The 33rd entry in the Disney Animated Canon, 1995's Pocahontas is inspired by true eventsnote Some of the films '40s did include stories about historical figures like Johnny Appleseed, but were not entirely based on those events. It takes the old legend of the Native American princess who supposedly saved the life of Englishman John Smith and turns it into a musical romance with few roots in the historical record. It literally has more roots in fantasy, in fact — a supporting character is a talking willow tree.The film centers around Rebellious Princess Pocahontas, who has been promised to the best warrior of the tribe by her father Chief Powhatan, but she senses she has a greater purpose in life than this. When English settlers arrive to form the Jamestown colony, she meets the idealistic John Smith, the one member of the group who is interested more in adventure and the beauty of the land than the gold said to lie in it, which Governor Ratcliffe exhorts the others to dig up. Each an outcast among his/her own people, they fall in love.But both groups are intensely mistrustful of the other — the Native Americans fear the English will ravage their land and people; the English regard themselves superior to the "savage" natives. When a rendezvous between the lovers leads to the death of her intended at the hands of a settler, John Smith is captured and sentenced to die by Powhatan, and (utterly convinced that the natives hide the gold) Ratcliffe intends to use this as the perfect excuse to exterminate the natives. Only Pocahontas can save both worlds.A Direct-to-Video sequel was released in 1998, Journey to a New World, that applied similar fictionalization to Pocahontas' later life, namely her journey to England and marriage to John Rolfe.Now has a character sheet!
Animal Reaction Shot: After the magic of the Virginia woods eliminates the language barrier between John Smith and Pocahontas, Meeko and Flit both share a Jaw Drop and a stunned exchange of looks.
Arranged Marriage: Kocoum asks for Pocahontas' hand and her father bethrothes her to him - she has no say in it.
Artistic License - Geography: This story is set in coastal Virginia, but there are mountains and thick pine forests. While there are certainly mountains in Virginia, they're hundreds of miles away from the coast... which is quite flat and swampy.
And the song "If I Never Knew You", which was cut from the theatrical release.
Badass: John Smith and Pocahontas are both eventually a Badass Pacifist. Chief Powhatan comes back from winning a war and uniting several warring tribes, which makes him quite eligible for this title as well. Finally, Kocoum is a Memetic Badass both in- and out-of-universe.
Becoming Part of the Image: Ratcliffe does this with a painting of King James during the song “Mine, Mine, Mine”. The result is Ratcliffe's face replacing that of King James on the painting. Unlike most other examples, he does it on purpose.
Berserk Button: For Powhatan, Killing his daughter's intended fiancé and most precious warrior..
Which makes it into sort of a plot hole when you realize he never actively sought out the real murderer on-screen.
Bittersweet Ending: The lovers don't get to stay together, but they and their people are better for the experience.
Black and White Morality: Played straight at the extremes: Pocahontas is good, John develops into good, Ratcliffe is bad. Every single other character is some tint of grey.
Bloodless Carnage: Several characters are shot, sometimes fatally, with no blood or other visible sign of injury. This leads to a case of Narm with the "Savages" verse "I wonder if they even bleed" because... they don't.
Break the Haughty: For John Smith. It results in some remarkable character development in which he drops his xenophobia. Governor Ratcliffe, when faced with the same lesson as John Smith (love transcends cultural differences and other cultures are to be respected in order to preserve peace) realistically blocked out and snapped.
Book Ends: Disney goes back to its roots here, opting for more appropriate parchment instead of a storybook.
Butt Monkey: It would seem that pretty much the entire universe started to completely hate Percy the pug as soon as he landed in America. He's quite frequently tripping, falling from high heights, or smashing into things, all because he happens to be the villain's dogat least before he switches owners. However, no one likes torturing him more than Meeko the raccoon. Whenever Percy has the chance to eat something, Meeko is always there to snatch it away from him. On one occasion, after he hordes a pile of bones intended for the two of them to share, Meeko offers a single bone to Percy. Then he breaks it and offers him a smaller piece, before finally eating it just as Percy was about to grab it. What a bastard.
