Though this is as colorful and visually interesting as any of the features from the Disney Renaissance, it has always felt a little flat to me. The music isn’t as good, nor are the big production numbers as impressive as its predecessors, with the exception of a magical sequence done to the best song in the picture, “The Colors of the Wind.” (Oscar winner.) It’s all just too solemn, as so many projects involving Indians seem to be. The romance sort of almost works, but I can see why younger children didn’t really take to this. Pocahontas’s little slapstick animal friends, a raccoon and a hummingbird, are obviously there to lighten things up a little—they were originally intended to speak, and I’m glad they didn’t, in the end—but they seem imported from another picture. David Ogden Stiers as the evil Governor is an effective villain. I believe they wasted their money on Mel Gibson as John Smith; almost anyone in Hollywood could have done it. Though I have to admit, it seems he did his own singing in his one number, and he was a lot better than I would have expected.
The usual cranks were heard from, this time some Indians who objected to the portrayals. I have been unable to see what the problem is. They are shown as basically peaceful—at the beginning Powhatan has just won a war with other tribes, but is happy to quit fighting and get along with his neighbors—protective of the land, demeaned by the white invaders, smart and sophisticated within their own culture … what’s to object to? All the Indian parts are played by Indians, including Russell Means as Powhatan and Irene Bedard as not only the voice, but the face and rotoscoped body of Pocahontas. Take a look at her; the animators really captured her look. (Oddly, though Means is Lakota and Bedard is mostly Inupiat Eskimo, the others are Canadian Cree.) This is not to say I didn’t like it. This review is mostly nitpicking. I did like it. I just kept thinking it could have been better.