Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
There's something in the wind...

The 33rd entry in the Disney Animated Canon, 1995's Pocahontas was the first (and, other than Mulan as well as Snow White being supposedly inspired by a certain Margaretha von Waldeck, only) one to be inspired by true events. It takes the old legend of the Native American princess who supposedly saved the life of Englishman John Smith and turns it into a musical romance with few roots in the historical record. It literally has more roots in fantasy, in fact — a supporting character is a talking willow tree.

Rebellious Princess Pocahontas has been promised to the best warrior of the tribe by her father Chief Powhatan, but she senses she has a greater purpose in life than this. When English settlers arrive to form the Jamestown colony, she meets the idealistic John Smith, the one member of the group who is interested more in adventure and the beauty of the land than the gold said to lie in it, which Governor Ratcliffe exhorts the others to dig up. Each an outcast among his/her own people, they fall in love.

But both groups are intensely mistrustful of the other -- the Native Americans fear the English will ravage their land and people; the English regard themselves superior to the "savage" natives. When a rendezvous between the lovers leads to the death of her intended at the hands of a settler, John Smith is captured and sentenced to die by Powhatan, and (having discovered there is no gold) Ratcliffe intends to use this as the perfect excuse to exterminate the natives. Only Pocahontas can save both worlds.

This was the first Disney animated feature to arrive after their world-beating success with The Lion King. Though it was a significant hit, it was not on the scale of its immediate predecessors. It also received weaker reviews, with many chiding it for Political Correctness Gone Mad, an Anvilicious approach to moralizing, and now-too-familiar story structure and character types (feisty heroine, handsome lover, animal sidekicks, etc.) And with Toy Story's arrival later in '95, Western animation would never be the same. It is the least well received film of the Disney Renaissance and is the only one to be graded Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, at a paltry 56% - even The Rescuers Down Under, which was a commercial failure, is still graded Fresh. That said, some of the ill-will this film suffered might be because of its Bittersweet Ending - one of the rare films in the canon with one - and because, as we've already stated, it had the bad luck to immediately follow The Lion King. In spite of its flaws, however, this film is one of the best-looking, most craftily animated Disney movies, renown for it's vivid colors, Scenery Porn and excellent art direction.

The film did warrant a Direct to Video sequel in 1998, Journey to a New World, that applied similar fictionalization to Pocahontas' later life, namely her journey to England and marriage to John Rolfe. Ironically, Christian Bale, who voices young settler Thomas in the first film, appeared as Rolfe in Terrence Malick's rather different telling of her story, The New World -- as did Irene Bedard (Pocahontas' speaking voice and the model for the animators) as her mother -- 10 years later.

Tropes used in Pocahontas include:
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: Playing with a mother bear's cubs right in front of her? That's a brilliant idea!
  • Angry Mob Song: "Savages! Savages! Barely even human!"
  • Animal Reaction Shot: After the magic of the Virginia woods eliminates the language barrier between John Smith and Pocahontas, Meeko and Flit both share a Jaw Drop and a stunned exchange of looks.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Let's face it, both Ratcliffe and Wiggins qualify.
    • And they shared a room during the loooong travel from England...
    • And David Ogden Stiers, who did both their voices, has come out as gay.
    • Even more so if you know that James I is thought to have been homosexual or bisexual. "My dear friend King Jimmy"...
  • Artistic License Geography: The filmmakers obviously didn't do the research on the Tidewater/Coastal Plains region of Virginia, where the movie takes place. If they did, they would've known that it doesn't have any mountains or cliffs.
  • Artistic License History: The filmmakers did do the research...they just ignored a lot of it.
    • As the filmmakers admitted, they were purposefully adapting the legend of Pocahontas, and strictly ignoring the historical accuracy. They even admitted to knowingly "aging up" Pocahontas.
  • Award Bait Song: "Colors of the Wind", which won the Oscar.
    • And the song "If I Never Knew You", which was cut from the theatrical release.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Pocahontas' friend, Nakoma.
  • Big Eater: Meeko.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The lovers don't get to stay together, but they and their people are better for the experience.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Several characters are shot, sometimes fatally, with no blood or other visible sign of injury. This leads to a case of Narm with the "Savages" verse "I wonder if they even bleed" because... they don't.

The Nostalgia Chick: But Christian Bale is ever at the ready, and manages to shoot Kocoum right in the... um... spirit?

