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This is MY land! I make the laws here! And I say anyone who so much as looks at an Indian without killing him on sight will be tried for treason... and hanged!
~ Governor John Ratcliffe declaring that anyone who doesn't kill an Indian upon sight shall be hanged.
Governor John Ratcliffe is the main antagonist of Disney's 33rd full-length animated feature film Pocahontas (which is based on the life and legend of the Native American woman of the same name), and its 1998 direct-to-video sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World.
He is very loosely based on the historical figure John Ratcliffe, though he really takes on the qualities of many of history's ambitious and morally dubious pioneers as well as the usual traits of a Disney villain (such as a love of power, snootiness, and a flair for the dramatic). He is Pocahontas and John Smith's arch-nemesis.
He was voiced by the late David Ogden Stiers, who also played Wiggins, his manservant in the same film, the Penguin in Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, and Mr. Maellard in Regular Show.
At first, Ratcliffe leads an expedition to Virginia to search for gold and other riches (which he wants to keep for himself). He fails to tell any of the other crew of his real reason for traveling to Virginia and recites the "Adventure of our lives" and "Freedom" speech to cover it. When they see land, Ratcliffe meets with John Smith, who the crew admire, about his plot on dealing with the "savages" and "filthy heathens" (what he calls the Native Americans) and Smith assures his success and the meetings through. Ratcliffe shows up on the Shore of Virginia shortly after Smith and Thomas, a new recruit, takes some land in the name of King James and calls it Jamestown afterwards (which is named after the king).
After Smith departs to search for the Native Americans, Ratcliffe tells his men to build a fort and clear the ship while he has the rest of the men dig for gold everywhere. When he sees John Smith running off somewhere, he sends Thomas to follow him, hoping the "poor excuse for a soldier" will be of some use. He overhears the men talking about Smith's capture and realizes that he could steal the Powhatan's gold once they’re done with them (though it is noted earlier by Smith that they have no gold, Ratcliffe declines to believe it). He wages war against the Powhatans, but to assure the men's back up, he states that it is to rescue Smith. After both sides march their way to one and other, they are paused curtly by the film's heroine Pocahontas, who tells everybody that they were led onto the path of hatred and tells everybody to think through a problem.
Even though Chief Powhatan and the Powhatans are touched by Pocahontas' speech, Ratcliffe is unmoved and tells his men to fire at the Native Americans, thinking that it's a trick. Eventually, they declined to do so, as they no longer see any reason to fight the Native Americans just because they have different societies, just as Smith told them before. Then Ratcliffe tries to gain the upper hand by firing a shot at Chief Powhatan, but Smith takes the bullet but not fatally. Finally seeing Ratcliffe for the corrupt and stingy monster that he truly was, Thomas and the other men turned on their commander, and drag him away tied up and gagged.
Then Ratcliffe is roughly loaded into a boat back to England to await punishment for his crimes, despite his muffled protests that he will swear vengeance against his crew. As Ratcliffe was sent on a rowboat that was heading back to the ship and send him to the brig, his servant Wiggins weeps for him as he mentioned how Ratcliffe was highly recommended for the expedition.
Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World
Ratcliffe returns in the second movie and his personality changes from mere stinginess to pure menace. He allows Smith to "fall to his death" after Smith tries to get away from the English soldiers (he has been framed by Ratcliffe as a double-crosser). Working with King James, he learns of Pocahontas' visit to court to discuss with the king (he and the king were expecting the chief, but ultimately let that fact pass) and invites her to the ball to prove that she is not too savage. However, knowing her savage instinct, he gets circus performers to bear bait in front of Pocahontas and the king's court in order to framed Pocahontas act savage and be punished by the king to get her out of the way. He plots to lead England's Armada to ambush the Powhatans.