And Flit, who despite his caution and practical edge, is often comically abused by Meeko. Almost drowns within a minute of being introduced. John Smith later catches him in a cookie, which was virtually inescapable for him.
Thomas throughout 3/4 of the movie—he nearly drowns (mere minutes into the movie), is clumsy, can't shoot and is manipulated by Ratcliffe. Even when he thinks he's doing right by shooting Kocoum to save John's life, he only manages to make things worse.
Chekhov's Gun: Pocahontas' dream of a spinning arrow comes into play when she is unsure of what to do during John Smith's impending execution. She then looks at his compass which she has been carrying, and it spins wildly until it points to the direction he is in, allowing her to finally follow her destiny.
Chekhov's Skill: Pocahontas' very first scene shows her effortlessly jumping several feet off a cliff into the water and appearing unharmed. Whether this is part of her spiritual abilities or not is debatable, but during Savages she finds herself capable of nigh levitation and running with the wind.
Closer to Earth: Pocahontas and John Smith. By comparison, the rest of her tribe is just as aggressive and violent as the settlers; their leaders and warriors are returning from a successful conquest when we first see them.
Color-Coded Patrician: Ratcliffe's purple. Purple was the color of nobility. In the Disney universe, purple is also a sign of villainy.
Dramatic Wind: And how! The heroine is almost constantly followed by winds that artistically blow leaves around. According to Wikipedia, this wind actually represents the guiding spirit of her Missing Mom.
Russell Means, who voiced Powhatan, points out that wind is a powerful spiritual force in many Native American worldviews.
Dumbass Has a Point: Wiggins hits the nail on the head for why the Native Americans attacked the Englishmen while they were digging for their gold. This astonishingly accurate assumption is ignored because Ratcliffe thinks that the Indians are hoarding the gold for themselves and don't want the English to take it.
Ironically the Native Americans weren't even attacking — Chief Powhatan's command was to observe them, not engage.
Empathy Pet: Meeko and Flit for Pocahontas, Percy for Ratcliffe (who does a genuinely touching Heel-Face Turn and becomes hers).
Granted, Percy was never really a perfect parallel to Ratcliffe in the first place.
Epic Tracking Shot: The first shot of Pocahontas is one of these, zooming in and up to focus on her face as she stands on a clifftop.
Establishing Character Moment: Three of them in the same scene. Thomas is washed overboard because of his clumsiness. John promptly jumps overboard after him, saying the rest of the crew would do the same for him. Then Ratcliffe comes along, gives a resounding speech in front of the men, and proceeds to demean them when alone with Percy and Wiggins.
Feudal Overlord: Governor Ratcliffe. He orders the settlers to build a fortress, burn down trees and attack the natives, all to dig up gold which isn't actually present. He didn't have permission by any member of the royal family to do this.
Forgotten Fallen Friend: The death of Kocoum has very little effect on most of the characters. While the heroine is seen mourning shortly after the event, it's not because of his death but because of Smith's impending execution. Thomas shows little emotion over just having killed someone, and Chief Powhatan, who had thought especially highly of Kocoum, does not seem too concerned about finding the real murderer after Smith is let go. The only character who really shows any substantial emotion about this death is Percy. Can be justified as the movie doesn't really have time to explore everyone's feelings about the loss of Kocoum, especially in light of John's impending execution and preparations of war between the settlers and Powhatan's tribe.
"I Want" Song: "Just Around the Riverbend" for Pocahontas; "Mine Mine Mine" combines this with a Villain Song for Ratcliffe, serving as a counterpoint to John Smith's purer intentions.
Just to make things odd, Ratcliffe seems to be saying he'll take everything they dig up for himself, but the men of the company find the song inspiring, since they seem to understand 'mine!' as a command.
