Pocahontas is one of those Disney films that, despite being middle-of-the-road for me, I have to rewatch fairly often. Something about this movie intrigues me. Maybe it's because I want to like the movie more than I currently do and understand why some fans revere it. I might not be there quite yet after this most recent rewatch, but I'm narrowing in on what specific things I like and dislike about the film. Now's the time to share those thoughts.

Praises
1) The backgrounds in this movie aren't just beautiful. THEY'RE GORGEOUS. The subtle lines, the designs, and especially the rich colors are just wonderful to look at!

2) The main title scene, "Steady as the Beating Drum" -- I wouldn't change a thing about it. I think it makes a great introduction to the rest of the movie, and the segue from the last scene is nice, too.

3) John Smith is my favorite character of the movie. I don't know how realistic it is that someone who recently arrived at the New World would change his views rather quickly, becoming more understanding and respectful of the natives so quickly like he does...but it doesn't bother me here. I find that I also really like the voice work done by Mel Gibson.

4) The "Listen with Your Heart" theme, complete with the piano, is gorgeous. For me, it's right up there with the The Little Mermaid main titles theme and Beauty and the Beast's prologue music.

5) I like Nakoma a lot more than Pocahontas. Pocahontas isn't a bad character, but Nakoma feels much more real to me (I guess ironically) because her animation and voice work are more expressive.

6) This is the first time I noticed certain uses of the "If I Never Knew You" instrumental theme prior to the climax. It feels awesome. It's kind of a shame that the song isn't in the movie, isn't it?

7) The idea of having both sides (the natives and the settlers) think that the other is made up of "savages" is interesting and demonstrated very well throughout the movie. I don't know if this is the first time it was done, but I haven't seen it done much elsewhere. Kudos.

8) The song "Savages" and its reprise are kind of awesome. Again, you're talking pretty top-notch animation and colors that leap off the screen. Combined with the actual music and vocals, it's almost haunting.

On a related yet semi-random note, the animation and shadowing of John and Chief Powhatan is perfect during these scenes.

9) Sometimes, Pocahontas looks weird. Most of the time, she looks beautiful. And sometimes, she looks like a goddess:

Is she not just stunning here?!


Critiques
1) The comic relief characters don't add enough to the movie to justify having the movie slow down for them. For example, the early scene where Pocahontas finds out her father's back has Meeko and Flit diving off a cliff. That bit's not too funny and just drags the scene out.

2) "Mine, Mine, Mine"...actually isn't too bad of a song. However, I think the movie would be better off without it. Once I got to the "Colors of the Wind" scene, I thought to myself, "Didn't we just have a musical number?"

3) Major Issue #1: Pocahontas learning English almost right away. I could forgive all the tiny things that annoyed me in this movie up to this point, but THIS I cannot accept. Can we at least get a little of Pocahontas trying to learn the language?

4) Pocahontas' speaking work is stiff. She sounds kind of monotone throughout the whole movie. Thank grop for animation.

5) Pocahontas and John seem to get...awfully close earlier on in the movie, when they're not an item yet. I don't even think they're really supposed to have strong romantic feelings for each other yet. These brief moments always bothered me; they just feel weird.

Anyone else get a little off-put by these?


6) Major Issue #2: WHY ARE POCAHONTAS AND JOHN A COUPLE?! I could totally see them becoming lifelong friends, but they just do not seem like a solid romantic pair to me. Seeing them kiss is weird.

7) I didn't mind the Governor much this time. He's kind of amusing, and he's got a great voice actor, Davis Stiers. However, I don't think he should be the villain.

The way I see it, he isn't a villain until the point when he decides to shoot Chief Powhatan towards the end. Up until then, he's the settlers' leader, their spokesman, etc. That's fine. After the chief shows peace, I don't expect Ratcliffe to be 100% happy about the situation, especially about not finding gold, but him trying to shoot the guy doesn't resolve anything. It pegs him as the film's one bad guy and has contrived consequences (Smithy can't stay). Instead, maybe have the guy be bitter about not achieving what he set out to do, and perhaps contemplate his view of the natives -- are they his friends or his foes? That way, the message of looking past prejudice and accepting others for their differences doesn't lose focus, and Ratcliffe doesn't become an almost literal throwaway character:



This is also...
Major Issue #3: Ratcliffe as the villain. See above.

Conclusion
Based on my "praises" list above, it seems that I like the art of this film the most. The writing is the source of most of my critiques. I think that matches up with most opinions on this film that I see, too -- beautiful animation and music, but the story is a mixed bag. The former is really what makes this movie worth an occasional re-watch.

Thank you for taking the time to read through my thoughts on the film! I'd love to hear any thoughts you may have on the film, as well, so feel free to share! I shall end off with my favorite quote of the film:

"From this day forward, if there is to be more killing, it will not start with me." -- Chief Powhatan