A technically brilliant piece of animation, Disney's POCAHONTAS recounts the familiar, historically-based tale of selfless love between a young American Indian girl and an English settler. Overall, POCAHONTAS is a triumph as a visual experience (though the music is unusually bland), but a disappointment as a film.

To young John Smith (voice of Mel Gibson) and his shipmates, the New World will be a rich, exciting place. At the same time, it will hold many dangers, including bands of unwashed, bloodthirsty redskins. Despite his youth, John Smith is already widely known for his courage and his deadly skill when fighting savages. Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers), who's leading the voyage to New England, is glad to have a man like Smith aboard; he intends to claim the New World's unmined treasure for himself and is sure Smith will make certain that no savages will spoil his plans. Meanwhile, native American Pocahontas (Irene Bedard) senses that soon her world will be forever changed. Though her father (Russell Means) has recently arranged Pocahontas's marriage to kind, brave and decent warrior Kocum (James Fall), the young man is far too serious for the high-spirited Pocahontas. She instead falls in love with John Smith, but their blossoming relationship could lead to out-and-out war between the English and the Native Americans. Pocahontas risks her own life to save Smith's, and her courage brings peace to the land.

POCAHONTAS breaks the Disney mold in several small but significant ways; unlike generations of animated princesses, the capable Pocahontas wastes little time waiting for her prince. It's also the first Disney film based on the life of a real person — though it takes considerable liberties — and doesn't have a doggedly happy ending. The chaste lovers part at the end, returning to their own people rather than running off together to seek improbable bliss. That said, it also embodies the technically polished and gently preachy model generations of Disney lovers have come to expect.