(US); 1985; Rated PG; 80 Minutes
Grant Bardsley: Taran
Susan Sheridan: Eilonwy
Freddie Jones: Dallben
Nigel Hawthorne: Fflewddur
Arthur Malet: King Eidilleg
John Byner: Gurgi/Doli
Eda Reiss Merin: Orddu
Adele Malis-Morey: Orwen
Billie Hayes: Orgoch
Phil Fondacaro: Creeper
Pete Renaday, James Almanzar, Wayne Allwine, Steve Hale,
Phil Nibbelink and Jack Laing: Henchmen
John Hurt: Horned King
Produced by Joe Hale;
Directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich; Screenwritten
by David Jonas, Vance Gerry, Ted Berman, Richard Rich,
Joe Hale, Al Wilson, Roy Morita, Peter Young, Art Stevens,
Rosemary Anne Sisson, and Roy Edward Disney; based on
the five novels of the series The Chronicles of Prydain
by Lloyd Alexander
by DAVID KEYES
far back as memory serves, Disney's animation studios have
produced their audiences some excellent films, but none
so classic as "Bambi" or "Pinocchio," of which his studio
was still in its golden era. When Disney died in 1967, his
last great movie was "Sleeping Beauty," and afterwards,
the studios fell into recession, making low-quality films
with poor animation techniques and a lack of memorability.
It wasn't until 1983 when the studio began to return the
magic of earlier years, when they presented the audience
"The Fox And The Hound," a film of which approached Walt's
original vision of animated magic.
then in 1985, the studio was under new management, and many
of the original Disney animators had already left. They
produced "The Black Cauldron," the first film of their modern-day
era of animated films. The film did not receive well-deserved
recognition because of it's first-ever PG rating, dark and
surreal landscapes, and creepy characters woven into the
have no doubt in my mind that Disney's studios regret doing
"The Black Cauldron," one of their biggest commercial flops
ever, but actually, the movie is a visual, enriched, and
traditional triumph. "The Black Cauldron," which recently
got its first U.S. video release, is an energetic and ambitious
animated tale where we envision the magic that Walt gave
us in "Snow White" and "Pinocchio." The characters are odd,
the animated techniques are ingenious, and it serves a purpose
in reminding us that even today's animation can't compare
to the brilliance that hand-drawn animation offers its audience.
Black Cauldron" follows the tale of a young boy named Taran,
who dreams of one day becoming a great warrior in the mythical
lands of Prydain. He finally gets the chance when he learns
(from a psychic pig named Hen-Wen) that the Horned King
(the most ruthless creature in all the land), is in search
of the mythical Black Cauldron.
Black Cauldron is the source of power in all their world.
Since Hen-Wen can predict where it is, she is extremely
valuable to the Horned King, and she fears he will soon
come looking for her.
requires a little explanation: this Cauldron, as the Horned
King discovers, can created endless undead armies that can
destroy worlds. With the Cauldron in his possession, he
can literally take over all of Prydain with his soldiers
of 'the cauldron-born.'
Taran discovers this, he feels it to be his duty to become
the great warrior he's dreamed of being by reaching the
black cauldron before the Horned King can get to it. The
movie sets up as mainly his quests across the open lands,
and discovering the place where the cauldron lies. Along
the way, Taran meets two intriguing characters: the beautiful
Eilonwy, and the cute Gurgi, both of whom are characters
that Taran at first does not seem to get along with.
most ways, these characters reflect some others from Disney
animated features. Taran is an over ambitious young lad,
who seems curious, and often makes the worst of decisions.
He is reminiscent of Pinocchio. Eilonwy provides the traditional
values of the fairy-tale princesses that Disney brought
to us in "Snow White" and "Sleeping Beauty," so she can
easily be ranked up there with Aurora or Snow White. The
annoying little Gurgi brews up mischief with Taran: once
by stealing his apple, and another time by backing out of
a trip with Taran to the Horned King's castle, thereby displaying
him as a coward in Taran's eyes. He's a cute little fellow,
with a certain level of annoyance, and I guess he sort of
reminds me of Thumper from "Bambi." You'll often see a guy
named Creeper on the screen, too, and though he is not the
most favorite of characters, he certainly has the willpower
to keep people's attention focused upon him. He works for
the Horned King, and gets blamed for every problem that
goes wrong. How can you not think of Sir Hiss from "Robin
Hood" in this case?
most of everyone's attention is focused directly on the
Horned King himself, who is prolific in nearly every sense.
He doesn't speak much in the film, and his character development
is not as strong as it should be, but he looks and acts
like he's among the great Disney villains: he absorbs his
audience with the brilliance of a dark voice and silhouetted
face. Looking at him, and his magnificent creations from
the cauldron, you almost wish that Taran would fail so we
could witness what animation could bring us if the Horned
King succeeds in his goal.
imagine that "The Black Cauldron" failed at theaters probably
because of the fact that it was dark and grizzly, but if
you think about it, is it any more dark and grizzly from
"Snow White" and "Pinocchio?" Those films, if released for
the first time today, might have been considered for PG
ratings, because they are frightening and creepy to the
point where small children might shrink down to their seats
in utter fright.
"The Black Cauldron" is not among "Bambi" or "Beauty And
The Beast," but in a list containing the great Disney films,
this one places seventh, behind "Bambi," "Beauty And The
Beast," "Sleeping Beauty," "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame,"
"Mulan," and "Pinocchio." I imagine you can call that praise.
1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.