Monday, March 31, 2014

The Princess Project - "Pocahontas" Commentary

Tweets originally posted on 1/8/14

...I now have to try and find interesting things to say about "Pocahontas".

I often find myself wailing, "Do you still wait for me, Dream Giver?!?!?" while paddling a canoe. Canoe crewmates hate me.

Now you will notice I had to skip "Aladdin"... I'm going to leave commentary on race in the upcoming Princess movies to more qualified people, but...

...I suddenly suspect that somewhere in the once ever "Aladdin" DVD release (which is why it is unavailable) and the FOUR "Peter Pan" DVD releases is the story...

...of which cultures Disney is possibly *scared* of offending and which ones they're like, "IDGAF, whatever".

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So. "Pocahontas". Yeah. (That plot summary...)

This one's on Netflix Instant so I'm unsure how or even if screenshots will work here. It is a pretty movie though.

Just... not as interesting/fun as @EmmyCic's version... (Sadly, not all of which is preserved there.)

'Kay! "Pocahontas". Starring, coincidentally, another way-too-perfect Keane human lead. Huh. Here we go. Watchin' Disney's "Pocahontas".

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Chorus: "For glory God and gold in the Virginia Company!"
Me, as a kid: "This isn't going to be as good as 'Lion King' is it?"

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Our first hint that this is not a film that's big on subtlety.

... ... ...Know what? Let's not talk about Mel Gibson...

Let's not discuss historical accuracy, racial issues, or Mel Gibson (except where it is funny XD )...

Anyway, they are already really overselling Smith's manliness.

Manliest Man Who Ever Manly Manned John Smith just rescued Christian Bale I think?

"In the New World, I'm going to build me a solid gold house and shoot any Indian who looks at me wrong!" SO SUBTLE THIS MOVIE!

"But, Tri-I-ish, it's a children's movie for children!"
No. Don't do that. Kids aren't stupid. They aren't. (Now as for adults...)

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"Man this is a pretty sequence. Let's put text on top of it!"

Powhatan just came back from a war. They downplay this like crazy.

I guess if they showed the Powhatan people being violent at all, it'd ruin the positive stereotype parade. They wouldn't be flawless.

And that is basically what this movie is: a running checklist of positive Native American stereotypes.

This is where I defer to the amazing documentary "Reel Injun". For now, let's leave this discussion at...

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...there is an honest-to-goodness literal Magical Native American in this non-fantastical movie. Yup.

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Fun fact that explains a ton: Back in the day, Glen Keane admitted Pocahontas was based on a supermodel. Seriously.

I do not recall WHICH 90's model he said she was most directly based on, so I will just guess, "all of them."

You know who's already more interesting than Pocahontas? Nakoma. She's the one Powhatan we've seen who gets to be a real person.

"Pocahontas I just got back from only-implied battle. Go marry that big boring guy."
"But my DREEEEEAM?!?!?"

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Whatever criticisms I have about Pocahontas at least this movie is *PRETTY*...

"You are going to marry Big Boring and that is final! Must I sing with Jim Cumming's noticeably different voice to convince you?"

Things Pocahontas has done to make us think she is more interesting than she is: Jumped off a cliff. Literally gone chasin' waterfalls.

Attn: marine biologists of Twitter. River Otters don't flip around like freakin dolphins, do they?

Cause these ones are literally porpoising and breaching like cetaceans.

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Here we go. Grandmother Willow.

I could go on about this character but suffice it to say, our Native American heroine is literally talking to a tree.

My peoples (Irish/Eastern Europe) are also capable of talking to trees, but it tends to involve less wisdom + more alcohol...

Grandma Willow -a mystical spirit guide- is totally blown away by the idea of an arrow that spins.

And also by a canon later on, I hope.

"I think that dream arrow is pointing you to something!"
"So my dream arrow symbolizes... an arrow. Thanks."

Know how LaFou was basically Gaston's Smithers equivalent? Welp.

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Pictured: the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America. Apparently.

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I think Manly John Smith is an ancestor of that one scientist we all screamed at in "Prometheus"...

