DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
Irene Bedard, Judy Kuhn, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, John Kassir, Russell Means, Christian Bale, Linda Hunt, Danny Mann, Billy Connolly
Writing Credits:
Carl Binder, Randy Cartwright, Andrew Chapman, Vincent DeFrances, Don Dougherty, Will Finn, Joe Grant, Susannah Grant, T. Daniel Hofstedt, Broose Johnson, Jorgen Klubien, Philip LaZebnik, Tom Mazzocco, David Pruiksma, Nik Ranieri

Two different worlds. One true love.

British adventurer John Smith travels the Atlantic with the Virginia Company to establish Jamestown. Once there he meets Pocahontas, a beautiful woman with whom he immediately falls in love. But to make their relationship work, the would-be couple must find a way to bridge their two cultures.

Box Office:
$55 million.
Opening Weekend
$29.500 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$141.600 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 1.66:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 6/6/2000

• DVD Storybook
• Trivia Game
• Two Music Videos
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Pocahontas: Disney Gold Classics Collection (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 23, 2008)

Although it raked in a healthy $141 million at the box office during the summer of 1995, Pocahontas always was regarded as a minor failure for Disney animation. This stemmed entirely from the astonishing success of in 1994. That hit grossed an amazing $312 million and raised the bar for what would henceforth be considered "successful" for Disney. $141 million may sound pretty good, but it represented less than half of the take of King and started the gradual slide in revenue the studio wouldn't start to reverse until Mulan and A Bug's Life in 1998.

Back when Pocahontas arrived on screens, I was a very mild Disney animation fan. I owned and on laserdisc and would soon add King, but that was about it. I didn't have any interest in pre-1990s Disney animation, and any upcoming movies were taken on a case-by-case basis. As such, although I now rush to see new Disney animated films, that wasn't the case in 1995.

I only saw Pocahontas theatrically because of one day during which I literally had nothing better to do. I'd taken my car to have massive amounts of car stereo equipment installed, and because the store was far from home, I had nothing to do other than walk across the street to a movie theater. Much of what they offered I'd already seen, so I went for the two titles I'd not yet viewed: and Pocahontas.

Apollo was one I actually wanted to see, whereas Pocahontas came more as a default; that happens sometimes, when you have time and want to see a movie but there's nothing special so you take in something that doesn't really interest you. In the case of Pocahontas, my hesitation stemmed less from a lack of desire and more from an actual aversion, as my first preview of the film did not make it look pretty.

Back in the fall of 1994 Disney released a Pocahontas trailer that consisted solely of the "Colors of the Wind" scene in its entirety. This wasn't the first or last time Disney used this form of advertisement - King offered a similar trailer - but at least for me, it backfired in regard to Pocahontas. Removed from the context of the film, "Wind" came across as insanely "politically correct", preachy and condescending, and it immediately gave me a negative impression of the movie.

Admittedly, "Wind" still seems overly patronizing even as part of the film, but its isolation in a trailer even more strongly emphasized the "white people are bad" overtones. The song makes a lot more sense and is much more tolerable - and enjoyable, even - within the body of the movie.

None of that really mattered when I saw Pocahontas theatrically. I recall finding it to be a decent little film but not terribly stimulating, and I had no desire to add it to my LD collection. Actually, my batch of Disney LDs remained fairly small. Over the three years that followed Pocahontas's theatrical premiere, I picked up boxed sets of Toy Story and 1996's The Hunchback of Notre Dame but passed on all the other releases.

I maintained that status until November 1998. At that time the LD was in steep decline and some great prices could be found on previously-pricey material. I saw that one store was selling the boxed set of Pocahontas - which originally went for $100 - for only $30. At that price, I figured I should give the movie another shot, especially since my opinion of Disney animation had recently started to pick up again after that prior summer's Mulan. (I'd also really liked Hunchback but initially found 1997's Hercules to be a big disappointment.)

