This past Friday, Walt Disney Records continued its Legacy Collection series. Like the most last release, Toy Story, it celebrates a film marking its 20th anniversary: 1995’s Pocahontas. The new 2-CD set features the entire score along with several demos and alternate versions of songs.
Pocahontas, Disney’s 33rd animated film, was a departure from some of the films in the studio’s past repertoire in that is was based on history and not a fairytale. The movie chronicles the story of Native American Pocahontas and her encounters with Englishman John Smith and other English settlers surrounding the establishment of the Jamestown colony. The cast was lead by Irene Bedard as Pocahontas with Judy Kuhn providing her singing voice, and Mel Gibson as John Smith. (Gibson did all of his singing for the movie.) Directed by Mike Gabriel (The Rescuers Down Under) and Eric Goldberg (an animator on Aladdin), Pocahontas also featured the work of Glen Keane from The Little Mermaid as the lead animator on the title character.
To write the score and compose the songs for the film, Disney once again turned to Academy Award winner Alan Menken who had given the studio such success with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. This would be the first time, however, that he would work on a complete Disney film score without lyricist Howard Ashman, who had passed away in 1991. To collaborate on this new project, Disney brought in Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz was a Broadway veteran who had written such scores as Pippin and Godspell in the 1970s and more recently had composed Children of Eden. By the early 1990s, he had retired from Broadway and was taking psychology classes at New York University. He was coaxed out of semi-retirement, and the rest is history. The music Menken and Schwartz crafted for Pocahontas includes such songs as “Just Around the Riverbend,” “Listen With Your Heart,” and, of course, “Colors of the Wind.”
Pocahontas was released on June 23, 1995 (after a limited release a week earlier to coincide with Pocahontas’ 400th birthday). It attracted some controversy and critical complaint at the time due to charges of historical inaccuracy (For instance: Pocahontas was actually much younger when she encountered John Smith and she married another English settler.) The filmmakers countered that the changes they made to events were for dramatic purposes. The eventual box office was also a slight disappointment, grossing $346 million. While still a more-than-respectable number, it fell short of the massive box office returns of The Lion King.
The music for the film fared better, however. Released on May 30, 1995, the soundtrack hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart on July 22 and eventually be certified triple platinum. The pop version of “Colors of the Wind” by Vanessa Williams peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went gold. The pop version of “If I Never Knew You” sung by Jon Secada and Shanice (a song cut from the actual film, with this version staying in the end credits) was also released as a single. At the 68th Academy Awards, “Colors” won for Best Original Song (it also pickedup a Golden Globe and a Grammy) and Menken’s score received the award for Best Original Score.
Perhaps due to its somewhat muted box office, Pocahontas does not have as big a presence throughout the rest of Disney company as some other films do. A direct-to-video sequel was released in 1998. The characters appear throughout the Disney theme parks and the music, especially “Colors of the Wind” is heard and featured on compilations. Perhaps its biggest presence is part of the daily Fantasmic shows at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The soundtrack to Pocahontas has never been expanded before. This new 2-CD Legacy Collection edition contains the entire score on Disc 1. On Disc 2, you’ll find the pop version of “Colors” and “If I Never” together with the Mel Gibson/Judy Kuhn original version of that song and other bonuses including score outtakes and five song demos. The package is the normal hardback digipak of the Legacy Collection and it contains a 20 page booklet featuring notes by Dave Bossert and concept art. We’ve got the full tracklisting below.
While not the biggest film in the Disney canon, the soundtrack to Pocahontas does contain plenty of memorable music. If you would like to become reacquainted with it, we’ve got the order links for you below.
- The Virginia Company (Chorus and Mel Gibson)
- Steady as the Beating Drum (Main Title) (Chorus)
- Father Knows Best
- Steady as the Beating Drum (Reprise) (Jim Cummings)
- Just Around the Riverbend (Judy Kuhn)
- Grandmother Willow
- Listen With Your Heart I (Linda Hunt and Bobbi Page)
- Ratcliffe’s Cabin
- Going Ashore
- Pocahontas Watches/Meeko
- Council Meeting
- Percy’s Bath
- Mine, Mine, Mine (David Ogden Stiers, Mel Gibson and Chorus)
- Cat N Mouse
- They Meet At the River s Edge
- Unusual Name
- Colors of the Wind (Judy Kuhn)
- Something Wrong, John?
- Into the Glade
- Listen With Your Heart II (Linda Hunt and Bobbi Page)
- Warriors Arrive
- Smith Returns
- Sneaking Out
- The Fight
- I’ll Never See Him Again
- If I Never Knew You (Mel Gibson and Judy Kuhn)
- Thomas Reports
- Savages (David Ogden Stiers, Jim Cummings, Judy Kuhn and Chorus)
- Now’s Our Chance
- If I Never Knew You (Love Theme from Pocahontas) (Jon Secada and Shanice)
- Colors of the Wind (End Title) (Vanessa Williams)
- Epiphany/Savages (Part 2) (Alternate Version)
- Just Around the Riverbend (Demo)
- If I Never Knew You (Demo)
- Different Drummer (Demo)
- First to Dance (Demo)
- In the Middle of the River (Demo)