Meeko's animation is awesome, but he's basically Boring Version Of Abu.

Reminder: the spirit-guide talking tree thing is completely baffled by the idea of a spinning arrow.

Keep that in mind when the Manly English dude who has just arrived in the Nearctic Realm isn't too amazed by the DINOSAUR-BUG.

(Yes, they would've called it a BIRD-BUG back then. Like that is any less amazing.)

Should note the conversations prompted by this (kinda) live-tweet of "Pocahontas" are a damn sight more entertaining by far than "Pocahontas"

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Return of the honest-to-Great-Spirits Magical Native American guy. This effin' movie...

There are some critics who have piled on "Brother Bear", a film for which I am a staunch cheerleader, for having magic in it...

...even though that film is based on Inuit folklore and takes place in a world where people can f***ing turn into bears.

"Pocahontas", just as a reminder, is explicitly based on a real human being (and a re-al he-ro) and takes place in our world.

(If you told me I'd be making *one* reference to "Drive" during this Princess Project, let alone two...)

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Oh, lame. They just use the cannon to cold murder entire lines of pine trees. Damn my faulty memory!

(Actually, damn this movie for being so dull, I've only watched it three times prior to this.)

You know how we talked about good/bad/weird character design earlier?

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This where I point out that the people pictured here are meant to exist in the same world.

Weirdest unintended consequence of the Princess Marathon: realizing I learned a considerable amount of what I now know...

...about good vs. bad character/creature design from Glen Keane's Beast and Prince. :)

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Meanwhile, back in #Pocahontas land...

I could -I SHOULD- compare/contrast the similar scene in "Avatar" here but (long, drawn-out raspberry.)

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Even Pocahontas has effing had it with the Obligatory Adorable And Highly Marketable Sidekick Critters.

The scene where Manly John and Every 90s Model Ever Pocahontas first lock eyes is seriously in search of a far better, more interesting movie.

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Manly John and Model Pocahontas are learning each other's language thanks to MAGIC WIND!!!

Let's review...

In Dances With Wolves, Lieutenant Dunbar had to be taught the Lakota language.

In Avatar, Jake Sully had to be taught the Navi language (the effin' skxawng).

In John Carter, he... drank magic Martian water? But this is permissible due to it being based on a 100+ year old fantasy novel.

In "Pocahontas", which takes place in our reality as it is based on real people: f***ing magic wind spirits because f*** you.

Even the Marketable Sidekick Critters are like, "What? WHAT?!? But if...? Then how...? No! NO!!!"

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Holy. Shit. This. Movie.

There are no words for Wiggins. There aren't. What in the actual f***?

And the thing that KILLS me is that this old-timey stereotype here in a movie that's otherwise meant not to offend *anyone*... the ONLY TRULY *ANIMATED* CHARACTER IN THIS WALT DISNEY FEATURE ANIMATED FILM. Yeezus.

Everybody else is as animated as a gorram granite boulder. Seriously.

Still more watchable than "Chicken Little", so there is that. Not as good as "Black Cauldron" though. (Ducks and runs.)

Anyway the f**kin dog just ran through the battle between the Virginia Co and the Powhatan dudes in a obvious and desperate comedy relief manner.

This is where I remind everybody that the 90's execs at Disney had more faith in "Pocahontas" than in "The Lion King". Yup.

I mean I'd rewind and screenshot to clarify this but (another drawn-out raspberry)...

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Oh what the hell. ALL MUST SUFFER WITH ME!

I will say, the scenes where Meeko acts like, well, a raccoon is gold. And not just in an "any harbor in a hurricane" sense.

Manly Smith continues to be unimpressed at all by A VERTEBRATE THAT HAS ADAPTED TO LOOK AND ACT LIKE AN INSECT HOLY ISHT!!!

Oh here we go. Colors of the Wind.

Let the record show that this sequence is prompted by Manly John essentially saying "I'm TOTALLY not racist but..."

Except less subtle/tactful than that. Seriously.

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Now, I'll admit I don't know much about pre-colonial megafauna distribution but there is a GODDAMN GRIZZLY BEAR IN VIRGINIA.

