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The Black Cauldron

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  • [Chat] The Black Cauldron

    I finally got around to watching The Black Cauldron for the first time a couple days ago.

    I was interested to see this film due to all the negative reception it has received over the years(even though it has grown a cult following).

    Here's the pros:
    -Nice and smooth animation.
    -Moody atmosphere.
    -Horned King(all due to John Hurt's performance)
    -The Sword is pretty cool
    And the cons(get comfortable, there's quite a few):
    -Uninteresting story
    -Annoying main characters(There was abosolutely NO point to Elonwy being a princess in the movie, it's just a stupid title, Tarren was pretty annoying as well, he does nothing in this movie except hold his sword the whole time)
    -The music(While it can sound nice at times, it sounds JUST LIKE GHOSTBUSTERS!!. That's all I kept thinking about while watching the movie. I'm not insulting Elmer Bernstein I live his work, I just think he pulled a Leonard Rosenman)
    -The pacing.

    So The Black Cauldron is just a crappy 'meh' movie to me. Definitely not Disney's worst(Chicken Little). Interesting thing is that I view both of these movies as Disney trying to blend with the crowd. TBC was a response to all the dark and moody animated films like NIMH and most of Bluths films. And Chicken Little was a response to the successful Dreamworks formula of non stop pop-culture jokes. The similarities being they both failed miserably, yet I would rather watch TBC than Chicken Little.
    What do you guys think of this film? Anybody see it in theaters?

    What is thy bidding, my Mouseter?

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  • #2
    Re: The Black Cauldron

    Gurgi is hands-down one of my least favorite characters ever to appear in a Disney film. Worst kind of obnoxious 'cute' sidekick, and doesn't even have the decency to stay dead when the movie kills him off.

    Disney didn't know what it was doing, and didn't have the skill/nerve to stick with what the movie wanted to be (a dark fantasy) and the characters were dull, dull, dull and the 'action' not much better. Some great design and animation work, but that's about all I'd grant it. It had a lot of possibility, which was squandered.
    when the spooks have a midnight jamboree....


    • #3
      Re: The Black Cauldron

      It came out in 1985, when I was thirty; I didn't see it until recently. I have a copy on vhs and will put it in queue and get back to you.

      I have never had the misfortune of seeing Chicken Little. But percentage-wise, make enough movies and a few are bound to be real stinkers. (I am a big fan of NIMH, but a lot of that is my passion for rodents.)
      "Ignore the Chihuahua behind the curtain."


      • #4
        Re: The Black Cauldron

        Originally posted by DobbysCloset View Post
        I have a copy on vhs and will put it in queue and get back to you.
        At first watching, knowing that I am going to decide if this is an unsung gem or deservedly lost from pop culture, I am wishing I had a cleaner way to watch it. So it is interesting. Was the violence "before its time?" Did the little demon-thing get a part in Hunchback as well? The pig's eyelashes are a little off-putting. Too much mascara? To be continued.
        "Ignore the Chihuahua behind the curtain."


        • #5
          Re: The Black Cauldron

          Part of the problem with this movie is that it was based on five great books by Lloyd Alexander (under the group title "The Chronicles of Prydain"). Trying to squeeze all of them into one movie made for poor character development and a lot of the underlying story being left out. I think that this would be much better received it was produced today with all the advances in animation.


          • #6
            Re: The Black Cauldron

            I thought it was awful. It was a Lord of the Rings rip off. Lame story. Although I own it on DVD, I would never watch it again. It's certainly not Disney's best. Could be one of the worst along with Treasure Planet.


            • #7
              Re: The Black Cauldron

              I watched this movie many years ago, shortly after I finished reading the Chronicles of Prydain books, and I remember being really disappointed in it. Maybe if I hadn't liked the books so much, I wouldn't have found this film such a letdown. But I doubt it.
              The thing that bothered me the most was that Disney took this wonderful set of well-developed characters and watered them down to the point that they were just stock fantasy people: the hero, the beautiful princess, the bard, the animal companion. There was no life to any of them.
              I think Eilonwy was the worst casualty, and I don't mean just because she was designed all wrong (I mean, come on! In the books, she was consistently referred to as "the princess of the red-gold hair, not Princess Platinum of Barbieland!) That kind of thing can be overlooked. However, she was one of my favorite characters in the books. She was sweet, temperamental, and quirky, prone to overusing similies ("It makes me feel off-footed, somehow, like having three thumbs on one hand.") I adored her, and Disney made her this bland lady with no personality. They stripped all of the characters of any semblance of personality, honestly.
              As Disney does, they took a lot of liberties with the source material, so the storyline of the movie only vaguely resembles the storyline of the books. If done right, that can sometimes work and a great film can be made. This just definitely wasn't one of them. In short, the plot was oversimplified, and the characters were really boring. Even if I hadn't read the books, I don't think this would have made it onto my top 20 list of favorite movies. Or even my top 200, for that matter.

