Disney’s 33rd animated feature and its first drawn, so to speak, from an actual historic figure, Pocahontas hooks from the start, and all the studio’s signature elements – spirited animal sidekicks; wise, not necessarily human, advisers; evil, bumbling villains; natural visas breathtakingly heightened – are all in place.
Pocahontas’ father, the chief, wants her to marry the tribe’s bravest warrior, but she’s holding out for someone a little more exciting. Excitement arrives in the form of John Smith, an adventurer accompanying a band of brutish, greedy, stupid men under the command of brutish, greedy, stupid Gov. Ratcliffe.
For Smith and Pocahontas, it’s pretty much love at first sight. He’s ruggedly blond, and, as if that’s not enough, he comes with Mel Gibson’s voice. She is equally blessed, not only with beauty but with the singing voice of Judy Kuhn.
The Powhatans fear the well-armed Englishmen invading their turf. Like Maria, Pocahontas has been marked for betrothal to an outstanding member of her tribe; like Tony, John Smith was his clan’s fiercest fighter until common sense – in this case, the natural beauty of the New World and the sight of Pocahontas – conspire to tame his heart.
The Powhatans have been created with considerable care. The chief (Russell Means) and the warrior he wants his daughter to marry, Kocoum (James Apaumut Fall), are both quite grave. Appropriately, there is not a tepee in sight (less appropriately, there’s hardly a wigwam, either), and the tribe is uniformly at one with nature. The motherless (another Disney tradition) Pocahontas takes spiritual advice from a wise old widow (Linda Hunt), and her constant companions are a racoon and a hummingbird.
The Disney artists have created a vivid palette for the picture. The colors are intense and play with nature. The film’s theme is ‘The Colors of the Wind,’ and the artists have taken that seriously: the Virginia air is always full of glimmering lights. The forests and mountains are majestically rendered, and some effects – sunlight through the forests, the falling water – are stunning.
1995: Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, Best Original Song (‘Colours of the Wind’).
Nominations: Original Musical or Comedy Score