Posted April 28 2005 - 10:38 AM
|RunTime:||84 minutes |
|Aspect Ratio:||16x9 encoded 1.66:1 (Original animated aspect ratio)|
|Audio:||5.1 DD English, French & Spanish |
|SpecialFeatures:||Feature Commentary, Original Theatrical Version and new 10th Anniversary version with "If I Never Knew You" sequence, "Colors Of The Wind" and "If I Never Knew You" music videos, Sing-along Songs, Making of Pocahontas documentary, Story Boards, Deleted Scenes, Music featurettes, Theatrical Trailers (yes!), Colors of the Wind Multi-Language Reel, Photo Galleries, more...|
|ReleaseDate:||May 3, 2005|
I remember seeing Pocahontas projected theatrically ten years ago in vivid detail: I remember the impression of the rich imagery and vibrant color palette. I remember the sensitivity and respect afforded the native-American cultures depicted in the film. I remember being struck by the legitimate sense of spirituality that encompassed the story—and in particular the character of Pocahontas. I remember being moved by a very adult-oriented story, and the tangible sense of love and sacrifice between Pocahontas and John Smith. Viewing Pocahontas again on DVD almost a decade later, my feelings are the same.
In some ways Disney's modern crop of "animated classics" (starting with The Little Mermaid) lack a quality associated with their vintage predecessors; If I had to name that missing essence, I'd call it "innocence". The Disney Studio's post-Walt efforts find criticism with some enthusiasts who miss the old-school charm and more crafted-animation of those well-loved classics. But like many things in life, it's not always so simple to draw the line and judge the good from the bad. In the case of Disney Studio's modern classics, they so something that many older animated features didn't do: take the risk of dealing directly with controversial issues, while at the same time present a pretext as entertainment for children. In fact, the real fault of many of these modern films is that they try too hard to play to both audiences...adult and child, and sometimes get compromised artistically as a result (more in a moment). This isn't to say that old-school Disney classics never dealt with issues of controversy, it's just some of these modern films make them a stronger focus.
Pocahontas deals candidly with issues of racism, environmental consciousness, and war. Astonishingly, it not only discusses these issues intelligently, but the story teaches us a better way of living—all without becoming too preachy, off-puttingly moralistic or giving in to patterns of thinking that closed-mindedly adhere to political correctness (the native Americans deal with these same issues too...they declare war on the English and are subject to the same tendancies towards violence--shown to be just as "wrong" during the final battle scene as the English newcomers...it's not an "English people are bad and everyone else is good" message).
Two lines that had a great impact on me are spoken just before the "Colors of the Wind" sequence:
John Smith: When I say uncivilized, what I mean is-
Pocahontas: What you mean is, "Not like you."
Words for our country to take to heart and ponder.
It's easy to get trigger-happy and quickly write off such efforts coming from a politically correct agenda, but I encourage you to look deeper...Pocahontas isn't painting such a simple picture. I think I've discovered the reason why; it's because the motives of the leading character of Pocahontas are guided from (and more importantly, are portrayed
as such) a profound spirituality. The only other animated film that I can think of (you may know others) that rests so securely on a real and discernable spiritual base is Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (about which I could offer this same adulation).
| Pocahontas is actually NOT the strident anti-European Imperialism film some think it is. The movie, down deep, is a plea for patience and dialog. The film is about a collision between two cultures who have stark misconceptions about each other, which bring them into conflict, and it is only through the mutual love of two people that the two sides find a basis for reconciliation. Pocahontas, in a way, isn't really about the New World at all. It's Disney's version of West Side Story or Romeo and Juliet. |
The music for Pocahontas is a key instrument to reveal this undercurrent of spirituality. Ballads like "Just Around the Riverbend" are both musically and lyrically (thanks to composers Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz) sublime. At the resolution of this song, the music subsides and Pocahontas is presented with a metaphor of choice…representing the choices of her life's path. The vocal delivery of this moment, filled with nuance and poignancy by singer/stage-actress Judy Kuhn, is nothing short of haunting.
