(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing DVD covers of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King)
Doug (vo): So Disney was producing some of the biggest hits the world has ever seen. The Little Mermaid, a lot of people saw; Beauty and the Beast, most people saw; Aladdin, everybody saw; and The Lion King was the highest-grossing animated film at that time. What could possibly go wrong for Dis--
(Clips from Pocahontas are shown. Snippets of the film's score by Alan Menken, mainly an instrumental version of "Colors of the Wind", play in the background)
Doug (vo): Oh, yeah... Yes, Pocahontas seems to be that snowball that started the avalanche of downward spiraling Disney animated films. It wasn't a big critical disappointment or even that big a financial disappointment, but nobody praised it like they praised the other Disney films, especially the general public. Not just adults, but even kids found the whole idea of telling the story of the Indian princess to be, well, not that interesting. And the 2D Disney animated films would never quite hit the record-breaking numbers that they did with Lion King, Aladdin, and so forth after this came out. So, is it as bad as everybody made it out to be? Uh...let's look at the good stuff.
Story and reviewEdit
Doug (vo): First of all, you gotta give Disney credit for trying something pretty different with this. I mean, for a company that mostly based its animated films on fairy tales and pop cultural references, this was a very different turn. Even the look of the film is different. The soft-smooth lines are not really as prominent, and look, even the eyes have really shrunken down. The characters don't look like the typical Barbie and Ken stereotypes that you get in most Disney films. But I think people kind of miss that. [An image of Aladdin and Jasmine is shown] I think there's just something so jarring when your last human characters look like this, and then suddenly, they look like this. But, hey, a more adult look is fine if there's a more adult story, and that is not at all what this is. I'm not even going to try and talk about the history aspect of this, 'cause trust me, there's no point. They made most of it up. But that wouldn't matter as much if it was done well. But pretty much what we have is the typical greedy white guy comes to take over the Native land, a story that adults, and especially kids, have heard over and over and over in after-school specials. Are they right? Well, yeah, but can you find a new way of telling it? I think a lot of us don't see the purpose in watching a story if we already know exactly what's going to happen and pretty much how you're going to tell it. Okay, let's get to the technicals here.
[Several clips of the main characters are shown]
Doug (vo): Our main lead is Pocahontas. She's strong, free-spirited and dull as a rock. Yeah, I'm sorry. She's just not that interesting. I mean, I know she does things that the other princesses don't do, but her actions are one thing, her personality is something different. And she's not bad, she's just not that fun to watch. The only person to be more boring is John Smith, played by Mel Gibson. Him and his crew come across the Native Americans and decide they want to take over their land, which leads to teaching the white idiots a new point of view, constant misunderstandings that, of course, result in capture and death, and an evil bad guy who refuses to listen and just wants gold, gold, gold. It's your classic "who's the savage?" story, which, like I said, wouldn't be bad if they could do something new with it. And for those thinking that this was one of the first films to try it, it's not. Like I said, this stuff was in countless after-school specials and TV shows and all sorts of things geared towards kids, so this was really nothing that unexpected.
[The film's animal characters are shown]
Doug (vo): One of the biggest complaints at the time is that the animals don't talk, and at first, I kind of like it. I like a little mime, silence school stuff where you don't hear them talk and it's all in the expressions. But then, when you really think about it, this is a film about communicating with nature. Why don't the animals talk? If there's any Disney movie where it actually makes sense to hear the animals speak, this is it. But if they don't wanna make them talk, that's fine. Maybe they're communicating with nature in another way, like, you know, talking to the trees. [Grandmother Willow is shown] Wait a minute! The trees can talk, but the animals can't?! What sense does that make?! Yeah, I don't get it either, and it's a pretty silly choice.
[Several of the film's song sequences are shown, as well as clips focusing on the animation]
Doug (vo): Now wait a minute. Didn't I say I was gonna talk about the good things in this movie? 'Cause there are a few. Most of us know "Colors of the Wind", and even though it's preachy, it's still a pretty decent song. I really like "Savages", even though the lyrics at times are a little goofy. Another thing that's really cool about this movie is the colors. They look great. You sort of don't even see the lines. The colors just sort of take them over. Whoever did the artistic design really knew what they were doing. And once in a while, you get some cute comic relief from the little animal friends, but aside from that, there's not much to talk about.
Doug (vo): Is it really awful? I suppose not. I mean, it's not doing anything godawful apart from, you know, rewriting history. But, hey, history already did that. And it's Disney. You'd expect them to take horrifying stories and change them around to have a happy ending. But Pocahontas' biggest crime is that it's dull and predictable. Not that Disney has always been unpredictable, but it's always been entertaining. Pocahontas is just a snore-fest. Apart from looking at it, there's really not that much to have fun with. We already know what the lesson's gonna be, we already know what the characters are gonna discover, we already know their flaws, their strengths, their weaknesses. We already know who's gonna die, we already know who's gonna live, so why are we watching it? Well, a lot of people didn't. Like I said, this was the first film to start the sort of animated Disney downfall. And even though they'd still have some hits after it, none of them would ever reach the golden age that Disney hit a few years earlier. So while it's not awful, I can see why it started this downward spiral. Disney would need to have a truly ingenious idea for their next film to pull them out of it. The result? Well, join me in the next one.
[The final scene of the film, showing Pocahontas watching the English ship sail away from her land, is shown]