Not too many remember when this movie was released... it BOMBED in theatres.
For starters, no one was ready for a PG rated Disney cartoon... especially one that IS NOT a musical. I think it lasted about two weeks in the theaters, then Disney pulled it.
(Something else people might not realize is that, while a failure in theaters, The Black Cauldron was modified and ported over into TV. It became one of Disney's most successful animated TV series: The Gummy Bears. While Taran, Eilonwy, and Creeper are renamed and not the main characters, they are in there!)
Left in the Disney vaults until 1998, this now restored full-length animated feature is a gem, if not a bit rough around the edges. Without your standard "filler" material of songs and silly dancing, The Black Cauldron uses dialog, stunning animation, and action to keep it moving.
The movie is dark, foreboding, and just plain creepy. It is rated PG, and I DO NOT recommend letting your kids sit in front of this one alone!
But for all its good points, The Black Cauldron strays far from Lloyd Alexander's books, too much is left unexplained, and you never get the chance to really care for any of the characters. Compared to other Disney movies, this is a major change as we're always drawn in and quickly bond with the lead characters.
Oh, and contrary to what other reviewers have said, this was NOT Disney's first PG rated movie. That honor goes to The Black Hole (1979).
While this movie is a must for Disney collectors, the rest of us could pass it up and not miss much.
on January 22, 2002
Being an avid Disney video collector, I of course saw trailers for this release hitched onto other 1998 tapes, and was genuinely amazed with them alone. Needless to say I ran out to the store August 4 of that year to buy my copy of this never-before-released-on-video animated Disney flick and popped it into the VCR as soon as I got home. I honestly do not understand why so many people who have reviewed this movie have called it bad. Sure, it's different, and yes, it did recieve a PG rating, but those are not nessesarily bad things. And, yes, appearently it IS different from the book, but, putting all of that aside, it is a WONDERFUL movie, and, unlike some reviewers, I'm very glad that they let it out of the vaults.
Taran, dreams of being an incridible warrior, but soon finds himself reduced to searching for Hen Wen, a young pig he tends to that has run away. This eventually leads to his embarking on a quest to find the mythical Black Cauldron, which gives the one who bears it ultumate power, before the evil Horned King. Aside from the adventurous, dark mood, the movie carries other strengths, too. First off, the characters are amazing and can be related to. I too have dreams and fears just like Taran (in fact quite simmilar in one perspective), and he is like a welcome friend to me. Gurgi is cute and funny and is this movie's classic Disney sidekick; there's one in every classic, you know. Second, there's the annimation - it's amazingly mood-setting and obviously helped the animators learn a great viriaty of skills they would use in later films. Finally, there's the film's tear-jerking (yes, I did say "tear-jerking" in regard to Disney's "The Black Cauldron," folks) ending and the timeless moral that is illustrated within it -- I won't say what it is; you have to go rent (or better yet buy) this too-often-ignored Disney gem to find that part out. To top it all off, the original 1998 release has a very cool-looking cover, supposedly "FX packaging" according to some old TV spots; the Gold reissue has a wonderful (different) logo and cover image too.
All in all, I can't find a negative thing to say about it. The DVD supposedly has it in widescreen, which I'd love to see - and the Gold Collection issue (in both VHS and DVD formats) has "Trick or Treat," a classic Donald Duck short. I don't know why I don't have this on DVD yet! It's something you and I should both make a point to get. Amazing! ***** 5/5
In 1985, Walt Disney Pictures released their 25th animated feature in July 1985. The animated film "The Black Cauldron" is based on the first two novels of Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" books (a total of five novels were created from 1964-1968) and is based on Welsh mythology.
"The Black Cauldron" is the first Disney film to utilize the APT process (a photographic transfer system that can transfer lines or solid blocks of colors onto cels) and as most new animated technology, the film was quite expensive to make.
