In this animated feature film, Disney Studios weaves its first story based on a real-life historical figure. Commissioned by the gold hungry Governor Ratcliffe, British adventurer John Smith (voice of Mel Gibson) and his crew set sail for the New World. Upon his arrival, Smith encounters Pocahontas, a lovely Native American woman (voice of Irene Bedard). Despite their initial cultural conflicts, they are strangely drawn to each other. When tensions between the British colonists and the Indians develop to the point of outright war, Pocahontas refuses to join in the hatred. She sacrifices her loyalty to the tribe and her chieftain father to save John Smith’s life. The film, however, is heavy-handed and serious, and small children will not fully appreciate it. Pocahontas’ forest companions, a gluttonous raccoon and a feisty hummingbird, provide the only comic relief. Of course, the animated visual effects are outstanding, and the musical score is passable, but children probably won’t come out of the theatre humming its songs. Overall, POCAHONTAS is only moderately entertaining and will probably not appeal to children below 8 years old.
The sacrificial love of Pocahontas is inspiring, and the fact that she does not harbor hatred for the colonists sends a positive message of racial harmony. And the film avoids all foul language and sexual content. Unfortunately, the producers give an exaggerated picture of the white colonists as greedy, bloodthirsty monsters who just want to rid the land of “those savages.” The film has some violence, including a battle scene and an Indian warrior being shot, but it is not excessive. Also, Indian spiritism is portrayed in a favorable light. Pocahontas constantly visits Grandmother Willow, a 400- year-old mystical spirit living in a tree, for advice. Grandmother says that “all around are spirits, in the wind and the sea, to guide you.” She also reminds the Indian maiden that her dead mother’s presence is very real. Further, Pocahontas teaches John Smith that every rock, tree and creature has a living soul. The producers of this film have the right to portray the religious beliefs of Indians in a favorable light, but, as a Christian publication, we cannot endorse such a practice. Also, the negative portrayal of the colonists is misleading and doesn’t adequately describe their admirable characteristics. Although POCAHONTAS has some commendable qualities, we cannot give it our unqualified approval.