The Black Cauldron (1985)


There was definitely potential. A dark Disney movie based on Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, about a farm boy’s brave attempt to stop a demonic king from conquering the land with his army of skeletal warriors? Sign me up! Unfortunately, Disney wasn’t willing to go the full mile with PG content (even the current dvd is edited for violence). It didn’t help that their entire animation department was new and relatively inexperienced. Most of the revered ‘Nine Old Men’ who gave us all the Disney classics up to that point had retired. The Black Cauldron became a proving ground for the new talent, and when it failed spectacularly, Disney moved the animators off the lot and into a warehouse, and locked the film in a vault for many years, not even releasing it to home video until the late `90s.

But is it really that bad? Well, kinda. There’s an amateur quality to the film, both in its storytelling and the quality of the animation. The story loses momentum at the half-way point, the characters aren’t endearing, the showdown between good and evil is anti-climactic, and the finale presumes emotional investment that the movie hasn’t earned. I like the villainous Horned King, voiced very well by John Hurt, but he’s an ornament on a bare tree. Even with new animators, I think The Black Cauldron could have worked if it only had a better script. Still — all problems aside, I still enjoy watching it if only for the novelty of ‘dark Disney’.

Share Button