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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Hebrew: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Greek: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    Hebrew, Greek, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • 2 Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Awards/Nominations
  • Storyboards
  • Interactive game

Pocahontas (Remastered)

Disney/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 78 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The early nineties saw a renaissance in the Disney Animation studio. After a decade of uninspired flops, titles like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King revitalised the studio with their sharp comedy, flawless animation, and (most importantly) huge box office takings. Each was more successful than the last. Indeed, The Lion King was released in 1994 to become the eighth highest grossing film ever (and the most profitable animated film of all time). Then came Pocahontas.

Well, every winning streak has to end sometime...

The titular character of Pocahontas is a young Native American woman living in a small Coastal tribe at the dawn of the 17th century. Ordered by her father (the tribe’s chief) to marry a cold-hearted, stone-faced warrior, Pocahontas naturally responds by fleeing into the forest, seeking the counsel of a wise tree spirit, and singing a few Broadway numbers.

Meanwhile, a ship full of British explorers lands nearby. Leader of the expedition, toffee-nosed aristocrat and all-round scoundrel Governor Ratcliffe is determined to claim the land for his King, whilst keeping for himself the vast stores of buried gold that he is expecting to find. Also aboard is John Smith, a charming-rogue-with-a-heart-of-gold charged with handling any “savages” that the expedition may encounter. Smith is a strapping, square-jawed character who sounds an awful lot like Mel Gibson.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Smith and Pocahontas stumble upon one another in a scene replete with longing glances, slow-motion hair-tossing and soaring violins. Somewhat surprisingly, the language barrier is obliterated quicker than the background lyricist can wail “Listen with your heart,” and, within two minutes of meeting, the pair are conversing in perfect English.

The attraction between Pocahontas and Smith is threatened when hostilities break out between the colonists and the natives. Will their budding love bloom? Will the greedy Ratcliffe get his just desserts? Will the characters inexplicably burst into song every three minutes? If you can’t guess the answers to these questions, you’ve never watched a Disney film before.

It’s easy to be critical of Pocahontas. It’s supposedly based on a true story, but is as factual as an episode of Star Trek. Pocahontas was actually 11 years old when she met Smith. Rather than being a gorgeous, long haired beauty, portraits depict her as a severe-looking, heavyset, tattooed, BALD woman. Jamestown (the story’s locale) is a flat area totally lacking the mountains, cliffs and waterfalls that dominate the film’s visuals. Space prohibits me from continuing…

Historical inaccuracies aside, the endless succession of trite, saccharine songs are wearying. I have nothing against musicals - the tunes in Aladdin and The Lion King were, for the most part, brilliantly composed and often hilarious – but Pocahontas is lumped with some of the most sentimental, heavy-handed tripe that I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard Celine Dion albums!).

But perhaps, in this instance, such criticisms are misplaced. Unlike much of Disney’s recent output, which is aimed at children and adults alike (see Tarzan or Mulan), this one is strictly for the kiddies. An audience too young to recognise a gross abundance of cliché, manipulative sentimentality, over-the-top political correctness and an amazing disregard for historical fact should enjoy the film greatly. Older viewers prepared to cut the film some slack (like myself) will be entertained by the flawless animation and some clever visual gags. Punters searching for adult-friendly fare should dust off their copies of Shrek, Tarzan or Toy Story.

  Video
Contract

Pocahontas is presented with a 1:66:1 4:3 transfer. Eagle-eyed viewers may notice a subtle amount of aliasing and grain, but the picture is, for the most part, fantastic. The care paid to the transfer is especially apparent during the night-time scenes, which boast beautifully rendered deep blacks next to garishly bright fires and torches. A typically fine Disney effort.

  Audio
Contract

Not much to get excited about here. We are given a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, along with Greek and Hebrew (!) soundtracks (plus subtitles in all three languages). Dialogue and effects are distinct at all times. The rear speakers and subwoofer are used sparingly, but the film’s content means that there’s little need for them. The music and lyrics are crisp and clear… perhaps unfortunately! (By the way, the musicians ended up winning two Oscars, so perhaps I’m being unfair. But then, even Sylvester Stallone has an Oscar...)

  Extras
Contract

Unlike the previous local release of Pocahontas, we now have a decent selection of extras.

The Making of Pocahontas: This is the quintessential Hollywood “Making Of” promotional puff piece. Short snippets of interviews with cast and crew congratulating each other on their cleverness. An attractive narrator spouting painfully trite hyperbole. Some hilariously feeble attempts at side-stepping the film’s myriad of historical inaccuracies: “We’ve taken some liberties,” admits a straight-faced Roy Disney. All in all, hardly worth your time.

Production - Creating Pocahontas: A short, but hilarious, segment wherein one of the lead animators reveals the design for the lead character to a room full of artists, then superimposes it over a portrait of the real Pocahontas – a far less attractive 40-year-old woman. “As you can see, we ARE historically accurate in this film,” he grins.

Production - The Music of Pocahontas: Even viewers who enjoyed the soundtrack will be hard pressed to find anything of value here. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz gush about each other’s respective talents, as well as their cast, and then… well, that’s about it.

Production - Storyboard to Film Comparison: The scene in which Pocahontas and Smith meet under a waterfall is given the treatment here, with the screen split into the original storyboard up top, with the film playing underneath. Commentary from one of the directors points out a few interesting details. The charcoal sketches by Glen Keane, one of Disney’s most respected artists, are gorgeous. More like this would have been lovely, as would an option to toggle the images to full screen via the remote’s ‘angle’ button.

Production - Abandoned Concept “In the Middle of the River”: Rough storyboards and sketches accompany a finished soundtrack to illustrate a scene in which the lovestruck duo secretly meet in the forest and declare their affections once more.

Production - Deleted Concept “If I Never Knew You”: Co-director Mike Gabriel introduces a deleted scene that shows Pocahontas and an imprisoned Smith singing of their love and longing yet again. It’s presented as inked, but un-coloured finished animation. Hardly a loss to the film’s narrative, but it’s a great chance to see the animator’s beautiful line work.

Multi-Language Reel: A montage of Pocahontas and Smith prancing through the forest whilst singing in French, German, Scandinavian, and so on. A curious little oddity which may amuse the kids.

Interactive Adventure - Follow Your Heart: Strictly for the preschool crowd. Grandmother Willow, the benevolent tree spirit, asks nine simple multiple choice questions that, if answered correctly, lead you to a “special reward”... the aforementioned Multi-Language Reel. Wow.

Animated Menu: A montage of clips accompanies an excerpt from Colours of the Wind.” It’s fine, I s’pose.

  Overall  
Contract

Adults may find this particular Disney effort a little too cloying and politically correct, but despite my many and varied whinges Pocahontas is a fine film for the kids. The animation is not ground-breaking, lacking the technological breakthroughs of a Tarzan or a Return to Atlantis, but is nonetheless gorgeous. The extras are not especially enthralling, but at least an effort has been made. All in all, this is a decent DVD for a decent film.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1463
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      And I quote...
    "This one is strictly for the kiddies, although older viewers prepared to cut the film some slack will be entertained by the flawless animation and some clever visual gags..."
    - Terry Oberg
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Palsonic DVD3000
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Centre Speaker:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          Diamond
    • Subwoofer:
          Diamond
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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