How Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’ Song, ‘Colors of the Wind,’ Was Inspired by Actual United States History

This Disney princess can paint with all the colors of the wind. The message behind Disney’s award-winning song “Colors of the Wind” was inspired by a letter from Chief Seattle, according to the Pocahontas lyricist. 

Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’ soundtrack included songs like ‘Colors of the Wind’ and ‘Just Around the Riverbend’

Following its release, the Pocahontas track earned the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. Other Disney productions later earned Grammy Awards, including “A Whole New World” from Aladdin and “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast. 

As of January 2020, “Colors of the Wind” is certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after selling over 1 million units.

On the official Pocahontas soundtrack, “Colors of the Wind” has the highest number of Spotify streams. As of November 2021, this track has over 135 million plays, while the second most popular song, “Just Around the Riverbend,” has about 75 million plays. 

The lyrics to Pocahontas’ ‘Colors of the Wind’ were inspired by a letter from Chief Seattle

It’s a Disney classic created by Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Aladdin composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. According to Buzzfeed, Schwartz stated the lyrics to “Colors of the Wind” were inspired by Chief Seattle’s letter to Congress, written in 1854. 

However, according to 10001 Ways, “the authenticity of the words is debated. They are presumed to have been derived from a speech given by the chief to the first governor of the Washington Territory, Isaac Stevens.” 

The overall message of the letter is to respect the Earth rather than exploit it for its riches. “Colors of the Wind,” sung by Pocahontas to John Smith, shares a similar message, asking Pocahontas’ love interest to appreciate nature. 

Disney released their ‘Pocahontas’ sequel, titled ‘Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World’

As one of the few Disney princesses based on a real person, Disney’s Pocahontas isn’t without criticism from fans and activists alike. Most point out the historical inaccuracies between this film and the actual Pocahontas. (In real life, Pocahontas was married to an English settler and, after traveling abroad, got sick and died.)

With Pocahontas widely considered one of Disney’s “most radical heroines,” this character was groundbreaking as one of Disney’s first princesses of color. 

To an extent, the film encouraged viewers to look inward regarding their environmental impact. There was also some criticism of English settlers, even if some viewers consider it a weak foreshadowing of the actual conquest that followed. 

Disney later released its direct-to-video production, Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World, in 1998. This film featured John Rolfe, a settler who brings Pocahontas to English and eventually falls in love with the character. 

Pocahontas and its sequel are available on Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+. 

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