Disney premiered the movie “Pocahontas” to a crowd of over 100,000 people in New York City’s Central Park. At that time in 1995, the film faced strong competition from Batman Forever, Casper, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Although less successful than Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King that preceded it, the character Pocahontas is one of Disney’s favorite princesses and the first who was not of European descent. Because she is the daughter of a chief, she is listed as one of the Disney Princesses. She is the only Disney Princess to have two love interests.
- The movie takes place during Captain John Smith visit to the Virginia Colony between September 1608 and August 1609. The movie encompasses the entire time he spent in America from the moment Pocahontas mistakes his ship’s sails for clouds to when they wave at each other as he sails away.
- Although her name means “Little Mischief” Pocahontas is a noble personality, spiritual and shamanic in her relationship with animals and nature spirits. Her relationship with the spirits of nature allow her to call upon them as she races to save Captain John Smith’s life.
- In the context of the original movie “Pocahontas” she is the daughter of a Chief, the fiancée of a great warrior, a shamanic personality and the love interest of John Smith, the British Captain and leader in the Virginia Colony in of a group of British sailors. In the follow-up film “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” she is also a diplomat to the court of King James.
- At that time in British society, Pocahontas was certainly not the typical young lady. This is especially true in the second film where she serves as a diplomat. Her roles, as view in Native American culture may have been considered more typical. Native Americans of that era encompassed many nations and customs varied regarding the roles of women and men.
Aladdin is a Walt Disney picture, released by Buena Vista in 1992 that earned a record setting $217 million in revenues. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, and brought home two, Best Original Score and Best Song. Robin Williams was awarded two Golden Globes for his characterization of the Genie. .
- The time period for the film is unspecified. The action takes in the Sultanate of Agrabah. It is a time where there are no Europeans, guns, or other typical European devices and a world and in a society where magic is an accepted element.
- Aladan is a “diamond in the rough” in the start is an opportunist, surviving by his wits in a fast moving society. As his sophistication grows, with much help from the Genie, his personality evolves as well, until finally even the Sultan finds him to be an acceptable husband to his daughter.
- During the course of the movie, the character Aladdin matures from street rat to Prince and ends up as the husband of a Princess.
- Other than pushing the envelope with regard to individual roles in society there are no great gender movements or breakthroughs portrayed in the film.
The film Hercules is a Walt Disney Production released by Buena Vista Pictures in 1997. It is a musical comedy romp with a deeper undercurrent of what it really takes to become a hero. It was not a “Blockbuster” hit and did not gross nearly as much as films like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, which were also Buena Vista releases. In the Disney version Hercules is the son of Zues and Hera, the story line is very loosely on the Greek hero Hercules, and departs from the mythical portrayal of the character.
- The time period and location for the film is Ancient Greece, after the Titans have been suppressed by Zeus and before the rise of Roman Society.
- Hercules is a well intentioned character, good natured but sometimes ineffective and clumsy. He has enough intellect to question his place in society and work to understand how he fits in.
- As the story developes, it turns out he does not fit in to human society because he was born a God. During the course of the film he goes from God to assumed human, human to hero, hero to God, then back to heroic human again to be with the woman he loves.
- Hercules does not break with gender roles However it does help define what a real man’s roles are as a member of society. Hercules epic quest to become a hero establishes the difference between a warrior who is accomplished as a fighter to the truly heroic character who is willing to sacrifice his life for the woman he loves and not just his life, he gives up his godhood and immortality to be with her. In the end this is what makes him a constellation of stars.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire was the first science fiction movie made by Disney. It tells the story of Milo James Thatch his search for, and subsequent discovery of Atlantis. . Milo’s love interest, Kidra does not appear as an official “Princess” although she is the daughter of a King and Queen and later in the story becomes a Queen in her own right.
- The story of Atlantis: The Lost Empire is set in 1914. the story move from a time some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago when the city of Atlantis is destroyed by a massive tidal wave. To save the city the Queen is lifted up into the “Heart of Atlantis” a crystal that protects the city with a dome. In the year 1914 Milo Thatch who Disney lists as the main character, finds a document about the city and go to search for it. The subsequent action takes place in 1914.
- Milo Thatch exhibits all the virtuous personality traits generally attributed to heroes, but not the physical attributes.
- When first introduced Milo Thatch presents as an intelligent but somewhat professorial, even nerdy character. During the course of the action, he is forced to play an increasingly physical role to help save the civilization of Atlantis from the evil members of his own crew. Some of the people he brought with him are determined to steal the crystals even though this will mean the final destruction of Atlantis. Milo is challenged to grow more physically aggressive in order to save the civilization.
- Milo Thatch can take his place with Indiana Jones as an archeological adventurer. His character almost becomes a caricature of the live action adventures. Kida, strongly departs from tradition by being the savior of her civilization. However, her role is down played by Disney and she does not even appear as an official princess.
Aladdin. Dir. John Musker. 1992.
Atlan. Dirs. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. n.d.
Disney . Disney Princess. 1 3 2012 <http://disney.go.com/princess/#/home/>.
Disney. Atlantis: The Lost Empire. 1 3 2012 <https://disneymovieclub.go.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/AcquisitionProductDetailView?langId=-1&storeId=10001&catalogId=10051&categoryId=&catentryId=4238&viewAll=false¤tPage=1>.
Hercules. Dir. Ron Clements. 1997.
Hercules. Dir. Ron Clements. n.d.
Lenburg, Jeff. The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 1999.
Pocahontas. Dir. Mike Gabriel. Walt Disney Productions. 1995.