ⓘ Pocahontas (1995 film)
Pocahontas is a 1995 American animated musical romantic drama film loosely based on the life of the Native American woman Pocahontas. It portrays a fictionalized account of her historical encounter with Englishman John Smith and the Jamestown settlers that arrived from the Virginia Company. The film was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 23, 1995. It is the 33rd Disney animated feature film and the sixth film produced and released during the period known as the Disney Renaissance.
The film was directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg. The voice cast stars Irene Bedard and Mel Gibson as Pocahontas and Smith, respectively, with David Ogden Stiers, Russell Means, Christian Bale, Billy Connolly and Linda Hunt providing other voices. The score was written by Alan Menken, who also wrote the films songs along with Stephen Schwartz.
After making his directorial debut with The Rescuers Down Under 1990, Gabriel conceived the film during a Thanksgiving weekend. The project went into development concurrently with The Lion King 1994 and attracted most of Disneys top animators. Meanwhile, Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg decided the film should be a serious romantic epic in the vein of Beauty and the Beast 1991, in hope that, like Beauty, it would also be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Screenwriters Carl Binder, Susannah Grant, and Philip LaZebnik took creative liberties with history in an attempt to make the film palatable to audiences.
Pocahontas received mixed reactions from reviewers, who praised its animation, musical score, songs and female heroine but criticized its story, lack of historical accuracy, and racial overtones. Despite this, Pocahontas was a commercial success, earning $346 million at the box office and has become the most well-known adaptation of the Pocahontas story. The film received two Academy Awards for Best Musical or Comedy Score for Menken and Best Original Song for "Colors of the Wind". A video game based on Pocahontas was released across various platforms, and the film itself was followed by a direct-to-video sequel titled Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World in 1998. According to critics, Pocahontas has influenced subsequent films.
In 1607, the Susan Constant sails from London to the New World, carrying English settlers from the Virginia Company. On board are Captain John Smith and the voyages leader Governor Ratcliffe, who seeks gold to bring him wealth and status. Along the way, the Susan Constant is caught in a North Atlantic storm and John saves young, inexperienced crewmate Thomas from drowning. As they approach the New World, the settlers, including John, talk of adventure, finding gold, fighting "Injuns" and potentially settling in the new land.
In the Powhatan tribe in Tsenacommacah, North America, Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan, fears being possibly wed to Kocoum, a brave warrior whom she sees as too serious for her own free-spirited personality. Powhatan gives Pocahontas her mothers necklace as a present. Pocahontas, along with her friends, the raccoon Meeko and hummingbird Flit, visit Grandmother Willow, a spiritual talking willow tree and speaks of a dream involving a spinning arrow and her confusion regarding what her path in life should be. Grandmother Willow then alerts Pocahontas to the arriving English.
Ratcliffe has Jamestown built in a wooded clearing and immediately has the crewmen dig for gold. John departs to explore the wilderness and encounters Pocahontas. They quickly bond, fascinated by each others worlds and end up falling in love, despite Powhatans orders to stay away from the Englishmen after Kocoum and other warriors engage them in a fight. Meanwhile, Meeko meets Percy, Ratcliffes pet pug and becomes the bane of his existence. When John tells Pocahontas that he and his men are here to find gold, she tells him that there is no gold. Pocahontas introduces John to Grandmother Willow and avoids two other crewmen, but Pocahontass best friend Nakoma discovers her relationship with John and warns Kocoum. Ratcliffe also learns of Johns encounters with Pocahontas and angrily warns John against sparing any natives he comes across on pain of death.
Later, John and Pocahontas meet with Grandmother Willow and plan to bring peace between the colonists and the tribe. John and Pocahontas share a kiss, while Kocoum and Thomas, sent by Ratcliffe to spy on John, witness from afar. Furious, Kocoum, screaming a battle cry, attacks and attempts to kill John, but Thomas intervenes with his musket and kills Kocoum, who destroys Pocahontass necklace in the process. John orders Thomas to leave just before the tribesmen arrive, capture John and retrieve Kocoums body. Enraged at Kocoums death, Powhatan declares war on the English, beginning with Johns execution at sunrise.