It was also a Disney film in which it was an interesting risk for the company as the studio wanted to created a PG-rated animated film, especially since the original books that the animated film was adapted from, was quite dark. Because the animated film was not a musical nor was it a happy, uplifting film that many young children would want to see, the film didn't perform quite well in the box office (the film was budgeted at $25 million and made $21 million).
But times have changed since the "The Black Cauldron" was shown in the theater and with films such as "The Lord of the Rings" and television shows such as "The Legend of the Seeker" are more common place for today, there is no doubt that the storyline of "The Black Cauldron" will attract viewers and now "The Black Cauldron" will receive its DVD re-release in Sept. 2010 (the original "The Black Cauldron - Gold Collection" DVD was released in 2000) to celebrate the film's 25th anniversary.
"The Black Cauldron" is presented in widescreen 2:35:1 (enhanced for 16×9 televisions). The first thing that came to my mind while watching this film is how beautiful the artistic backgrounds were. There is a lot of painted with a lot of detail in the background. From the look of the wood homes or buckets, to the lush scenery of grass and water or even the detail of the dark forest, "The Black Cauldron" looks fantastic. Walt Disney had done a fantastic job with the hand-drawn animation and overall look of the film. The last film before "The Black Cauldron" was the 1981 film "The Fox and the Hound", so it is no surprise to me that because the amount of detail we see in this film, this film took years to make.
The film looks great! But because of the film's dark subject matter, it's unfortunate that the film was not appreciated when it was released in 1985 and it makes me wonder, because the film is not a box office earning classic, if it will ever receive Disney's wonderful HD restoration and remastering treatment in the future?
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Black Cauldron" is presented in Dolby Digital (English, French and Spanish 5.1 surround). The dialogue is clear and understandable and if anything, I found myself just laughing at the parts that featured Gurgi talking. Love the sound effects that went into creating his voice. I will say that Elmer Bernstein's music ("Twilight", "Cape Fear", "Bulletproof") in the film is fantastic!
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
"The Black Cauldron - 25th Anniversary" comes with the following special features:
* Deleted Scene--(9:50) The Fairfolk: Viewers join Taran, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi and Princess Eilonwy as they travel into the depths of the earth and meet the Fairfolk. A combination of animation and the deleted animated and non-animated sketch of the various scenes.
* Still Frame Gallery--A compilation of behind-the-scenes artwork and photos that you can view via using your remote control (or keyboard).
* The Witches' Challenge Game--In order to defeat the dark powers of the Horned King, players must gain possession the magical sword from the Witches of Morva by solving their riddles.
* Quest For the Black Cauldron--A trivia game in which players compete against the evil Horned King in a race to reach the Black Cauldron first.
* Trick Or Treat-- (8:15) A classic Donald Duck Jack Hannah Halloween cartoon from 1952.
"The Black Cauldron" probably didn't make sense to viewers in 1985 but 25-years-later, the story is quite tame and I personally didn't find the overall film to be too dark. In fact, I watched it along with my seven-year-old and he just enjoyed the film and was quite engrossed while watching it.
I found the film to be quite entertaining but by saying this, I know that the film is based on Lloyd Alexander's "The Prydain Chronicles" and the fact there are five-volumes created, If the first two volumes were condensed to an 80-minute film, you can imagine a lot of story being lost, especially storylines that were meant to focus on character development.
So, having not read the original novels, I can imagine those who did enjoy them, may feel a bit disenchanted with the film and with Disney trying to fit everything into one film and also the film missing a lot of characters from the book and I've also read that Disney did change a few things to make it more Disney friendly. But again, this was released in 1985 and that was how things were back then with Disney.
"The Black Cauldron - 25th Anniversary" does add a little more content from its original 2000 "Gold Collection" DVD release. You do get the new "The Witches" challenge game and you do get a full nine minute deleted scene as well. And for those who are wondering, the animated short "Trick or Treat" starring Donald Duck and his 3 nephews is still included as well as the previous other special features as well. It's also important to note that Disney did improve it's DVD authoring after 2003, so since the film was released originally on DVD in 2000, there is an improvement in picture quality on this 2010 DVD release.
