But ultimately, Pocahontas is a well-made animated film that—even though it’s not considered a classic—still stands as a serious triumph for Disney. The Oscar-winning song score by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz is loaded with memorable melodies and lyrics, none more so than “Colors of the Wind.” And the unhappy ending was another bold move that seals the film’s status as an anomaly in the Disney catalogue. And if it has ever inspired any kids to learn more about the real Pocahontas, or Native American culture in general, than that’s a bonus.
The quickie, direct-to-video sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World is nothing more than quick-bucks product from the Disney animation B-team. Most of the voice cast returns, save for Mel Gibson. His brother Donal Gibson fills in. In kind of a reversal of the first one, Pocahontas travels to England—a “new world” for her—after Captain Smith is presumed dead following a confrontation early on (he reemerges in the third act). She voyages to England with her replacement boyfriend, John Rolfe (Billy Zane). Meeko the raccoon, Percy the dog, and Flit the hummingbird are all in tow, of course. This one is strictly for kids, as the animation has an overall flat look. At a mere 73 minutes, the film drags under the weight of too much plot.
Pocahontas and its sequel, both on the same Blu-ray disc, look excellent with 1080p transfers. The original film looks marginally better, but that’s largely because of how far superior the animation is. Pocahontas is vividly colorful, with even the potentially drab earth tones that dominant the palette looking rich. The image is perfectly clear. A fair amount of the film is set at night, but the images are equally strong even when intentionally dim to simulate low lighting. The sequel features a much less finely-nuanced style, but the transfer itself can hardly be faulted. Clarity remains strong and the generally bright-colored film almost looks better than it needs to (for such a cheap knock-off).
Both films are presented with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Predictably, the more robust of the two is easily the first film. More care was obviously invested in crafting an immersive audio experience with the original. There’s nothing wrong with the audio on part two, it just doesn’t utilize the surrounds as much as the first. The songs sound far better on the original, making use of the full spectrum, including plenty of LFE presence. The sequel has a thinner and more front-centered mix. Dialogue is totally trouble-free on both films.