              It always makes me sad when I see such great literature handled so badly. It doesn't exactly make people want to read the original book when the movie is such a turn-off. When people complain about how awful The Golden Compass was, for example, I'm always compelled to cry, "No! Don't go by the movie! That wasn't The Golden Compass! Here, read the books! Read them!"
              I feel the same way about the Prydain books. They're such fun, and well-written, and it bums me out that for many people, they're only exposure to this world is the poorly-done movie from the Dark Days of Disney.


              • #8
                Re: The Black Cauldron

                I think I'm going to read the books soon.

                What is thy bidding, my Mouseter?

                Check out my tumblr:


                • #9
                  Re: The Black Cauldron


                  I saw the film upon it's original theatrical release in 1985.

                  At the time it was hyped because it was issued in a large print format, either 40mm or 60mm, and the marketing bragged about this heavily.
                  When it was released in theatres, it was also paired up with a Donald Duck cartoon short 'Chip's Away'....go figure! Yeah, a bit random considering how 'dark' TBC was...but it was a different time then.

                  I loved it. I was in my teens and already a huge animation fan, Disney and Bluth primarily. In 1985 'Cauldron' was high on my list to to 'Return to Oz' which i also loved which was released shortly before or after 'Cauldron'.

                  I remember clipping out the cool poster art graphics that were printed in the local newspapers and hanging them in my wall in my room. After i saw the film i bought the 12" story record ( with booklet!) and would listen to it a lot.
                  I even made a marionette of Gurgi and still have him, as well as a store bought Gurgi plush made at that time.
                  Yeah..i was a freak.

                  I still enjoy the film, but can easily see why it 'flopped' back in the day. Back in 1985 Disney as a studio was still somewhat in it's 'in-between' time as far as blockbuster family films, and just about everyone who went in the theatre with kids to see 'Cauldron' was likely expecting some cute adventure with furry animals. surprise for many.

                  I remember sitting in the theatre and actually seeing parents walk out of the movie when The Horned King showed up. By the end of the film, i think only about 60% of the packed theatre was still there. I know many were dissapointed and were expecting something more 'family friendly'...but this is why i so enjoyed it : it was NOT family friendly and definately more of a dark, moody, fantasy. I loved that aspect of it.

                  Sure it had some stupid moments.....but for every dumb moment there were other moments worth wading through the miss-steps.
                  The effects animation was awesome..and trumpeted at that time in the media. Most reviews said the animation and effects were stunning, but that the story material and setting was far too spooky for young viewers.
                  Heck, the film was famous for being the first PG-rated Disney Animated Feature...and it more then deserved that rating in my mind. There was some creepy concepts happening in that film....big time. The rise of the Deathless Warriors, and exspecially the amazingly animated demise of The Horned King being sucked into the Cauldron surely won that rating for those scenes alone.

                  I still loved it all. I loved the darkness...the creepy edge...and grittiness.
                  Yes the main characters were washouts for the most part, but i was not enjoying this movie because of them. I was being entertained by The Horned King and his rabble, Creeper,The Witches of Morva, and the Gywphants (sp?). I was enjoying the background artwork, the castle interiors...and basically looking at the movie with different eyes. It was all about the art aspects..and the animation...and less about the story and weak lead characters.

                  If a film like this was released today, i think it would have done better and have been more easily accepted by the public. Dark fantasy films are all the rage now it seems, and with a slightly upgraded visual animation style, and of course slightly stronger lead characters, i think a re-done 'Cauldron' would do well.

                  I tend to enjoy the obscure Disney Animated Features more then the more publically excepted pieces. They are interesting in their differences, and the darker tone and changes in pacing make even films like 'The Black Cauldron' worth viewing a few times.

                  I do have to wonder though...what on Earth DFA was thinking while they were making this movie.
                  I mean...who decided this material was suitable for their audiences at that time?

                  It is hard for people to understand today what Walt Disney Productions was like back in 1985, but it was quite different to how things are accepted and developed today.
                  How something like this could be green lit for development back in the late 70s and go through years of work is still surprising, even considering the times.
                  Perhaps the Studio wanted to try to break out of their mold...and wanting to make a film that was for more mature audiences? I remember at the time thinking it truly was quite a departure from their usual style and tone for a animated feature.

                  At the time of development it was being touted as a 'artists film' much like Sleeping Beauty was being promoted. Some will find that laughable, but it was the same kind of mind set as far as promoting 'The Black Cauldron' at the time. I think it definately has a strong artistic flavor, as most of the films at FA do...but at the time not many people seemed to appreciate it.

                  I am glad there are people taking the time to check it out.
                  It is worth having a look, for The Horned King, effects animation, and overall background art.
                  Last edited by Figments Friend; 06-27-2013, 04:43 PM.