The 1995 Disney classic Pocahontas finally makes its way to a high definition transfer along with the 1998 direct-to-video sequel in the Pocahontas & Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World Blu-ray. Most will instantly fall in love (if they haven’t already) with the original film, though the sequel often falls victim to the same unnecessary and tacked on feeling that plagued most of Disney’s direct-to-video productions. But even if you discard the sequel, fans will still get the original film in beautiful high-definition for the very first time, and that alone makes this set worth your attention.
In Disney’s 1995 take on Pocahontas, the tale begins with some Englishmen being led by Governor Radcliffe (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) who land their ship on the coast of Virginia to search for gold there. One of the men, Captain John Smith (voice by Mel Gibson), is more thrilled by the natural beauty of the land they’ve just settled on and sets out to explore it. He then meets a Native American woman by the name of Pocahontas (voiced by Irene Bedard) and soon the two get to know each other through their shared love of nature. It isn’t long before Pocahontas’ father and her people find out about the English coming onto their land and wanting them to leave. But Radcliffe isn’t one to back down, as he’s prepared to do anything to stay and take the gold from their land, even if it means going to war.
In 1998’s Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, Radcliffe and the men have returned to England as he tries to save face by placing the failed gold mission on John Smith (this time voiced by Mel’s brother Donal Gibson), which in turn forces Smith to become a fugitive hiding in the city. The King then demands a meeting with Pocahontas’ father Chief Powhatan (voiced by Russell Means), but he sends her to go instead. While being watched over by the King’s emissary John Rolfe (voiced by Billy Zane), Radcliffe does everything he can to make Pocahontas appear like an animal to the high class society there and receive the King’s permission to launch a fleet of ships back to Virginia. With Rolfe helping Pocahontas fit in by teaching her how to carry herself with poise, Radcliffe continues to do whatever it takes to get back to the gold.
I found both films to be quite entertaining, though the first one will always have a special place in the hearts of many (myself included). The second isn’t as terrible as most may think it is, but it does have a tacked on / unnecessary feel that plagues most of Disney’s unnecessary direct-to video sequels. I liked how the voices fit the cast of characters perfectly, as well as the uplifting songs such as “Colors of the Wind” and “Listen with your Heart”. There’s also the expected, but still very funny, Disney animal characters, namely Pocahontas’ raccoon friend Meeko and Radcliffe’s pet pug Percy, making the expected switch from enemies to friends.
Speaking of looks, these movies have never looked better now that they’re presented in gorgeous high-definintion. Disney has done a wonderful job transferring them to Blu-ray, as they look and sound crisp and clear here. This is especially true with the original film’s simplistic watercolor painting-like look and feel, which holds up beautifully after all this time, though sadly the look wasn’t as present in the sequel. There’s also the usual extras featured here such as audio commentary, behind the scenes documentaries, music videos and more that’s sure to keep viewers entertained long after the movies end.
While the unnecessary direct-to-video sequel may not win over the naysayers, the original film and some nice extras are sure to please with the Pocahontas & Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World collection on Blu-ray. With a unique watercolor-style (in the original film, anyway), a great cast of characters, a superb cast, as well as several unforgettable songs, this Blu-ray collection comes highly recommended for families who are looking for fun – with just a hint of history – that lay just around the riverbend.
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Walt Disney Home Video