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Western Animation / Pocahontas

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There's something in the wind...
"Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?"

Pocahontas (released June 23, 1995) is the 33rd entry in the Disney Animated Canon. It is loosely inspired by true events around the foundation of Jamestown (the first permanent English settlement in North America), specifically by John Smith's rewrite of Pocahontas' life. It takes the old legend of the First Nations girl who supposedly saved the life of Englishman John Smith and turns it into a musical with few roots in the historical record, giving Pocahontas a significant Age Lift as well as romantic interest in John Smith. It literally has more roots in fantasy, in fact — a supporting character is a talking willow tree.

The film centers around Pocahontas, who has been promised to the best warrior of the tribe by her father, Chief Powhatan (the chieftain of the Powhatan Tribe), 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 Powhatans 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, and (utterly convinced that the natives hide the gold) Ratcliffe intends to use this as the perfect excuse to exterminate the Powhatan people. Only Pocahontas can save both worlds.

A Direct to Video sequel, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, was released in 1998. It applied similar fictionalization to Pocahontas' later life, namely her journey to England and marriage to John Rolfe. A video game adaptation was also released for the Sega Genesis.

If you're looking for the Real Life Pocahontas, check her Useful Notes page here.

Pocahontas provides examples of:

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  • All There in the Script:
    • Closed captions in television airings inform us of what Meeko, who otherwise chitters unintelligibly, means to say.
    • Lon is never referred to by name in the movie.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The natives' view of the settlers, and the other way around. Bonus points as the Powhatan people view the settlers' use of firearms as Bad Powers, Bad People.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Hardtack is a term that wouldn't come into use until the American Civil War. Back then, such bread was typically called ship's biscuit or sea biscuit.
    • Depending on the Artist, the British flags of the settlers either do or don't include the red diagonal cross representing Northern Ireland, which would not be added to the flag until 1801.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Pocahontas stops her father from executing John Smith, she tells him that the path of hatred has brought them to armed conflict with the settlers and asks what his path will be. It causes Powhatan to order his men to stand down and release John.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Let's just say that if weren't for cartoon logic, Percy would be pretty worse off from eating cherries since they contain cyanide, which is toxic and fatal to dogs if consumed in large enough amounts.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Flit the hummingbird gulps an entire raspberry at one point. Hummingbirds in reality eat nectar, tree sap, and small insects, and have been known to sip juices from overripe/pecked fruit. If they were actually able to eat solid berries, they would have to be in much smaller chunks than a whole raspberry, which would kill Flit by asphyxiation.
  • Artistic License – Geography: This story is set in coastal Virginia, but there are mountains, waterfalls 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.
  • Artistic License – History: To list every single historical inaccuracy in the movie would take up an entire separate page, as there are very, very few things in the film that are accurate to the real life history of Pocahontasnote . However, this was done intentionally—the filmmakers did extensive research on the history of Pocahontas and even had full access to historical documents of the history of Jamestown as reference, but they said they were more interested in adapting the legend of Pocahontas than being historically accurate. For one thing, they knowingly made her older.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • John Smith's matchlock rifle is somehow still lit after he jumps through a waterfall. A match cord can be hard to light or keep lit if it's just damp, so even approaching a strong waterfall would probably be a bad idea.
    • Pocahontas and Meeko safely diving hundreds of feet through the air and landing gently into water, which would've been as safe as jumping off a cliff onto solid concrete in real life. With Pocahontas, it's implied that it's something magical protecting her that ensures she dives safely, whereas Meeko survives because it's funnier that way.note 
  • Aside Glance: Two woodland critters give each other a bored one after Grandmother Willow makes a Pun.
  • Award-Bait Song:
    • "Colors of the Wind" is a big ballad preaching a Green Aesop — and a good amount of advertising for the film consisted of this song just being shown. It did win the Oscar.
