Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998)
Studio Line: Disney - This Fun-Filled Adventure Adds A New Chapter To Disney's Classic Story!

All the magic of Disney's Academy Award-winning film, Pocahontas, continues in a fun-filled adventure that finds Pocahontas setting sail for an exciting new world, England. With her comical companions, Flit, Meeko and Percy, along for the ride, this spectacular film promises plenty of thrills and laughter for everyone.

As an ambassador of peace, Pocahontas is swept away by London's "curious" customs. Attempting to fit in, she makes friends with the dashing English diplomat, John Rolfe, and Mrs. Jenkins, his lovable housemaid, both of whom help Pocahontas prepare for the Hunt Ball. There she must convince the King of England that her people are truly civilized in order to stop the armada moving against them. Pocahontas soon finds herself at odds with the scheming Ratcliffe, but when a mysterious stranger comes to her rescue, the courageous Pocahontas must choose between the love of her past…and the path of her future.

Told through brilliant Disney animation, five incredible songs and unforgettable characters, Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World is alive with all the colors of a Disney classic.

Director: Tom Ellery and Bradley Raymond
Cast: Irene Bedard, Judy Kuhn(singing)-Pocahontas; Donal Gibson-John Smith; Linda Hunt-Grandmother Willow; Russell Means-Powhatan; David Ogden Stiers-Ratcliffe; Billy Zane-John Rolfe; Jean Stapleton-Mrs. Jenkins
DVD: Widescreen 1.66:1; audio English DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, French Dolby Surround; subtitles English, Spanish; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 23 chapters; rated NR; 72 min.; $29.99; street date 9/5/00.
Supplements: Pocahontas II: DVD Storybook; Interactive Trivia Game; "Little Hiawatha" Cartoon.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/A-/D+

So far my experiences with Disney's "direct-to-video" (DTV) animation haven' t been particularly compelling. Of the programs I've watched, they've been mildly entertaining at best but have tended to appear pretty lackluster and uninspired.

1998's Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World does absolutely nothing to reverse that trend. The movie picks up fairly soon (a few months?) after the events of 1995's theatrical film Pocahontas John Smith's back in England while Pokey (Irene Bedard) herself and the other Powhatans are slowly acclimating to the presence of the Jamestown settlers.

Of course, some problem has to arise, and that stems from the fact that apparently King James believe Ratcliffe's (David Ogden Stiers) story of what happened in Virginia. As such, Smith (Donal Gibson) is on the outs and war looks to be on the horizon. In a last ditch effort to find the facts, the King dispatches John Rolfe (Billy Zane) to retrieve the Powhatan chief to come to England and discuss the matter. The English are under the mistaken impression that Pocahontas is chief, however, and ultimately she sails to Britain to attempt to fix matters. Problems ensue, but a generally happy ending follows.

I suppose PII at least deserves some credit for not simply rehashing the events of the first film as many of these DTV offerings seem to do. However, the entire movie seems bland and generic. Clearly the story had some possibilities, but it goes down only the most obvious paths and does so with little spark or flair.

Some might blame the failings of PII on its origins. After all, Pocahontas isn't generally regarded as one of Disney's best pictures. Personally, I used to dislike it, but it's really grown on me in recent years, and I now find it to offer a pretty satisfying if inconsistent piece. PII doesn't capitalize on the original's strengths, which came from the unusually dramatic and emotional tone, and the sequel comes across as little more than another "product" from the Disney factory.

Possible spoilers ahead, so to skip them, just past this paragraph and the next. Probably my least favorite aspect of the movie came from its treatment of the Pokey/Smith relationship. Early in the film, Smith allegedly buys the farm, but you get no points for guessing he's not actually dead. Pokey mourns for roughly ten minutes but gets back into the flow when she meets Rolfe. The two of them slowly develop affection for each other, but the picture is complicated when Smith turns up alive.

How does PII deal with this? It essentially makes Smith seem a little like a blowhard so Pokey can tell him that they want different things and she can go with Rolfe. It's a contrived and unsatisfying way to end things, especially considering how nicely the Pokey/Smith affair was handled in the first movie. If they truly had the bond shown there, they wouldn't be able to so quickly dispel it here. Frankly, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

The rest of the project remains pretty mediocre. The tunes in the original film were nothing special, though they seemed quite catchy. The sequel's songs appear completely unmemorable and add nothing to the movie.

Much of the original picture's vocal cast returns here, including Bedard, Stiers, Russell Means (Powhatan), and Linda Hunt (Grandmother Willow). Judy Kuhn also reprises her role as Pokey's singing voice. New to the cast are Zane and Jean Stapleton as Rolfe's houseservant Mrs. Jenkins. Notable in his absence is Mel Gibson, who did Smith the first time, but Disney get the next best thing (?): his brother Donal. This seems to be their new trend for DTV offerings: if you don't want to pay for the mega-star, hire his brother. They did the same through the substitution of Jim Hanks for brother Tom in Buzz Lightyear. Jim does a better impression of his sibling than does Donal; I never thought Smith was voiced by Mel, whereas I briefly bought Woody as coming from his originator.