  • Butt Monkey: Poor, poor Percy. He's naturally clumsy, his (former) owner is a big douche, and Meeko is constantly one-upping him and stealing his food.
    • And Flit, who despite his caution and practical edge, is often comically abused by Meeko. Is it any wonder Meeko is The Scrappy?
    • Thomas is the embodiment of this trope throughout three-quarters of the movie--he nearly drowns (mere minutes into the movie), is clumsy, can't shoot and is manipulated by Ratcliffe. Heck, even when he thinks he's doing right by shooting Kocoum to save John's life, he only manages to make things worse.
  • Cartoony Tail: Meeko has a tail that looks really thick at the base and tapers to a fine point, whereas real raccoons usually have tails with a blunt tip or have one that at least doesn't taper so much. To be fair, a raccoon's tail can taper to a fine point, but most raccoons' tails do not look that thick at the base.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Pocahontas' dream of a spinning arrow comes into play when she is unsure of what to do during John Smith's impending execution. She then looks at his compass which she has been carrying, and it spins wildly until it points to the direction he is in, allowing her to finally follow her destiny.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Our heroine.
  • Closer to Earth: Pocahontas and John Smith. By comparison, the rest of her tribe is just as aggressive and violent as the settlers; their leaders and warriors are returning from a successful conquest when we first see them.
  • Comically Missing the Point:

Smith: Pocahontas, that tree is talking to me...
Pocahontas: Then you should talk back.