    • "If I Never Knew You", a big love duet that received a cover by Jon Secada and Shanice for the end credits. It ended up cut from the theatrical release, as during test screenings with child audiences, their attention "seemed to wander from the film" during the sequence (it was set during Pocahontas' conversation with John Smith while he was being held prisoner before his scheduled execution the next day). The Mel Gibson/Judy Kuhn version is available on the 10th anniversary DVD.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The practice of closing one eye to shoot is depicted as this; while it allows the shooter to focus the sights of their gun, it reduces their field of vision. Thomas runs into this problem during the skirmish, so John instructs him to shoot with both eyes open. The next time Thomas fires a gun, he remembers this advice and this time he hits what he tries to shoot; unfortunately he nearly ignites a war by killing Kocoum.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Firearms + white people equals evil, according to Kekata.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Ratcliffe waging war against the Powhatans. Sure, Smith was in very real mortal peril (although there was no way Pocahontas was going to let him die), but Ratcliffe actually didn't give a rat's ass about Smith's life. In fact, he wanted to rid himself of Smith. Also, he ordered for anyone who wouldn't shoot a native at sight to be hanged for treason. So by his own laws, Smith would have to be considered a bloody traitor.
  • 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.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Several for Pocahontas and John. Most iconically, their first kiss next to Grandmother Willow, but the very last one could also count.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Pocahontas just as her father is about to kill John in the climax.
    • Shortly afterwards, John does one as he notices Ratcliffe aiming his musket at Powhatan. He promptly shoves the chief out of the way, taking the bullet instead.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Every Indigenous word and sentence in this movie was a real word in the partially lost Powhatan language, although the implied grammar is mostly guessed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: John takes a bullet meant for Chief Powhatan, and must sail back to England for medicine. Pocahontas realises she's needed with her own people, so the lovers can't be together. However Ratcliffe is removed from power, and things between the settlers and natives are slightly better now.
  • 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 (in Kocoum's case), with no blood or other visible sign of injury. This leads to an odd moment with the "Savages" verse "I wonder if they even bleed" because... they don't.
  • Book Ends: Disney goes back to its roots here, opting for more appropriate parchment instead of a storybook. The first shot of the film is a parchment drawing of London harbour. The final shot features a drawing of a cliff in Virginia.
  • Bowdlerise: The original ending of "Mine, Mine, Mine" was cut because it was too shocking for test audiences.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Pocahontas does this while her people are ready to fight the English.
  • Canine Confusion: At one point, Percy enjoys cherries while he's taking a bath. In real life, dogs should not eat cherries because their pits, leaves and stems have cyanide in them, which is poisonous and dangerous. Cherry pits can also get stuck in a dog's intestinal tract.
  • Cassandra Truth: "But there is no gold!"
  • Cerebus Retcon: Early in the film, Thomas makes a joke that if any Indian gets in his way, "I'll blast him". Later on he fatally shoots Kocoum, which nearly gets John executed and starts a war.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Pocahontas's 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 Lecture: John Smith tells Thomas to keep "Both eyes open" while shooting to shoot straight. Thomas whispers that advice while taking aim at Kocoum.
  • Closer to Earth: The Powhatan are depicted this way when compared to the settlers. They wage battles, but overall they are more In Harmony with Nature and are not taking from others. Ostensibly, like their real life counterparts, the first battle is a result of conflict — they are not expansionists or conquerors. At no point are they depriving others of basic necessities or destroying natural resources in pursuit of a (highly valued but) practically useless mineral. Wahunsenacah says he would seek peace if the settlers would talk and listen, but anytime the natives go near their camp, even just to look, they get shot at. Meanwhile Ratcliffe has no grayness, shoots first and never asks questions, and will never negotiate.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Ratcliffe envisions himself wearing a suit of armor made of solid gold, beset with gemstones.
  • Counterpoint Duet: More like Counterpoint Trio with Chorus — "Savages (Part 2)" has the settlers vs. Pocahontas' tribe vs. Pocahontas, herself.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to most earlier Disney films.
    • "Savages" is the most brutal and intense song that addresses the themes of othering, xenophobia, and genocide.
    • The killing of Kocoum is one of Disney's few onscreen human character deaths.
    • The climax of the movie centers around an execution and an upcoming war.
    • Near the end of the movie, John Smith sacrifices himself by throwing himself in front of Chief Powhatan and gets wounded in the process, leading to a Bittersweet Ending instead of the standard Disney happy ending.
  • Dawn Attack: After Thomas kills Kocoum and the Powhatans capture John Smith, Chief Powhatan and Governor Ratcliffe each announce plans to attack their opposition at sunrise.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Apparently, killing a man as a part of shooting him never occurred to Thomas.
  • Disappointed in You: "Because of your foolishness, Kocoum is dead!"