After Pocahontas is freed and John Rolfe discover and put forth that Smith is alive in front of the king's court, it proves to the king that Ratcliffe has lied from the start. Ratcliffe's new army was just getting ready to set sail for revenge on the new world when Ratcliffe orders a rush anchor release after realizing he is being targeted. After the ships have crashed (thanks to Pocahontas, Rolfe, and Smith), Ratcliffe attempts to end Pocahontas' life in revenge. When Smith gets in the way, he attempts to do away with him in execution style with his firearm after their sword fight turned stalemate. Rolfe comes in from behind and "hangs" Ratcliffe on a boat post, Smith cuts the rope holding Ratcliffe and the latter falls into the sea afterwards, which he can’t swim. Ratcliffe swam to the shore decks where the outraged King and his guards are expecting him.
Exposed, Ratcliffe attempts to stretch the truth one more time to the King about the heroes sabotaging the armada. However, the King had enough of this and learned the truth, so he warns him to never speak any more lies again, quoting "No more lies". The King tells his guards to arrest Ratcliffe soon after (it’s unknown if he is hanged or not, though the former decision is more likely to happen, since Ratcliffe is certain on committing high treason). With Ratcliffe defeated, King James grants Pocahontas and her people with peace and friendship, hires Rolfe as his new lord advisor (though Rolfe declines it to be with Pocahontas for the rest of her life), and Smith with a new ship for himself to travel around the world.
House of Mouse
Ratcliffe is a minor guest character in the House of Mouse, He also appears in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse. What’s more, he makes a possible cameo appearance in Mickey's House of Villains, but he does not take part in the takeover.
Like most Disney villains, Ratcliffe is very power-hungry and autocratic. He is unbelievably greedy, avaricious and materialistic, as evidenced by his insatiable craving for gold, which would make him a very wealthy and extravagant man. He is also highly xenophobic (even for the period in which he lives), ruthless, cruel, pompous, and incredibly manipulative. While he exudes great confidence and gives the impression of being rather vain, Ratcliffe actually seems to have a rather weak view of himself, admitting in a sad voice that he has never been a popular man.
In addition to the fact that his court peers consider him a "pathetic social climber", this makes him a somewhat thoughtful and sympathetic character despite his naughty and hateful nature. His mission to colonize the Americas is his last chance to prove himself, he cannot afford to return empty-handed. His reputation that was already incredibly bad would suffer and his disgrace would necessarily be there if he failed. His dreams of fame and power would vanish forever. Despite his self-confessed lack of popularity, Ratcliffe also seems to be quite persuasive, charismatic, authoritative and glamorous, as he commands the respect of his troops until the end of the film.
Another thing that distances Ratcliffe from most Disney villains is that he actually believes that he is in his right. Ratcliffe, who seems privately insecure, who suffers from the low esteem that others have for him, never thinks he is acting wrong. His actions are only dictated by what he believes to be justice. He believes it is fair that America should give him a chance to rebuild his reputation at court. For him, it is just that his men toil at work "for the King and the fatherland". It is right that the Indians who are considered inferior pay the price for the arrival of the English. It is also right that his men should take up arms to deliver their companion John Smith. War is impossible for him to avoid. And for him, it was the Indians who provoked it.
Unlike most Disney villains, Ratcliffe is patient, phelgmatic and harmonious for most of the two films. For example, when John Smith tells him there is no gold in Virginia, Ratcliffe (rather than losing his temper) insists on a stubborn voice that is a "lie" and will hang anyone who refuses to shoot an Indian. However, he is sometimes angry but he easily calms down.
Ratcliffe is also shown to be extremely snide, sarcastic and contemptuous, as he "praises" John Smith for saving Thomas, which implies that he actually did not care whether Thomas had drowned or not. In the second film, he flirts with Pocahontas at the ball and makes fun of John's death in a very sarcastic voice. Ratcliffe is also somewhat lazy, indolent, parsimonious, self-indulgent and acquisitive, as shown when he simply ate rich food while the settlers did every manual work in search of gold and survived on outdated and unappetizing supplies.
Ratcliffe is a tall and obese adult man with long black hair tied up into two short pigtails with red ribbons, thick black eyebrows, green eyes, and notable lavender eyelids. He is most often seen in a lavender long-sleeved shirt with a long V-cut neckline underneath a magenta coat with a lavender collar and cuffs, black linings on the chest and waistline, and a magenta colonial hat with a turquoise blue feather on its black band, and a blue medallion resting around his neck to top his sophisticated look off. He also wears magenta keen-length pants, lavender calf-high socks, black colonial boots, and a red cape with a black satin lining. In his imagination at the King's ball, he wears a golden-yellow version of his uniform with a red medallion.