Is it a perfect film? Of course not, and my two criticisms would be the heavy-laden use of comic-relief by the obligatory side-kick characters (Hunchback had the same problems) and the sometimes awkward animation style of character movements from time to time. Even so, I concede that the side-kick-animal-humor was a concession to make the film palatable to younger audiences and many of the animated sequences were rather ambitious and probably pushed the limits of the animator's skills or, more likely, Disney's animation budget.
10th Anniversary "If I Never New You" extended cut
You've heard the rumors. You've wondered exactly how it would be done. For the first time since this film was pre-screened by test audiences the ballad "If I Never Knew You" has been integrated seamlessly back into the feature film. Before purists reach for the keyboard to post their displeasure…relax-the original theatrical version is also on the disc just for you, albeit you have to enter the "Set-Up" area of the menu and select it manually-just pressing "Play" will bring you to the new extended cut of the film. Which is a good thing. REALLY.
The "If I Never Knew You" sequence was not cut to aid the film artistically…it was cut to aid the film marketably
-young children grew bored and restless during this slow-paced love duet between John Smith and Pocahontas as he's held captive the night before his execution. I was dubious about how I would feel before watching the film with this reinserted sequence (memories of the “Morning Report” from the Lion King still fresh in my mind), but having finally seen this film with this love-ballad intact, my opinion is that it was travesty that it had ever been cut in the first place and feels like it utterly belongs (having now seen it, I can’t imagine the film without
it). I'm amazed at how this one simple scene, integrated back in where it belongs, really changes one’s perception of the film: it adds great dimension and depth to the audience's understanding of the love and sacrifice of John and Pocahontas at this very pivotal moment in the story. I will never watch the "cut" version of this film again.
In the words of Ernest Rister III...
| ...when Pocahontas was nearing the end of production, there was a lot of pre-release buzz centering on the fact that the film would be the first Disney feature to sport an unhappy ending. The ending of the theatrical cut is not really "sad", because the declaration of love ("If I Never Knew You") and its reprise in the denoument had been snipped from the film. I consider the theatrical cut the "test screening cut" -- it sounds like Pocahontas has finally been released the way it was originally meant to be seen. |
I think Pocahontas serves as a case study of how test-screenings and corporate concerns can truly harm a film. The loss of the love song and reprise was the loss of the soul of the movie. Everything afterwards takes on greater weight and urgency. The ending (with the reprise) has real emotional sting when the two are forced to separate. Without the song and the reprise, the movie's got no mojo, no intimacy.
I've had the film stitched back together for many years, using the deleted scenes from the LD and a VHS deck (which didn't really work for the reprise), and so I'm eager to see the restored film, fully inked and painted and with a re-scored ending. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by how much better the film is.
When I said earlier that "I remember seeing Pocahontas projected theatrically ten years ago in vivid detail" I wasn't kidding. I remember the feeling of seeing that crystal-clear image projected on the screen full of bold colors and finely-rendered detail. The image was pure eye-candy…clean and grain-free, vibrant and crisp. I remember how I eagerly preordered the laserdisc…expecting to experience that same euphoria on my 16x9 ProScan monitor. The laserdisc arrived…and after that THX logo thundered into the room…instead what I was treated to was a horrendous, noisy, grainy, out-of-focus mess. The experience was so disappointing that I put my Pocahontas laserdisc back into the sleeve and never watched it again (until this review). A few years later Disney released Pocahontas on the DVD format…and again I hoped for something that would reflect my memory of this beautiful film. Sadly (Disney's 1-800 number got a few calls from me on this one) the "Gold Edition" DVD had merely utilized the same sub-standard master for the laserdisc…and the same filthy, muddy colors and video noise marred the slightly-higher-resolution image that the DVD conveyed.
Now, ten years after first seeing Pocahontas in the theater, my screener arrived for this new 2-disc Collectors Edition. Having been fed a steady diet of late with animated classics that had been brilliantly restored in true Disney-fashion, I was hopeful, but cautious, that this
time I might finally get a glimpse of the film that I remembered.
For the first-time on a home video format, I'm pleased to announce that Pocahontas delivers a picture that does justice to this film's artistry.
How does it look?
Brilliant. Bold. Beautiful.
