Disney continues its Blu-ray releases of the animated movies from their 1990s "Renaissance" with Pocahontas and its sequel, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, thrown in for fun. The three-disc collection features the two films on one Blu-ray and individually on two DVDs. Both are quality projects but look completely different in comparison to each other. Each received a nice facelift and restoration to make them look better than they ever have before.
Pocahontas shows us how the young Native American Princess meets Englishman John Smith. The two engage in a romantic relationship which brings to mind Romeo and Juliet. Her Indian tribe and his group of settlers clash over the land with tragic consequences.
This was the first Disney movie based on an actual historical figure. It does a great job of keeping true to the spirit of the actual incidences it's based on. That's not to say it doesn't stray away from fact or embellish a bit to keep things interesting and family friendly. There are messages of racial equality and environmental preservation throughout the film as well. What would a Disney movie from the 1990s be without social commentary?
Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World is the direct-to-video sequel which takes our title character to England as a diplomat. She's dispatched to prove to the King that the Native Americans aren't savages and can live in peace with new settlers. Along the way, she meets up with John Smith and falls in love with John Rolfe. She must choose between the two while learning to be "proper" and foiling the attempts of saboteurs who want to have the Indians exterminated so the Americas can be conquered.
The follow-up isn't as smooth as the original in its animation style. There's a big difference in the quality. If you were just stepping into the movie having not seen the first one in a long time it wouldn't be as noticeable. If you watch them back-to-back the differences are apparent. That's not to say the animation is poor quality. It's just not as polished as its big-screen predecessor.
Pocahontas II fits into the "Disney Princess" mold better than the first film. John Smith leaving Pocahontas behind at the end of the first movie didn't give me a sense of "Happily Ever After" I expect from these types of movies. The sequel ends on a more positive note that easily ushers the Native American into the Hall of Fame of Disney Royalty.
The high-definition transfer of both movies is wonderful. The animation and picture are clear and vibrant. Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz, Lennie Niehaus, Blaise Tosti, Stacy Widelitz, Larry Grossman, and Marty Panzer's songs and the excellent sound effects and musical score all blend together beautifully thanks to an incredible 5.1 surround mix.
The bonus materials for this release are centered on Pocahontas. There are no extras for Pocahontas II. Audio commentary by producer James Pentecost and co-directors Eric Goldberg and Mike Gabriel is found. There's a seven-minute featurette entitled "The Music of Pocahontas," nine deleted storyboard scenes, and a deleted song called "If I Never Knew You." We also get the animated Silly Symphony short Little Hiawatha and a 12-minute featurette about the movie Hiawatha, which was never made. You get access to Disney's Virtual Vault which contains more featurettes and extras from the original DVDs.
These movies are different from most of the Princess animated features like Cinderella, Snow White, or Beauty and the Beast. Instead of waiting for Prince Charming to come along, Pocahontas takes matters into her own hands. Many females will embrace the concept and identify with the message of the movies. For Disney collectors, the three-disc Pocahontas / Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is a must-own collection. Consumers will be happy with the adequate amount of special features and two great high-definition transfers.