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Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2012 by  



“Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” was an enjoyable and fun family film that will continue to entertain generation after generation.  Fans of the film will enjoy its beautiful presentation on Blu-ray and the fact that this is the best looking and sounding version of the film to date.  But more so, that you are getting two films on Blu-ray for the price of one!

Image courtesy of © 2012 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

MOVIE RELEASE DATE: Pocahontas (1995), Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998)

DURATION: Pocahontas (81 Minutes), Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (73 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G

DVD RELEASE DATE: August 21, 2012

Pocahontasd

Directed by Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg

Written by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant, Philip LaZebnik

Story by Glen Keane, Joe Grant, Ralph Zondag, Burny Mattinson, Ed Gombert, Kaan Kalyon, Francis Glebas, Rob Gibbs, Bruce Morris, Todd Kurosawa, Duncan Marjoribanks, Chris Buck

Based on an Idea by Mike Gabriel

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Directed by Tom Ellery, Bradley Raymond

Screenplay by Allen Estrin, Cindy Marcus, Flip Kobler

Produced by Leslie Hough

Co-Produced by Jeannine Roussel

Associate Producer: Gina Shay

Supervising Producer: Alan Zaslove

Music by Lennie Niehaus

Production Design by Dennis Greco

Art Direction by James Gallego

Pocahontas

Featuring the Voices of:

Irene Bedard as Pocahontas

Judy Kuhn as Pocahontas (Singing Voice)

Mel Gibson as John Smith

David Ogden Stiers as Governor Ratcliffe/Wiggins

John Kassier as Meeko

Russell Means as Powhatan

Christian Bale as Thomas

Linda Hunta s Grandmother Willow

Frank Wekler as Flit

Bill Connolly as Ben

Danny Mann as Percy

Joe Baker as Lon

Michelle St. John as Nakoma

James Apaumut Fall as Kocoum

Gordon Tootoosis as Kekata

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Featuring the Voices of:

Irene Bedard as Pocahontas

Jim Cummings as King James

Donal Gibson as John Smith

Linda Hunt as Grandmother Willow

Russell Means as Powhatan

David Ogden Stiers as Ratcliffe

Jean Stapleton as Mrs. Jenkins

Billy Zane as John Rolfe

“Pocahontas” tells the story of a free-spirited girl (voiced by Irene Bedard) who wonders what adventures wait “Just Around the River Bend.” Pocahontas – along with her playful pals Meeko the raccoon and Flit the hummingbird – relies on the guidance of her loving and wise Grandmother Willow (voice by Linda Hunt) when English settlers arrive on the shores of her village. Her meeting with the courageous Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) leads to a friendship that bridges the gap between two cultures and changes history.

For many people unaware of Pocahontas, many learned of her thanks to Disney.

In 1995, the 33rd Walt Disney Animated Classics feature “Pocahontas” was the first Disney animated film to be based on a real historical character and suffice to say, the animated film was a tremendous success.

Directed by Mike Gabriel (“Oliver & Company”, “The Rescuers Down Under”) and Eric Goldberg (“Aladdin”, “The Princess and the Frog”, “Fantastia/2000”), with a screenplay written by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant and Philip LaZebnik.  The film would also feature the following voices by Irene Bedard (“Smoke Signals”, “The Tree of Life”), the singing voice of Judy Kuhn (“Enchanted”, “Mulan II”), Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”, “Signs”, “Lethal Weapon” films), John Kassir (“Tales from the Crypt”), Christian Bale (“Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”), Russell Means (“The Last of the Mohicans”, “Natural Born Killers”) and Linda Hunt (“Dune”, “Kindergarten Cop”).

Budgeted at an estimated $55 million, “Pocahontas” would earn over $346 in the box office and even more through home video sales.

The animated film would go on to win all three Academy Awards it was nominated for in “Best Original Song”, “Best Original Music Score” and “Best Animated Feature”.  As well as winning the Golden Globe Awards for “Best Original Song” and a Grammy Award for “Best Songs Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media” for its song “Colors of the Wind”, sung by Vanessa Williams and its soundtrack reached number one in the Billboard 200 and earning a triple platinum certification.

Despite film critics being critical of how the animated film was not historically accurate, the film did introduce audiences to Pocahontas and for Walt Disney, the film was a financial success that would lead to an animated direct-to-video feature titled “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”.

And now, both films will be released together on Blu-ray in August 2012.

“Pocahontas” is set in 1607 as British settlers led by Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) and the voyage leader Governor Ratcliffe (voiced by David Ogden Stiers), are sent to the “New World” in search of gold.  There is a belief that the local Native American Indians have a vast collection of gold and the British want it.

As for the Native Americans, a local tribe led by Chief Powhatan (voiced by Russell Means) has given his daughter, Pocahontas (voiced by Irene Bedard/singing voice by Judy Kuhn) news that she must wed Kocoum (voiced by James Apaumut Fall), a brave warrior in the tribe.

But Pocahontas is not too interested as he is too serious, while she is more of a free spirit.  But the Chief knows its is custom for his daughter to marry the brave warrior and gives her a necklace that belonged to her mother.