As for parents, this is a PG film and I would not recommend this film to very young children. The Horned King is an evil nemesis and a villain that can be too frightening for children and although there are no sexual themes in the film, there are parts where you see a buxom witch and seeing the character Fflewddur Fflam getting his head stuck between them. A scene which my wife did comment and was surprised to see (especially since we had our child watching along with us).
Overall, "The Black Cauldron" is a good film but I say this, having not read the original novels (so I don't share the same disappointment as those who have). I do feel that the writers really did have a major challenge of trying to incorporate so much into an 80-minute film and the fact that the film only covers the first two novels, it's a shame that the other three novels will not be made into an animated format. But I suppose if you go with this film's storyline on its own, despite having a dark storyline, in Disney fashion, you do have the happy ending.
I was very impressed by the artistic painted backgrounds and the animation was well-done. But compared to other Disney animated classics, the storyline was good but not great and I refuse to call it an inferior film because it's not inferior at all. It's just that Disney has so many great films and "The Black Cauldron" is not one of them. But I found the film to feature a good amount of fantasy and action and it looks fantastic. It's definitely a Disney animated film worth watching.
If you have not watched this Disney animated film, definitely give "The Black Cauldron - 25th Anniversary" a try!
on October 17, 2010
To be honest, I didn't know what to expect when I popped The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Edition into my DVD player. Sure, I've heard of it, but all I really knew is that it came from Disney's "Dark Era" (like The Great Mouse Detective), and that it takes place in a Tolkienesque world. And yes, The Black Cauldron is bold and different. This is not your average Disney fare.
The story revolves around a young boy named Taran, an assistant pig keeper who dreams of one day becoming a hero. Of course, his daydreaming usually ends up getting him into trouble, like losing his pig, Hen Wen, to the Horned King (who looks like Skeletor's more competent older brother). Why would your-paint-by the-numbers Evil Overlord want a pig? Well, it turns out this pig is magic, and can tell the future and where things are. And since the Horned King is looking for the Black Cauldron, a magical object that will give him an army of undead walking skeletons, he wants said pig. So Taran goes on an epic quest to save his pig and destroy the Black Cauldron. Along the way, he is joined by a minstrel named Fflewddur Fflam, a princess named Eilonwy (apparently the Disney Princesses line completely forgot about her, just like everyone else), and a thing named Gurgi that looks like an Ewok and talks like Donald Duck. Through the course of their journey they encounter witches, Fair Folk, and other mystical creatures. Eventually, they have to face the Horned King himself.
First off, I was really surprised to discover there was another Disney Princess I had never heard of, especially since this one is much closer in age to the Disney Princess line's target market. The next thing that stood out is how dark, violent and scary this movie is: its seems more like something up Ralph Bakshi's alley than Disney's. This may explain why it was a renowned flop; people have certain expectations for Disney films: It will have action and suspense, an exciting climax, and some patches of darkness, but the overall tone of the film is expected to be light. The Black Cauldron just isn't that kind of movie; it's still a children's movie, but it is definitely more geared for older kids.
Another problem is that darker doesn't automatically equal better. In this case, the movie has a definite lack of enjoyable characters. Taran himself is a boring, bland, selfish, unlikable character who still manages to remind me too much of Arthur/Wart from The Sword in the Stone. Most of the characters are bland; those that aren't are stereotypes; and many are both. The only character with any personality is Gurgi, and he's the comic relief!
Even when a Disney film suffers from bland heroes (I'm looking at you, Herc), a good villain can save the movie. They may be evil, but Gaston, Hades and Jafar are all have some sort of lightness to them, like you know you can't take them too seriously. The Horned King is nothing like that. He is dark, evil, quite, and just plain damn scary. In half of his scenes you can't even see his face. As a result you never feel a connection to him, and it leaves him feeling like just a clichéd, humorless villain. Even Judge Frollo, who was played straight and shown to have his own weaknesses to overcome, was compelling! The Horned King, not so.
