Friday, June 24, 2016


Pocahontas; animated musical adventure, USA, 1995; D: Mike Gabriel. Eric Goldberg, S: Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers

At the eve of the 17th century, one ship sails off from England to America. When they arrive there, Governor Ratcliffe immediately orders the crew to cut off trees and dig the soil in search for gold. In the meantime, Captain John Smith meets Indian girl Pocahontas, manages to talk with her thanks to a magic tree and falls in love with her. However, when Smith is captured by the Indians, Ratcliffe sees this as a perfect pretext to order his men to attack the Indians. Thanks to Smith and Pocahontas, the war is avoided. The wounded Smith is shipped off back to England while Pocahontas looks at him from the distance.

Even though numerous film scholars agree that the era of the 'Disney Renaissance' lasted for a whole decade in the 90s, one can argue that the 33rd film of the Walt Disney studios, "Pocahontas", already marked the unofficial end of the period since it was the first one that lacked that genuine magic and awe of the previously established list of Disney films - "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "The Lion King" - which all somehow hit the nerve of the audience, achieving so much with so little effort. "Pocahontas" seems forced and way too schematic in telling its tale of two people who fall in love despite their different race and (clashing) cultures, with too much of it seeming as if it is a rehash of "Dances with Wolwes", and the empty, 'throw-away' jokes involving the comic sidekick characters of a Raccoon and a dog playing mischief or the misguided idea of a magic, talking tree all add to the dubious impression, which is why it was the only Disney animated film from its 'Renaissance' period that collected less than 60% of positive reviews on the critics' site Rotten Tomatoes. However, the critics were still a tiny bit too harsh since it is overall still a good, sympathetic animated film with a wonderful message, brave dark themes (including colonialism and annexation), beautiful classic animation, a couple of aesthetic images (the great shot of the English ship being seen over the trees near the shore) whereas it still contains one obligatory hit song, Alan Menken's miraculous "Colors of the Wind". Still, Disney would not truly reach its previous level all until four years later with "Tarzan".


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