I've seen a lot of stellar animated DVD titles from Disney lately, and they've been so consistently good that it's almost become easy to take their quality for granted; But Pocahontas had no difficulty getting my attention with its impressive visual quality. I have to say that Pocahontas has a "WOW" factor that supercedes most of the other animated titles I've reviewed lately, in large part to the use of color (original elements) and in large part to the admirable job of digital mastering that maintained transparency to those elements. The picture is perfectly clear…I can find no hint of film artifacts or video noise at all. The effect is as crystalline as what you might expect from the folks at Lowry Digital Images when they digitally scan and remove all hints of extraneous noise (according to HTF member Patrick McCart, Lowry did indeed work on the video for this DVD release).
Black level is rock-solid, and the image has perfect
grayscale/contrast that utilizes the DVD format's fullest dynamic range-sweeping from deep black to bright with silky-smooth ease. This outstanding digital mastering (given the excellent source material I presume) also provides faultless shadow detail; as images get darker and fade to black there's no hint of crush…you can see the subtle gradation from light to dark evenly fade across the contrast range (the opening scene with the storm at sea is a good example of the excellent shadow detail, as are the many night-scenes). Bright areas exhibit the same naturalness of contrast with no white-crush to swallow subtle detail or shading in bright areas of the picture. Perfect-Pocahontas is Contrast Dynamic-range demo material without a doubt, and the only limits I noticed were that of my own projector's inability to produce true-black given its limited contrast rage of approximately 2000:1 (my BenQ 8700+ is an HD2+ 720P DLP machine and it has a "satisfying" contrast range that feels
black when you're watching a movie, but it cannot produce the appearance of absolute black as traditional CRT projectors can. Guess I'll have to upgrade in a couple of years to perfect 1080P digital projector of the day…what's a boy to do?
Color builds on this foundation of extraordinary contrast and Pocahontas delivers some of the richest and most sumptuous hues I've had the opportunity to review. Greens, blues, pinks of the sunset skies… the colors are so vibrant and lush you feel
the images as a sensation; pure eye candy. The mastering and compression of this DVD is nearly flawless…there is not a single instance of video noise, macro-blocking, or digital "color banding" that I can detect. I'm driving my projector via a digital video connection (DVI) which is rather unforgiving of color-banding artifacts…if they're there…they show up (I think that the analog/digital conversion process of driving a projector via component or RGB tends to soften the sharp color-edge-transitions…at least that's one of my theories). Even the bold reds and oranges are rendered to perfection (the march-to-war scene near the end of the film demonstrates this well).
Is anything wrong? Well, just maybe
. Despite the great level of discernable detail, I can't help but feel that there [/i]may[/i] be the slightest degree of HF filtering…but let me assure you that if it is here it is minimal and no way near the degree you're used to on Miramax or Live-Action Disney titles. Also, there is the slightest
degree of edge-haloing in the image. It's not a distraction from my 1.6:1 distance-to-screen-width viewing ratio (closer than most of you are watching I suspect) and it doesn't mar the image in any obvious way like the contouring on Mulan (which made some of the animated facial detail look ringy to the point of distraction). There were in fact only two or three instances during the film where I could even see evidence of the ringing from my seated position (when Pocahontas stands on the rock ledge right before she dives into the water was one) and even then my notice of it was in largely due to being in the mindset of critical evaluation. Still, the image would have been "better" without any ringing at all, and so I'm shaving just a tad off of a full five out of five (but let me stress that the ringing on this disc is minimal, and nothing to be alarmed about…just being thorough…).
I did notice one odd thing that is not
reflected in my score until I can confirm that it's in the DVD source material and not part of my playback chain: on the orange-brown/red color of the native American skin-tones, I noticed an odd stair-stepping effect around the contours of a few shoulders and arms. This is similar to the aliasing/stairstepping on the Fifth Element on the curved walls when Lilu is standing in the tunnel of corrugated metal right before she steps out onto the ledge. It's possible that it's mastering defect, but it's probable that it's contingent on something in my MPEG decoder or scaling engine…similar to a chroma bug effect (though technically my Momitsu DVD player is supposed to be free of the chroma-bug). I plan to review scenes from this DVD on my friend’s new JVC HD2K 1920 x 1080P LCOS projector (siiigggghhhhh….) who is using a Pioneer DVD player (DVI) and running into the JVC scaler. Excepting black level/contrast, his system produces the finest-quality video image I have ever seen…and it will be a great opportunity to test this particular issue and see if the results differ.