Thomas reaches Jamestown safely at night and warns the English settlers of Johns capture. Ratcliffe then rallies his men to battle using this as an excuse to annihilate the tribe and find their non-existent gold. That same night, Powhatan also orders his men to prepare for battle. A desperate Pocahontas visits Grandmother Willow, where Meeko hands her Johns compass. Pocahontas realizes Johns compass was the spinning arrow from her real life encounter, which leads to her destiny. Morning comes, and Powhatan and his tribe drag John to a cliff overlooking a clearing for execution. Meanwhile, Ratcliffe leads the armed colonists to the cliff to fight Powhatans warriors. Just as Powhatan is about to execute John, Pocahontas intervenes and finally convinces him to end the fighting between the two groups and to spare Johns life. Everyone accepts gratefully and John is released; when the unmoved Ratcliffe orders his men to attack, they refuse to. Enraged, Ratcliffe fires a musket at Powhatan, but John shields him and is hit instead. The settlers, livid at Ratcliffe, turn on him and arrest him for hurting their comrade.
John is nursed back to health by the tribe, but must return to England for further treatment if he is to survive. Ratcliffe is also sent back to England, in chains and a gag, to face punishment for his crimes against the settlement. John asks Pocahontas to come with him, but she chooses to stay with her tribe. Meeko and Percy, now friends, give Pocahontas her mothers necklace completely fixed. John leaves without Pocahontas but with Powhatans blessing to return anytime he likes. The film ends with Pocahontas standing atop a cliff, watching the ship carrying John depart.
2. Voice cast
- Irene Bedard as Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan. She is a very adventurous person who deliberately disobeys her fathers strict prohibition of meeting white males and falls in love with Captain John Smith. Glen Keane served as the supervising animator for Pocahontas.
- Judy Kuhn as singing voice of Pocahontas
- Mel Gibson as John Smith, the love interest of Pocahontas. He is the only settler in Jamestown willing to befriend the natives due to his love for Pocahontas and acceptance of other cultures.
- Jess Harnell provided additional singing dialogue for John Smith in the song "Mine, Mine, Mine", when Gibson had trouble with the last few lines.
- Stiers also provided the voice of Wiggins, Ratcliffes manservant.
- David Ogden Stiers as Governor Ratcliffe, the greedy governor of the settlers who leads an expedition to Virginia to find gold and other riches that he wants to keep for himself.
- John Kassir as Meeko, Pocahontass pet raccoon who is friendly to John Smith and loves eating.
- Russell Means as Chief Powhatan, Pocahontass father and chief of the Powhatan tribe.
- Jim Cummings provides the singing voice of Chief Powhatan
- Billy Connolly as Ben and Joe Baker as Lon, two settlers and friends of John Smith.
- Gordon Tootoosis as Kekata, the shaman of the Powhatan.
- Frank Welker as Flit, Pocahontass pet hummingbird who prefers Kocoum over John Smith but eventually befriends the latter.
- Danny Mann as Percy, Governor Ratcliffes pet pug.
- Linda Hunt as Grandmother Willow, a speaking willow tree that acts as Pocahontass guide.
- James Apaumut Fall as Kocoum, a strong and brave but stern and aggressive Powhatan warrior who Chief Powhatan wants to marry Pocahontas.
- Christian Bale as Thomas, a loyal friend of John Smith.
- Michelle St. John as Nakoma, Pocahontass best friend who secretly adores Kocoum.
- Jim Cummings provides the singing voice of Kekata
Three actors in the film have been involved in other Pocahontas-related projects. Gordon Tootoosis acted as Chief Powhatan in Pocahontas: The Legend 1995. Christian Bale and Irene Bedard would portray John Rolfe and Pocahontass mother, respectively, in Terrence Malicks The New World 2005.
3.1. Production Development
Following the release of The Rescuers Down Under 1990, director Mike Gabriel was eager to collaborate with veteran Disney story artist Joe Grant on a follow-up project that was vastly different from the animated adventure film. During Thanksgiving weekend, 1990, Gabriel considered adapting Western legends such as Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, and Pecos Bill into animated films before conceiving of Pocahontas. Pitching his idea at the Gong Show meeting, Gabriel wrote the title Walt Disneys Pocahontas on an image of Tiger Lily from Peter Pan 1953, to the back of which he taped a brief pitch that read "an Indian princess who is torn between her fathers wishes to destroy the English settlers and her wishes to help them - a girl caught between her father and her people, and her love for the enemy." Coincidentally, Feature Animation president Peter Schneider had been developing an animated version of William Shakespeares play Romeo and Juliet, and observed several similarities between his idea and Gabriels Pocahontas pitch; Schneider recalled, "We were particularly interested in exploring the theme of If we dont learn to live with one another, we will destroy ourselves." Gabriels pitch was quickly accepted, becoming the quickest story turnaround in Disney studio history.