Ironically, that decision to buy the bargain box of Pocahontas indirectly sparked my own soon-to-be-heavy interest in the history of Disney animation. I delighted in the terrific supplements in that set and decided it was time to branch out to some older Disney films. After all, with the acquisition of Pocahontas I already owned all of the modern-day Disney animation in deluxe boxed sets, but there were a bunch of older movies I had yet to peruse. During late 1998 and early 1999, I developed an intense interest in Disney animation and quickly snapped up slew of LDs.

As such, I owe a debt to Pocahontas since I'm really happy that I've become such a Disney fan; I'm actually mad at myself for not pursuing the classic films much sooner, but I had bizarrely convinced myself that I only liked the new stuff. That opinion changed once I started to watch the classics.

I've developed a greater affection for Pocahontas, and not just because it indirectly kick-started my fascination with Disney animation. Now that I can better distance myself from my disdain for the film's heavy-handed message, I find it to offer an above-average Disney experience. It doesn't stand up to the studio's best efforts, but it remains a solid effort that stands up well to repeated viewings.

Pocahontas may well be Disney's most intensely dramatic feature. Hunchback came close, but it relied too heavily on comic relief, most unfortunately near the film's climax when - in an insanely incongruous and disruptive move - the story leaves the action to provide a goofy musical number starring the gargoyles, the darkness quickly dissipates. Which was too bad, as much of the rest of Hunchback truly took Disney to a satisfyingly dark place that the studio had largely been unwilling to visit prior to 1996.

Pocahontas lacks the depth of the experience provided by Hunchback, but it remains more consistently serious and "heavy." Yes, it includes the traditional sidekicks who exist for comic relief, but they're less of an intrusion than the gargoyles. In fact, I thought they blended well with the action. Most of the humor comes from Pocahontas's animal friends Meeko the badger and Flit the hummingbird. We also get a few laughs from two of malevolent Governor Ratcliffe's companions: his manservant Wiggins and his pampered pooch Percy. I didn't find the comedy that revolved around these characters to appear forced or intrusive, and it should be noted that when the action becomes serious, there are no comedic pauses to lighten the tone; the filmmakers essentially follow through on what they promise.

Virtually every Disney animated title receives criticism from some groups - though the Pixar pictures have escaped pretty much unscathed - and Pocahontas took a greater beating than most. This occurred due to the film's rather loose retelling of history. Pocahontas differed from every other Disney cartoon in that it didn't adapt characters from a fictional source; it remains the only Disney animated feature that utilized actual historical figures. (Although I believe Sleeping Beauty was based upon some really lazy chick Walt once knew.)

Disney take their lumps for altering the storylines of the fictional works they adapt, but those beatings didn't compare to the assault that accompanied the release of Pocahontas. It probably didn't help that they took a person who was in reality a fairly young girl at the time of the events related in the film and made her into a rather idealized – and built - woman. Make no mistake - this movie's Pocahontas is quite a babe! Even when she reached adulthood, the actual Pocahontas was nothing to look at, but many protested over Disney's "sexist" treatment of the character.

This ruckus ignores a few issues. For one, John Smith looked nothing like the figure we see depicted here. Also, if the movie created characters who resembled their historical forebears in age and appearance, we'd have a pretty sick story, since a grown man would be smitten by a very underaged girl; they'd have to call it Lolitahontas.

I'm perfectly fine with all of the alterations Disney made to the facts. Do I encourage films to depict factually inaccurate material? Nope. However, one has to consider the form that the product takes. Some movies purport to be historically accurate and realistic; Pocahontas is not one of those pictures. At no point did Disney claim this would be a biography or anything other than a fantasy loosely based on some historical material. Truly, the film takes from the legend of Pocahontas; as such, criticisms of its lack of factual accuracy are misplaced.

Personally, I think the folks who criticize the alterations in Disney films miss another point. I believe that these movies create interest in the subjects that otherwise wouldn't exist. How many kids decided to read Tarzan because of the book, or learn more about Greek mythology due to Hercules? A lot? Maybe not, but enough to make the endeavors worthwhile.

