Black Cauldron, The (1985)

“Soon the Black Cauldron will be mine!”

Synopsis:
A young pigkeeper named Taran (Grant Bardsley) is sent on a mission to locate and destroy a magical black cauldron coveted by the evil Horned King (John Hurt).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of this “25th cartoon feature” by Disney — its “first 70 mm cartoon since Sleeping Beauty” — by noting that “critics overpraised” it “out of appreciation for the studio’s attempt to return to old-style, ambitious animation”. He argues that it “doesn’t have the subtlety of the Disney classics”, but notes that “while the backgrounds are lifeless”, obvious “care was taken in animating foreground action, as well as character movements and facial expressions”. He accurately points out that “the human characters are a bit innocuous” (indeed, they’re imminently forgettable), and that “the plot has few surprises and many weak points”. However, he argues that kids “won’t be bored”, that it’s a “pleasant diversion” for adults, and that it “makes the refreshing point that loyalty and friendship are more important than heroism”.

These days — especially knowing that a handful of neo-Disney masterpieces (i.e., The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) were yet to come — The Black Cauldron definitely strikes one as more of an innocuous “miss” than anything worth celebrating as a come-back. Indeed, Time Out calls it a “major disappointment”, while many others note that it simply recycles a number of cliches from earlier Disney films while failing to bring any charm or originality to the proceedings. Meanwhile, Richard Scheib of Moria points out that the film’s timing was unfortunate as well, given that it was conceived right around the time when Star Wars (1977) was enjoying tremendous popularity, but not released until the mid-80s, when “the genre had moved on”. Ultimately, then, this one is only must-see for Disney completists.

P.S. The “cowardly half-human-half-creature Gurgi” — erroneously labeled by Peary as “cute” and “cuddly” — has got to be one of Disney’s most annoying sidekicks EVER. (“Oh, poor miserable Gurgi deserves fierce smackings and whackings on his poor, tender head. Always left with no munchings and crunchings.” Arrgh!). He’s eerily reminiscent of Andy Serkis’s Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which in itself was a clearly an inspiration for Lloyd Alexander’s original children’s fantasy series, upon which this film was based).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some effectively creepy animation

Must See?
No, unless you’re a Disney completist.

Links:

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