This is the first in an ongoing series that will form a comprehensive review of the ‘official’ Walt Disney Animation Studios canon – from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through 2016’s Moana.
Here is a complete list of films in the Disney canon
- Film: The Black Cauldron
- Year: 1985
- Director(s): Ted Berman and Richard Rich
- Length: 80 Minutes
- Source Material: The first two books in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
- Official Budget: $44 Million
- Official Box Office: $21.3 Million
The Black Cauldron is not fondly remembered in the history of Disney animation, with poor critical reception and even worse box office performance. Disney took over 13 years to release it on home media and you would be hard pressed to find reference to the film in Disney theme parks or contemporary media.
The 25th Disney animated feature film, The Black Cauldron is a dark fantasy adventure film in the vein of The Lord of the Rings and with a strong foundation in Welsh mythology.
The Black Cauldron avoids the improper story structure that plagued many early Disney films; with a tightly defined protagonist in Taran, villain in The Horned King, and a well established ‘Set Up’, ‘Confrontation’, and ‘Resolution’ three-act plot structure.
While the film is easy enough to follow – Taran is seeking the titular magical cauldron before the evil Horned King can find it and use it to conquer all of Prydain; points are taken away for not having the emotional weight that the best of the Disney pantheon has to offer. The Black Cauldron has characters and storylines found more commonly in young adult books, several years older than the average Disney viewer.
Accolades should be given to Disney for taking risks with The Horned King, one of the most villainous and violent of all Disney antagonists. Taran and Princess Eilonwy are far too run-of-the-mill but are joined by a colorful cast of characters such as Gurgi, Doli, and Ffewddur Fflam.
Traditionally hand-drawn animation (albeit with the first use of CGI aided sequences in a Disney film), characters are drawn with a style that echoes those of the 1980s Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoons. Fashioned after the rather dark screenplay, The Black Cauldron is one of the most adult Disney entrants in terms of violence, innuendo, and death on screen.
There are no songs in The Black Cauldron.
While released during the forgotten Dark Ages of Disney, The Black Cauldron is an ambitious 80 minutes with an uncommonly young adult theme.