    • That's a good example of Native humor, though.
  • Conspicuous CG: Grandmother Willow's face was animated with painfully obvious and noticeable CG.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Ratcliffe envisions himself wearing a suit of armor made of solid gold, beset with gemstones.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ratcliffe. Violate social ethics? Check. Devastate mother Nature? Check. Crossed the Moral Event Horizon? Even before the movie properly started.
  • Cut Song: "If I Never Knew You", later animated and restored for the 10th anniversary DVD.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Kocoum. Though to be fair, he was killed by Thomas who did it to save John.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "Colors of the Wind".
  • Disney Princess: Sometimes averted; Pocahontas isn't always included in the lineup despite being a real-life princess.
    • The historical Pocahontas was decidedly not a princess. She was not in line for any throne or any position of power. In-universe, the movie does in fact present her as a princess.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: All of the Native American Indians are perpetually barefoot except for a few in moccasins seen early on in the film
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: During Kocoum's death. It got fixed at the very end, though.
  • Dramatic Wind: And how! Our heroine is almost constantly followed by winds that artistically blow leaves around. According to Wikipedia, this wind actually represents the guiding spirit of her Missing Mom.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Wiggins hits the nail on the head for why the Native Americans attacked the Englishmen while they were digging for their gold. This astonishingly accurate assumption is ignored because Ratcliffe thinks that the Indians are hoarding the gold for themselves and don't want the English to take it.
    • Ironically the Native Americans weren't even attacking -- Chief Powhatan's command was to observe them, not engage.
  • Easily Forgiven: After Meeko consoles Percy during his BSOD moment, they become "friends", and all of Meeko's previous trolling is immediately forgotten about.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Savages".
  • Empathy Pet: Meeko and Flit for Pocahontas, Percy for Ratcliffe (who does a genuinely touching Heel Face Turn and becomes hers).
    • Granted, Percy was never really a perfect parallel to Ratcliffe in the first place.
  • Evil Brit: Ratcliffe, obviously.
  • Evil Gloating: Meeko does this all the time. Unlike most who practice this, Meeko is able to get away with it and still win.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The English colonists' mission to amass gold was destined to fail from the outset, due to Virginia having a complete lack of the resource they were seeking.
    • Also, due to his double status as Butt Monkey and Designated Villain, Percy can't win in anything, especially eating.
    • The native's attempt to resist the invasion is equally doomed.
  • Fat Bastard: Ratcliffe, naturally.
  • Feudal Overlord: Governor Ratcliffe. He orders the settlers to build a fortress, burn down trees and attack the natives, all to dig up gold which isn't actually present. He didn't have permission by any member of the royal family to do this.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Quite disturbingly, the death of Kocoum has very little effect on most of the characters. While our heroine is seen mourning shortly after the event, it's not because of his death; it's because of Smith's impending execution. Thomas shows little emotion over just having killed someone, and Chief Powhatan, who had thought especially highly of Kocoum, does not seem too concerned about finding the real murderer after Smith is let go. The only character who really shows any substantial emotion about this death is Percy.
    • To be fair to Thomas, the movie doesn't have enough time to really go into his feelings about it, but he is certainly affected by it; directly after the incident, he's shocked by what he's done, later running to the settlement in a panic and then not wanting to go to war. Even at the end, when he's telling Pocahontas that John has to go back to England, he's nervous and can't meet her gaze.
      • Speaking of Thomas, it took a while for me to notice, but during the "Savages" portion of the movie, after Ratcliffe throws out the guns to the crowd of men, Thomas has this almost...horrified expression on his face when he looks down at the gun then back up. He's probably still traumatized, having JUST killed a man, and now he's being told he has to kill even more.
      • Later on during "Savages", whilst the others all march and sing with confidence and xenophobia, you can see him looking unsure and unhappy about the whole situation.
    • Pocahontas is really upset when Kocoum is shot... but then does seem to get over it by the next scene.
  • Foreshadowing: Before the opening title even comes on, we see a rat boarding the ship at the same time as Ratcliffe, just in case you couldn't already tell he was evil by the way he dressed and acted.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Pocahontas.
  • Green Aesop: The best-known song, "Colors of the Wind", hammers it home.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: These scenes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yipYLVX16E
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Percy is very quick to anger, but he has a longer fuse than most people on the list. Plus, there is generally a very good reason for him to get angry.
  • Heroic BSOD: Percy gets one after witnessing a talking tree and a murder in quick succession.
  • Hollywood History: If the real John Smith had seen Pocahontas showing him visions of nature while singing "Paint with all the colors of the wind," he would have said "Begone heathen witch!" rather than falling in love.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Grandmother Willow: "My bark is worse than my bite." ...Even the owls gave an exasperated glance at each other with that one.
  • Indian Maiden
  • Inferred Holocaust: Kind of. The film ends with a "happy ending" in which the settlers and natives come to terms with each other. Anyone with the vaguest knowledge of history knows this will last about three seconds before relations go south for about 300 years.
    • Unless of course, you count the film as complete fiction and interpret the ending as the settlers permanently returning to England. After all, there was no gold in Virgina, so why would they stay? Again, only if you regard the film as fiction.
      • Which would be a logical thing to do, since it's not historical by a long shot.
  • Instant Marksman, Just Squeeze Trigger: John Smith gives the inexperienced Thomas advice on how to handle his gun, including a gentle reminder to "keep both eyes open". This becomes an Ironic Echo when Thomas shoots Kocoum.
  • Ironic Echo: "And he came so highly recommended."
  • Is It Something You Eat?: Meeko's reaction to being handed a gold coin.
  • "I Want" Song: "Just Around the Riverbend" for Pocahontas; "Mine Mine Mine" combines this with a Villain Song for Ratcliffe, serving as a counterpoint to John Smith's purer intentions.
    • Just to make things odd, Ratcliffe seems to be saying he'll take everything they dig up for himself, but the men of the company find the song inspiring, since they seem to understand 'mine!' as a command.
  • Jaw Drop: Meeko and Flit do this when witnessing our heroine's newfound translation powers. Their expression mirrors that of the audience.
  • Jerkass: Ratcliffe, obviously, since he is the villain of the story. Also, Meeko's behavior toward Flit and especially Percy.
  • Karma Houdini: As with most Screwy Squirrels, Meeko can engage in thievery and other acts of trolling but still receive no karmic punishment. In the second movie, he does spend nearly a year seasick during the voyages to and from England, but the movie plays this as more of a Heroic Sacrifice. He chose to go in order to stay with his friend (the human who feeds him on a regular basis).
    • Nakoma as well. Instead of trusting Pocahontas she sent Kocoum after her which ended with him getting killed and a war nearly happening. In her defense, she only did it because she was worried, making her an Unwitting Instigator of Doom.
  • Killed Off for Real: Kocoum.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Meeko's kleptomania is mostly limited towards food or anything that looks like it could be food. The "hero" part is debatable, however.
  • Language of Love: Sort of. Pocahontas is able to instantly become fluent in English as a result of "listening with her heart".
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Surprisingly, Meeko of all people pulls one off by stopping Flit from interfering with our protagonists' relationship.
  • Made of Iron: Despite all of the physical abuse and malnutrition Percy undergoes in the films, he still manages to always look perfectly healthy.
    • John Smith also qualifies. After taking a bullet for Chief Powhatan, he survives a several-month-long voyage back to England before receiving proper medical care.
  • Male Gaze
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ratcliffe's justification for war is very believable.
  • Naive Newcomer: Thomas.
    • By a very loose interpretation of this trope, arguably the rest of the English colonists qualify as well. They were greatly misinformed or uninformed about the realities of the New World.
  • The Native Rival: Kocoum, mainly because he's annoyed at John Smith for getting romantically involved with his intended bride. He ends up getting killed by Thomas (John Smith's friend) while trying to murder Smith.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Double Subverted. When Kocoum saw Pocahontas and John Smith kissing, he infuriated attacked John Smith out of jealousy only to be shot by Thomas who got sent by Ratcliffe to follow John Smith. If that didn't happen, John Smith would've possibly got killed. After Kocoum died, the Indians ran attracted by the gunshot and arrested John Smith for supposedly being the one who killed Kocoum and was sentenced to die at sunrise. However, the next morning, Pocahontas stopped John Smith's execution and the war was cancelled which resulted in the settlers turning on Ratcliffe, the only one who didn't change his mind. If Kocoum murdered John Smith, Pocahontas would have no chance of stopping the war.
  • Noble Savage: Part of the point.
  • Non-Action Guy: Wiggins, particularly evident when you compare him to the other settlers, who are all manly looking.
  • Not So Different: The natives and the settlers. A fairly dark example, considering our first view of the natives is their warriors returning from conquering/destroying another tribe and the ending only avoided being a massacre because both sides launched their sneak attacks at the same time. Lampshaded when both of them sing a similar song.
  • Nubile Savage: Quite.
  • Off-Model: In the scene where Pocahontas and John Smith kiss and Meeko stops Flit from interfering, Flit's wings are missing.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: John Smith seems to randomly decide when he has a British accent.
  • One Head Taller: Highlighted in the "Colors of the Wind" number. Pocahontas and John Smith send eagles up to the top of a tree with John Smith's eagle being one head taller than Pocahontas's eagle. This leads into a Match Fade of Pocahontas and John Smith themselves following the trope.
  • Opening Chorus: "The Virginia Company" in the pre-credit sequence.
  • Oscar Bait: Disney hoped Pocahontas would score a Best Picture nomination like Beauty and the Beast, hence the (by Disney standards) "serious" tone.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Percy in the beginning of the series. He grows out of it, though.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Pocahontas' age being bumped up in order to tease a possible romance with John Smith. Many of the Did Not Do the Research complaints directly refer to this.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: Ratcliffe, although it had to be toned down, since this is a Disney movie.
  • Posthumous Character: Pocahontas's mother.
  • The Power of Love: Not the typical magical effect it usually has in Disney movies, but saving both a lover and a people from extermination is not to be sneezed at.
    • It could be that the power of love helped Pocahontas and John Smith overcome the language barrier in about five seconds. Supposedly, the pink and purple leaves swirling about were her mom's spirit/symbolic of the power of love.

