25 Years Of Disney's 'Pocahontas': 9 Fun Facts About The Film

by Kristy Anderson 5 months ago in movie

The classic has an interesting history.

25 Years Of Disney's 'Pocahontas': 9 Fun Facts About The Film
Pocahontas. Credit: Disney.

June 23rd marks the 25th anniversary of the Disney classic Pocahontas. Pocahontas's release fell smack-bang in the middle of Disney's golden era 'Renaissance' period, and while it was a hit at the time of it's release, the movie has met with criticism in recent years due to it's historical inaccuracy.

Here's some fun facts about the film.

1. Many Disney Animators Fought Hard To Work On The Film

It is now quite a well-known fact that Pocahontas was in production at the same time as The Lion King. Many of Disney's animator's are said to have argued over who would work on which film.

Most, at the time, would have preferred to be working on Pocahontas. Taking it's story from 'real history', and utilising a number of new animation techniques, the assumption was that it would be the more prestigious of the two.

In reality, The Lion King and Pocahontas were about equal in terms of industry accolades, and while both were box office successes, The Lion King has Pocahontas beat in terms of iconic status.

2. Pocahontas was the first Person-of-Colour Character to lead a Disney film, and the first POC Disney Princess

Disney's Pocahontas and her voice actress, Irene Bedard.

As a Native American, Disney's Pocahantas was both the first POC lead in one of their films, and the first POC character to join the 'Disney Princess' brand. Disney also managed to avoid the white-wash voice casting that sometimes plagues POC characters in animation. While Pocahontas's singing voice was performed by theatre actress Judy Kuhn, her spoken voice was provided by Native-American Irene Bedard. In fact, all of the Native-American characters in the film were voiced by Native-American actors.

As well as giving Pocahontas her voice, Bedard served as a visual reference for the animators when drawing Pocahontas. She later reprised the role in the direct-to-video sequel Pocahontas: Journey To The New World, and Wreck-It-Ralph: Ralph Breaks The Internet.

Pocahontas was eventually joined by two more POC Princesses, Mulan in 1998, and Tiana in 2009.

3. Irene Bedard never met her main co-star, Mel Gibson

At the time Pocahontas was made, it was customary for most actors to record their lines separately. So, Irene Bedard never worked with Mel Gibson, who voiced male-lead John Smith, during production of the film. The only fellow voice artist with whom Bedard shared the studio was Pocahontas's singing voice, Judy Kuhn.

Bedard hoped to meet Gibson at the Pocahontas premiere, but unfortunately, he was too busy working on Braveheart to attend. Unlike Bedard, Gibson did not reprise his role in the sequel, instead passing the role to his brother, Donal.

4. In early drafts of the film, a few characters were quite different.

Originally, Pocahontas's mentor during the film was supposed to be an ageing male water spirit known as Old Man River, with the role going to To Kill A Mockingbird star Gregory Peck. However, upon reading the script, Peck voiced his belief that a maternal guiding influence would better suit the story. The filmmakers agreed, and Old Man River was reworked to become Grandmother Willow, voiced by Linda Hunt.

Pocahontas's cast of adorable animal sidekicks also went through a few tweaks throughout production. Originally, she was to have three: humming bird Flit, Meeko the raccoon, and Redfeather, a wisecracking turkey voiced by John Candy. It was eventually decided that three was too many, so Meeko was going to be cut. Unfortunately, John Candy passed away before he could record any lines. Meeko was reinstated, and easily became one of the most recognisable characters from the film.

Pocahontas eventually did gain a third sidekick in the sequel, having adopted Percy the pug after Ratcliffe left him behind in the first film.

5. The Villainous Governor Ratcliffe proved difficult to find a voice for.

Both Patrick Stewart and Stephen Fry were considered for the role of Ratcliffe, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. The role eventually went to Disney veteran David Ogden-Stiers, who had already voiced Cogsworth in Beauty & The Beast, and would later voice Jumba Jookiba in the Lilo & Stitch films.

Patrick Stewart got a chance to join the Disney family when he voiced the Great Prince Of The Forest in Bambi II.

6. A Song cut from the original release has become one of the movie's most loved.

The song if ‘I Never Knew' a duet between Pocahontas and John Smith sung after Smith has been sentenced to death by Chief Powhatan, was cut from the original release of the film. Test audiences had deemed it too boring.

The song was restored to the film as a bonus feature on the Pocahontas tenth anniversary special edition DVD, where it quickly found fans. Since this resurgence, 'If I Never Knew You' has been included on a number of Disney compilation albums.

7. Many of the film's cast members went on to appear in other Pocahontas related movies.

Gordon Tootoosis, who voiced Kekata, the head Shaman of the Powhatan tribe, played Chief Powhatan in the live-action film Pocahontas: The Legend, also released in 1995.

Meanwhile, the 2005 film The New World featured not one, but two former Pocahontas cast members. Christian Bale, who voiced Thomas in Pocahontas, plays John Rolfe in The New World, while the voice of Pocahontas herself, Irene Bedard, played Pocahontas's Mother.

8. Little Dove, a possible descendant of the real Pocahontas, acted as an adviser on the film.

Unfortunately, she wasn't happy with the finished result.

"I wish they'd take the name 'Pocahontas' off of that movie."

Little Dove, who visits schools to teach children about the life of her famous ancestor, and the history of the Powhatan people, says Disney promised her historical accuracy. Instead, thanks to the numerous liberties Disney took with the real history surrounding Pocahontas, the film has actually made Little Dove's work more difficult, particularly with younger children who view the Disney version as gospel.

9. 'Pocahontas' was released to coincide with the real Pocahontas's 400th Birthday

While an exact date of birth cannot be determined, the real Pocahontas is estimated to have been born around 1595-1596. Working by those numbers, Disney's film was released close to the 400th anniversary of her birth.

So, happy 25th anniversary to Disney's Pocahontas, and happy 425th birthday to the woman who inspired her. The film might not have been the most accurate account of her history, but it helps ensure her name is not forgotten anytime soon.

Kristy Anderson
Kristy Anderson
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Kristy Anderson

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