After Beauty and the Beast 1991 was unprecedentedly nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards, then-studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg opted to produce another animated romance film in the hopes of achieving a similar feat. While Aladdin 1992 and The Lion King 1994 were considered to be too far into development, Katzenberg deemed Pocahontas a promising candidate, and thus pushed for the heroine to be older, the romance between her and Smith to be more mature, and the animals to be mute. Head of Story Tom Sito went on the record stating he wanted to include "broader" jokes, but the "higher-ups wanted it more winsome, more gentle. Some of the folks were so concerned about political correctness, they didnt want to be cuckoo-wacky about it." Eric Goldberg – following his contributions to Aladdin as the supervising animator of the Genie and with all animation units for The Lion King already occupied – was asked to co-direct Pocahontas alongside Gabriel, to which he agreed. Likewise, he had originally expected the film to be more comedic and cartoonish like Aladdin, but Schneider informed him that the film would be produced in a vein more similar to that of Beauty and the Beast ; the then-ongoing 1992 Los Angeles riots further convinced Goldberg to commit to the film due to its racial themes. Executive interference would eventually grow so much that Goldberg himself decided to work for Chuck Jones Productions under the pseudonym "Claude Raynes" during production. It eventually reached a peak when Joe Grant drew Percy wearing an Indian feather, by which the animators took the concept one step further by placing a Spanish ruff on Meeko. One executive exclaimed, "Animals dont have the intelligence to switch their clothes! They dont even have opposing thumbs." The animators would retain their concept for the film.
Under Katzenberg, Frank Wells, and Michael Eisner, the Disney studios had begun a correlation of hiring Broadway personnel to manage the Disney animation staff on their feature films that brought such producers as Amy Pell to Aladdin and Sarah McArthur and Thomas Schumacher to The Lion King. Before making his producing debut on Pocahontas, James Pentecost had earlier worked as a production stage manager on several Broadway productions including La Cage aux Folles and Crimes of the Heart. In June 1992, the filmmakers embarked on a research trip to the Jamestown Settlement where Pentecost first met Shirley "Little Dove" Custalow-McGowan and Debbie "White Dove" Custalow, both descendants of the Powhatan Indians. The trip also included a visit to the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, and conducted interviews with historians at Old Dominion University. Following the research trip, Custalow-McGowan served as a consultant traveling to the Disney studios three times, and while Custalow-McGowan offered her services for free, Disney paid her a $500 daily consulting fee plus expenses. Ultimately, when it came to light that historical accuracy was not being pursued to the extent she had hoped, McGowan has voiced her feelings of shame she felt in conjunction with her work on the film, saying, ", who had written scores that we all loved and we were huge fans of, and he lived in the New York area." Disney immediately contacted Stephen Schwartz, who, after working on Working, Rags, and Children of Eden, had quit theater and was taking psychology courses at New York University; he was brought on board to write the lyrics. This would mark the first time Menken had collaborated without Ashman for a Disney animated film. Menken commented that their work included moments of tension because Schwartz was also capable of writing music and Menken had experience with lyrics.
Due to corporate interest in the film surrounding its theme of promoting understanding between different groups, and its inclusion of violence and threats of greater conflict, Schwartz became heavily involved in the storytelling. Bannerman estimated that he spent a week with one of the screenwriters and helped work out the overall themes of tolerance and cooperation. In June 1992, Schwartz researched Jamestown, Virginia where he absorbed the atmosphere and bought tapes of Native American music and English sea shanties, as well as other music from the early seventeenth century that helped inspire numbers in the film. Schwartz modeled his lyrical writing for people of other ethnicities on that of Oscar Hammerstein II and Sheldon Harnick. "Colors of the Wind" was the first song to be written for the film. Gabriel, Goldberg, and Pentecost insisted that the song help define the films "heart and soul". Schwartz began "Colors" with a few draft ideas for lyrics taking inspiration from Chief Seattles letter to the United States Congress. Then, Menken wrote the melody with Schwartz listening at the piano and making suggestions. Schwartz would add lyrics before a session together where they were refined. "Just Around the Riverbend", also composed by Menken and Schwartz, was devised by Schwartzs wife Carole, with the idea that Pocahontas would have a recurring dream that suggested something coming her way, paving the way for her "I Want" song. The song almost did not make it into the completed film when Disney executives doubted whether her song would have the kind of impact they wanted at that point. Schwartz however stated he and Menken "believed in it very strongly. Indeed, at one point we wrote a different song for that spot, but Alan and I were never as happy with the second song and ultimately everybody at Disney came to feel that way, too."