One final note: Pocahontas is presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio of the animated artwork and is properly 16x9 encoded (anamorphic) on this DVD. If your system has been calibrated for minimal overscan, you may notice small vertical black bars on the left and right side of the image (they are plainly visible on my projected image). This is the proper way to present a 1.66:1 image in a 16x9 frame and more than likely the overscan on your display will hide the side-bars completely. Pocahontas was presented theatrically in the United States at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio which was achieved by slightly masking (cropping) the top and bottom of the native 1.66:1 image. The image area seen on this DVD presents the entire image with no cropping. While some OAR folks get (arguably) very vigilant about any alteration from the "original theatrical aspect ratio" I would suggest that there's nothing other than abstract principle at risk in this case, and given the varying theatrical aspect ratios in different parts of the world, the full 1.66:1 frame was intended
to be seen when animated by the artists and, to my eyes, the 1.66:1 framing is very comfortable and better serves the image composition than a matted/cropped 1.85:1 presentation. Also worth noting is that both previous widescreen presentations of this film (laserdisc and Gold Collection DVD) were also 1.66:1 aspect ratio (encoded in a 4x3 frame in letterbox form). If you didn't get your feathers in a ruffle over the framing on those two releases, then you may want to just sit back and enjoy the gorgeous 16x9 encoded 1.66:1 image on this new DVD edition.
Comparison to Laserdisc and Gold Collection DVD…
For a veteran who remembers all those silly "laserdisc versus DVD" debates that raged on all the videophile discussion groups back in the mid-to-late 1990's, it's so satisfying to watch a DVD like Pocahontas that renders each and every argument ever made entirely moot. Had this disc been present to demonstrate to the virtues of the DVD format to the spectators at the Stereophile convention in 1996, they would have had to station paramedics outside the theater rooms to resuscitate the cinephiles rendered paralyzed upon seeing what a real
high-end video image could look like after having been feed a steady diet of $$$ images of magnified laserdiscs. And here I am almost a decade later watching a picture in my living room that looks better
at that show and costs less
that a "line doubler" from the time. Folks…take a minute and stop and appreciate the amazing opportunity that DVD and high-definition display systems have afforded us in the last few years. Back on topic.
Duh, the new DVD totally, utterly, outrageously, shockingly, smokes both previous home-video editions. Both the previous laserdisc and DVD shared the same shoddy, embarassingly vomitous master and were plauged with the same grainy (one wonders where it came from…it didn't look like film-grain…more like "video grain" if you can imagine), noisy, blurry, muddy, color-skewed, edgy artifacting (that laserdisc was the beginning of THX's demise into the slump of sub-standard THX-crement video editions bearing their logo. Only recently has this trend begun to reverse). Any new DVD would have
to look better than the abomination of the former laserdisc/DVD by definition; Given the spectacular results of this new disc, the former versions have been declared heresy
and are now being collected and burned. Watching them may incur untold damage to your DVD player and/or display, and those who resist will be punished without mercy for the tyranny they try to protect. So DaViD, how do you really
Picture Quality: 4.75 / 5
In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):
|SCORE ||Description |
|1-2 ||An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" or MGM's R1 "Jean De Florette" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, MPEG or PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts)-- truly horrid. |
|2-3 ||Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain or (the non-anamorphic) The Abyss |
|3-4 ||Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think Phantom Menace (great except for filtering and EE) the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring (also decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos) |
|4-5 ||A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the King, Shrek 2, or the Fifth Element Superbit (full "5" would be sans any edge-halo on 5th E.). |
Outstanding. Pocahontas has a spectacular 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack (the 5.1 French and Spanish mixes are excellent too). Sound is used dramatically throughout the entire feature…in every context ranging from subtle scenes that convey delicate musical timbres to woofer-rattling thunder that will send your family dog running for cover. Dynamic range is impressive, yet I never felt the need to adjust the volume to keep vocals intelligible in the context of surrounding effects. Using a semantic segue…surround "effects" are not something you'll find in plenty on this mix. That's not to say that the 5.1 mix isn't used appropriately…it's to say that is is
used appropriately-there's very little "surround ping-pong" gimmickry to distract and pull the viewer out of the movie-experience. The surround use on Pocahontas is tasteful and the rear channels blend seamlessly and holistically into the mix. If you've read my reviews before, you know that in my perception this is the mark of a high-end audio mix…one that seeks to create a realistic and believable 360 degree soundfield that places the listener inside an acoustic environment to "pull" the viewer deeper into the film without drawing attention to itself and breaking the spell. The 5.1 mix of Pocahontas is first-class in this regard.
