabilities of this particular person through the film and we applaud his overcoming it. If, on the other hand, you had a perfectly well-spoken character for most of your movie all of a sudden become unable to give a speech for no discernible reason just because it moved the rest of the plot forward, it would fall flat.

        2) Of course you’re defending Kocoum’s behavior as not abusive. I said the problem with the movie was that it didn’t understand that he was an abusive asshole, and you responded by telling me that you disagreed with my assessment because of his motivation (plus, you’re still defending him below). That means, BY DEFINITION, that you think that his motivation means he isn’t abusive or you wouldn’t disagree, otherwise there’s no point in telling me motivation I already know (and I certainly already recognized absolutely everything you said as part of his motivation — you are just so pathetically ignorant of the dynamics of gender violence that you don’t realize that this is textbook abusive behavior!). Next, she didn’t get inadvertently pushed away. Watch the film–he pushed her away on purpose. There is literally NO OTHER REASON to have him move his hand there apart from the direct intention to stop her intervening by physically shoving her.

        “So because he pushed her once in the heat of the moment…” SERIOUSLY?! Did you seriously just fucking write this? You are a terrible person and your values suck. This is completely unacceptable, and again I strongly encourage some introspection on your part so you can figure out exactly where you fail at being a person.

        And his being an abuser doesn’t necessarily mean he deserves to die. But the fact remains he was trying to perpetrate lethal force on someone else, and Thomas believed the only way to defend his friend’s life was via deadly force. Killing someone when there is no other apparent way to stop them from killing someone else is morally acceptable.

        And don’t give me the “it was a long time ago” argument. People a long time ago still suffered as a result of being mistreated or having their rights infringed, and it doesn’t excuse the people who abused/disenfranchised/exploited them.

        3) I see you have learned absolutely nothing from the whole discussion of Nobility Mannequins and the basic dramatic fact that characters have to have flaws to be believable. It’s also telling that you can only see a false dichotomy of the Native Americans being “too aggressive” or perfectly saintly, and you don’t even comprehend the possibility (and the necessity for being a good movie) of them being complex, well-rounded, nuanced flawed and interesting characters.

      5. The cursing, name calling, and emotional reactions were unnecessary. Oneself can explain a point without being unbecomingly sanctimonious. At any rate, I wave the white flag.

      6. All I’ll say is: thanks a lot for getting Sound of Music/Pocahontas mashup music in my head with that title there.

  28. While I appreciate your opinion, for one I think you did far too much cursing and second I believe you may have been a little hard. In reality I think this film had two main “problems”, it made Caucasians feel guilty and I think the humor was too subtle for a lot of people. I also think it bored people because it wasn’t escapist enough. Yes it took itself seriously but that too was welcomed, I personally felt like with movies like Aladdin an opportunity to be great was squandering by trying to include far too many jokes (my go to example: when the builder knocks the noise off the sphinx in A Whole New World).
    One thing I do think needed improvement was the action, it needed more… peril?
    All in all its my second favorite Disney movie (after the Hunchback).

    1. 1) This is a blog that uses a running gag consisting of “what the close up mouth whore fuck?!” If you think there is too much swearing, well, I can’t presume to speak for the author…but it doesn’t seem like you are quite embracing the spirit of the place.

      2) It made Caucasians feel guilty?! IT MADE CAUCASIANS FEEL GUILTY?!?! What the close up mouth whore fuck??? (Mouse, your royalty check is in the mail…). Dude, seriously. We invaded their land, cut down their trees, and dug up their earth. And we gave a bunch of people fucking smallpox. And we dehumanized and slaughtered and forcibly relocated and genocided A LOT. I think it’s only right and fair for feeling guilty about that. And don’t say you had nothing to do with it, because you benefit from the resources grabbed and the institutions built on coerced labor every day. Just acknowledge and respect what happened. Don’t expect an already-absurdly-sanitized Disney movie to sanitize it even more for you. Sheesh.

      1. You should have contacted Disney to provide first hand details if you were there.
        I don’t need it to be completely sanitized for myself. I think typical movie goers do though, which partly explains it’s failure compared to productions like Beauty and the Beast and Frozen. I think it also causes viewers to pick it apart to compensate, like the reviewer and yourself have done.

  29. I don’t hate the film as much as everybody else does, even without the nostalgia factor; because I did think it has tons of its hits and misses, and I honestly wasn’t that bored by the characters at all. However, I still do think it’s one of Disney’s weaker films, mainly for the cliches; forced villain; controversial stereotypes (Which at least aren’t as bad as the Indians in “Peter Pan”); a world where animals don’t talk, but a tree does; a character who gets killed off that we don’t feel sorry for in the least; and the plot hole of how Smith and Pocahontas (As well as the Settlers and The Natives) understand each other. Even the stuff that I do like leaves me torn as well. However, your review is a great and interesting read.