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "Colors of the Wind" goes into surreal images to show Pocahontas telling John about the wonders of her homeland.
  • Disneyfication: The film shredded everything we know about the historical Pocahontas. For one thing, she was between 10 and 12 years old when she first met John Smith, making a romantic relationship unlikely at best. She and Kocoum were already married, not just engaged. Her father had fifty wives and many children. She was taken to Jamestown as a hostage and married before her trip to London, and no armada was threatening to annihilate her people. John Smith was not a Prince Charming type, but in fact an unattractive, short man with a giant woolly beard. The only bit they got right was her saving Smith from execution, and even that is considered by some historians to be the enactment of a ritual (and thus Smith wasn't in any real danger). Still other historians suspect Smith of making up the entire story, since it doesn't appear until he wrote his memoirs, four years after her ''death''. And she didn't actually marry John Smith. She married John Rolfe. In real life, John Smith was more of a father-type figure to her than a love interest.
  • Description Cut: Immediately after Powhatan expresses his hopes that the settlers will leave, Governor Ratcliffe christens Jamestown.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: A rather disturbing example. Pocahontas' father gives her a necklace at the beginning of the movie during the scene where he talks about her eventual marriage to Kocoum. She's supposed to wear it to her wedding, and it used to belong to her mother. In the scene where Kocoum sees Pocahontas consorting with John Smith and it all hits the fan, Kocoum is fatally shot and dies falling backwards into water. As he goes down, he grabs at Pocahontas' necklace, shattering it into tiny pieces.
  • Dramatic Wind: And how! The heroine is almost constantly followed by winds that artistically blow leaves around. Her hair also gets this treatment, especially at dramatic moments. 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.
  • Drums of War: The song "Savages" has both the Powhatans and the English colonists beating their respective drums as they go to war. The song's lyrics include the line "now we sound the drums of war".
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Pocahontas is the only one who can prevent the plot from going into a bloody massacre.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Savages" is the final song of the film, happening right before the Pamunkey and the English go to war.
  • 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.
  • Equippable Ally: Meeko holds and swings Flit around like a sword against Percy, but doesn't actually make any contact.
  • 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. Before that, we see John boarding the ship by riding a cannon. We also see men bidding their wives and failies goodbye, see Thomas hugging a woman goodbye, then pull back to reveal his father and little sibling, thus establishing him as the baby of the expedition.
  • Face Plant: When Percy chases Meeko after their first encounter, he trips and lands face-first in mud, ruining the bath he just took.
  • Failure Is the Only Option:
    • The English colonists' mission to amass gold was destined to fail from the outset, due to Virginia having a complete lack of the resource they were seeking.
    • Due to his double status as Butt-Monkey and being the villain's pet, Percy can't win in anything, especially eating.
    • The Natives' attempt to resist the invasion is equally doomed.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: "Colors of the Wind" starts off as a "Reason You Suck" Speech in song form, before becoming this.
  • Fantasy Americana: Although this movie leans more towards Magic Realism, this trope is still present. A willow tree contains a wise spirit who gives guidance, and Pocahontas has distinctive shamanic powers. Again, this is working off real traditional Native worldviews and both Irene Bedard (Inuit) and Russell Means (Lakhota) advised on this as a condition of being in the film at all.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing:
  • As Kekata is treating Namantek's gunshot wound, he says "this wound is strange to me". This foreshadows that John Smith's only hope to survive his own shot wound is to sail back to England.
  • Go Through Me: Near the end, when Pocahontas shields John Smith from the attempted blows of her father's club, she protests that, if he wants to kill him, he'll have to kill her too.
  • Head Crushing: Pocahontas narrowly averts the execution of John Smith by her father as a penalty for killing Kokoum. Chief Powhatan is poised to crush Smith's head with a large club when his daughter intervenes.
  • Held Gaze: Pocahontas and John Smith share the romantic variant of the trope when they first meet and Smith lowers his gun in awe of her beauty as Pocahontas gazes into his eyes curiously.
  • Hollywood Costuming: Pocahontas wears what basically looks like a deerskin mini-dress with flares, has shockingly few tattoos for the daughter of a tribal chief, and her necklace is made of turquoise, which would not have been available in the Virginia Tidewater area; John Smith's hairdo wouldn't look out of place on a 90s boyband member.
    • That said, Powhatan's deerskin cloak is a pretty close recreation of what the actual historical figure wore.
  • I Come in Peace: John subverts this upon meeting Pocahontas, and not even in We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill terms. One is left to wonder just what he might've done if Pocahontas hadn't been a girl.