I've already mentioned that the music of Pocahontas (composed/written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz) is an enormous force in this movie, and the naturalness and ease of the audio presentation support their talented efforts. The 5.1 mix's wide dynamic range is demonstrated nicely in the musical numbers…allowing them to come through powerfully without any sense of compression or restraint. Frequency response is equally impressive (both on music and effects) not just in how deep
that it goes, but in tonal quality. Bass is deep, and at the same time tight and powerful and very "analog" in character (not sounding digitally synthesized but sounding like real recorded sounds). Vocals are clean without sounding tinny or annoyingly thin; Judy Kuhn's (Pocahontas' singing voice) brilliant singing rings like a bell. Gorgeous. The soundstage also has a greater degree of depth than the usual modern mix (especially for an animated feature). At times the presentation is "holographic" to use a term from my audiophile days. My only complaint is not that some of the musical number are front-heavy, but rather that some of them seem to be a tad center-heavy
, and could have done (IMO) with a little more Left-Right spread to widen the soundstage.
The impressive qualities of this mix are not limited to the musical score. Effects have the same clean fidelity in every regard: dynamic range, frequency response, tonal fidelity and naturalness. One thing that is sure to impress you…the gunshots in this mix will remind you of the same piercing-impact (to a lesser degree) of the gunshots from Open Range. I'm honestly amazed at how powerfully and dynamically the gunshots sound in this mix…no playing down the impact for child audiences. The only time I felt the impulse to reach for the volume knob (due to elevated levels of C.F.N. … concern for neighbors
) was during a few key gunshots that rattled a picture frame or two.
Comparison to Laserdisc and Gold Collection DVD…
Does this guy ever shut up? Does he even have a life?
Knowing that everyone at HTF has been lying awake at night wondering what subtle differences may exist between the 5.1 DD mix on this new disc in comparison to the audio mixes on the two previous editions, I wasted no time in blowing the dust off my AC-3 RF demodulator (sounds like something from a Warner Brother's Bugs-meets-the-Martian cartoon) and got to work. Quite unusually, the recording level on all four mixes (the new DVD DD 5.1 mix, the former DVD 5.1 mix, the laserdisc AC-3 (DD) 5.1 mix and PCM) all are pretty much the same…I never had to adjust the volume dial to compensate for level differences like I normally do in cases like this (Bambi). In each case below I'm comparing to the 5.1 DD English mix on the new DVD.
[*]Laserdisc PCM: I was expecting the usual "Oh those good old days when we had PCM" response but on the contrary…the PCM mix on the laserdisc sounded less dynamic and a bit less "open" than the new DVD. While it did have a slight edge in timbre naturalness (owing to the lack of digital compression I presume) which is expected; the new DVD was not far behind. Even with close A/B comparison (video turned off listening to just audio) I wasn't left with any disappointment with the new mix…a rare event when comparing to PCM. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I preferred the new 5.1 mix…it sounded less restricted with an "open" character missing on the PCM.
[*]Laserdisc 5.1 AC-3 (DD): The laserdisc 5.1 AC-3 mix (AC-3 was the then-name of what Dolby later renamed "Dolby Digital" on DVD to better preserve their brand recognition) sounded acceptable, but still had that character that lacked a sense of top-end openness that flows with ease on the new mix. The AC-3 mix also lacked that subtle layer of timbre realism evident on the PCM track. I found myself preferring the greater richness, openness, and dynamic range of the 5.1 presentation on the new DVD.
Note: this is not a forgone conclusion when comparing the AC-3 of laserdisc to the DD on DVD. Quite often the AC-3 of laserdisc sounds distinctly better (AC-3 mixes on laser avoided the compromises 5.1 DVD mixes are often subjected to in an effort to make the 5.1 DD track "down-mix friendly" for older ProLogic gear).