No, I don't claim that Disney create these films in the hopes that they'll spur additional study by youngsters. Nonetheless, I think it's a positive byproduct and it shouldn't be discounted. I'm certain that most kids see the movies, dig them and then move on, but I'm also sure that a goodly amount of children discover material that otherwise might have remained unknown to them. It's all about broadening horizons, and while it's true that "the Disney version" of a story tends to become the absolute last word in that tale to the general public, Disney releases also create awareness that the material would not otherwise obtain. Whine about Pocahontas's rack all you want; the final result still gets the job done.

Personally, I rather like Pocahontas's rack, but I think the movie works for reasons other than hormonal. One positive aspect of the film that gets lost in the criticism stems from the nature of her character. For many years, Disney heroines remained fairly passive figures; Snow White, Cinderella, Briar Rose. Ariel and Belle displayed more spunk, but neither really took charge of events.

The same cannot be said for Pocahontas. She's tough, brave, smart and caring. The first time she meets John Smith, he holds a rifle on her; she reacts by simply standing up and staring at him. Whether through defiance or ignorance - logically, she wouldn't know what that weapon was, though I'd expect she would glean a negative intent from Smith's posture - she's nobody's victim and won't be bullied or intimidated.

Pocahontas is a romance, but it avoids the "Someday My Prince Will Come" trappings of many other Disney films in which the women are clearly viewed as incomplete if they lack mates. In fact - possible spoiler ahead! - Pocahontas stands as one of the rare Disney films in which the boy and the girl end up apart. In fact, I think it's the only Disney romance that ends in such a manner. Yeah, Quasimodo remains single at the conclusion of Hunchback, but Esmerelda and Phoebus have matched, and at least he's made some new friends and gotten out of that filthy tower.

Pocahontas, on the other hand, features a relatively down-cast ending. I won't call it "sad", but it does seem bittersweet. Part of me dislikes the fact that Pocahontas and Smith end up separated at the conclusion of the story. For all of the film's preaching about racial harmony, it seems bothersome that the only romantic couple in Disney history who don't walk off into the sunset together would also be Disney's only interracial couple. Was that a consideration? I doubt it, but I must admit it makes an otherwise satisfying conclusion more disappointing.

However, the current ending seems in keeping with the tone and the spirit of the movie, so I won't complain too much. By the way, if my preceding comments make it appear that I'm an enthusiastic supporter of Pocahontas, that's not the case. I still dislike the generally preachy tone of the movie, plus many of the characterizations seem stiff and bland. Irene Bedard's Pocahontas stands out so far above the rest that everyone else suffers in comparison. Mel Gibson's Smith never rises above generic action-hero fluff, though I won't fully - or even mostly – blame Gibson for that. While I understand the filmmakers' reluctance to draw a Smith who looked like the real-life troll, his UCLA frat boy appearance here makes him look like a dude more at home on a surfboard than in a new land.

Ratcliffe seems to be a decent villain, though he's underdrawn and flat, and I strongly disagree with the decision to cast David Ogden Stiers as both Ratcliffe and his lackey Wiggins. Stiers gives satisfactory performances in both roles - though he stands out in neither, unlike his strong turn as Cogsworth in Beast - but it seems tremendously obvious that the same guy does both voices. This lends the proceedings a quality of stinginess that I found hard to shake, as though the producers were too cheap to pay for two actors. Also, since literally all of Wiggins' scenes come along with Ratcliffe (though not vice versa), I got the uncomfortable impression of a man talking to himself. This sort of double-casting can work for uncommonly talented voice artist - such as Mel Blanc - or if both roles are minor or at least don't interact. None of those qualifications exist, so I found the dual performance by Stiers to detract from an otherwise strong film.

Ultimately, that's how I would classify Pocahontas. It's not the best Disney has to offer, but it presents some definite strengths and it creates an appealing sense of drama and seriousness lacking from many of their other movies. I may not have cared for the film initially, but my tune has changed since 1995, and I now find it to be a solid and compelling effort.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Pocahontas appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This one turned out to be one of Disney’s weaker transfers.