  • If I Were a Rich Man: Combined with I Just Want to Be Special. Ratcliffe's Villain Song implausibly denies he's bitter, but he'd love to see his rich rivals squirm once he gets back home.
  • Implausible Deniability: Ratcliffe denies to himself that there is no gold, just to reassure himself he won't have to return to England having failed his last assignment.
  • Improvised Weapon: Meeko turns Flit into this, in order to fight off Percy.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Governor Ratcliffe seems to be under the impression that gold is as common an element in the New World as dirt, to the point where he doesn't even set his men to digging into rock (where one normally finds gold veins). He literally just starts digging at the landing site and expects to find gold immediately. Ironically, the sailors unwittingly lampshade this in "The Virginia Company":
    For the New World is like heaven
    And we'll all be rich and free
    Or so we have been told
    By the Virginia Company
  • Inexplicable Language Fluency: English explorer John Smith meets the alluring Pocahontas of the Powhatan tribe. Smith doesn't know her language, nor she his. That is, until Pocahontas takes a breath of magic wind. Suddenly, her English is better than his.
  • Instant Marksman: Just Squeeze Trigger!: John Smith gives the inexperienced Thomas advice on how to handle his gun, including a gentle reminder to "keep both eyes open". This becomes an Ironic Echo when Thomas shoots Kocoum.
  • I Reject Your Reality: Radcliffe stubbornly refuses to believe Smith’s claims that the Indians are friendly and that there is no gold in the new world, thinking that Smith has gone delusional. Ironically, Radcliffe is the delusional one. The same could be said for the excuses to all of his other actions.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "And he came so highly recommended." Ratcliffe says it of Wiggins after perceiving the latter to be inept; Wiggins utters the very same line tearfully after seeing Ratcliffe being taken away for his crimes.
    • Before shooting Kocoum, Thomas whispers Ratcliffe’s advice: "Both eyes open."
    • "But I can't leave you." "You never will. No matter what happens, I’ll always be with you, forever." said by both Pocahontas and John before the attack and near the end.
  • "I Want" Song:
    • "Just Around the Riverbend" for Pocahontas. She doesn't seem to know what she wants, except the feeling of not knowing what's coming; something she won't have if she marries Kocoum.
    • "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.
  • Kill on Sight: Governor Ratcliffe declares that "anyone who doesn't shoot an Indian on sight shall be charged with treason and hanged!"
  • Lame Pun Reaction: When Grandmother Willow comments that "My bark is worse than my bite", the owls give an exasperated glance at each other.
  • Language Fluency Denial: The Native Americans speak to each other in English, but whenever the Powhatans meet with one of the Englishmen, they speak Powhatan, until some spiritual magic gets involved and bridges the language barrier. However, it's not clear if it's meant to be this trope or if it's meant to be a case of Translation Convention.
  • Language of Love: Sort of. Pocahontas instantly becomes fluent in English as a result of "listening with her heart".
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Surprisingly, Meeko of all people pulls one off by stopping Flit from interfering with the protagonists' relationship.
  • Magic Realism: The film is given a serious realistic feel and actual date of when it takes place (1607), but it also has a talking willow tree and magical wind to represent the spirits of the earth. Pocahontas also has certain powers, like being able to jump from a high cliff, an unusually close connection to animals and the ability to learn English via listening with her heart. Aside from the Translator Microbes, the writer really were attempting to include sacred traditions.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: While not a marriage, John and Pocahontas's relationship is not accepted at first because they are of different races, who hate each other.
  • Map Stabbing: Governor Ratcliffe stabs a map of the New World with his sword just before starting his first musical number ("Mine, mine, mine").
  • Match Cut: During the "Savages" sequence, there's a juxtaposed shot of the natives beating war drums with the settlers beating their own war drums, clearly intended to show that the two groups are the same.
  • 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."
  • Mirroring Factions: The Native Americans Pocahontas comes from and the colonizers John Smith come from are portrayed as much more similar than they should be. A fairly dark example, considering our first view of the natives is their warriors returning from having "defeated the Massowomecks" and the ending only avoided being a massacre because both sides launched their sneak attacks at the same time. Also, the leads were too popular to ignore their wishes. 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.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: Either the filmmakers didn't do the research on the Tidewater/Coastal Plains region of Virginia, where the movie takes place, or they did, but didn't care. Because, like the name "Coastal Plains" implies, the area doesn't have any mountains or cliffs.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Upon seeing Pocahontas kissing John Smith, Kocoum's first response is to try killing his rival for Pocahontas.
  • 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.

