Cover art for podcast Based on a True Story

Based on a True Story

205 EpisodesProduced by Dan LeFebvreWebsite

We've all seen the movies that claim to be 'based on a true story', but have you ever wondered how historically accurate they are? That's what we'll find out as we compare Hollywood with history.



With the Thanksgiving season upon us, I thought it'd be a great opportunity to travel back in time to the days of Colonial America. Then I realized there's not really a lot of movies about the actual Thanksgiving story. So I decided to go with something that, although not about the Thanksgiving story itself, could transport us back to those days. And it's also a great opportunity to do something we haven't tackled yet on the podcast, a Disney animation.

In the mid-1990s, the animation team at Disney was on a roll. Tapping into their pool of talent, Aladdin animator Eric Goldberg and The Rescuers Down Under director Mike Gabriel teamed up to take on a new challenge: adapting a true story for the big screen in Pocahontas.

Timed to release on exactly 400 years after the real Pocahontas was born, Disney released their own musical interpretation of the story on June 16th, 1995. The movie boasted an amazing all-star cast including Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, and Christian Bale, just to name a few.

With a budget at about $55 million to make, it was a smash hit in the box office as it raked in over half that in the opening weekend. In all, it made over $140 million in theaters. At the time, that put it at #8 on the all-time Disney list of box office results. Of course, as time goes on its dropped quite a bit—as of recording this, thanks to Disney's acquisition of Pixar and Star Wars, Pocahontas is #65.

While it was certainly a box office success, Pocahontas was severely criticized by a lot of historians for telling a tale that most people now believe to be a true story when, in fact, it was almost entirely inaccurate with what actually happened.

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