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2.0 out of 5 stars "If I Never Knew You" Excised...Again, August 16, 2012
This review is from: Pocahontas Two-Movie Special Edition (Pocahontas / Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World) (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging) (Blu-ray)
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.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 19, 2012 8:45:46 AM PDT
Chester says:
How did you find this out? It hasn't been released yet...

Posted on Aug 19, 2012 10:12:13 AM PDT
Scott says:
I already received my copy from Disney Movie Club. "If I Never Knew You" is on the disc. It is listed as "Deleted Song: "If I Never Knew You" on the back of the box which I'm assuming means it is located in the special features (I haven't watched yet to verify). It is better than nothing I guess.

Posted on Aug 22, 2012 7:45:37 PM PDT
Darin Adams says:
Pocahontas is my FAVORITE Disney film....but it was ONLY complete when "If I Never Knew You" was rightfully returned to the film, as it always should have been. When it came out during my freshman year of college, I was so enamored with the film that I encouraged over 50 college friends to go see it on multiple viewings to the theatre, and even kept a life-sized Blockbuster video promo cut-out in my living room for years... I used the song at my wedding. I cannot begin to express my frustration in hearing that the blu-ray release fails to include the 10th Anniversary (and originally-intended) version. I am seriously cussing out whatever stupid executive made that LAME decision!!!!!!! I adore this film.... But I WILL NOT be buying this release. I hope Disney gets it right next time.

Posted on Aug 24, 2012 10:00:16 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 24, 2012 10:13:36 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 4:05:42 PM PDT
Eddie says:
It was removed. And it's included as a low quality deleted scene with terrible Stereo quality audio.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 12:12:49 PM PST
Chasedbybees says:
I may be in the extreme minority, but I honestly think this movie is better without that song. As '90s Disney movies go (of which I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan), Pocahontas actually shows a fair amount of restraint and absence of schlock when it comes to predictable and obvious musical moments. The songs aren't as cloying or annoyingly catchy as the other '90s Disney flicks, and it makes it a lot more palatable for someone like me who was never into cartoon musicals.

The direction in this movie is top notch. Excellent animation and beautiful design. The scene in question where the song is removed is made that much more powerful by not hamfistedly playing up the moment with an overwrought and obvious musical number.

Posted on Oct 27, 2013 3:50:23 PM PDT
This actually isn't accurate. The song was not in the original theatrical release. It was written and only partially animated when, before the film was even released, Alan Menken himself suggested it should be cut because it was messing with the pacing in that sequence, and so Disney did. Only 10 years later, for the film's DVD release, did they make a "special edition" of the film in which they completed the song's animation and placed it in the film where it was originally meant to go. So, while it might have been nice to have it as an option, this is not a case of a song being excised from an original theatrical version, but rather a special edition of a film not being included on a re-release.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2014 1:30:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 17, 2014 11:58:07 PM PDT
Adam says:
Chasedbybees, I actually watched the scene (and the short continuation of it near the end of the film when John Smith is leaving to go back to England) over and over again in both the theatrical version and the director's cut version, trying to decide which I liked more. At first I thought the main musical number of "If I Never Knew You" was good, but that the lyrics were a bit too hyperbolic for my taste considering, as you said, that the rest of the film is more restrained. I also thought that the short continuation at the end of the film ruined the mood of the scene.

As I kept going back and forth, I really tried to get myself to feel what the characters would have been feeling, with the end result being that I liked the addition of the musical number. I do still think the lyrics are too hyperbolic, but what was added was a much greater depth of feeling to that scene and subsequent scenes. To me, that's more important than the literal lyrics. Remember, at the time, Pocahontas thought John Smith was going to die. Given the connection they'd made by that point, the events surrounding this scene would be incredibly emotionally turbulent for Pocahontas. Given this, even though the musical number may have been too hyperbolic with its lyrics and a bit emotionally overwrought, I don't think it's unfitting.

Pocahontas and John Smith had shared romantic moments before, showing their growing affection for one another, but I never really felt it that deeply. For me, this scene really added that emotional depth through the combination of the overall feeling the music created and the body language of the characters, showing a tenderness and fondness that really impacted me emotionally. The two-line continuation of the song at the end of the film also added some tenderness (again, more from the emotions from the music itself and the characters' body language than the actual lyrics or song). Another thing that having the full musical number added was that it provided some context to when you hear the melody from the song pop up at various points throughout the film.

In the middle of typing this, I actually just went and re-watched the sequence from the theatrical version, and I think I pinpointed a little better what the addition of the song does for me. The scene starts off setting up a sort of sad yet tender mood when Pocahontas enters the tent, via the music and her dialogue (more her tone of voice than what she's literally saying). When John Smith starts talking, it throws the mood off because his tone of voice is too optimistic and light for the scene. I realize that he's probably trying to make Pocahontas feel less worried about him by acting like it's not a big deal, but I think the tone of his voice plays that up a little too much. Just comparing tones and the weight of emotion they carry in that scene, Pocahontas's really conveys what she's feeling, but by comparison, John Smith's feels a little flat and empty. Given this, I think having the full musical number brings the scene back on track in terms of the overall feeling it's trying to convey. I think that if John Smith's tone of voice had carried his part of the scene a little better, then the musical number would be quite a bit more superfluous.

EDIT: (This edit is being made on August 18, 2014 at ~1:45 in the morning. My initial post was made on August 17, 2014 at ~1:30 in the afternoon. I'm making a note of this because even though it says the time of the most recent edit as well as the time of the initial post, I'm not sure how many people actually look at that.)

Anyways, I just watched the scene(s) in question AGAIN, this time as part of just watching the film as a whole, and John Smith's voice tone didn't feel flat or empty like it did before. Despite that, I still feel like having the full musical number and the two-line return to it at the end of the film adds a lot of emotional depth to those scenes and to parts of the film that come after the full musical number, for the same reasons I stated above.
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