Jesus Christ Disney… look, you guys played fast and loose with historical facts bad enough in the first one, but this is especially egregious. Watching these two films back-to-back is a textbook example of colonialism rewriting the historical narrative from the point-of-view of the “winners.” Guys, Pocahontas’ story isn’t some magical love story about a plucky native girl and a stiff upper-lipped British dude.
The darnedest thing is, overall, I enjoyed this film better than its predecessor. That really isn’t saying much as I believe the original film to be one of the worst features from the studio. Why is this, you ask? Well, the original film was the studio tasting Oscar nomination glory from Beauty and the Beast and deciding they were going to make a Very Serious Work that would finally nab them the golden statue for a major category. The original film is turgid, self-important, riddled with every cliché in the book, and sidesteps historical tragedy for Americana folklore, or a nearly fairy tale-lite approach to the material. In short, it’s a tedious “prestige” film that’s nowhere near as deep, good, or important as it thinks it is.
This sequel though? It’s a hallucinogenic trip through Disney approved history in which racial strife can be soothed with a musical number, Pocahontas somehow inspired Shakespeare to write “to be or not to be,” and Jean Stapleton voices a housekeeper with incredibly poor eyesight that functions as a reoccurring gag. Hell, by the time she ends up adopting a bear and Pocahontas’ bodyguard while her boss, John Rolfe, runs off with Pocahontas for “happily ever after,” I was just resigned to the funhouse mirror version of events.
None of this makes Journey to the New World any good, and nothing probably could. No, not even the better than average animation that puts other direct-to-video sequels to shame. (I’m looking at you Return of Jafar!) The best thing this one has going for it is an unintentionally farcical tone in contrast to the Very Important Movie and Message of the first. But dear god, please stay away from historical figures from now on Disney, especially ones of color who died tragically due to racist attitudes and policies.