Friday, May 30, 2014

Project Disney - Pocahontas

Project Disney: The plan is to tackle all of the Disney films, re-reading the classic stories and tales that inspired many of them and to look at how the changes the filmmakers made, the new elements they introduced and the essential elements they kept. We will, of course, be talking about the films as movies as well, saying why we enjoy them and what some of our favorite moments are, but our focus will be on looking at them as adaptations. For the films that are not drawn from any one work we’ll be looking at some of the possible literary influences that we see in the stories. I am participating in Project Disney inspired by Picture Me Reading!  

This Project Disney is all about Pocahontas.  This time around there is no book to compare the movie to exactly.  This movie is one I enjoy.. but don't love. The ones based on real life events aren't my favorite movies, plus the research on those are harder then just reading a book for it. So for this Project Disney I have looked through the internet, I did check out some books from the library for it but Pocahontas has different stories from different writers. In this Project Disney instead of really comparing book to movie, we look at historical accuracy.  This movie of course brings up a lot of controversy especially with Native Americans. There is not a lot of first hand information about Pocahontas.  A lot of information came from John Smith's accounts of the time A True Relation in 1607 and The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles in 1624.  It is hard to take Smith's story though as fact because England was at war with the Powhatan when his texts were published.

The real Pocahontas
Since the film is full of different parts of history I am going to do this Project Disney talking about different topics as they appear in the film, similar to how I did Hercules.  I suppose we should start off by talking about Pocahontas herself.  In the movie she is young, vibrant, no fear of anything. Loves to talk to nature, her sidekicks the raccoon (Meekoo) and the hummingbird (Flit).  Disney does not have the animals speak in this film making it more realistic. Historically Pocahauntas (also known as Matoaka) would've been ten when the film took place.  Her father would've had several wives and children.  Pocahontas was his favorite because she was born to his wife of love and also named Pocahontas who died during childbirth.

There is one account of what John Smith looks like and it's not like the film at all.  In real life Smith had a dark hair, a full beard, and 5'4. He was known for being thuggish, though he was known for having great communication skills to help deal with natives. The villain of the film is Captain John Ratcliff. Interesting that he was chosen for the villain since he really has nothing to do with the story. He was a member of the counsel to oversee Jamestown.

On to the adventures of getting to America. the English men do leave England in search of gold and riches.  They are also sent to see what happened to the failed colony at Roanoke and they were told not to offend the natives.  Disney of course changed this and makes it seem like the English were really there to just kill the natives. Historically Pocahontas does get married to Kocoum. Some historians even say the two had a child together.

Next in the movie we seen the British land on the new world and began digging immediately for gold.  The Indians hears this and move in to see what is going on.  Pocahontas meanwhile is running around spying on John Smith.  Historically When the British land there is already a scuffle, someone is shot with an arrow even.  The Indians are on high alert because of the Spanish that have already visited some areas. The British did look for gold when they arrived but it wasn't laborious because the man who came believed themselves to be too much of gentleman to perform hard work.

Now the film covers the time spent between Pocahontas and John Smith.  They hold hands and chit chat.  He tells her he is there to help her people use their land better and she tells him all he is missing when he looks at the land. This is when historians start to disagree on history. All sources say though there was no romantic link between Pocahontas and Smith.  Though people disagree when they met some saying they met when she saved him from being killed.  In the movie Pocahontas and John tell each other that they are going to talk to their people and try to get them to calm down.  During this time they kiss and one of the British (Thomas) shoots Kocoum and kills him.  John gets blamed and the Powhatan decide to kill him.  Historically Smith was already captured by them before he even meets Pocahontas.  In the movie this is where the big battle scene happens and Pocahontas throws herself on John Smith and declares that she loves him.

Pocahontas and John Smith meet

The scene where Smith is going to be killed is debated amount scholars. Some think it happened like Disney shows, while others think it was all for show.. a play type of ritual to add Smith to the tribe.   Some say this didn't even happen at all. And now for some of the big differences in the film vs history.  Smith was injured, but it is thought to have been by some gun powder in his pants that went off.  So he heads back to England.  There is no evidence that Pocahontas or her tribe even knew he left. Disney actually does give us a sad ending.  Pocahontas and John Smith do not end up together.  She stays with her people (Pocahontas II is a whole different movie and well totally TOTALLY incorrect).

Later in Pocahontas story (after the Disney movie time frame) she was captured and put on an English ship by Captain Argall.  She was in captivity for a while during this time her name was changed to Rebecca and married and English colonist John Rolfe. Next up ... there are many point of views about what happened to Pocahontas at this time. Some say that Pocahontas was happy and treated well.  She even converted to Christianity.  Some say she was raped and became pregnant and that is why she married Rolfe to cover it up. We do know for a fact that Pocahontas left for England and was shown around as a savage that could be made pretty.  It would get more investments into the Virginia colonies. Pocahontas died on her return to Virginia though here again it is disagreed upon how she died. Some say poison, some say the London smoke, she was buried in England though her bones are now lost.

I hadn't seen this move for a while so I had a lot of fun re-watching it.  One thing that has always stood out to me with this movie is the music.  Such beautiful songs. There is a song that was not included in the original version called If I Never Knew You (you do hear it during the credits).  You hear little bits of  the harmony at the end of the movie but don't actually see it until the 10th anniversary release.  I think this song should've been included in the original and am surprised they took it out. Of course the song Colors of the Wing is fabulous.  I also find the animation to be amazing. The leaves and colors of the wind.

Here is the Annie Leibovitz Pocahontas picture.  I always like to post these in my Project Disney when there is one that she has taken.  I would like to say that I think that deer is Bambi.  LOL! I will say though that I wish she would've had a Native American girl, though maybe Biel has some Indian in her that I don't know about.