Its weak characters aside, The Black Cauldron does still manage to be exciting. I was expecting relatively mediocre animation, as in The Great Mouse Detective, but I was absolutely blown away by the visuals. The animation in this movie is some of the best I've ever seen, most notably a scene where Hen Wen is captured by dragons. The transfer on this particular DVD is brilliant, providing a nice full picture, surprisingly in CinemaScope (2.35:1 widescreen as opposed to most animated films that are 1.85:1 widescreen). The DVD also has both French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Most of the special features are carried over from the previous release: "Trick or Treat" (an entertaining Donald Duck cartoon), "The Quest for the Black Cauldron" trivia game and a still frame gallery. The only new features on this disc are "The Witches' Challenge" game, which is essentially a rather dull Black Cauldron point-and-click riddle game, reminiscent of Dora the Explorer, and a deleted scene. For those hoping for the infamous "man being dissolved by mist" scene that was cut from the film for a better rating, prepare to be disappointed: the deleted scene in question here is an alternate, more boring version of when the gang meets the Fair Folk, and it's understandable why it was cut, as it would've definitely slowed the movie down. It's about ten minutes long and is told through storyboards and pencil tests. The rest of the DVD is filled out with previews for upcoming releases, and promos for DisneyFile Digital Copy and Disney Blu-ray (basically the Sprouse brothers explaining why Blu-ray is "suite". Their word, not mine).
It's really quite a shame. Here we are, given a decent movie with a good transfer and practically no special features. This seems to be the case more and more often, as of late. Considering the troubled production this movie had, we should've at least had a retrospective documentary or a commentary. If you're like me and care about special features, I'd wait until the inevitable Blu-ray release several years down the road, though seeing how poorly Disney treats this film, I wouldn't be surprised if we get no special features there as well.
Overall, The Black Cauldron is a decent fantasy movie, and an interesting experiment on the part of the Disney animation studio. Considering what a rarity it is--a dark Disney fantasy--it certainly deserves at least a rental, especially if you've never seen it before.
on April 15, 2005
In 1985, Disney attempted to do a PG-rated swords-and-sorcery animated tale based on a good source material--Lloyd Alexander's CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN. The resulting movie had a lot of winning things going for it--for one, the animation was impressive for its time, showcasing an early mixture of CG effects. A massive underscore by Elmer Bernstein (which remains one of the best for a Disney movie) substitutes singing characters here. In addtion, there are at least some well-defined (and created) characters, notably the young, inexperienced "pig-boy" Taran, the terrifying Horned King (voiced superbly by John Hurt) and of course the two "comic" characters, Gurgi (a Gollum-like character with a childlike innocence and more loyalty--and an equally cuddly voice) and Creeper (a great baddie sidekick for a villain).
And yet the movie is considered Disney's greatest failure. It is understandable to see why: for one, the movie flopped at the box office (in fact, it took more than 10 years after its theatrical debut to finally arrive on home video). Second, in trying to compress the five-volume "Chronicles of Prydain" into one movie, the story comes across as a little too overplotted and frustratingly leaves questions one is likely to have about its characters (and magic rules) unanswered. The third reason is that aside from the aforementioned quartet of Taran, the Horned King, Gurgi, and Creeper, the characters aren't as well defined or memorable as they could be. In particular, Princess Eilonwy (whose bitchiness from the novels has been noticeably toned down for the film) comes across as an underdeveloped heroine--her abrupt shift from berating Taran's boasting about who got them out of trouble to a quasi-romantic love interest felt jarring to me. The same, frustratingly, feels true for many of the other characters, even if some of them (Fflewdurr Flamm, an elderly minstrel whose harpstrings happen to snap every time he lies) are actually quite likeable and/or interesting (a trio of batty witches who hold the titular object).