Jaw Drop: Meeko and Flit do this when witnessing Pochahantas' newfound translation powers.
Jerkass: Ratcliffe, and Meeko's behavior toward Flit and especially Percy.
Meaningful Echo: Not quite direct, but possibly intentional. When John rescues Thomas at the beginning, he says to the rest of the men, "Of course, any of you would do the same for me." When John is taken prisoner, Thomas says they have to rescue him as "he'd do the same for any of us."
My God, What Have I Done?: When Thomas informs the colony that they've taken John prisoner and the men gear up for war, not simply a rescue mission, his face throughout "Savages" pretty much says it all.
By a very loose interpretation of this trope, arguably the rest of the English colonists qualify as well. They were greatly misinformed or uninformed about the realities of the New World.
The Native Rival: Kocoum, mainly because he's annoyed at John Smith for getting romantically involved with his intended bride. He ends up getting killed by Thomas (John Smith's friend) while trying to murder Smith.
Neutral Female: Pocahontas tries in vain to avert this during the fight between John Smith and Kocoum.
Nice Hat: Thomas's green hat may not be fancy, but he's never seen without it and it is nice enough that John bothers to retrieve it from the sea when he's rescuing Thomas. There's a shot of him giving it back once they're both safely back on deck.
Non-Action Guy: Wiggins, particularly evident when you compare him to the other settlers, who are all manly looking.
Not So Different: The natives and the settlers. A fairly dark example, considering our first view of the natives is their warriors returning from conquering/destroying another tribe and the ending only avoided being a massacre because both sides launched their sneak attacks at the same time. Lampshaded when both of them sing a similar song. (In fact "Savages" can be considered this trope in song form, as much for some of the expressions and animation choices as for the lyrics.)
Men: Now we sound the drums...of... Pocahontas: (Is the death of all I love carried in the drumming of...?) Men: WAR!
One Head Taller: Highlighted in the "Colors of the Wind" number. Pocahontas and John Smith send eagles up to the top of a tree with John Smith's eagle being one head taller than Pocahontas's eagle. This leads into a Match Fade of Pocahontas and John Smith themselves following the trope.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: John Smith can't seem seem to decide whether he has a British accent, an American one that won't be around for a few centuries, or even Mel Gibson's Australian accent, a country which would have only just have been discovered when the film was set.
Picture Perfect Presentation: The movie starts with a woodcut of London Harbor that transitions to the harbor in-animation, zooming in on the dock where the colonists are boarding and loading their ship. It ends with a shot of Pocahontas on the cliff, watching John Smith's ship heading back to England, transitioning back into a woodcut.
The Power of Love: Not the typical magical effect it usually has in Disney movies, but saving both a lover and a people from extermination is not to be sneezed at.
It could be that the power of love helped Pocahontas and John Smith overcome the language barrier in about five seconds. Supposedly, the pink and purple leaves swirling about were her mom's spirit/symbolic of the power of love. This seems so powerful that it lets Nakoma understand English too.
Rule of Symbolism: Aside from much of the imagery during "Colors of the Wind", the Dramatic Wind, and especially the Dramatic Necklace Removal, there's the scene where Grandmother Willow tries to convince John to go with Pocahontas to meet with her father by showing him how ripples can spread "but someone has to start them." Also "Savages" is chock full of it, from the superimposed images of the settlers and Ratcliffe in the fire and of Pocahontas's face as she rushes to get there to save John and avert the war to the way the smoke from the settlers' and tribesmen's torches rises up to join and form a great thunderhead over the battlefield.
Satellite Character: Despite constantly hovering about the main character, Flit seems to serve absolutely no purpose in the story. Unlike the other two animal sidekicks, he doesn't play a part in the subplot. What little contributions he has, he spends playing the Straight Man to Meeko.
Wiggins too. He's just there to give Radcliffe someone to bounce his thoughts and schemes off of.