And so we shall. I told you those savages couldn't be trusted! Smith tried to befriend them, and look what they've done to him! But now I say it's time to rescue our courageous comrade. At daybreak, WE ATTACK!
~ Ratcliffe to his men after John Smith gets captured by the Native Americans.
John Ratcliffe: He stepped right-right into it! It's his own fault!
Ben: Smith was right all along! Man: We never should've listened to you! Ben: Get the gun! John Ratcliffe:TRAITORS! Unhand me, I say! How DARE you! Thomas: Put him in chains! John Ratcliffe: I'll see you all HANGED for this!
~ Ratcliffe confronted by his men.
Untie me at once! I'll have your head for this!
~ Ratcliffe's last words before he gets sent back to England in Pocahontas.
Now I can finally get rid of you, you savage!
~ Ratcliffe as he fights Pocahontas in Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World.
Huh? Your Majesty, the fugitives are getting away! They've sabotaged the armada. Stop them!
~ Ratcliffe's last words before he gets arrested in Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World.
Ratcliffe and Wiggins are the only Disney villain and henchman to date to share the same voice actor.
Ratcliffe is regarded as one of Disney's least popular villains, but he is one of the only two Disney animated villains to be loosely based on an actual historical person, the other being Prince John from Robin Hood. The rest of Disney's animated villains are indeed fictional.
In real life, Ratcliffe was extremely appreciative and generous with the colony's Native Americans. They tortured him to death when he was planning to trade with them in December 20, 1609. He did not live to see Pocahontas be married to John Rolfe.
The supervisor of Captain John Smith's ship on the journey to America in 1607 was Christopher Newport instead of Ratcliffe.
He is ranked #29 in the Top 30 Disney Villains.
His first name "John" is never mentioned in the first or second animated film.
However, John Smith's first name is mentioned in the first film.
He is the third villain in a "Disney Princess" film to not be killed off, the first being Lady Tremaine, the second being Jafar, and the fourth being Prince Hans. Ratcliffe did not die in the sequel either, though it is possible due to him being likely sentenced to death and killed off-screen.
He is also one of the only two main villains in a film of Disney's Renaissance Era to not be killed off at the end of the film. The other being Hades from Hercules, assuming that he survived his defeat at the end of the film because of his immortality.
He is one of the few Disney villains to return for the sequel, along with Jafar, Captain Hook, Shere Khan, Kaa, Lady Tremaine, and Cruella De Vil.
He is the second Disney villain to have two completely different songs in the same film, the first one is Gaston.
In a few frames of the film while Ratcliffe is angry, his eyes turn red.
Despite being the main antagonist of the first film, Ratcliffe does not interact with Pocahontas until their first true meeting in the second film.
Another Disney villain, Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, would follow suit as his interactions are mostly with Prince Naveen rather than main character Tiana, though the latter does know Dr. Facilier by reputation.
Ratcliffe's supervising animator is Duncan Marjoribanks.
Ratcliffe serves as a dark counterpart to Powhatan as they are both the leaders of their groups (settlers for Ratcliffe, Indians for Powhatan) and have a second in command (John Smith for Ratcliffe, Kocoum for Powhatan), & have a group where one member befriends a person from each other's group (John Smith & Pocahontas for each other) and who fall in love with each other. However, upon learning of this, they both dissapprove of the member's love for one from the other group. Both of them start their first verse of Savages (first verse for Ratcliffe, second verse for Powhatan) after announcing that in the morning they fight. However, Powhatan sees that Pocahontas truly loves John Smith & that it wasn't worth it to hate the settlers. Ratcliffe still hungry for gold refuses to let go of his prejudice of the Indians. If Powhatan had not put aside his prejudism of the settlers & not called off the execution of John Smith and let him live, he would've ended up like Ratcliffe.