Pocahontas 1 & 2

1995’s “Pocahontas” was Disney at it’s best, serving up a beautiful hand-drawn tale of romance and adventure, complete with an enlightening history lesson (albeit, a slightly exaggerated version of an event).

The first film based on a real-life character – not to mention the first to feature a Native American heroine – the Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg directed film tells, if even loosely, the story of famed Native American legend Pocahontas (Irene Bedard) and her encounter with Englishman John Smith (Mel Gibson).

Just as the history books will remind us, the film fixes on the woman’s persuasive ability to stop a war – in this case, a looming battle between the the Powhatans and the British settlers.

The romance angle comes in the form of a sub-plot involving the determined young woman’s outright refusal to stay away from charming white men – or one in particular, Smith.

The film doesn’t have the watchabaility factor of some of the other Disney classics, but it’s still a beaut bit of cinema.

One of the earlier direct-to-video sequels Disney produced to their classic theatrically-released animated offerings, “Pocahontas 2 : Journey to a New World”” was one of the first tip-off’s that audiences were in store for a future of cheaper, lower-class animated fare that Walt Disney likely wouldn’t ever have signed off on had he still been alive.

Don’t get me wrong, kids will still be amused enough at what’s in store come this particular fiscally-friendly sequel, but – and like others of the same ilk – this isn’t a release that one can genuinely claim an experience for the whole family. Without the emotion, heart, sweeping tunes and, er, Mel, “Pocahontas 2” just won’t engross the bigger kids like the original likely did.

Actor Mel Gibson, John Smith in the ’95 original, also couldn’t be enticed. But you know who was!? Donal Gibson, Mel’s younger brother! Smart move, Disney suits!

Not that the actor behind Smith has as much to do this time around (in fact, emphasis here isn’t so much on the romance between Smith and Pocahontas as it is the latter’s other real-life love, John Rofle).

In the film, Smith is ambushed by a group of soldiers and feared dead. But someone’s been telling lies about the man; it sets off a chain of events that has Smith named as a traitor and some government-subsidized pigs trying to kick off a war with the Powhatan Nation. John Rofle arrives from the home country to help settle matters and is quick to introduce himself to “the mighty Pocahontas”, whose reputation has proceeded her. One thing leads to another and Pocahontas ends up escorting Rolfe back to England to smooth out relations.

Yeah, it ain’t much.

Blu-ray details/extras : Surprisingly, considering it’s older, “Pocahontas” looks better than it’s sequel when it comes to the video presentation. There’s something lacking about the look of the sequel, notably it’s murky colour palette. Audio-wise, both films encompass great-sounding tracks.

Extras-wise, there’s numerous bits and pieces, including a commentary, deleted songs, and featurettes – most of them tied to the original film.

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