Sissy Villain: Ratcliffe subverts this. He's vain, greedy, and wears pink, but he's also the first to be suited up for battle and leads the Virginians from the front. Not to mention being the one to try and shoot Powhatan, even if John Smith jumped in the way.
The Smurfette Principle: Does better averting this than other Disney Renaissance Movies. In addition to the main heroine, there are two female supporting characters with big influences on the plot. Grandmother Willow is the Mentor while Pocahontas's friend Nakoma ends up an Unwitting Instigator of Doom.
Spirit Advisor: Grandmother Willow, who manifests herself in an animate tree. She is apparently visible only to Pocahontas, her animal friends and, later, John Smith.
Staggered Zoom: Used to zoom in on Ratcliffe at the start of the second half of "Savages".
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Played with, with Nakoma. When she sends Koucoum off after Pocahontas, she knows very well that something will happen, in fact she wants it to—her fear of the settlers and how close Pocahontas is getting to John, along with her disobeying of her father, makes Nakoma feel she has to intervene to save their village/save Pocahontas from the white man. But she had no idea her decision would lead to Kocoum's death, John being slated for execution, or incipient war. It's quite clear she is horrified by the results, and she does do what little she can to make it up to her friend.
Wasn't That Fun?: John comments "That was refreshing!" after leaping overboard to rescue Thomas.
We Hardly Knew Ye: It's difficult for a viewer to feel too much emotion for Kocoum's death when he barely had any screen time or characterization in the movie. This doesn't excuse some members of the cast, who should have known him a lot better, from doing the same.
Anachronism Stew: Particularly egregious with the fashions, which are an eclectic mix of European fashions from various eras all thrown together into what's supposed to be Jacobean England. We have King James dressed in medieval clothing (hopelessly outdated by the 17th century) while Pocahontas's makeover scene features her being dressed in pantalettes and a crinoline (both from the 19th century, two hundred years in the future).
Art Evolution: Inverted, as it is with many Disney sequels; Although mildly better than some others in this category, it still doesn't enjoy the vibrant and fluid animation of the first movie, with the color palette being especially jarring as it is much more subdued than the first film; the character animation suffered too from this: During John Rolfe's arrival to Jamestown there are many points where the townspeople in the background clearly do not move.
Bodyguard Crush: Sort of. Technically, Uttamatomakkin (or "Uti" for short) is Pochontas's bodyguard, assigned by Chief Powhatan to watch over Pocahontas, but it's John Rolfe's responsibility to bring her to England to see King James and Queen Anne. When Rolfe guards Pocahontas from the rough crew on the ship, he explains that he's "honor-bound" to protect her. This may have been when they began to fall in love.
Canon Discontinuity: Like most of Disney's direct-to-video sequels, this sequel is not considered canon by the company. For example: John Smith & Pocahontas remain an official couple, ignoring John Rolfe completely.
The High Queen: The Queen of England - a beautiful and kindly woman who welcomes Pocahontas graciously to the court. As well as that she acts as a voice of reason towards her rather impatient husband.
Historical In-Joke: "What A Day In London" features William Shakespeare, in a cameo, getting the idea for the line "to be, or not to be". (Historically, Shakespeare died a couple months prior to Pocahontas's arrival in London and Hamlet was written a few years before the setting of the first film.)
Just a Woman: John Rolfe towards Pocahontas at the beginning.
Karma Houdini: Despite nearly starting an all-out genocidal war, and failing to bring back resources and riches back to England, Ratcliffe is seen in the Direct-to-Video sequel with no loss of power or wealth (but he gets his comeuppance in the end, though).
Also Ratcliffe. In the original movie, he was more of a greedy Jerkass than an actual Big Bad, but in the sequel, he's a direct opponent of Pocahontas, who almost killed John Smith in the very first scene and manipulated the king to declare war on the Powhatan tribe.
Women Are Wiser: The Queen is more calm and level-headed than King James. It's her who believes that there is no gold in Virginia at all.