  30. I think the animal sidekick infestation is my fault.

    I mean, not me personally, but people like me. I think the studio knew that people like me existed, and were trying to put something in the movie for me.

    You see, I have a terrible secret. I like my cartoons to be FUNNY. I know this is terribly unsophisticated of me, and I admit I’m a Philistine, but for me this movie’s one unforgivable sin is that it’s. Not. Funny. Nothing in it is funny. Almost nothing in it comes within a country mile of being funny. And it’s preachy. So yeah. Its two unforgivable sins are that it’s not funny and it’s too preachy and nearly every character in it including the leads is a completely unsympathetic caricature … among the movie’s many unforgivable sins are …

    Let’s start again.

    Little Mermaid and Aladdin are nearly my perfect cartoons. They’re plenty funny. Sure, they threw some plot and romance in there for the highbrows, but there’s just a lot of very funny stuff going on in all throughout the movie, and it feels integral. It’s not like they stop dead for a funny bit and then “Okay, Funny Time is over, it is now Plot O’Clock”; the one place that really happens is “Le Poisson”, which should have served as a good object lesson for why you shouldn’t do that. Cutting “Le Poisson” would not hurt TLM one bit.

    BatB and Lion King are less humor-driven, but they manage some funny bits, and especially some funny songs (Be Our Guest is funny, Gaston is FREAKING HILARIOUS, Just Can’t Wait to be King is sorta funny in places, Hakuna Matata is funny … and ALL of these are very catchy to boot).

    Pocahontas has … umm … I guess “Virginia Company” and “Mine, Mine, Mine” (“With all you’ve got in ya, boys, dig up Virginia, boys”) have a couple of mildly amusing lines each, but they’re more droll than actually funny, and neither of them is the sort of tune you leave the theater humming.

    So I think somebody looked at this movie and realized:
    1. There are people out there who like their DIsney movies to have some humor
    2. This movie sorta … has … not … that. In fact, this movie is sorta the diametric OPPOSITE of that. Even after whitewashing and rewriting history, what we’re left with at best is West Side Story without Jet Song and America and Cool and I Feel Pretty and Gee, Officer Krupke … basically any song with a shred of humor or fun in it … and oh yeah, at the end Tony doesn’t die, he just leaves, and he asks Maria to go with him, and she’s like “No”, so he leaves anyway and you just know he’s thinking “Hey, you had your chance” and he ain’t coming back for her even if the Sharks do say they’re cool with him now. So we’ve cut the humor, we’ve cut the tragedy without adding a happy ending to replace it, and now what we have is an utterly pointless vignette. Sure, real life is like that sometimes; doesn’t mean I want to watch a movie about it.

    And the solution that some genius came up with was “Hey, remember the mice in Cinderella? EVERYBODY loved the mice in Cinderella! Let’s throw in some funny animals!” To which the proper responses should have been a) unfortunately yes, b) no they didn’t, c) no, let’s throw OUT this hot mess of a plot and write something that’s actually, you know, GOOD.

    Okay, to be fair, I doubt anybody went back quite that far; more likely they just said “Timon and Pumbaa from TLK, Lumiere and Cogsworth from BatB, Flounder and Sebastian from TLM, yes please, we’ll have what they’re having.” Except … without dialogue, you’re kind of limited in what you can do there. Isaac Asimov once made a point about the expressiveness of language vs. purely visual media by pointing out that in silent movies even with all the ham-fisted over-emoting and dramatic gestures and closeups of soulful expressions, the movie still came to a screeching halt every thirty seconds to slap up a slide with words on it, because it’s REALLY HARD to be funny or dramatic or moving or for that matter intelligible without using language.

    (By the way, the fact that Abu and Carpet work despite neither of them ever uttering a single word is yet another reason why Aladdin is an infinitely better movie than Pocahontas … the writers and animators there knew what they could and more importantly couldn’t do without words, and used the mute characters as seasonings for the movie, rather than trying to shovel the entire burden of humor off onto them.)

    My problem with Percy, Flit, and Meeko are not that they’re blatantly pandering merchandise-driven superfluous characters, it’s that they’re UNFUNNY blatantly pandering merchandise-driven superfluous characters.

    1. Good points all the way through. And if you look above, you can see that the Unshaved Mouse called this movie “Disney renaissance on auto-pilot”.

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