Disney’s Pocahontas is a film that would likely not be made today, at least not the Pocahontas that we got in 1995. Though it was well-intentioned by the filmmakers, it paints a problematic picture of the “history” of the title character by fictionalizing much of what we know about her and making other things up completely. Because of this, it is generally considered to be a lesser film among those made during the Disney renaissance and received quite a bit of backlash upon its release. Personally, I have fond memories of the film, mostly due to the beautiful music of Alan Menken and the inspired lyrics of Stephen Schwartz. Pocahontas, in my opinion, features one of the best and most underrated scores written during this period in Disney history. But I digress.
The sequel, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, was released three years after the original, straight to home video. The film faces a unique challenge that doesn’t apply to any other Disney sequel. Not only does it need to continue and build upon the story from its original film but it also needs to account for the history of the character as well. The filmmakers attempted to do this by introducing new characters such as John Rolfe, Pocahontas’s real-life husband. However, like the first film, a lot of liberty is taken with actual history and that should be kept in mind upon viewing. The film suffers from the same problem as the majority of these sequels: it is wholly unnecessary and largely uninspired. The music is mostly so-so, with a couple exceptions, specifically those sung by Pocahontas herself. However, one of the musical numbers is so reminiscent of the opening of Beauty and the Beast that it is painful to watch.
One of the positive things about Pocahontas II is the animation. Not only does it feel in line with the original film (something that isn’t true for all of these sequels), but it also looks quite good, all things considered. Most of the voice cast returns, including the always delightful David Odgen Stiers as Governor Radcliffe, Russell Means as Chief Powhatan, and Irene Bedard and Judy Kuhn as the speaking and singing voice of Pocahontas, respectfully. John Smith is voiced by Donal Gibson, the brother of Mel Gibson, Smith’s original voice.
All in all, you could do a lot better than spending your time watching Pocahontas II but, as we saw last week, you could do a lot worse.
Join us next week for The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride.