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  • The Black Cauldron
    • The Black Cauldron
    • Runtime:80 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-18 00:53:28
    • Director: Ted Berman
    • Genres: Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy, Mystery
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:The Black Cauldron


Of all Disney's failures, none are quite so infamous as The Black
Cauldron. Based off material that was in the talks for decades, it was
a property that was whispered about around the Disney studios for quite
a few years before its conception (Ollie Johnston was an especially
great fan of The Chonicles of Prydain). When Disney finally put the
rights to use, they pumped oodles of cash into what they hoped would be
the harbinger of a new age of Disney animation, one of darker, more
mature storytelling. Not a single Nine Old Men put an ounce of work
into this (okay…so Milt Kahl did some preliminary character
designs…) and it seemed to be the consumation of the arrival of the
new guard of Disney animators.

What went wrong? Well the studio made the disastrous choice of handing
off sections of the film to individual teams without giving them any
interaction between each other, leading to some odd continuity and a
total lack of a compelling throughline. Secondly, ambitions for a
darker film were rather bipolar, leading to some odd inclusions like
graphic gore and partial nudity and unfortunate omissions like a number
of fascinating Tim Burton designs which were jettisoned for being too
twisted. It doesn't help that the animation looks floaty and bland,
some of the weakest in any Disney film up to then, and that heavy cuts
under Michael Eisner removed said gore and nudity, only adding to the
disconnected nature of this film. They made a few interesting choices,
like reviving multi-planing (a very good idea) and using widescreen for
the first time since Sleeping Beauty, but these don't make up for all
the other blunders made by this film.

The story is quite typical of Tolkien-inspired fantasy. An evil Sauron
figure has returned to seek a magical item that will restore his power
and send his armies across the land to conquer everything in existence.
That item is a pig. I know, John Huston says he's seeking a cauldron,
but he's actually trying to steal a magic pig from this film's Frodo
Baggins, Taran, in order to find it. The one pig to rule them all. I'm
not sure if that was in the book, and it's probably handled better in
the book, but that's just a goofy sounding concept. Of course, our hero
Taran, who's such a wimp that he's easily dispatched by the local goat
(I know, that's what character development's for, right? right) loses
the pig and has to go rescue him from the Horned King (who looks
suspiciously like a demon from Night on Bald Mountain). Taran rescues
the pig, but gets himself captured. With the help of a few fellow
prisoners and a magic sword, he escapes, and it then becomes a quest to
seek the Cauldron before the Horned King finds it.

As animation, this is even more of a dark pit than The Fox and the
Hound, which had a few real standout moments. There are no moments of
excellence here, just floaty, weightless motion and an over-reliance on
reaction shots that just looks awkward. Characters are thrown off-model
in strange ways, and very little of the performances ring true. The
backgrounds do have a nice atmosphere to them, but are also pretty
smudgy. Design wise, very little stands out here, and I can't help but
wish they'd incorporated things like Tim Burton's idea for flying hand
monsters (not ripping off J.R. Tolkien enough?). The color design looks
hollow and lacks any sort of warmth or emotion, as if drab colors were
what was hip in the eighties (not that I blame them for thinking such).
Lamentably, the best animation is Hendel Butoy and Andreas Deja's for
Gurgie, a hapless character that they nevertheless lend some much
needed life to. Otherwise, I can only point to The Secret of NIMH, made
for less than half the money, and sigh at how the biggest animation
studio in the world could have made a film that looked one-tenth as
good. Not that Bluth hasn't made the mistake of failing to smell a bad
concept, but even he must have gotten bad vibes from what Disney was
about to do.

One has to wonder how a studio with so much riding on this film could
have gotten it so wrong. The failure very nearly drove Disney into
folding its animation company, and so many potentially lucrative
animators were driven into better careers elsewhere. It's a shame, but,
thankfully, Disney did hold on to make a few more films. What's more,
their very next project would be honest-to-god decent. It's a shame we
didn't see a solid genre picture from this studio, though. We can only
look at the disastrous final product and wonder what could have been.


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

i actually don't really love the eighties. don't hate it. but i'm
pretty indifferent. it really wasn't much of a stand out decade aside
from the possible notoriety of it's President.

however, as far as Disney feature length, hand drawn animation goes, i
have a real fond spot for the forgotten decade in their legacy. the
eighties Disney films are very maligned and under-appreciated. and it's
not very justified or fair. the eighties produced some of Disney's most
memorable and endearing animated features. aside from 'The Little
Maremaid', i've always thought the nineties animated features from
Disney were somewhat over-rated. the nineties animated features always
leave me a little cold and they feel over-blown and over-hyped and
produced. the eighties animated films like 'Fox and the Hound', 'Great
Mouse Dective', 'Oliver and Co.', had a sweeter, more endearing and
modest quality that was lacking in the nineties. the nineties was cold.
the eighties cartoon features are much cuter.

