A young pig keeper, a princess, and a bard must
stop an evil king from obtaining a dark weapon.
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich
Written by David Jonas, Vance Gerry, Ted Berman, Richard Rich,
Al Wilson, Roy Morita, Peter Young, Art Stevens, Joe Hale
Starring Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Nigel Hawthorne,
John Hurt, John Byner, Freddie Jones, Arthur Malet
Based on the book series The Chronicles of Prydain
by Lloyd Alexander
The Black Cauldron has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I can't explain it, but this movie always brings me a warm sense of nostalgic joy. It's by far the least Disney of all Disney's movies, featuring dark and horrifying imagery and some regrettably forgettable characters, including a Disney princess that never gets brought up in the discussion, Princess Eilonwy. I think a lot of people who know this movie aren't even aware that it's a Disney production. It was made in the forgotten period right before the success of The Little Mermaid, but I enjoy the film for my own personal reasons.
I think the film's worst quality is that it is a single film adapted from a five-part fantasy series. Admittedly, it is pretty disjointed and awfully bleak. But it's animated so beautifully, more akin to a film like The Last Unicorn that anything Disney has ever done. The music is stellar, and the villain is absolutely terrifying. John Hurt's vocal performance as the Horned King is exactly what I imagine the Devil sounds like. Our hero, Taran, is pretty bland, as are his companions Eilonwy and Fflweddur, and Gurgi is pretty annoying. But this film instills within me pure childlike wonder, and I remember watching it on VHS on my little TV. This film is such a treasure to me, and I can't really explain why.
The Black Cauldron will always be special to me, as it was one of my go-to videotapes when I was around six or seven. The plot is confusing, the characters are forgettable, and the ending is pretty sudden, but the animation is gorgeous and the visuals are way more terrifying than you'd expect from Disney. If you're tired of Disney's formula and you're looking for a lost classic that's a little out of the box, then this is the film you never knew you needed to see.