Pocahontas (1995 film)

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Pocahontas (1995)
Directed by Mike Gabriel
Eric Goldberg
Produced by Jim Pentecost
Written by Carl Binder
Susannah Grant
Philip LaZebnik
Starring Irene Bedard
Mel Gibson
David Ogden Stiers
Russell Means
Christian Bale
Music by Alan Menken
Stephen Schwartz
Editing by H. Lee Peterson
Distributed by Buena Vistas Pictures Distribution
Release date(s) June 16, 1995
Running time 81 min
Country USA
Language English
Budget $55 million
Gross revenue $346.1 million
Followed by Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Pocahontas is an animated Disney film from 1995 which is based on the true story of Pocahontas. It’s recognized as the sixth film in Disney’s “Renaissance era” and unlike the previous four films, it got mixed reviews from audiences and critics, and despite making almost $300m, it was considered a disappointment considering the expectations of then Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg who was no longer apart of the company by the time it came out.


The British led by Governor John Ratcliffe go to Virginia to look for gold much like how the Spanish did when they came to the New World. They bring along Captain John Smith who went to the New World before, and killed some Indians. On the ship, he saves the life of a young man named Thomas who greatly appreciates the help.

In Virginia, Pocahontas is shown to be adventurous, and not a fan of her father and Chief of the Powhatan Tribe telling her to marry Kocoum who’s shown to be the strongest member of the tribe.

The British arrive, and Ratcliffe names the settlement Jamestown, and tells his crew to start building a settlement, and start digging for gold. While Smith goes adventuring, and looking for Indians.

Smith meets Pocahontas, and by the time he returns to Jamestown, he missed an Indian attack on the settlement, but the British fight them off. The next day, Smith and Pocahontas start bonding, while Ratcliffe is worried that his men are starting to disrespect him as he’s not working hard like them, and they haven’t found any gold.

The Chief brings over more Indians to fight the British, and Kocoum meets Smith, the two fight, and Thomas goes into Pocahontas’ hollow, and remembers a lesson Smith gave him about firing a rifle, and he shoots Kocoum, killing him. Thomas sees Smith get captured by Indians, and runs back to Jamestown and tells the others. Ratcliffe uses this opportunity to declare war on the Indians, and take their gold.

The two armies are about to clash, but Pocahontas stops Smith’s execution, and the Chief declares that the war is over. Ratcliffe tells his men to fire, but they don’t due to the Indians doing nothing. Ratcliffe tries to shoot the Chief, but Smith takes the bullet for him, and Ratcliffe is apprehended by his men.

Pocahontas is given the choice to go to London or stay with her tribe, and she chooses the tribe, and the British go back to London.


Irene Bedard as Pocahontas

Mel Gibson as Captain John Smith

David Ogden Stiers as Governor John Ratcliffe and Wiggins

Russell Means as Chief Powhatan

Christian Bale as Thomas


Jeffrey Katzenberg approved of this film quickly despite the pitch just being Tiger Lily from Peter Pan with the tile being “Walt Disney’s Pocahontas.” Katzenberg believed that Pocahontas would be better than The Lion King dubbing that movie as an “experiment” and the talking animals would be cheesy. While Pocahontas is a romance epic like “Romeo and Juliet” or “West Side Story” but with Indians. He also believed it would be the movie that will win Best Picture.

By the time Pocahontas came out, Katzenberg resigned as Chairman of the Studio, and The Lion King got nearly $1b dollars at the Box Office. While Pocahontas received mixed reviews, and considering that Disney had four acclaimed films in a row, it was a disappointment.

This was also the first Disney movie to be based on a true story, and they changed a lot. Pocahontas’ age was increased to make the romantic relationship with John Smith less creepy, and the fact that their relationship was romantic to begin with. John Ratcliffe was demonized, despite him being peaceful with the Powhatan tribe, and got a rather gruesome death being burned and skinned alive at the stake.


Feminism is in the narrative more so than Beauty and the Beast. Marriage in this movie holds the woman down, and despite her loving John Smith, she chooses to stay with her people wether it’s due to loyally or adventuring more and more (Kocoum is dead, so who knows who her father wants her to marry) you be the judge.

Christianity is portrayed more negativity than the previous Renaissance films as in the 1995 Best Original Song winner “Colors of the Wind” Pocahontas says that everything (even things that never once lived) had a live, and has a spirit, and the British being portrayed as ignorant at best.

Sequels and Prequels

In 1998, Pocahontas received a sequel called “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World.” Where Pocahontas goes to London, and befriends and marries John Rolfe like she did in real life. Due to the unpopularity of the first film and the sequel, there were no follow ups to it, no Broadway musical, and Alan Menken saying it’s very unlikely Pocahontas will get a live-action remake.