'The Black Cauldron' is definitely the best from the eighties. what it
lacks as an adaptation of Lloyd Alexander's 'Prydain' books (i miss the
Raven on Taran's shoulder), it makes up for as a excellent Disney
cartoon feature. the animation and styling are unmistakably Disney. and
as with all Disney adaptations it owes more to Disney than the source
it's adapted from. that's the way it should be. Disney films should be
recognizable as Disney.

even though there is much waxing about 'Cauldron' being too scary and
intense for little kids and how it has no heart, most of that isn't all
that valid. 'Cauldron' is a very 'G' rated experience and not 'PG'.
there is no sex or swearing or even any real violence. it's a 'G'. it's
also a very cute and adorable film. Lloyd Alexander's books were a
little darker and not cute at all. Disney has managed to Disneyfy and
cutesyfy the stories, but it all still works. Johnn Byner's Gurgi is a
art drawing exercise in cuddly cuteness.

'Cauldron' is one of Disney's most memorable of the later features. it
boast startling hand drawn animation, handsome production design, and a
wonderful film score by Elmer Bernstein.

i know old school Disney. probably better than most. i spent most of my
youth studying old school Disney and watching all the films. a lot of
people can't always say that. i love 'The Black Cauldron' and think
it's another one of those under-appreciated Disney gems.


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 25th animated Disney "classic" isn't all that "classic". The first
time I saw this a few years ago I enjoyed it more than after watching
it again now. Now I am a few years older, which might have partially
influenced that.

The film was a Disney attempt in doing something different, perhaps
such a radical change for its time that people weren't prepared,
resulting in a spectacular failure at the box office and critically. If
this movie had been made today, it probably would have been more
appreciated. Time was kinder to it and attracted some loyal fans, but
it still is one of the lesser known and appreciated animated Disney

Apparently this movie took 7 years to be made. A very long time, even
for an animated film. It pioneered computer-generated imagery on Disney
animated movies and also had the "honor" of being the first animated
Disney effort to be rated as PG because of its extreme darkness and

'The Black Cauldron' isn't such a bad movie, however it is not for
everybody (including Disney's purists). And it's not one I would
recommend for children because it isn't entirely appropriate for them.
It is extremely dark and there is plenty of disturbing and scary
content on this. The Horned King, for example, is the most
sinister-looking Disney villain ever. He is an undead skeleton with
demonic horns and eyes that glow red when he gets mad. And his voice is
creepy. The Horned King can make more sensitive or nervous children wet
their pants of fright. His appearance is repulsive.

The Horned King's servant Creeper is gross and his henchmen are just as
nauseating. They also have got 2 ferocious dragon-like creatures and
the most vicious dogs ever (together with DeSoto and Roscoe from
'Oliver & Company').

Horrible and disturbing things are seen in this film, including an army
of skeletons coming to life. Things like this could make kids have
horrible nightmares.

The 3 witches are not only hideous but also irritating and grotesque.

On the positive side, there are a few interesting characters. Princess
Eilonwy and Gurgi were the best characters. Princess Eilonwy is very
charming and very pretty and elegant and she's also got a pretty smile
and a friendly personality. Gurgi, whatever that thing is, is cute and
at the same hilarious and charming. His voice is so funny and cute and
I like his manner of speech filled with rhymed pairs of words,
especially "crunchings and munchings". Although a "fraidy cat" during
great part of the movie, he eventually becomes a hero.

Taran is cool, but sometimes he overacts, such as one scene in
particular which he is unfair towards Princess Eilonwy. Taran has a lot
in common with "Wart" from 'The Sword in the Stone': both are
similar-looking and both spend their days daydreaming, anxious to
become great warriors. Taran doesn't like to be an assistant pig

Hen Wen is a cute little pig. Fflewddur Fflam isn't a very appealing
character. He is an exaggerated broken down minstrel, so much that,
whenever he lies, one of his harp's strings breaks. He is boring.

The little fairies are likable. Doli was my favorite of the fairies
thanks to his strong personality and short temper which made him so

Surprisingly, this film has no songs except for one by Fflewddur Fflam.
Aside that, there is only some instrumental soundtrack.

The film's got some amazing special effects. Besides, the drawing style
(or artwork, whatever) is somewhat different in comparison to
traditional Disney films of the time, almost Don Bluth-like style.

6 is my final vote. Although, considering all the bad things I
mentioned, I'd even give it a lower rating.

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