  • Naïve Newcomer: By a very loose interpretation of this trope, all of the English colonists qualify. 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 Job Breaking It, Hero: Thomas shoots Kocoum, which leads to the Indians capturing John and planning to execute him the next morning. Thomas tells the settlers and Ratcliffe decides to attack.
  • Noble Savage: Part of the point. Only Pocahontas herself plays it completely straight, considering the film begins with her people returning from a successful war against a rival tribe. Even so, her people do seem to be just as In Harmony with Nature as she is.
  • Not Drawn to Scale: The masts of the settlers' ship tower over the giant hardwoods of Virginia.
  • Oddball in the Series: The film has a Bittersweet Ending, unlike the rest of the Disney animated canon, which almost all end euphorically (the exceptions being The Fox and the Hound and The Princess and the Frog).
  • Oh, Crap!: The look on Ratcliffe's face when Smith takes the bullet for Powhatan. Not from any actual remorse, but when your casus belli was to avenge the settlers' admired captain and you wind up shooting him yourself...
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: The end of "Savages (Reprise)".
    Men: Now we sound the drums... of...
    Pocahontas: Is the death of all I love carried in the drumming of...
    Men: WAR!
    Pocahontas actually adds on to this with her Big "NO!" just afterward; although she shouts in protest, in stopping the battle between her tribe and the Jamestown settlers, she answers her own question.
  • 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.
  • One-Steve Limit: Ratcliffe's first name was John too, but he's only ever called by his last. Possibly to distinguish him from John Smith.
  • Only One Name: Basically every character except John. Every other character is referred to either by only their first name (such as Pocahontas, Thomas, Ben, and Lon) or their surname (such as Ratcliffe or Wiggins).
  • Oscar Bait: Disney hoped Pocahontas would score a Best Picture nomination like Beauty and the Beast, hence the (by Disney standards) "serious" tone. It didn't take and, while the film got two Oscars for its music, Disney never lobbied to get a Best Picture nomination again.
  • Parents Suck at Matchmaking: Chief Powhatan promises Pocahontas in marriage to his best warrior, Kocoum, although she doesn't like him because he is too stoic. In a scene, the chief decides to call Kocoum to "protect" Pocahontas while she is gathering corn, but it is obviously an excuse to push on her the unwanted fiancée. She huffs in annoyance.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Kocoum rarely grins at all — so much so that when Nakoma expresses attraction towards him, Pocahontas sarcastically remarks his best feature is his smile. He doesn't even grin at Pocahontas—whom he intended to marry.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • When Kocoum is shot dead by Thomas, Meeko comforts Percy.
    • Very small one, but during the "Savages" song, when he and the settlers rush up to "save" John Smith, Ratcliffe's expression of horror does appear to be sincere.
  • 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.
  • Politically Correct History: The film airbrushes out the darker, more heinous elements of the conflict between the colonists and the Native Americans.
  • Posthumous Character: Pocahontas's mother. Filmmakers originally wanted to include her, as they were getting sick of Disney Princesses having Missing Moms, but their research showed that the real Pocahontas was unlikely to have known her mother. There was a planned scene where the mother's spirit would give her advice, but it was scrapped because The Lion King (1994) was using a similar idea.
  • 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.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Ratcliffe tells Thomas that "a man's not a man unless he knows how to shoot".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • If you take away the romantic images accompanying it and look purely at the lyrics, "Colors of the Wind" is this in song.
    • Pocahontas also delivers one when saving John Smith from execution. It doubles as Calling the Old Man Out.
