Some background information: (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).
Official Title: The Black Cauldron
Release: July 24, 1985
Running Time: 80 minutes
Estimated Cost: $25 million (more than twice as much than Fox and Hound
Estimated Revenue: $21.2 million (talk about a flop: it’s the first one to fail on initial theatrical release since Bamibi yikes!)
Overall Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Taran, an assistant pig keeper, is tired of his life, but is soon to be sent on a life alerting adventure as Hen Wen (his pig) is revealed to be an oracle, and predicts his own capture by the Horned King, who is after the Black Cauldron. This cauldron can reanimate dead corpses. Taran, instructed by Dallben, takes Hen Wen to a safe location, but as young boys tend to do, Taran daydreamed about being the boy to take down the Horned King and Hen Wen runs away.
Taran is attacked by a creature called Gurgi (who talks like Golem from Lord of the Rings and looks like a dog/sloth). Gurgi abandons his quest to steal Taran’s apple, when the times get tough.
After sneaking into the Horned King’s castle and sending Hen Wen to safety, Taran is captured himself, only after Hen Wen has partially revealed the location of the Black Cauldron. He is rescued by Princess Eilonwy (who also saves Fflewddur Fflam), he also finds the true kings magical sword.
The three of them find Hen Wen who’s been kept safe by the Fairies, who then in turn send the heroes to a set of witches, where they trade the sword for the Black Cauldron. The Horned King is one step ahead and steals the cauldron; and recaptures the three heroes (who have been rejoined by Gurgi).
After rising the army of the undead, the Horned King goes to lead them, when Gurgi sacrifices his life as a living offering for the cauldron (to stop the spell that is animating the corpses. As the spell begins to retreat it pulls everything in, including the Horned King.
The witches return to take the cauldron back, but Fflewddurr Fflam makes a deal for Gurgi’s life to be returned in exchange for the cauldron.
The movie closes with Dallben watching Hen Wen’s vision of the heroes (including Gurgi) walking away from the witches.
There were no songs sung in the movie (although there was a good score).
Plot Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Wow, such a dark film from Disney. I honestly can’t even imagine what WDAS was thinking when they made this movie. There was blood! It even received a PG rating!
However, I think this movie had the most action in any WDAS movie. It was strong on plot, but the characters were a little lacking when it came to depth. The movie was about the action, as opposed to the characters (very unlike the previous film Fox and Hound that was all about the relationship between the titular characters).
Animation Rating: 3 out of 5
A new style of animation style, called APT, was what prevented this film from getting a higher rating. I’m not completely sure how the APT process works, but it seems that a picture is taken of each hand-drawn still and the negative is processed on the cell. I will have a better feeling about APT after Mouse Detective (this process was only used for four movies).
The coloring was very dark, and in just one scene, the colors would change a lot! (Eilonwy’s hair was even black in one scene).
The Test of Time:
This movie was lost to time, and only makes it appearance out of the vault on the scheduled dates. There is no appearance of Black Cauldron in the parks and I can see why. This was a bomb for WDAS, the movie was not a family feature and included too many dark moments that aren’t expected from a Disney movie.
I also think that I might revisit this movie once a remastered version is released to see how much better it has faired.
Through the Modern Lens
I liked how Eilonwy was such an independent princess. She doesn’t need Taran to save her; in fact she rescues him. Eilonwy should be exemplar when someone says that Disney princesses are all dainty and need a prince to complete their lives. The only problem with Eilonwy being the model for the anti-princess, is that this movie is unknown!
The Great Mouse Detective