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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 44: "Pocahontas"

(Originally published on 10/30/22)



Run time: 81 min.

Release Date: June 23, 1995.

Where/when I first saw it: In the theater. Not sure where.

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Friday afternoon

At some point during the ‘90s Disney renaissance, something had to come along and stop the steady stream of box office and critical success in its tracks. While “Pocahontas” was by no means a bomb, it finally saw the studio getting a little too comfortable with their formula and taking questionable steps toward creating a piece of historical fiction. Like many writers and directors during the early to mid ’90s, in the wake of “Dances With Wolves,” Disney meant well by trying to tell the story of Native Americans with a bit more sympathy and understanding than had been done in Hollywood's past. Perhaps adding cute animal characters for the real-life heroine to interact with was a few steps too far into cringey territory.

Plus, Pocahontas seems to just be manufactured from the most recent of the Disney princesses that had just been seen. Once again, she is a free-spirit, whose father wants her to marry the most boring, most eligible bachelor and no one understands her need to live her own life. And she has cute animal friends. If the Disney artists were so interested in telling this story again, why use this piece of history as its springboard? Surely, the real Pocahontas had more interesting dilemmas to unravel than the superficialities normally reserved for this particular Disney formula.

The one area where the movie truly shines is in its attention to sunlight and shadows. It loves those sundowns with the elongated shadows and the deep reds and oranges, especially toward the end. This remains a gorgeous film and the “Colors of the Wind” number, in particular, will always be a highlight of any film of this era. It seems to be where the most thought and imagination was placed. You also have to admire the fact that they didn’t force the characters into a “happily ever after” ending. They could’ve easily made that mis-step, but to their credit, they found at least one way to get out of their comfort zone. It was just too little, too late. “Pocahontas” still feels like a movie where the studio had rested a little too easily on their laurels and needed another creative boost to lead the way.


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