Out of eight reviews of Disney’s thirty-third animated classic, Pocahontas, five were negative. While most agreed that the movie contained spectacular animated effects, especially in the Virginia forests, most writers criticized the historical inaccuracies. Although the movie is entertaining, especially for the child-aimed audiences, it plays it safe by avoiding racial questions that Disney has previously gotten flak for.
Carr, Jay. “Disney’s Pocahontas: Rate it PC.” Boston Globe 16 June 1995: 59.
Carr asserts in his review that Pocahontas is “as politically correct as animated features get." He feels that while Disney is trying to avoid the violence and ethnic portrayals that were ridiculed in The Lion King and Aladdin, Pocahontas suffers and winds up being “bland.” Carr also contends that the film is further “flattened” by the “film’s preaching” and writing style. He further states that “it’s so filled with good intentions that it snuffs the life out of its characters – or rather, strands them.” His only positive point is the remarkable animation of the Virginia forest, which is filled with “rich, shadowy blues and greens.” Overall he gives it an “A for political correctness, a C plus for entertainment value.”
Corliss, Richard. “Princess of the Spirit.” Time 19 June 1995: 59.
Corliss really attacks society in his review of Pocahontas. He argues that it is impossible, in this day and age, to make a movie, even a G-rated feature, that will not annoy someone with a special interest. He protests that “this is a movie—a cartoon, for goodness sake!” and he plainly appreciates Pocahontas for its entertainment value. He positively reviewed the film, and his only criticism is that it might have been better as a story without the name of “Pocahontas.”
Garner, Jack. “Pocahontas is Pure Pleasure; and Mel Gibson Sings, Too!” Gannett News Service 15 June 1995.
Garner does not focus on the recent Disney hits such as The Lion King and The Little Mermaid in his positive review of Pocahontas. He, however, suggests that Disney has “come a long way” from the times when Peter Pan sang “What Makes the Red Man Red.” He further suggests that Pocahontas is filled with positive themes such as promoting racial tolerance. Garner does not ignore the historical inconsistencies, but he finds that “Disney has created its own legend, with a user-friendly moral, wrapped around an incident that is, after all, little more than an historical footnote,” and he continues to add that “Romeo and Juliet” was as much of an influence as the “sketchy history of the Virginia colony.” Garner also comments on the visual effects, claiming that Disney animators have “surpassed their recent achievements” by “creating stunning visual effects… [with] colors that emphasize the tale’s passionate moments.”
Maslin, Janet. “History as Buckskin-Clad Fairy Tale.” The New York Times 11 June 1995: 46.
Maslin was one of the few critics who really liked Pocahontas. She thought that everything about the movie was worthwhile -- the voices, the scenery, the songs, etc. She did, however, also remark about how it was historically inaccurate, though it does “everything a children’s film should do.” Maslin also makes a point to add that “Pocahontas, which despite its origins is as much a fiction as any fairy tale.”
Salem, Rob. "Indian Princess is No Lion King." The Toronto Star 23 June 1995: D1.
Salem apparently does not like Pocahontas. He does suggest that, "Even if Disney's Pocahontas can be considered a failure in almost every significant respect -- and, regrettably, it can -- it is only in relation to their own, impossibly high standards." He compares the box office profits with that of The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, and he concludes that "Pocahontas is not another Lion King, neither creatively nor commercially. It is barely a Little Mermaid." Salem predicts that Disney was in jeopardy of losing its audience by cutting back on the cuddly factor, and he feels that the music was not true to the Native American origins and was just "silly songs."
Sterritt, David. Rev. of Pocahontas. Christian Science Monitor 23 June 1995:12.
Sterritt is yet another critic who feels that Pocahontas is not an accurate historical depiction of the story of Pocahontas and John Smith. He feels that it “bends to the world to suit its needs, dictated by a narrow vision of the marketplace Disney serves.” Sterritt gives credit to Disney for paying attention to conservation and environmental issues, but he feels that Disney has not “evolved” and does not “challenge or stimulate us.” He later adds that Pocahontas does, however, pass the test for providing the viewer with entertainment.
Turan, Kenneth. “Disney Tries Again to Find the Magic; The Kids May Like it but the Adult Viewers May feel that ‘Pocahontas’ is More By-The-Numbers than Inspired.” Los Angeles Times 16 June 1995: F1.
Turan, like many other critics, feels that Pocahontas will delight children, and that it contains “animation’s good things,” but he feels that adult viewers will feel that it is “more by-the-numbers than inspired.” He adds that the blandness is “especially noticeable in Pocahontas’s several songs.” Turan also attacks the socially acceptable themes that Pocahontas portrays, claiming that, “for promulgating racist stereotypes, the studio has walked the extra mile, making Pocahontas’s tribe as noble as the day is long, living in mellow harmony with nature until the dread ‘pale visitors’ arrive.”
Westbrook, Bruce. “Pocahontas; From History to Fairy Tale; Disney Movie Romanticizes Story of Princess.” The Houston Chronicle 18 May 1995: 1.
Westbrook's main point is that Pocahontas is not historically accurate. He goes into detail about the true story of Pocahontas. Westbrook had an interview with an ancestor of John Rolfe, the Englishman whom Pocahontas actually DID fall in love with, and his response to the movie was not so positive when he said, "I'm disappointed to see my ancestor written out of what will probably become the definitive Pocahontas story." Westbrook shows that both the English ancestors and the Native American ancestors have reservations about what Disney portrayed and feel that their heritage might have been unfairly portrayed.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Jennifer Lori Lackner, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.
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