    • Ratcliffe delivers a rather harsh one to Thomas.
      Ratcliffe: Oh, and Thomas, you've been a slipshod sailor and a poor excuse for a soldier. Don't disappoint me again.
  • Revealing Reflection: While John Smith is exploring Virginia, Pocahontas follows him out of curiosity, keeping out of sight. When he stops by a waterfall to get a drink, he notices her reflection and casually gets up then to ready an ambush.
  • Riding into the Sunset: The last scene has John being taken back to England on the ship with Pocahontas looking on from a clifftop.
  • Ripping Off the String of Pearls: As Kokoum is shot, he grasps at Pocahontas' necklace (which belonged to her mother) and it breaks off and falls to the floor in pieces, signifying how the shooting breaks relationships between the two sides and brings them to the brink of war. It gets fixed at the very end, though.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Aside from much of the imagery during "Colors of the Wind", the Dramatic Wind, and especially the Ripping Off the String of Pearls, 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."
    • "Savages" is also 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. There's also the fact that the fire and the moonlight make the settlers' and Natives' skin look red and white, respectively, bringing to mind how they're similar.
    • And then there's an invoked example where, on the fly, John points out that Percy and Meeko's scuffle as an allegory about how their people are inevitably bound to wage war with each other.
  • Running Gag:
    • Meeko's hunger and Percy suffering for it.
    • Also, John's "I've been through worse scrapes/suffered worse wounds than this... can't think of any at the moment, but..."
  • Say My Name:
    • Ben does this in the prologue, yelling, "Smith! Smith! Are you crazy?!" when John dives off the ship to save Thomas.
    • Thomas yells John's name after John is shot by Ratcliffe.
  • Scenery Porn: Although highly inaccurate. The animation was so detailed that it took about five years to complete.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Ben and Lon when Grandmother Willow give them a taste of When Trees Attack. "He's a big lad! He can take care of himself!"
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Wiggins is briefly seen securing Ratcliffe's armor during the beginning notes of "Savages", before disappearing and only reappearing in the final scene to comment on Ratcliffe's betrayal.
  • Shown Their Work: Flit's personality. Male hummingbirds are actually incredibly belligerent and territorial, to the point where some species have evolved beaks that they basically use as swords to duel with other hummingbirds at a food source.
  • 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.
  • Soup of Poverty: Discussed. When John Smith is trying to convince the settlers that they can benefit from cooperating with the Native Americans instead of fighting them, he shows them an ear of corn. He comments that it’s “better than hardtack and gruel.”
  • Staggered Zoom: Used to zoom in on Ratcliffe at the start of the second half of "Savages".
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: John is part of an invading crew of settlers, Pocahontas is The Chief's Daughter. They're the first Disney couple who don't end up together. The story was even created to be Romeo and Juliet in 17th Century Virginia. Even when they're reunited in the sequel they still don't end up together.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Happens at the end of Ratcliffe's Villain Song.
  • Taking the Heat: When Kocoum attacks John Smith out of jealousy and rage after witnessing him and Pocahontas kissing, and tries to kill him until Thomas shoots Kocoum dead where this only angers Pocahontas. When they hear the voices of Kocoum's warriors in the distance, John orders Thomas to get out of the area so that he can take the blame of Kocoum's death allowing Thomas to warn the settlers of what has happened.
  • Technicolor Wind: Alluded to in the song "Colors of the Wind", where Pocahontas sings about being able to paint with all the winds' colors as a metaphor for being In Harmony with Nature. Beautifully visualized in this shot, where she transforms out of the wind.