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Well, fancy that!

I know I said I wasn't going to get into the historical accuracy issue, but get the zoology wrong and I have to nerd rage.

And I must nerd rage because that is the ONLY interesting thing to discuss in this movie!

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Marahute lives!!!

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So who wants to tell them that the big Buteo sp. is most likely the female?

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"Huh. At this point I was expecting either a penguin or David Bowie."

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An example of the subtlety "Pocahontas" is well known and loved for.

Remember how I said awful stereotype Wiggins was the only animated human in this animated film by Walt Disney Feature Animation?

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Good. Because this is as much as Pocahontas' mouth moves through the whole damn song.

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And here is Manly John expressing his dismay at Pocahontas having to leave him and return to her home.

"Yeah, we'll let J-Katz do his dumb lion movie, but THIS! This is gonna be the most acclaimed WDFA movie EVER!!!"

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Percy has a merry-go-round/music box thing that he eats treats off of as it spins and aaa AAAAAHHH?!?

I think this moment broke me.

Reminder: WDW's version of Fantasmic has a damn near 15 minute long stretch devoted to "Pocahontas". Still. In 2014.

Meanwhile, Nakoma continues to be the only interesting character in "Pocahontas". And she's been in it for about five minutes.

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Here's Manly John reacting to Grandma Willow, who he can see now because IDK LOL. Magic wind I guess.

"Pocahontas the tree is talking to me!?"
"Talk WITH her!"
"I will accept this without question because you are smoking hot!"

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Presented without comment.

The funny thing is, Grandmother Willow is the only other halfway-interesting character in "Pocahontas" and she is a Goddamn talking tree.

With that said, why is that one guy even voiced by Christian Bale?

He is a black hole of charisma in a cast of characters FULL of black holes. Hire an actual voice actor, why not!

So no offense to all my friends who have pugs but, err, what are the odds on a pug lasting several hours alone in the forest?

Sheesh, the nonhuman characters are honestly from a different movie entirely.

Oh, and Big Boring dies. I forgot that. I have a hunch lots of you forgot that too.

We know about as much about Big Boring when he dies as we did before the movie began. That's why I didn't remember.

Thank the gods old and new for small favors, the Netflix Instant version of "Pocahontas" does not include "If I Never Knew You".

If you don't know what I'm talking about you are better off. It makes this long boring love story longer and -uh- boringer.

Ok so if I am remembering this right, this is where "Pocahontas" just up and turns into "West Side Story".

Guess what? I was right. Yay.

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Not Pictured: Subtlety.

"Savages" wants so darn hard to be "The Mob Song" from "Beauty And The Beast". It's adorable.

But you know what "Mob Song" had? Subtlety. In a song where they literally say "We don't like what we don't understand." Yup.

Also the thing where I gave a sh*t about all the characters involved in the upcoming conflict but that's neither here nor there.

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Another reminder that the Disney execs at the time had more faith in this movie than in "The Lion King".

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Pictured: the (supposed) historical event that led to this movie existing.

And also to to me getting smashed and commenting on it at three thirty in the Goddamn morning.

Pocahontas' "Look at what your hate has done!" speech makes me wish I was watching "Princess Mononoke" instead.

In the Drawn To Life books, Walt (not THAT Walt) warns against using too many parallel lines in a Character Design.

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I bring it up cause Chief Powhatan's almost nothing BUT parallel lines, symmetry, etc.

The warring factions call a truce because of that f***ing magic wind f*** you!

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Remember when it was a Big Deal that this Disney animated canon film had a "sad ending"?

Cause, see, they don't end up together in the end. Yeah.

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One last instance of f***ing magic wind f*** you for the road! Or ocean, whatever.

Teal Deer: Everybody go watch "Reel Injun" and "The New World" instead of "Pocahontas". I'm going to bed.


Rex Chen said...

This is almost like CinemaSins. Well done.

raptor_044 said...

"Now, I'll admit I don't know much about pre-colonial megafauna distribution but there is a GODDAMN GRIZZLY BEAR IN VIRGINIA."

Also, the bear cubs look more like miniature adult bears.