As Pocahontas goes out with her friends, a mischievous raccoon named Meeko and a hummingbird named Flit, they visit Grandmother Willow, a spiritual and talking willow tree who has warned her that the British settlers are now in their land.

As the British settlers are setting up their base and building a fortress that would be named known as James Towne (note: Jamestown, was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, in the colony of Virginia), Governor Ratcliffe has his crew searching and digging for gold.

For John Smith, he’s more of an explorer, so he takes off to see the wilderness with his own eyes.  And sure enough, John Smith encounters Pocahontas.  Both try to understand each other’s differences and the two end up falling in love.

Meanwhile, back at James Towne, the Native American Indians  of the Powhatan Tribe and the British settlers engage in a fight, as the Native Americans have been warned that these men will try to take away their land.

Despite warnings from Chief Powhatan’s order to keep away from the British settlers, Pocahontas tries to keep her new relationship with John Smith secret.  But what happens when the man Pocahontas is to marry, Kocoum, finds out that she has been seeing John Smith secretly?

For the direct-to-video sequel, it is known that the real Pocahontas married a man named John Rolfe.  But in the first film, she is shown to have fallen in love with John Smith.  So, the writers began working a sequel to show how Pocahontas would meet the man she would eventually marry.

The second film would be directed by Tom Ellery (“The Princess and the Frog”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Chicken Little”) and Bradley Raymond (“The Lion King 1 1/2”, “Tinker Bell”, “The Phantom”) and featuring the same voice talent of the first film, with the exception of Mel Gibson, who has been replaced by Donal Gibson as Captain John Smith and the addition of actor Billy Zane (“Titanic”, “Back to the Future” films) as the voice of John Rolfe and actress Jean Stapleton (“You’ve Got Mail”, “All in the Family”) as Mrs. Jenkins.

In the sequel titled “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”, Governor Ratcliffe has framed John Smith as a traitor by blaming him as the person who was responsible for declaring war against the Powhatan tribe.  Ratcliffe has his soldiers ambushing John Smith to issue a warrant for his arrest, but he manages to escape.  But to the soldiers, it looks as if John Smith has died while trying to escape.

Worried about British and Powhatan relations and the problems that John Smith may have caused, the King sends a diplomat name John Rolfe to escort Chief Powhatan to England for negotiations.

Meanwhile, at the “New World”, Pocahontas mourns the death of John Smith but knows she must move on.  She then meets John Rolfe at James Towne and learns that Chief Powhatan is requested to visit England for negotiations of the land.

But their first impression towards each other is not good as she feels he is too serious and always wanting to take charge, while he does not like Pocahontas’ free spirit.

As John Rolfe explains that England is requesting negotiations with the Powhatan tribe and want Chief Powhatan to go back with him to England, Chief Powhatan has no desire to leave his land.  But Pocahontas volunteers herself, despite how her father and others from the tribe may feel.  So, Chief Powhatan has a bodyguard named Uttamatomakkin sent with Pocahontas to England, meanwhile Pocahontas doesn’t know that she is some friendly stowaways as Meeko, Flit and Percy have snuck on the ship.

When they arrive in England, Pocahontas is amazed by this new world.  But King James is insulted that the Chief Powhatan did not come to the negotiations.  So, with prodding from Governor Ratcliffe, a proclamation is signed that an Armada will set sail to the “New World” to go to war against the Powhatan Tribe if he is not impressed by the Powhatan Ambassador.

Understanding what is at stake, Pocahontas with the help of Mrs. Jenkins, learns of the way of the English, from etiquette to mannerisms.

As a test for King James, Ratcliffee tells him that Pocahontas should attend the Hunt Ball and there, the King can decide if Pocahontas is a savage or an ambassador that can show the king that she is “civilized”.  The King reminds Ratcliffe that if  she proves that she is “civilized”, he will cancel the order for an armada to set sail, which upsets Ratcliffe who wants to see the Tribe annihilated by the British.

As Pocahontas continues to be cultured, she also finds herself getting closer and closer to John Rolfe.   And both start to enjoy each other’s company. But what happens when out of nowhere, John Smith arrives?

VIDEO:

“Pocahontas” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  And I was hoping that this film would look incredible on Blu-ray and sure enough, the film looks absolutely amazing.  Despite being a film created in the ’90s, the film is detailed and looks beautiful.  The film is colorful, vibrant and black levels are nice and deep.  Everything from its lush scenery to the clarity of the film, makes “Pocahontas” a must-own on Blu-ray.