But even with its flaws, THE BLACK CAULDRON is by no means Disney's worst animated feature (that prestigious title belongs to HERCULES and probably HOME ON THE RANGE). True, it is problematic, but I nonetheless enjoyed the movie and applaud the animators for painting a grim, gothic fantasy setting through art. If only the plotting and characters were better developed, it would've been a classic. I would definitely recommend reading the books to get a full experience on the universe Disney was struggling to portray but by all means try out the movie as well. It has a lot of high points and there are some great animation effects (notably when an army of skeleton warriors comes alive), even though it probably isn't one of Disney's best.
A word of caution to parents: this is probably not a good film for children to watch. THE BLACK CAULDRON was clearly rated PG for a reason--not anything in the way of graphic violence or profanity, but there are lots of scenes which do come across as nightmarish, especially those involving the Horned King.
As far as the DVD release goes, it's a bit sparse on the extras, but the slide-show feature on its production origins and spin-offs warrants the purchase alone. The visual transfer is well done (aside from a few film scratches and one period of dirt filter) and it sure beats watching a pan-and-scan version. The real star of the DVD, though is the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. THE BLACK CAULDRON was originally mixed for six-track Dolby Surround, and the music by Elmer Bernstein comes across as brilliant and the dialogue separation is impeccable.
So there you have it, my impressions of this flawed yet grossly undervalued entry to the Disney animation cannon. True, it's far from perfect, but as long as you don't compare it to the books (and acknowledge that it was created at a time when the studio was in something of a slump), THE BLACK CAULDRON is enjoyable and leaps and bounds above the weakest animated films ever made.
on October 3, 2000
Of all the animated films Walt Disney Pictures has produced over the last 60+ years, "The Black Cauldron" is perhaps the least well-known. Upon initial release it was a commercial disaster, and was greeted with a cool reception by critics. That was July of 1985. It is hard to decipher, however, why the film has been Disney's "black sheep" aside from its non-performance at the turnstiles. Viewed on its own terms, it is a marvelous animated film, kept too long from its potential admirers. It is for one thing based on Lloyd Alexander's masterful pentology "The Chronicles of Prydain". Those who crave a great Arthurian legend (and in this age of Harry Potter mythology seems to be the greatest fad ever wrought upon mankind) this film should not be missed. It is admittedly not of the calibre of the books upon which it is based- the main action of the animated feature borrows sequences and characters from the stories which were never directly associated with one another- this is the film's most noteworthy fallacy. Also, it is not-repeat NOT- a musical, one of the very few Disney films driven by action instead of music. I'd be wanton to consider this a fault. Charming as Disney tunes are, there ought to be exceptions, and this is one example of an exception to the rule unfairly judged. The characters themselves are quite enjoyable- Taran is a bit bland, but Eilonwy, Gurgi, Fflewdur Fflam and Creeper are first rate animated heroes. The Horned King is voiced and depicted expertly and arouses genuine terror. This movie is quite distinct from the earlier Arthurian legend animated by Disney ("The Sword In The Stone") but it is clearly related to Disney's first television success, "The Gummi Bears" likewise set in similar times and with the same characters under different guises (Cavin IS Taran, Calla IS Eilonwy, and Toadie is most definitely Creeper!) This film will be enjoyed by many generations of children and adults- thankfully Disney has decided to make it available at last to its future audience.
on November 13, 2001
This is a fantastic action adventure story, that gave a much needed break to Disney's wonderful musical. Not one song is in this film, and that gives it a major benifit becuase it kept the film very serious and dark. A lot of the past reviewers have said that the animation is not very good. Aside from one scene, I strongly disagree with this. The animation is not extraordinary, but it does succeed in making the atmospheric mood a very dark one.
Besides, animation is not what carries this film, it's it's characters. Starting foremost, with the Horned King, a villian that goes beyond any bad guy before him using the Cauldron's magic to resurrect his army of skeletons. This provides one of the movie's most intense and dramatic sequences. The comedic relief in this film belong to Creeper, the king's goblin creature and Gurgi, a cowardly creature who redeems himself later in the film. Both do well in making us laugh, but not going too far to avoid taking the film's dark feel. Taran is the main character, but aside from knowing that he wants to be a hero, not much is known of him.