The filmmakers had planned for a song for when Pocahontas and Smith met in the glade, just before Kocoum attacks his rival and one of the settlers stalking Smith kills Kocoum. There were an estimated three to four songs at this point, including "In the Middle of the River", "First to Dance", which was deemed too silly as it took place before Kocoums death, and "Powerful Magic", which was another attempt at a happy song. A love song, titled "If I Never Knew You", had been finished by the animators, but following a test screening where younger audiences were not interested in it and the teenagers felt giddy as it played, Menken suggested that the song be removed from the film. It was, although its melody remained in the orchestral underscoring. The films soundtrack was successful, reaching number-one on the Billboard 200 charts during the week of July 22, 1995. It received a triple platinum certification.
4.1. Release Marketing
To replicate the promotional buzz of The Lion King, the four-minute musical number, "Colors of the Wind", was released in November 1994, accompanying a theatrical re-release of The Lion King. On February 3, 1995, Disney began its promotional marketing campaign starting in San Diego, California launching a nationwide 18-week tour of fashion malls located within twenty-five cities where a mall exhibit named Pocahontas Animation Discovery Adventure was created to help promote the release. There, a Disney animator would guide shoppers on a presentation tour, which featured a walk-through maze with interactive lily pads, flying birds, and huge video wall, a studio workshop where visitors can become the voice of their favorite animated character, and an area where visitors can electronically manipulate images. Additionally, they would demonstrate animation techniques and discuss the design and creation of Pocahontas character. Further promotional tie-ins included Burger King distributing 55 million toy replicas of the films characters with kids meals, Payless Shoes selling a line of moccasins, and Mattel peddling a Barbie-like Pocahontas doll.
A behind-the-scenes documentary television special titled The Making of Pocahontas: A Legend Comes to Life was aired on June 20, 1995, on the Disney Channel where the animators, voice cast, crew, and studio heads were interviewed on the production of the film. The special was hosted by actress Irene Bedard.
The film had the largest premiere in history, on June 10, 1995, in New Yorks Central Park, followed by a live performance by Vanessa Williams. Disney officials estimated the crowd at 100.000. The premieres attendees included then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Caroline Kennedy, Mariah Carey and Michael Eisner.
4.2. Release Home media
At first announced to be released on March 6, 1996, Pocahontas was first released on VHS and Laserdisc in the United States on February 28, 1996, under the "Masterpiece Collection" lineup. A deluxe VHS edition included the film and a documentary on the making of the film alongside a special edition of The Art of Pocahontas book and Disney-certified lithograph prints. Released on November 13, 1996, the CAV laserdisc Deluxe Edition contained the film, a historical documentary on Pocahontas, and The Making of Pocahontas, along with added storyboards, character design artwork, concept art, rough animation, publicity and promotional trailers, the deleted "If I Never Knew You" musical sequence, and an audio commentary on a total of four double sided discs. The release was also accompanied with a Special Edition of the Art of Pocahontas book. Disney initially shipped 17 million VHS copies to retail stores, with nine million copies sold within its first weekend. By mid-1998, the operating income of the VHS release had accumulated to $250 million in worldwide sales.
In January 2000, Walt Disney Home Video launched the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection, with Pocahontas re-issued on VHS and DVD on June 6, 2000. The DVD contained the film in its 1.66:1 aspect ratio enhanced with 5.1 surround sound, and was accompanied with special features including two music videos, a trivia game, the theatrical trailer, and a "Fun with Nature" activity booklet. In 2005 the film was remastered for a 10th Anniversary 2-disc Special Edition DVD, the DVD release featured two versions of the film which also featured a new extended cut of the film adding two performances of "If I Never Knew You", the original theatrical version and numerous bonus features. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Pocahontas, alongside its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, on Blu-ray Disc as a 2-Movie Collection on August 21, 2012. Pocahontas was re-released yet again in 2016 as a Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD combo pack, available exclusively through the Disney Movie Club. It featured brand-new cover art, and, for the first time, a digital copy download of the film alongside the physical release.