And “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” is no slouch either.  Yes, it’s a direct-to-video sequel but the film looks very good.  Granted, you can tell the difference between the amount of detail from a major feature film vs. direct-to-video film but  the animation is still crisp and vibrant, just not as gorgeous as the original film but still looks great on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit) and 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish. “Pocahontas” is crystal clear when it comes to dialogue and music.  From its ambiance of the wilderness to the sound of traveling on the ocean, there is good use of the surround channels and better dynamic range.  The direct-to-video sequel is good but similar to the video, you can tell the difference in the lossless soundtrack quality of the original film vs. the direct-to-video sequel.  But that’s not to say “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” is bad, because it’s not.  It’s good, just not as great as the original film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pocahontas” comes with the following special features:

  • Drawing Inspiration: The Lost Story of Hiawatha – (11:49)A never before seen tale that inspired the “Pocohontas” filmmakers.  Featuring director Eric Goldberg and historian Charles Solomon as he discusses the long-lost animated feature film “Hiawatha” and a read-through of what the story was about, including sketches from the Disney archives from “Hiawatha”.
  • “Little Hiawatha” Cartoon Short – (9:11) The 1936 Silly Symphony Short of “Little Hiawatha” which inspired Walt Disney.
  • Deleted Song: “If I Never Knew You” – (4:51) A deleted song from the film featuring optional audio commentary by directors Eric Goldberg, Mike Gabriel and producer James Pentecost.
  • Deleted Scenes – (15:19) Featuring nine storyboard deleted scenes from “Pocahontas”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by James Pentecost (producer) and directors Eric Goldberg and Mike Gabriel.
  • The Music of Pocahontas – (7:08) Producer James Pentecost talks about the music of Pocahontas.
  • Pocahontas II DVD Storybook – (6:03) A storybook version of “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”.

EXTRAS:

“Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” comes with a slipcover case and a DVD version of both films.  Presented in widescreen (1:78:1), audio is presented in English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

Back in the mid-90’s, I remember watching “Pocahontas” and being amazed by its visual style but also its character design.

Featuring beautifully painted backgrounds, the visual and spiritual style that mimicked the free spirit of Pocahontas herself and in addition, having this near-Romeo & Juliet style storyline in which Pocahontas and John Smith were two individuals that could never fall in love because of their backgrounds.  Or can they?

I also do remember having watched the film and then doing my research to find out more about her and eventually finding out that she married to a man named John Rolfe.

Surprisingly, I was a bit confused until I realized that Pocahontas’ and John Rolfe’s storyline would be explained in the direct-to-video sequel “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”.

I enjoyed the sequel and its lively storyline as Pocahontas tries her best to become civilized by learning the etiquette and fashion of English culture.  And even more enjoyable to see the return of other character, from Pocahontas’ little friends to even the return of John Smith, which would feature the intriguing love triangle storyline.

But of course, the primary difference between the two film is one was a feature film with a bigger budget and the sequel was not.  But fortunately, what made the sequel’s storyline work is its use of characters but a storyline that was fun to watch.  And it’s a safe family film that can easily be enjoyed by the entire family.

I am quite aware about the criticism that the film has had because of its portrayal of the characters.  Yes, Disney and the writers did not show the suffering that the Powhatan Indians had to endure from the British settlers nor was there anything dark featured in both films, aside from its antagonist Governor Radcliffe trying to start trouble between the settlers and the Indians.  But this is a Disney film, aimed at children but also a storyline that can easily be enjoyed by families.

For me, the film helped introduce me to Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indians.  But also to learn the true story of Pocahontas, to learn that there was no relationship between her and John Smith, to find out the account of Pocahontas mourning for John Smith is true, but also that she did meet John Smith once again in England is also true.  But the only thing that is never featured in the films that relates to the true story of Pocahontas is that before she met John Rolfe, she was actually kidnapped by Captain Samuel Argall, who he and his men were fighting against the Powhatan Tribe.

She was actually used as a bargaining chip and used as a way to secure the release of English prisoners held by Chief Powhatan but also the return of stolen weapons and tools.  And despite Chief Powhatan returning the English prisoners, dissatisfied by the returned weapons and tools, Pocahontas was kept as a prisoner.  Supposedly, she was able to meet with her tribe but chose to stay with her British captors.

So, there is quite a bit of story that relates to Pocahontas’ life that is not featured in the film.  But still, the film was good enough to capture my interest in learning more about her, John Smith and John Rolfe.  And for the adults, there are plenty of stories that relate to Pocahontas’ life, as well as John Smith and John Rolfe to look into.

But for children alone, these two films are fun and entertaining family films.   While the film for the most part is safe, there is a scene in “Pocahontas” where a person is killed.  No blood is shown, but he does die from a rifle shot.  So, for parents, it’s really up to you if you want this scene to be shown to your children.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Pocahontas” has never looked so much better than it does in HD.  From its beautiful, visual presentation to its immersive soundtrack, it’s a colorful, fun and entertaining film that takes on cultural differences but also a watered-down, happier Disney version of Pocahontas’ life.  The direct-to-video sequel is also entertaining and looks good on Blu-ray but is not as well-detailed as its original counterpart.  There are a good number of special features, a few new, while some are from the original DVD release.

And also, you do get the two DVD’s for “Pocahontas” and “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” included with this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” was an entertaining family film that will continue to entertain generation after generation.  Fans of the film will enjoy its beautiful presentation on Blu-ray and this is the best looking and sounding version of the film to date.  And to make this Blu-ray release quite enticing is the fact that you get two films for the price of one.  So, if you are a fan of the film wanting to upgrade or a Disney fan or parent curious about this Blu-ray release, I definitely recommend it!






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