Thursday, November 15, 2012

Looking Back: Pocahontas

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There are not many Walt Disney Classics Collection releases that would qualify as Thanksgiving themed releases as compared to Halloween and Christmas.  Each year, one piece that I consider seasonal is Pocahontas with Meeko and Flit from Pocahontas. Unfortunately am unable to display year-round, so always look forward to this time of year to incorporate into our Thanksgiving displays.

Animators working on the film regarded Pocahontas as being one of the hardest films ever produced by the studio. The complex color schemes, angular shapes and facial expressions meant that the film was in production for 5 years. The hard work paid off, however. Pocahontas herself is now frequently cited as being one of the most beautifully and realistically animated characters in the Disney canon, her fluid movements mainly being attributed to rotoscoping.

The film's premiere was a huge event in Central Park. With over 100,000 people attending, it holds the record for the largest movie premiere. The film received critical praise for both the animation and art direction. The film utilizes very different colors than in previous Disney films, which resulted in a beautiful color palette from the Art Department at Disney. Colors that symbolized different emotions, such as red for anger/hate, blue for love and pink and purple for nature were purposely used. The animators also decided to be unconventional when they decided to use the "mother spirit in the leavesmotif, which consisted of leaves floating in the wind during significant scenes in the movie that represented passion and beauty.

Originally the animal characters had dialogue, just like in previous Disney features. This was dropped when the filmmakers pushed for a more realistic treatment of the story. One character, a turkey named Redfeather, was dropped entirely. John Candy had provided a large amount of voice work for this character who was to be Pocahontas's sidekick. However after Candy's death in 1994, the concept was scrapped.

In the very first draft of the script the character of "Grandmother Willow" was written as a male character who was the spirit of the river, the character was named "Old Man River". The song "Just Around the Riverbend" was written for this character to be sung. Gregory Peck was offered the role and as much as it pained him to do it, turned down the role because he felt the title character needed a motherly figure to turn to for advice. Soon the filmmakers agreed with him and the character was changed.

The Walt Disney Classics Collection released "Listen With Your Heart" (a non-member commission release) sculpted by Gwen Dutcher in 1996 following the film's Fall 1995 release.  The sculpture featured Pocahontas with her trusted friends, Meeko and Flit.  Prototypes shipped to retailers, prior to the sculpture's release had a thinner base. It was the second release in the Tribute Series. The redemption period was March 01, 1996 thru May 31, 1996.

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Matthew said...

I was so pleased with this piece when it was released, Don and was glad that they included Meeko and Flit. I've never seen the piece with the thin base, but I think the thicker base worked much better.

I remember when Pals Forever and then this piece were released I thought that the Tribute series would be a great series!

Duckman said...

I always felt following the box office success of The Lion King, Pocahontas was always remembered as the film that wasn't as commercially successful vs. appreciated for the great film that it was. This sculpture that followed, not only embodied the main characters of the film but the tone and feeling of the film as well.

I did see the prototype many years ago but always felt the thicker base was more realistic, had texture and not so flat looking. Glad they went this route vs. the original prototype.

I will admit, when the Tribute Series was announced, wasn't happy that they deviated from the original premise of the collection, only covering the film's that Walt was personally involved in but was blown away by the Pals Forever sculpture and that was saying a lot, as I was never a big fan of that film. These two releases did give hopes of a great series moving forward but feel it failed with the third release from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The sculpture was much smaller in size and felt the paint job was in poor quality. Both these factors were a great disappointment for me, as I really liked that film and wanted represented in my collection. I passed, waited and felt the collection redeemed itself with the Festival of Fools Scene released in 2007.