This was another long Project Disney and I hope you stuck around for all the drama.  There is so much more to this story and I didn't want to type it all up here since this got long enough.  If you have time and are interested looking into Pocahontas real life you should since it is quite fascinating.  Do you know any stories about Pocahontas that is different then what I wrote here?  Let us know!  Be sure to check out my other Project Disney:

Snow White
Peter Pan
Treasure Planet
Sleeping Beauty
The Great Mouse Detective 
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Princess and the Frog
Beauty and the Beast
Lady and the Tramp
Alice in Wonderland
The Rescuers
The Rescuers Down Under
Oliver and Company
The Little Mermaid
101 Dalmatians
Fantasia 2000
The Jungle Book
The Emperor's New Groove
The Sword in the Stone
The Aristocats
The Lion King
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Robin Hood
The Black Cauldron  
Mary Poppins
Lilo and Stitch
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Make Mine Music
Fox and the Hound 
Melody Time


  1. I love these Disney posts of yours! I was obsessed with this movie when it first came out, and to this day I still randomly get Colors of the Wind stuck in my head.

  2. Angela you are doing great with keeping up with Project Disney. I have to admit the music in this movie is amazing and the animation is pretty great for the time it was made. The historical inaccuracy has made this one of the movies I do not like. I read through the whole post and wow you know how to do your research. You unveiled some facts I had never heard before. Its an interesting concept. The way I have been taught that she died is because she was exposed to English germs and diseases on her trip to England that she did not have the immune system to handle those disease and died before they could make it back to Virginia and therefore they buried her in England. Pocahontas the true story is kind of a sad one. Pocahontas fell in love with John Rolfe and wanted to be part of his world in England. Through becoming his wife she was forced to change her belief systems. I do believe that Disney's depiction of Pocahontas as strong and independent is probably pretty accurate. Most native Americans had to stand up for their beliefs in order to protect their land. Although there were still gender stereotypes to be followed. Great Post!

  3. I love this movie! Your posts remind me why I love Disney so much!

  4. Oh wow! I really enjoy reading your Disney posts! After reading this one, I read Mulan and Aladdin. And now I really want to watch a Disney movie! Pocahontas is my favourite Disney movie! Love it so much.

    Nina from J'adore Happy Endings

  5. I really like this movie; I think the music is great. It's definitely not accurate though...there is another animation about Pocahontas that is more accurate though, because she's a young girl, etc. I forget the title though...


  6. I love Pocahontas and your explanation of historical events is spot on. I have never heard that song before but it made me tear up a bit. I'm a softy and Pocahontas is one of my favorite Disney films. For this to be taken out of the original film is saddening. It's a great ballad.

  7. I never really knew the true story about Pocahontas so its interesting to read the differences. I really enjoy the movie but every time someone mentions 'Pocahontas', Colors Of The Wind automatically plays in my head. Its like someone performed hypnosis on me in the past, and 'Pocahontas' is my trigger word. Jeshh... conspiracy theories!!

  8. Thank you!! I think this is a neat movie too. I love that song Colors of the Wind.. it is beautiful and I wish it would make more people think about what they are doing to the environment.

  9. I did read about her dying from English disease too. I read too that Pocahontas thought she would see John Smith in England sooner then she did.. but he didn't even bother to come see her till years later. This was one of the harder Project Disneys I thought. There was just so much history here and even then the history was just guessing. I haven't seen Pocahontas 2 which I hear is even worse with historical inaccuracies.

  10. I am so glad everyone is having fun with Project Disney

  11. So glad that you are finding other Project Disney posts. You are the first person I have ever heard say that Pocahontas is their favorite Disney movie!! I love that!

  12. I was surprised to find out just how young she was in real life. 10 years old!!! I would love to see more from her time and be able to feel and hear what she was thinking while these events were taking place. Seriously ... imagine people landing on your land and changing everything you knew.

  13. I agree... I was pretty surprised that this song was taken out of the film and I wonder why. Usually Disney loves their duet ballads. It is such a wonderful song too. I have it on my phone, I bought it on iTunes. Just love it so much.

  14. Hilarious!! I agree about the song just popping up in my head too! I also remember being in high school when the movie came out. I think the most surprising thing about this movie is I didn't realize how confused people are with Pocahontas history. It is interesting to me that there are so many theories.

  15. I have always been fascinated by Pocahontas, the actual person. I remember back in High School doing research about her (because I was intrigue --not for school project or anything) and i agree that a lot historians see her life and what happen in various lights.

    These Project Disney are really interesting. I am happy to stumble across this.

  16. In 5th grade my choir class sang the soundtrack to Pocahontas all year long -- I'll never get Colors of the Wind out of my head. I was I recently reminiscing about it with a friend and decided to "wikipedia Pocahontas, I was really amazed by the liberties Disney took, although I'm not sure why that should surprise me. Great, informative review!

    Whitney @ She is too fond of books

  17. Yeah!! So glad you found Project Disney! I have enjoyed it so much and can't believe I am almost done and through all the films.

  18. You know... I didn't actually go to wikipedia for this project. I usually do .. I know they say it's not an accurate source but usually you can find at least information that will lead you in the right direction. I am a little surprised about the whole John Smith romance. I don't know why they didn't just put in the guy she actually married. This was an interesting Project Disney. I love the ones where I actually learn something.

  19. I always kind of expected that the Disney movie wasn't especially accurate. So it's cool to get an inside look at more specifically where and how. I didn't realize there were so many gaps in what we know historically about Pocahontas.

    And I'm with you - the music is amazing.

  20. The historical Disney films are hard to watch.. knowing they are all just so wrong! This is one pretty movie though and the music is pretty too. I suppose though it is nice that Disney does try to show a movie about American Indians. I like that Disney has tried to have a variety of characters in all their movies.