One large change from the original film comes from PII's weak animation. The movie was created by Disney's TV department, and it shows, as the film generally looks crude, awkward and flat. The animation lacks life and verve; much of it just sits there and seems very bland. Frankly, this is typical of the TV stuff, and I've actually seen worse, so I won't slam PII too harshly for being what I expected, but don't think you' ll get cinema-quality animation from this one.

Don't think you'll get a cinema-quality Disney film either, because you won' t. Pocahontas II creates a mildly-entertaining diversion but nothing more. The overall project seems lackluster and generic, without any of the original film's merits. The movie is watchable at best but not anything I particularly enjoyed.

The DVD:

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World appears in its original aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the disc provides a strong picture with only a few minor concerns.

Sharpness usually looks pretty crisp and accurate, but a modest amount of softness appears as well. This manifests itself during slightly wide shots; basically most scenes that feature two or more characters may look slightly fuzzy, but the haziness doesn't increase with additional width and it always remains fairly mild. Frankly, I believe the softness results mostly from the cheap animation, not from the transfer; this kind of quality seems typical of some of Disney's TV studio work.

Moiré effects and jagged edges appear absent. I also detected no signs of any print flaws. The movie seemed free of scratches, grain, grit, speckles, hairs or other concerns.

Colors look wonderfully clean and bright. The movie offers some lovely hues that always are clear and bold and lack any signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels seem nicely deep and dark, and shadow detail comes across as appropriately opaque without any excessive heaviness. Ultimately, the mild softness was the only reason I knocked my grade down to a still-strong "B+"; ultimately the movie looks quite good.

Even better is the terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Pocahontas II. The movie features an absolutely wonderful soundfield that immerses you in the action from start to finish. The forward spectrum seems tremendously lively, with music, effects and dialogue that appear from the side speakers throughout most of the film. All of this audio blends together extremely well, and the sounds pan cleanly and smoothly. The surrounds kick in a great deal of ambient information and they add a nice dimension to the experience.

Audio quality seems strong as well. Dialogue always comes across as crisp and accurate, with no edgy or dull elements, and intelligibility is excellent. Effects are very clean and realistic, and they show no signs of distortion. Music seems fairly dynamic and bright, with good clarity and some solid low end. I detected very nice bass from the effects as well, and the entire presentation seems quite excellent.

Pocahontas II includes a few supplements that make it typical of Disney's Gold Classic Collection DVDs. Most significant is a cartoon from 1937 called "Little Hiawatha". This eight-minute and 50-second short comes from the "Silly Symphonies" series and it works fairly well; I found it to be mildly charming and entertaining but not anything more. However, one scene provides the most adorable bunny ever recorded on film; Hiawatha attempts to play the hunter and shoot this rabbit with his arrow, but there' s no way he can do so in the face of its quivering cuteness.

PII also offers some of Disney's DVD stand-bys. We get a 16-question trivia game that should be easy for anyone who has seen the film; as usual, you get no reward for correctly answering all 16 queries. There's also a "DVD Storybook" that retells the movie's plot; you can read it with or without narration.

Yes, PII also contains the notorious advertisements that start soon after you insert the disc in your player. The DVD starts with the usual copyright warning, and then it launches immediately into an announcer with his usual "Coming soon to own on video and DVD..." line. We find promos for the Gold Classic Collection as a whole, The Tigger Movie, Buzz Lightyear, The Little Mermaid IIand Toy Story 2.

I don't particularly mind these ads, but many others detest them. Some folks seemed to object to the simple capitalistic nature of the beasts - though few ever complained about promos found on Fox and Universal DVDs - but much of that sentiment appeared to stem from problems skipping the ads. On my Panasonic player, I could easily hit the "skip" button to get past them, but others related less success on some machines.

Even for those (like me) who could skip the ads, some irritation appeared due to the nuisance. Personally, I don't think it's a big deal to hit "skip" five or six times, but others felt differently. As such, note that PII lets you skip the whole magilla by pressing the "menu" button on your remote, which had been deactivated for the others prior to Buzz Lightyear. It doesn't eliminate the existence of these ads, but it's a step in the right direction.

An (apparently) more positive aspect of this package comes from a $5 rebate that previous owners of PII can receive if they buy this DVD. If you send in your receipt and proof of purchase for the DVD with the proof of purchase from your prior copy of the film plus the certificate that comes with the DVD, you can then get $5 back from Disney. From what I've heard, they do this fairly promptly, though I've never pursued a rebate from them myself.

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World does absolutely nothing to further the weak name of Disney's "direct-to-video" films. The movie provides an uninspired and mediocre extension of Pocahontas that largely falls flat. The DVD offers very good picture and sound plus a few minor extras. This one should be skipped by all other than the most dedicated Pocahontas fans.

Menu: DVD Movie Guide | Archive | Top