[*]Gold Collection DVD 5.1 DD: Curiously, this mix sounded the most "different" to my ears. It had a vibrancy and richness that actually betters the new disc to a slight degree. However, the vocals (especially Judy's) had a slight sibilant edge to them, and sounded somewhat strident. The same vocals on the new disc sound smoother without this sibilance, and I suspect that some of the "richness" of the Gold Collection DVD mix might be an artifact of processing or an additional generation or two on analog gear (all assumption here)…I say that because often a second-generation analog magnetic master sounds similar…adding a slightly richer character to the sound while at the same time exacerbating sibilance removing a very fine layer of low-level information. The new DVD mix preserves an astonishing level of low-level resolution on vocal tracks…the "breath" of Judy comes through in a few quiet passages adding a nuance to the sound that didn't seem to be present on the Gold Collection DVD.[/list]
Verdict: the 5.1 DD mix on the new DVD doesn't short-change the audiophile, even when compared to three digital incarnations of this mix gone before…
Sound Quality: 5 / 5
Golly. It's no wonder that the Disney folks have been looking at Sony's Blu-ray disc with its 50 gigs of space…they need it for all their bonus material! And that's a good thing…
In true Disney 2-disc fashion, Pocahontas comes to you brimming with special feature content. I perused every adult-feature on the disc and I am quite impressed. In addition to the usual fare of commentaries and making-of documentaries (considered almost "standard" these days from non-Paramount DVD treatment) there are some unexpected features (like trailers…yep…a Disney DVD with trailers…stay calm…) and some material with excellent re-watch potential like the two (original) music videos for "Colors of the Wind" and "If I Never Knew You".
[*]Feature Commentary: Producer James Pentecost and Directors Eric Goldberg and Mike Gabriel join forces and discuss some very pleasant and informative screen-specific conversation. The commentary is newly-recorded for this DVD, and I found it very interesting, gaining lots of insights about various decisions regarding characters, voice-actor choices, story-line changes etc. Fans will enjoy.
[*]Original Theatrical and "If I Never Knew You" Extended cuts: Presumably using branching (I say that because the superb compression would suggest that there are not two versions of this film side-by-side on the disc), the creators of this DVD have done a wonderful thing. (copied from opening) You've heard the rumors. You've wondered exactly how it would be done. For the first time since this film was pre-screened by test audiences the ballad "If I Never Knew You" has been integrated seamlessly back into the feature film. Before purists reach for the keyboard to post their displeasure…relax-the original theatrical version is also on the disc just for you, albeit you have to enter the "Set-Up" area of the menu and select it manually-just pressing "Play" will bring you to the new extended cut of the film. Which is a good thing. REALLY.
The "If I Never Knew You" sequence was not cut to aid the film artistically…it was cut to aid the film marketably-young children grew bored and restless during this slow-paced love duet between John Smith and Pocahontas as he's held captive the night before his execution. I was dubious about how I would feel before watching the film with this reinserted sequence (memories of the “Morning Report” from the Lion King still fresh in my mind), but having finally seen this film with this love-ballad intact, my opinion is that it was travesty that it had ever been cut in the first place and feels like it utterly belongs (having now seen it, I can’t imagine the film without it). I'm amazed at how this one simple scene, integrated back in where it belongs, really changes one’s perception of the film: it adds great dimension and depth to the audience's understanding of the love and sacrifice of John and Pocahontas at this very pivotal moment in the story. I will never watch the "cut" version of this film again. In my opinion, without this scene-Pocahontas is a very good movie, and with it-it is a masterpiece.
