Friday, November 20, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Pocahontas (1995)

I haven't attended a film in the Disney Screen series for several weeks, for a variety of reasons, so it was terrific to return tonight for POCAHONTAS (1995).

POCAHONTAS contains two of my all-time favorite Disney songs, "Just Around the Riverbend" and the Oscar-winning "Colors of the Wind," composed by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Despite my love for the music, I had never actually seen the movie! I had a baby who was a few weeks old when the film was released so I didn't catch it in a theater, and although my children have had the DVD for years I'd never watched it myself. So many movies, so little time...

In more recent years, as older Disney films have screened at the El Capitan Theatre and elsewhere, I was determined to hold out so that my first viewing of POCAHONTAS would be in a theater, and tonight I finally got my chance!

POCAHONTAS is a lovely film, with gorgeous visuals matched by that beautiful score.

In the simple story, inspired by historical events, John Smith (Mel Gibson) and the Virginia Company travel to the New World from England and settle Jamestown. Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers) is greedy, wanting to personally enrich himself, and is also ready to kill all of the "savages" they meet without provocation.

John befriends Pocahontas (Irene Bedard, sung by Judy Kuhn), daughter of Chief Powhatan (Russell Means, LAST OF THE MOHICANS). Can they overcome the mistrust between soldiers and Indians and achieve peace?

The movie portrays the Indians' world before the arrival of the settlers as a near-idyllic Garden of Eden, other than the fact that the braves return from a war at the start of the movie; the colonizing governor is the bad guy, which is par for the course these days, but that's offset by the kindness of the John Smith character. Most important of all is the overriding message of the friendship which starts between John and Pocahontas and then, as predicted by Grandmother Willow (Linda Hunt), ripples out to include others.

The film's look is sumptuous, with colorful swirling leaves and beautiful waterfalls; it's a feast for both eyes and ears. The presentation of the two key songs listed above is a superb melding of animation and music, as good as anything Disney has ever done. It's a very worthwhile film.

POCAHONTAS runs 81 minutes. The supporting voice cast includes Christian Bale and Billy Connolly.

The film was directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg. I had a nice chat with Goldberg at the 2013 D23 Expo!

POCAHONTAS has had multiple releases on DVD including a 10th Anniversary Edition and in a set with the direct-to-video sequel POCAHONTAS II: JOURNEY TO A NEW WORLD (1998). It's also out on Blu-ray and was released on VHS. It can be streamed via Amazon.

Tonight POCAHONTAS was preceded by ALL IN A NUTSHELL (1949), in which Donald Duck battles Chip and Dale for possession of some nuts and then nut butter. I love Chip and Dale, and this cartoon had a couple of laugh out loud funny moments. It can be found on DVD in the Disney Treasures set The Chronological Donald, Volume 3.

Previous Disney Screen reviews: OLIVER & COMPANY (1988), EIGHT BELOW (2006), THE LOVE BUG (1968), THE ROCKETEER (1991), ROBIN HOOD (1973), and POLLYANNA (1960).


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