By John Roberts, Special to the AFA Journal
August 1995 – Pocahontas, Walt Disney Pictures’ first animated feature film about real persons, kidnaps history – turning it into a politically “correct” fantasy preaching nontraditional religious beliefs to children worldwide.
In Disney’s new feature, history’s Captain John Smith becomes a believer in a godless nature religion. The film ends with the nature spirit of Pocahontas’s mother returning to Europe with Smith.
In actuality, Pocahontas instead became a Christian. A massive mural in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol honors her baptism. The spirit of Christ had come to Native Americans.
The religion this film sanctions is animism – a tribal religion with a belief that every object and phenomenon in the physical universe has a conscious life and spirit. A tribe’s medicine man, a shaman, is the guide to the spirit world, including spirits of dead relatives.
In the film a kindly tree spirit, Grandmother Willow, implores like a New Age guru and channeler, “Have faith, child! Let the spirit of the earth guide you.” The “enchanted friend” helps her to contact her dead mother’s spirit, a wind in the leaves.
Mike Gabriel, the film’s co-director, said, “We decided right off that we weren’t going to make a historical document, but a love story, an entertainment that was mindful of historical reality….The ecological themes dropped in because the Native Americans are so ecologically based in their beliefs.”
Perhaps ecology instead was a politically correct way to drop in religious teachings counter to Christianity. Lies go down better when sugar-coated with truth. Christians and the public at large are for ecology, tolerance, native rights, and peace.
Historians find that the real captain and the Indian chief’s pre-pubescent daughter were never romantically involved. Unlike a fi lm goddess in her 20s, the l2-year-old was described by William Strachey, secretary of the Jamestown colony, as doing cartwheels “all the fort over.”
Several years after Smith left Virginia, Pocahontas was baptized and had a Christian marriage to colonist John Rolfe. The marriage brought peace between settlers and natives.
When she and her husband visited London, Captain Smith wrote on her behalf the only existing eye-witness account of the story to introduce her to Queen Anne:
...Taken prisoner by the power of Powhatan their chief King, I received from this great savage exceeding great courtesy, especially from his son Nantaquaus...and his sister Pocahontas, the King’s most dear and well-loved daughter.
(She was) but a child of twelve or thirteen years of age, whose compassionate pitiful heart (about) my desperate estate gave me much cause to respect her. I (was) the fi rst Christian this proud King and his grim attendants ever saw....
After some six weeks fasting among these savage courtiers, at the minute of my execution, she hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine.
...(She) so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conveyed to Jamestown....
A Captain Nathaniel Powell visited Pocahontas in London with some acquaintances and recorded their impression:
They did think God had a great hand in her conversion, and they had seen many English Ladies worse favoured, proportioned, and behavioured. ...Her unexpected death [on a ship leaving for Virginia] (gave) joy to the beholders to hear and see her make so religious and godly an end.
The facts are that Pocahontas became a baptized, informed, godly Christian – “the first Christian ever of that nation,” Smith noted.
By contrast, in Disney’s deluxe new book The Art of Pocahontas, Stephen Rebello’s text states that the film is a “contrast between the spirit world [animism] of Pocahontas and Smith’s worldliness....”
In the film and coordinated children’s books, Grandmother Willow tells Pocahontas, “All around you are spirits, child. They live in the earth, the water, the sky. ...If you listen, they will guide you. ...You must listen with your heart. Then you will understand.”
Later Pocahontas, as an eco-religionist, preaches to John Smith:
You think your people know everything. But my people know this land as yours never will. The creatures of the forest, each rock and every bird, the fi sh in the waters – they are brothers and sisters. We are all one – with the sun, the moon, and the stars.…Even this little leaf has a spirit and a name.
We are all a part of the earth. We are joined to each other….My people say life on earth is like a giant hoop. It has no beginning. And it has no end. I think your people do not understand the earth. They think it is a dead thing.
In Pocahontas, the children’s book adapted from the film by Gina Ingoglia, she writes, “As Pocahontas spoke, John felt a change come over him. He had never seen someone so at home in her world. What she was saying made sense. He looked at her with a new understanding.”
Disney’s Pocahontas, another book version for younger children, further explains, “Her words and the importance of what she showed him so touched his heart that Smith was changed. He could see the colors of the wind that Pocahontas saw, and feel what Pocahontas felt.”
She “showed” him – meaning that Smith came to see and understand the demonstration of these things as “fact.” An unbiased account would have been to write that “she told him of her beliefs.” Animism, a false religion, is not demonstrable as fact. But creative animation can tempt viewers to believe that lies are true.
Visually during the film the spirit of an eagle is shown to enter Smith’s heart, and this Fabio-like hunk soars with Harlequin Romance-like long-haired Pocahontas through and unites with nature in an animistic fantasy. This romantically religious sequence is presented with all the considerable enticing craft Disney creators can muster. Convert Smith later communes with Grandmother Willow, the “tree spirit,” who likes his soul.