  • Translation Convention: The Native Americans' spoken dialogue are portrayed to the audience as being spoken in English. Whenever the Powhatans meet with one of the Englishmen, they speak Powhatan, until some spiritual magic gets involved and bridges the language barrier. However, it's not clear if it's meant to be this trope or if it's meant to be a case of Language Fluency Denial, with the Native Americans hiding her ability to speak and understand English for their safety and Grandma Willow merely letting Pocahontas know that John Smith posed no threat.
  • That Old-Time Prescription: Pocahontas gives John Smith willow bark for the pain after he is shot in the side.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Two characters on opposite sides, Nakoma and Thomas, end up triggering the last third of the plot when their actions with good intentions backfired in the worst ways as possible.
    • Nakoma, fearing for Pocahontas' safety, tells Kocoum about Pocahontas going off to meet John Smith in the woods. She was hoping Kocoum would stop Pocahontas from fraternizing with John Smith and the settlers, but she didn't expect Kocoum to witness Pocahontas and John kissing where this causes him to try and kill John in a blind rage before he gets fatally shot by Thomas, leading to the near genocide of both sides. Although she wasn't called out on her actions by Pocahontas, who was harshly blamed by her father for Kocoum's death, Nakoma is horrified of what has happened due to her actions and does her best to make it up to her friend.
    • Thomas, who was sent by Ratcliffe to follow John Smith as he wants to know where he is sneaking off to, only shot Kocoum to save John, but this prompts John to willingly take the blame of Kocoum's death to protect Thomas, leading to Kocoum's warriors capturing John and take him to the village where Chief Powhatan plans to execute him at dawn. When Thomas rushes back to Jamestown to inform the settlers that the natives have taken John prisoner, Ratcliffe, still wanting his opportunity to find the gold, decides to rally his settlers to attack the natives in an all out war, not simply rescuing John. As Ratcliffe and the settlers eagerly armor up for battle, Thomas can only stare at his musket in horror over his own actions.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: As mentioned earlier, the movie is based on the legend of Pocahontas rather than what actually happened.
  • Victorious Chorus: One of the more epic versions in the canon—but played with, as the movie's Bittersweet Ending makes it more heart-wrenching than celebratory.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: John comments "That was refreshing!" after leaping overboard to rescue Thomas.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Poor Namontack took a shot to the leg and the last we see him he's still writhing over his wound. Given his tribe's unfamiliarity with gunshot wounds, the odds of his recovery are slim.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Pocahontas calls Chief Powhatan out on his actions in her speech.
  • White Man's Burden: John initially thinks this about the Natives. After talking to Pocahontas, he realizes that they don't really need their help and should looked at as equals instead of inferiors.
  • Winds Are Ghosts: It's heavily implied that the wind blowing leaves represents Pocahontas's dead mother.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Percy is quite frequently given the opportunity to enjoy various foods and treats. Unfortunately, Meeko steals them from him every single time. He can't catch a break.
  • You Can Talk?: John Smith reacts this way when Pocahontas introduces him to Grandmother Willow. He tells her that the tree is talking to him and she suggests that he talk back.


Pocahontas meets John Smith

Pocahontas meets John Smith and they can't understand each other. She runs away at first, but soon realizes he means no harm.

How well does it match the trope?

4.71 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / LanguageBarrier

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