Back in the mid `90s, the Disney studio excised a pair of songs from two of their releases - "Pocahontas" and "The Muppet Christmas Carol" - that both negatively impacted the theatrical versions of each film. The reasoning was simple: the songs in question ("When Love Is Gone" from the Muppets and "If I Never Knew You" from "Pocahontas") were too "adult" in nature, leading some parents to take their kids out to the snack bar or the bathroom to avoid sitting in their seats for the 3-4 minutes those respective numbers were on-screen.
It didn't matter that the songs were vital to each movie - comprising arguably the most dramatic moments of both stories - or that anyone other than a restless five-year-old wouldn't have had a problem sitting through them. The editing shears were out, and neither song would appear in the theatrical release of either picture. Flash-forward several months. Once "The Muppet Christmas Carol" hit video, director Brian Henson insisted on the restoration of "When Love Is Gone," and the song was thankfully added into all video releases of the 1992 production (though sadly not its later DVD release). "Pocahontas," sadly, would not have its climactic song restored until a 10th Anniversary DVD release in 2005.
Unfortunately, that song - Alan Menken's lovely "If I Never Knew You" - is once again absent from the Blu-Ray of POCAHONTAS, which has just arrived in a BD/DVD double-pack with its inferior direct-to-video sequel "Pocahontas II: Journey To a New World."
It doesn't matter that the movie is one of the weaker Disney productions from the `90s, or that the Politically Corrected-story has numerous holes. "Pocahontas" still manages to modestly entertain in spite of its flaws primarily because of its gorgeous score by Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, encompassing "The Colors of the Wind" and "Just Around the Riverbend." Alas, for whatever reason, Disney has once more opted not to include the longer version with "If I Never Knew You," a duet between Pocahontas (sung by Judy Kuhn) and John Smith (a surprisingly effective vocal performance by Mel Gibson), sung near the conclusion of the film.
Without "If I Never Knew You," "Pocahontas" essentially has no climax. The movie's sometimes jumbled story - with its one dimensional villains (gasp! That evil governor of Virginia is a nasty one!!) - and confused perspective on the Pocahontas-Smith relationship reeks of the P.C. police, and minus the duet, the film also doesn't flow properly, with a particularly abrupt final third. It's a problematic but interesting entry in the Disney canon, boasting some of Menken's finest work and one of the nicest love themes you'll ever hear in an animated movie - but, as was the case with the theatrical release, it's been relegated once again to a mere end credits pop duet between Jon Secada and Shanice.
With its crisp and beautiful new Blu-Ray remastering, the movie has, at least, never looked better on the small screen. The film's bold colors and striking animation are superlatively rendered, while the 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack is likewise effective in conveying the rich musical texture of the soundtrack. Extras (in addition to standard DVD copies) are mostly reprisals of material found in Disney's deluxe CAV LaserDisc box set of "Pocahontas" (likewise carried over to the 2005 DVD). These include commentary with the filmmakers (recorded in 2003) and plenty of featurettes - albeit some of them only available through Disney's online "Virtual Vault" (requiring a BD Live connection). Adding insult to injury is that "If I Never Knew You" is indeed present as a supplement - and in full HD - making it even more frustrating the song couldn't have been included, as an option, to view integrated within the movie itself.
"Pocahontas" may always be viewed as somewhat of a black sheep, particularly compared with the high quality of Disney's theatrical output from the `90s, and it's unfortunate that the improvement yielded by including "If I Never Knew You" has been negated by the bad decision to drop it from this package. Hopefully the same situation won't repeat itself when "The Muppet Christmas Carol" arrives on Blu-Ray later this year.