Apparently listening with your heart is contagious because Pocahontas' friend now understands, too.

The Nostalgia Chick: [John Smith] was a short, portly brown-head, not the golden-haired Adonis that we see before us in the movie. Also, Pocahontas was 12.

  • Villain Song: Besides "Mine Mine Mine", which is colorful and comical, there's "Savages", which definitely isn't.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Try to find which movie had the largest premiere in history. Want a hint? It's this one. Apparently Disney thought Pocahontas would be such a giant hit they set up a MASSIVE premiere in Central Park, New York City. The screens could be seen from over the treetops - people could watch the movie from the privacy of their homes if they wanted to.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: It's difficult to feel too much emotion for Kocoum's death when he barely had any screen time or characterization in the movie. Of course, this doesn't excuse some members of the cast, who should have known him a lot better, from doing the same.
  • Wise Tree: Grandmother Willow.
  • With Friends Like These...: Meeko and Percy.
    • Flit also seems to be exasperated with Meeko's behavior. How exactly are these two supposed to be friends?
      • Flit and Meeko probably are not friends. They're both friends of Pocahontas, so they're "friends-in-law".
  • You Are Worth Hell: "Pocahontas, I'd rather die tomorrow, than live a hundred years without knowing you."

The sequel includes examples of:

John Rolfe: Who started the party without me?
John Smith: You call this a party?
John Rolfe: You're not having any fun?

John Smith: [stops Ratcliffe from killing Pocahontas] Mind if I cut in?

  1. She dives into a lake from a cliff hundreds of feet high and survives. Hitting water at that speed would yield the same result as hitting concrete.
  2. See "Colors of the Wind".
  3. She sure travels a good distance during the time it took for "Savages" to finish