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The Independent Culture
The historical epic has staged a comeback: Braveheart, Rob Roy, La Reine Margot. Maybe it's because the culture has exhausted the future (Judge Dredd and the forthcoming Waterworld certainly have), but the past seems to be drawing us back, ready, willing and able to be re-investigated for values we thought the late 20th century had discarded: honour, courage, community, freedom. Things we still teach our children, but suspect in our souls to be cant because the world just doesn't operate like that anymore, does it?

It makes perfect sense - it's certainly perfect timing - for Disney to have produced Pocahontas (right), a historical epic pretending to be an animated feature. The message of the former blends smoothly with the moral lectures traditionally taught by the latter: both believe in being true to yourself, self-sacrifice and the greater good. And yet... the historical epic has to accommodate a complexity that cartoons - mainstream, commercial cartoons - almost automatically repel. Happy endings, for instance, are considered de rigueur for Disney, so when it's not delivered in the interests of an "accuracy" we may not actually care about, it feels like... a violation. As does the absence of easily identifiable heroes and villains, characters to love and characters to hate. This will probably confuse children, but adults may care a great deal more. Because what Pocahontas accidentally proves is that on some level, we grown-ups really do believe the cant we pass on, or certainly want to. If we clap hard enough and say we believe in fairies, then Tinkerbell won't die - as if something we already know to be non-existent could ever leave us.

'Pocahontas' is released on 6 Oct in London and 13 Oct nationwide

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