5.1. Reception Box office
Timed with Pocahontas 400th birthday, Pocahontas had a limited release in North America on June 16, 1995, playing in only six selected theaters. The film grossed nearly $2.7 million during its first weekend, standing at the eighth place in the box office ranking. The wide release followed on June 23, 1995, in 2.596 screens. Studio estimates initially anticipated Pocahontas earning $30.5 million, ranking first and beating out the previous box office champion Batman Forever 1995. The figure was later revised to $28.8 million with Pocahontas falling second behind Batman Forever. The final estimates placed Pocahontas narrowly ranking first grossing $29.5 million in its first weekend with Batman Forever falling into second place taking $29.2 million.
By January 1996, the film grossed $141.5 million in the United States, being the fourth-highest-grossing film in North America of 1995, behind Apollo 13, Toy Story, and Batman Forever. Overseas, the film was projected to gross $225 million, though foreign box office grosses eventually amounted to $204.5 million. Cumulatively, Pocahontas grossed $346.1 million worldwide. In January 1996, the then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner contested in an annual shareholders meeting that Pocahontas is well on its way to being one of our most successful films of all time. It has equalled Beauty and the Beast s box office numbers domestically, and now it has taken Europe by storm and is playing well in every country in which it is being shown. Sales of Pocahontas merchandise have been phenomenal."
5.2. Reception Critical response
Pocahontas received generally mixed reviews from film critics. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 55% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 56 reviews, with an average score of 5.91/10. The sites consensus states Pocahontas means well, and has moments of startling beauty, but its largely a bland, uninspired effort, with uneven plotting and an unfortunate lack of fun." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 from top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 58 based on 23 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film 3 out of 4 stars writing the film was "the best-looking of the modern Disney animated features, and one of the more thoughtful" though he was more critical of the story and portrayal of the villain, ultimately summarizing that "on a list including Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin and Lion King, Id rank it fifth. It has a lot of good intentions, but a severe scoundrel shortage." On the television program Siskel & Ebert, Ebert repeated the same sentiment, while his partner Gene Siskel was more praising of the film. Both critics gave the film a "Thumbs Up". In his print review for the Chicago Tribune, Siskel awarded the film 3½ stars out of 4 commenting that the film is a "surprisingly serious, thoughtful and beautifully drawn Disney animated feature about the American birthright of exploitation and racism". He praised it for "sending powerful images to children about threats to the natural order", restoring "a certain majesty to the Indian culture", and for having "the courage that leads to the life-goes-on ending."
The films writing and lack of humor received mixed reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated "With dismay, I realize that virtually everything in the movie - every character, every story twist, every song - is as generic as the two hygienic lovers. As a fairy-tale confection, a kind of West Side Story in Jamestown, Pocahontas is pleasant to look at, and it will probably satisfy very small kiddies, but its the first of the new-era Disney cartoons that feels less than animated." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone bemoaned that there were "no funny, fast-talking animals - Meeko the raccoon and Flit the hummingbird remain silent pals to Pocahontas and make you miss the verbal fun that Nathan Lanes wisecracking meerkat brought to The Lion King." Desson Howe, reviewing for The Washington Post, likewise criticized the writing as recycling "elements from Snow White to The Lion King, with a father-child clash, a heroines saintly pureness that transforms an entire people, a forbidden love, consultations with an oracle/shaman in this case a tree spirit, voiced by Linda Hunt and the usual sideshow of funny, fuzzy animals." While calling the screenplay the "films weakest element", Janet Maslin of The New York Times summarized that "Gloriously colorful, cleverly conceived and set in motion with the usual Disney vigor, Pocahontas is one more landmark feat of animation. It does everything a childrens film should do except send little viewers home humming its theme song."
According to Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhatan Renape Nation, the film "distorts history beyond recognition" and "perpetuates a dishonest and self-serving myth at the expense of the Powhatan Nation". Roy claims that Disney refused the tribes offers to help create a more culturally and historically accurate film. In the Los Angeles Times, Angela Aleiss said that Pocohantas and other portrayals of the Indian princess rarely show her having anything more important in her life than her relationships with men. Professor and Director of Indigenous Nations Studies Cornel Pewewardy argues that the film presents damaging stereotypes of the Native American population. Pewewardy feels that the representation of Native characters, like Grandmother Willow, Meeko, and Flit, as animals, has a marginalizing effect. Anthropologist Kiyomi Kutsuzawa also observed that in the film, Kocoum and John Smith fight for Pocahontass affection. Kutsuzawa viewed Smiths victory over Kocoum in this arena as symbolic of Western Europes domination of the Americas and the white mans domination over men of color.