[*]"Colors of the Wind" Music Video: Boy…those 4x3 NTSC videos really show their age! Picture quality is atrocious, especially the grainy cuts to the feature film mixed into Venessa Williams outstanding musical performance (those curious as to just how bad the older DVD and laserdisc looked…what you're seeing in this video is about on par). Audio sounds fantastic though is 2.0 DD
[*]Sing Along Songs: These are two separate video features in 4x3 P/S with large-font subtitles for the two musical sequences "Colors of the Wind" and "Just Around the Riverbend" taken from the movie. They look like they were produced 10 years ago for television and the quality is pretty bad. The 2.0 audio is passable, but the video looks as bad as the old laserdisc and DVD. At least every previous video was consistently bad… What I would have preferred is what I've seen on other Disney DVDs where they have a "Sing Along" feature that takes you to the song in the actual feature film and pulls up special subtitles generated for sing-along viewing…that would have maintained the 5.1 mix and presented us with the gloriously restored image of the feature presentation rather than these off-the-shelf VHS-quality productions. Still…the are a testament to what came before so I suppose they have historical value. Wait a minute…I was supposed to keep this special feature talk short! Moving on…
[*] You get a few more kid-oriented extras like games. I won't list that Tarzan II sneak-peek as a special feature regardless of what the marketing material says…
[*]The Making of Pocahontas: This 28 minute featurette isn't too heavy on the hard-core technical details but is pleasant non-the-less and will appeal to a broad range of family members. This feature does go into depth about the music, casting, and care that went into making this film…especially regarding research and sensitivity to the native American tribes depicted in the film. It's hosted by Irene Bedard, the voice-actor of Pocahontas in the film. I didn't catch a date but the feature feels as if it was produced contemporarily with the film's original release.
[*]Production: Some nice storyboarding and detailing of the animation of this film.
[*]Deleted Scenes: Really "deleted storyboard concepts" more than "deleted scenes". There are 9 in total and I did not find an option for commentary though it was mentioned in my promotional material. Some of these sequences were very interesting…and some still contained their original test-readings. More than not, it's clear why these scenes were left out.
[*]Music: In this area of the disc there is a nice 7 minute featurette about Alan Menkin and Stephen Schwartz who discuss the making of the music for the film…one of the film's key artistic strengths. Here is where you'll find discussion about the newly incorporated "If I Never Knew You" scene and why it had been originally removed. Also here is the original "If I Never Knew You" music video with Jon Secada and Shanice, which has vastly superior picture quality compared to the "Colors of the Wind" video on Disc 1. The artistry and concept for this video is engaging…check it out.
[*]The Release: This area of the disc contains two theatrical trailers (4x3 P/S). Yes, for the movie Pochontas. No not Pocahontas II, this Pocahontas…the feature film on disc one. It also has a video clip from when the film was projected in NYC's Central Park, a "Colors of the Wind Multi-Language Reel" where you step through several languages while the song plays…similar to the multi-language reel on "When You Believe" on the Prince of Egypt DVD. There is also a publicity gallery. All good stuff.
[*][b]The Design: This is the "photo gallery" area of the disc. Let me offer Disney a bit of praise…for they have heard my cries (I'm certain I'm singularly responsible) and present these still images utilizing the screen real estate generously rather than the conventional "little picture inside a big ugly space-wasting border" Bravo!
Ten years following its theatrical release, Pocahontas has been given new life on DVD, not only redeeming the picture-quality transgressions of past home-video incarnations, but finally restoring this film to its full depth and splendor by incorporating the sadly cut "If I Never Knew You" scene back into the film where it belongs. Picture quality is breathtaking, the audio presentation is top-drawer, and the wealth of bonus features does the fan justice and adds real value to an already must-buy title. Pocahontas will always have a special place with me: it's a bold and moving story of love, overcoming prejudice, and promoting peace. The depiction of native American culture in the film is uncommonly balanced and respectful. The film is unquestionably spiritual, and the sincere message the writers convey is supported by some of the best music to ever come out of Disney Studios.
Pocahontas is a triumph of artistry, story-telling, music and soul. Like Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame it's also typically underrated and all-too-often off of the radar of animation enthusiasts. If you've never seen Pocahontas and are wondering if you'd like it, your sentiments for Hunchback should be a good indication. If you've seen Pocahontas before and enjoyed it but are wondering whether you want to make the investment in this DVD, let me assure you that the properly restored full-lengh version of the film is worth your investigation. It is my deepest pleasure to recommend that you take the time and get to know Pocahontas on this outstanding DVD.
Thank-you, Disney (and all those who worked so diligently on this production), for giving us such a marvelous DVD presentation of such a marvelous film.