The idea of life being like a giant hoop is reminiscent of Disney’s last animated feature, The Lion King, and its song “The Circle of Life.” Those lyrics proclaim, “From the day we arrive on this planet…the sun…keeps great and small on the endless round...Through faith and love/Till we find our place/…In the circle…of life... Some of us fall by the wayside/And some of us soar to the stars [as did Simba’s father]…It’s the wheel of fortune/…in the circle of life.”
If existence were a circle without beginning or end, there would be no point of origin and, thus, no creation or Creator. Christianity is an ecological religion, with its deity being the Creator of the heavens and the earth. God created divine order through his perfect ecosystem. Imperfection came when humans separated themselves from God by willful disobedience.
The Bible says, “God created human beings in His image....God blessed them and said, ‘Have many children.... Fill the earth and be its master. Rule over the fi sh in the sea and over the birds in the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Gen. 1:27a, 28 NCV)
God put humankind in charge of nature, and a master has great responsibility. “Jesus...said, ‘Whoever wants to be the most important must be the last of all and the servant of all.’” (Mark 9:35b NCV) Therefore, humankind must be the servant manager of creation. We must practice good stewardship of what God has left to our supervision–just as in the parable of talents being left under the care of servants.
We are to serve under Jesus, the Master of cosmic ecology.
“No one can see God, but Jesus Christ is exactly like Him. ...Through (Christ’s) power all things were made [created]–things in heaven and earth, things seen and unseen.... All things were made through Christ and for Christ. He was there before anything was made, and all things continue [hold together] because of Him.” (Col. 1:15a, 16-17 NCV)
Ecology and tolerance are biblical principles. Search for another religion is unnecessary.
Animism denies God, His acts of creation, and that He created mankind in His image. This religion equates rocks and trees with humans in spirit. The need for Christ and His salvation are also missing.
Without historical proof, Disney presents John Smith as a racist and a weak Christian. History testifies that he was not converted to animism, and theology shows that the beliefs of the two faiths are incompatible.
What animism is compatible with is New Age religion. “New Age” is also a category in bookstores which has replaced in recent years the name “Occult” for the same shelves. Disney’s Pocahontas books should be located there.
The text of The Art of Pocahontas has a bold explanation of Disney’s intentions: “Nothing less than a humanist credo, ‘Colors of the Wind’ passionately underscores the theme of the interdependence of every living thing.…For John Smith, it marks a turning point in his racist world view.…” The concept artists’ imagined a vast Virginia wilderness which had “more than a touch of religious fervor, of spirituality.…”
Thomas Schumacher, Disney’s Senior Vice President of Development, Feature Animation, has commented that Joe Grant’s concept art early in the fi lm’s development “was all about enchantment, magic.…His work spoke to an aspect of the movie that no one but he had understood, the spiritual side.”
For Christians, enchantment and magic, even white magic, speak of a spirit side which is demonic.
This politically correct pro-American Native film gives no fair counter-balance of presenting the Christian belief system of John Smith, only worldliness.
Yet Smith is at least likable. The other Englishmen who came with him in 1607 to found the first British colony in the New World are presented as racists, dupes, and fortune-seekers who were destroying the ecology and looking to kill all Indians on sight.
Perhaps Disney thinks it is appropriate for Americans to recall the colonial period with current hatred for the British and in turn for white American history. Perhaps the company believes it is politically correct to hold suspect all males of European descent.
Governor Ratcliffe, shown in the film as a buffoon of a villain, blames Virginia’s lack of gold on Indians hiding it. He asserts, “We are going to eliminate the Indians once and for all….There’s no room for them in a civilized society.”
How can the Walt Disney Company feel confident in faulting these English colonists as fortune-hungry golddiggers who exploit the land and others?
The film perhaps makes slight fun at itself with bushes sculpted into animals as at Kingdom parks. This could be quite a veiled allusion to the company’s efforts to buy Virginia land to build a sizable historical theme park, which was blocked by today’s concerned Virginia natives.
While Pocahontas chastises others for callous avarice, the Disney animated film is like feature-length infomercials selling an avalanche of merchandise. These products further preach godless animism without regard for true spiritual ecology.
Hopefully, Disney will not kidnap and exploit any more American history. But more importantly, may the Magic Kingdom cease proselytizing our children and our culture at large through mass marketing of their own New Age religion and other spiritual pollution.
Unfortunately, Disney intends to market Pocahontas unhappily ever after.
Generations of children will be repeatedly influenced by the occult religious message through reading and rereading its books, rewatching the video, role modeling through Barbie and Ken-type dolls and action heroes with weapons of warfare, and singing the songs until memorized. The impressions will last the children for a lifetime.
The promotional trailer for the film calls it a “celebration of the American spirit.” The spirit celebrated is one of animism before Christianity came. This does not represent today’s America. It seems Disney hopes this spirit will become a national historical fact.
The public must hold Disney and its executives accountable for exploiting our children and culture.