If you pay attention to such things, you might notice that Disney often puts out sequels to its so-called animated classics. They rarely get much press or are seen in theaters. Instead, they are cynical cash grabs hoping to capitalize on most people’s lack of attention to detail. You can picture the scenario, right? A careworn mother of three wee ones is tiredly pushing their screaming heads through Walmart when one of them spots what they think is Pocahontas (1995) on DVD. Because watching their favorite Disney princess (a separately horrifying thought) is the only thing that gets them to be quiet during waking hours for any period of time, mom buys it without really looking at it. Then poor mom gets home, gathers the wee ones before the television in anticipation of having a relaxing moment with a cup of tea perhaps, only to find something is off. That is because she bought the straight to home video Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998). Like others described above, the art is not as good, characters’ voices sound different, and above all, it is not the original. Now the children are crying and there goes mom’s afternoon. Hey, kids, I am crying too, but for much different reasons. This is worse than the first one.
Again, with Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, we start in England instead of Virginia. Who cares about the title character? We need to see that John Smith (voiced by Donal Gibson) is alive. Also among the living is the villain from the last film, Governor Ratcliffe (voiced by David Ogden Stiers). He is still holding onto the ludicrous notion that there is gold in Virginia and wants King James I (voiced by Jim Cummings) to give him an armada to declare where on Jamestown’s neighbors the Powhatan. The one person who can prove his claims wrong is Smith. To silence the explorer and soldier, Ratcliffe and his henchmen chase John to his presumed death. Before hostilities can officially be opened, though, they must wait on the return of John Rolfe (voiced by Billy Zane), who has been sent as an emissary to the Powhatan. Waiting for him when his ship docks at Jamestown is Pocahontas (voiced by Irene Bedard). She has moved on from Smith, but her recent discussion with Grandmother Willow (voiced by Linda Hunt) has left her unsure as to how to move on, aside from the vague platitude about listening to her heart. Her first impression of Rolfe is not the best, but she agrees to lead him to her father Powhatan (voiced by Russell Means). Rolfe hopes to have Powhatan come to England to negotiate peaceful relations. When he refuses, Pocahontas volunteers to go in his place. Rolfe reluctantly agrees, thinking a princess better than nothing. I suppose this point is as good as any to mention that none of this is historically accurate, despite all the people mentioned being real, aside from Grandmother Willow, of course. When she arrives in London, after a ridiculous musical interlude about the joys of London in 1607 (including an infuriating William Shakespeare cameo), she sets her mind to convincing King James I that peace is the best option. This is the preferred route in Rolfe’s eyes as well, and only he can meet with the English monarch at first. Unfortunately, the person who has the king’s ear the most is Ratcliffe. Seeing an opportunity to publicly humiliate someone he still sees as a savage, he convinces King James I to invite Pocahontas and Rolfe to a ball. Because Rolfe, like Pocahontas, wants her to make a good impression, he enlists the help of his maidservant, Mrs. Jenkins (voiced by Jean Stapleton), to prepare Pocahontas for the intricacies of English high society. They are pretty successful, too, and Pocahontas makes an initial positive impression on all she meets at the ball, including King James I. At the same time, she continues to press the king about the situation with the Powhatan, telling him that there must not be war. The king keeps politely side-stepping the issue until Ratcliffe springs his trap. He arranges for a magic show to be followed by the barbaric practice of bear baiting. When Pocahontas goes to the defense of the scared bruin, the king and all the guests react in horror, seeing only savage behavior. This is followed by Pocahontas being thrown into prison in the Tower of London (ugh). As news spreads around town about what has happened, a shadowy figure emerges and goes to see Rolfe. It is Smith, of course, and they team up to spring Pocahontas from the Tower. She is naturally surprised to find her former flame still breathing. After they have affected their escape, there is a moment when she must figure out her next step. The choice is between returning to Virginia and carrying on with trying to convince King James I to follow the path of peace. The latter risks imprisonment, but it is the one she and Rolfe favor, despite Smith thinking them crazy. Of course, this is what she does, and she is aided in her cause by the appearance of Smith, which proves Ratcliffe to be a liar. The king then rescinds his war decree, and Rolfe and Smith are able to prevent the fleet from setting sail. For his services, Smith is granted a ship of his own and wants Pocahontas to come with him. Instead, she chooses Rolfe and they return to Virginia together.
One more time: nothing of what you see in Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World is historically accurate. Okay, practically nothing. Pocahontas did travel to England, but it was after she married Rolfe in Virginia. She also died in England, but I guess that would not make for a Disney ending. One other tiny historical truth they tacked on is Uttamatomakkin (voiced by Brad Garrett), the Powhatan holy man sent by Powhatan to accompany Pocahontas to England. They even included his order to count the number of English people by making marks on a stick, a task he soon gives up on. Why Disney did this, or made the movie at all, is a mystery. The first one sets history back a few decades. The second sets the subject back by centuries. I also suspect that the story is told in this manner in order to sidestep the fact that Pocahontas converted to Christianity and changed her name to Rebecca. Biblically speaking, she is an interesting choice for Pocahontas. She came from another land to be the wife of Isaac, one of Abraham’s two sons. Anyway, you can read all about it in Genesis. There is a slight parallel between the cartoon and real Pocahontas in that both seem to follow the path set before them. As Rebecca, history tells us that she genuinely practiced the faith. Yet, because we cannot give that kind of message to kids, we have to have her follow some stereotyped version of Native American spirituality. I am not here to tell you that their religion is false. Read my review of this film’s predecessor to see how that works. Instead, what we have in the sequel manages to insult not only native peoples and their actual traditions, but Christians and history at the same time.
The fact that they got Mel Gibson’s younger brother to voice John Smith in Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World will tell you all you need to know about its quality. Honestly, these films should not be watched by anyone. They are immoral because they get past events so wrong, and they are meant to be spoon fed to our children. Raising kids is hard enough, just ask the hypothetical mother I made up in the introduction. We do not need to make things harder with this kind of crap. For shame.