This film is greatly underappreciated, mostly becuase it was a severe economical failure. What Disney lost in $, they gained in creative expansion, beginning to be able to tackle many different subject matters for different audiences.
The Gold Collection DVD, includes "Trick or Treat", a classic Donald vs his nephews cartoon.
on August 16, 2001
This movie is sadly a forgotten one. I had never heard of it until they released it on DVD. I was quite surprised too, its hardly "disney-like" No singing, different animation style, and a much darker story. Overall its a good film.
I keep reading in other people's reviews how its "not like the book" that may be true (and the books are much better)but who cares? its a good film in its own right and it just might serve to introduce people to the books who might never have heard of them (like me). Besides that we could complain that EVERY disney movie is not like the story its based on. Have you every read The Jungle Book? Or any of the classic fairytales like Sleeping beauty or Beauty and the Beast? Or how bout the Little mermaid? Talk about rewritten endings! The little mermaid DIES in the end of the fairytale!
My point is every disney movie is VERY LOOSLEY based on some classic. They TOTALLY rewrite ALL their stories keeping only the basic plot points (if any)and the main characters, then they throw in some songs and cute/funny sidekicks. But does any of this make me enjoy Sleeping Beauty or the Little Mermaid less? No! and it shouldn't make you enjoy it less either. Enjoy the Stories/Books for what they are, and enjoy these Disney films for what they are.
So go buy or rent this movie already!You might be quite surprised like I was.
on November 4, 2000
I think the biggest problem people have with this movie is that it's not like other Disney movies. This means no happy happy joy joy attitude and no songs(which I actually find distracting in most disneymovies). Other than that I've heard people dissing it because it's not like the books. Well I haven't read the books but that might make me more objective cause I DO love this movie. I love dark stories and this is indeed a dark story. I mean in what other disneymovie do we get to see Undead.
Personally this is my favorite Disneymovie. It has magic, dragons, rather creepy villains(they could be straight out of a horror movie) and faeries. Also very noteworthy is Eilonwy. She's my favorite princess from all the Disney movies. It's funny to see how clumsy she and Taran act around eachother. Speaking of him. I think he's believable. He shares my wish to be great someday. Too bad I don't live in a magic kingdom tho... o well :)
Sure this movie looks a little dated compared to more recent Disneymovies but I mean we're talking the 80's here. When they didn't use 3D modeling to make 90% of the movie.
All I can say is that this is a charming movie which is way underrated. And that it's more likely to appeal to people with a darker taste(people who like Tim Burton's work for example) than to the typical Disney fan.
Okay that's my 2 cents for today.
on November 26, 2013
Disney Studios 25th full length animated feature film. The Black Caldron is one of Disney's different efforts, for one it is not a musical. This is another decent entry in the Disney animated film cannon with great animation and dramtic use of color and wonderful backgrounds, but the films after Sleeping Beauty just don't have the Disney luster we've all become accustomed to in the early days.
While this isn't Disney's best, it is an enjoyable and pretty solid film. The animation process has been fleshed out more and the new animation process isn't as jarring as it seemed in Sword and the Stone. The artwork is beautiful in the film, but it is a totally different style.
OK, now about the film and video releases. I have owned both DVD releases and the 25th anniversary DVD is far and away the best choice. The first release was released in full screen and fortunately the 25th anniversary edition is presented in 2:35:1 the correct aspect ratio. It would be nice to see this film on Blu Ray as the 25th DVD looks and sounds great. The extras are very thin with a stills gallery, lost scene and nothing more really worth mentioning. Why can't we get a making of for each of these films? Is it too much to ask to have some insight on these "animated classic" even if only 15-20 minutes long?
If you must own Disney's The Black Caldron then the 25th anniversary edition is a no brainer, but that is until Disney decides it's time to release it on Blu Ray?.....let's hope they don't mess it up!