Conversely, Native American activist Russell Means, who portrays Chief Powhatan in the film, praised the films racial overtones, stating that Pocahontas is the first time Eurocentric male society has admitted its historical deceit. It makes the stunning admission that the British came over here to kill Indians and rape and pillage the land." Means also said that the film marked "the first time, other than on Northern Exposure, that a human face has been put on an Indian female," dubbing Pocahontas "the finest feature film on American Indians Hollywood has turned out." Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic concurred, writing that the film "had a progressive attitude when it came to interpreting history, depicting the English settlers as plunderers searching for non-existent gold who were intent upon murdering the savages they encountered in the process."
6. Historical accuracy
Pocahontass real name was Matoaka. "Pocahontas" was only a nickname, and it can variously be translated to "little wanton", "playful one", "little brat", or "the naughty one". In the film, Pocahontas is a young adult; in reality, she was around 10 or 11 at the time John Smith arrived with the Virginia Company in 1607, while Smith was 28.
Smith is portrayed as an amiable man; in reality, he was described as having a harsh exterior and a very authoritarian personality by his fellow colonists.
Historically, there is no evidence of a romantic relationship emerging between Pocahontas and John Smith. Whether or not Pocahontas saved Smiths life is debated. English colonists led by Samuel Argall captured Pocahontas three years after John Smith departed for England; she converted to Christianity in Henricus and later married John Rolfe, who was known for introducing tobacco as a cash crop.
The real Governor Ratcliffe, along with 14 fellow colonists, died when they were invited to a gathering with the tribe of Powhatan Indians. The Powhatans promised the starving colonists would be given corn, but were ambushed. Ratcliffe was tied to a stake in front of a fire. Women removed the skin from his entire body with mussel shells and tossed the pieces into the flame as he watched. They skinned his face last and finally burned him at the stake.
In the sequel, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, it depicts Pocahontas volunteering to go to England in her fathers place. In reality, she was kidnapped by colonists due to conflict between the settlers and the Natives. Despite Powhatans surrender of prisoners and weapons the Natives stole, the colonists were not satisfied and Pocahontas was taken to the town of Henricus. She converted to Christianity and took the name "Rebecca". She married Rolfe and they had a son together, Thomas. The ending of the sequel features them on their way back to Jamestown, but in reality, Pocahontas became seriously ill and was unable to travel. She died at the age of 21 in March 1617.
Ebert criticized the films deviations from history, writing "Having led one of the most interesting lives imaginable, Pocahontas serves here more as a simplified symbol". Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic wrote that "The movie might have fudged some facts", but that this allowed it to tell "a compelling romantic story".
Animator Tom Sito defended the films relationship to history, stating that "Contrary to the popular verdict that we ignored history on the film, we tried hard to be historically correct and to accurately portray the culture of the Virginia Algonquins."
Pocahontas became the first Native American Disney Princess and the first woman of color to be the lead character in a Disney film.
A video game titled Disneys Pocahontas based on the film was released on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive on January 1, 1996. Pocahontas was followed by a direct-to-video sequel entitled Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World 1998. Bedard and Kuhn reprised their roles as Pocahontas speaking and singing voices, respectively, while John Smith was voiced by Donal Gibson. Pocahontas, alongside other Disney Princesses, briefly appeared in the film Ralph Breaks the Internet 2018, with Bedard returning to the role.
Critics have also discussed the influence of Pocahontas on other films. Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic argues that the strong and brave title character of Pocahontas influenced the portrayal of subsequent heroines of Disney animated films, specifically Mulan, Rapunzel, Merida, and Elsa. Similarly, The Verge s Tasha Robinson wrote that Moana 2016 "draws on" Pocahontas in its portrayal of a woman buoyed by her culture. According to HuffPost, James Camerons Avatar 2009 is a "rip-off" of Pocahontas. Avatar s producer Jon Landau has said that Avatar is akin to Pocahontas with the Navi aliens taking the place of Native Americans. Cameron has said that he first conceived of Avatar in the 1960s, long before Pocahontas was released but he has also said that Avatar does reference the story of Pocahontas, the historical figure. Kirsten Acuna of Business Insider wrote that, while Avatar may be based on Camerons own ideas, it nevertheless takes inspiration from animated films like Pocahontas and FernGully: The Last Rainforest 1992.