Sharpness generally seemed quite good, with most images appearing crisp and well-defined. Some softness affected wide shots, however, and those appeared mushier than they should. Jagged edges and moiré effects were not a problem, though, but I noticed edge enhancement and a lot of artificial sharpness at work here.

Print flaws were not an issue except for one big exception: grain. The film didn't present nonstop grain, but it sure popped up with alarming frequency. I'd estimate that at least 40 percent of the movie displayed noticeable grain. When these specks didn't appear, the DVD looked very good for the most part, but the grainy sequences could seem rather ugly. Other than the grain, the print appeared free of flaws; I noticed one small nick, but no other examples of scratches, hairs or blemishes.

Colors generally seemed accurate and bold, though some exceptions occurred. However, I think the color issues happened due to the grain. For example, during the heavily blue-tinted scene in which Pocahontas visited Smith in a tent, the hues seemed rather hazy, but the heavy grain clearly influenced that problem. Black levels came across very well, at least - grain was much less noticeable in dark circumstances, so it wouldn't greatly affect these scenes - and shadow detail appeared fairly good, with only a little negative influence from the grain. The transfer had some good spots but the heavy and unnecessary grain made it too erratic for a grade above a “C-“

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of Pocahontas, it was good but not terrific. The soundfield displayed inconsistent breadth. At times it could provide a pretty nicely encompassing experience, such as during the first scene in which Smith's boat set sail; the surrounds kicked in strongly when the storm hits, and the track became quite involving.

After that, however, the mixers must have napped, for the soundtrack largely remained dormant. The forward soundstage often provided some decent stereo imaging, but it still appeared pretty tame. The surrounds received even less consideration and did little more than offer general ambience from the "tweeting birds" school of sound design. The track picked up a bit from time to time, but not substantially, and it never approached the pretty active level displayed at the start.

The audio quality also declined after that early segment. Dialogue seemed fine, with clear and natural speech that was easily intelligible. Effects were usually pretty accurate and clean, with no signs of distortion, and music seemed crisp and smooth. Bass response occasionally lagged, with some songs and effects that lacked the expected dimensionality. Low-end sporadically created a more dynamic impression, but often those elements seemed a bit lackluster. This mix suited the material to a sufficient degree but not much better than that.

This DVD only provides a few extras. We find two music videos: "Colors of the Wind" from Vanessa Williams and "If I Never Knew You" by Jon Secada and Shanice. Both clips adhere closely to the traditional "music video from a movie" format: glossy shots of the singers as they lip-synch intercut with scenes from the film. "If I Never Knew You" alters the formula slightly in that the movie's images are shown on Manhattan buildings behind the performers. Different, yes; better, no. Both videos are vaguely watchable but ultimately forgettable and mediocre.

In addition, Pocahontas includes a Read-Along Storybook that presents a text version of the tale which can be accompanied by voice-over narration or not. The DVD also offers a theatrical trailer - not the "Colors of the Wind" clip, though - and a trivia game with 16 questions. Many of the Disney "Gold Classic Collection" DVDs present similar trivia games - which are usually intensely easy if you've seen the film, though Tarzan actually had a couple of tricky questions - and most of them go with 16 queries, which makes me wonder: why 16? That's a weird number for this kind of thing. Perhaps market research demonstrated some positive aspect of 16 questions that I can't discern.

Pocahontas presents a slew of advertisements that appear prior to the main menu. We find ads for the Disney Gold Classic Collection as a whole plus promos for The Little Mermaid II, The Tigger Movie and Toy Story 2.

I enjoy Pocahontas and think it's a rather underrated Disney feature, though still not one of their best pictures. This DVD is a definite disappointment, though. It presents decent but unexceptional audio along with problematic picture and almost no extras. It doesn’t do justice to the movie and it’s a pretty weak DVD.

To rate this film visit the 10th Anniversary Edition review of POCAHONTAS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main