The Black Cauldron (1985) Poster


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The first Disney animated feature to not contain any songs, neither performed by characters nor in the background.
The first Disney animated theatrical feature to receive a PG rating, and had been the only one to have that rating up until Dinosaur (2000). It had to be edited twice to avoid being released with a PG-13 (a New MPAA Rating introduced one year prior) or R rating. Ironically, it was given a U rating in the U.K. (their equivalent of a G rating), uncut for "mild fantasy violence and scary scenes".
Known by many as "the film Disney tried to bury", fans of both the fantasy genre and the film itself, have tried many times to get the film's deleted footage restored.
The Black Cauldron (1985) is notable for being the first full-length Disney animated feature film to incorporate computer-generated imagery (CGI) in its animation. The CGI was utilized for a lot of the film's special effects, which includes the bubbles, a boat, a floating orb of light, the Cauldron itself, the realistic flames seen near the end of the movie, and the boat that Taran and his friends used to escape the castle. The dimensions and volume of the animated objects were fed into a computer and then their shapes were manipulated through computer programming before they were transferred as physical outlines the animators could work on. Despite The Black Cauldron (1985) being released a year before The Great Mouse Detective (1986), both films were in production simultaneously for some time and the computer graphics for the latter were done first. When producer Joe Hale heard about what was being done, the possibilities made him excited and he made the crew from The Great Mouse Detective (1986) project create some computer animation for his own film. For others effects, animator Don Paul used live action footage of dry ice mists to create the steam and smoke coming out of the Cauldron.
Suspended from video release for several years, due to its dark content.
The first Disney movie to have full closing credits with music, and the first to have any sort of closing credits since Alice in Wonderland (1951) (which only featured a Voice Cast, despite it already appearing in the Opening Credits (only featuring the voice actor names without the ones they voice)).
First full-length Disney animated film since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to have completed scenes cut prior to release.
Tim Burton's last and only other involvement with a Disney animated film, before he became a filmmaker in his own right.
Tim Burton, who worked as a Conceptual Artist on this film, wanted to incorporate minions of the Horned King that were akin to the "facehuggers" from the Alien film franchise. Some samples of his work can be seen on Disney's 2000 DVD of this title.
According to Animation Artist Michael Peraza, Jr., when Disney started having screenings for the public at the studio theater to gather their reactions to the rough cut of this film, he knew that the "un-dead" section would most likely be revolting to some in the audience, who would not expect to see a bunch of rotted corpses slowly fermenting. When the film reached the "un-dead" sections close to the end of the film, the doors opened and a mother was angrily leaving with her two wailing children. She was followed by another, and soon there was a sizable exodus of crying kids and upset parents fleeing from the theater. The un-dead sections were quickly cut from the film.
The management team at Walt Disney Productions changed during the film's post-production in 1984. Jeffrey Katzenberg, then-newly installed Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios' motion picture division, screened the nearly completed film and he was appalled by its darkness and graphic nature. He suggested editing the film and when producer Joe Hale protested (animated films are typically not edited in post-production the same way live-action films are), Katzenberg responded by having the film brought into an edit bay and editing the film himself. Informed of what Katzenberg was doing by Hale, Michael Eisner, then-newly installed CEO and Chairman of Walt Disney Productions, called Katzenberg in the editing room and convinced him to stop. Though he did what Eisner insisted, Katzenberg requested that the film be modified, and a compromise deal was reached. Katzenberg, then, delayed its scheduled Christmas 1984 release to July 1985 so that the film could be reworked. Had it not went through many last-minute drastic changes, The Black Cauldron (1985) would have held the distinction of being the only full-length Disney animated feature film and the first film released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner to be rated either PG-13 or R by the MPAA. After months of hard work, the final film ultimately received a PG rating from the MPAA, the first ever for a Disney animated feature film and the only one until Dinosaur (2000), fifteen years later, in 2000.
The production of this film can be traced back to 1971, when Walt Disney Pictures purchased the screen rights to Lloyd Alexander's "The Chronicles of Prydain". The film took over twelve years to make, five years of actual production, and cost over twenty-five million dollars. Over one thousand different hues and colors were used, and thirty-four miles of film stock was utilized.
The Black Cauldron (1985) was Walt Disney Pictures' very first full-length animated motion picture to be filmed in the widescreen format, as well as in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen 70mm film process, since Sleeping Beauty (1959). Movies released in between involved matting of the top and bottom of the filmed image in order to make a widescreen image suitable for the movie theaters.
According to Producer Joe Hale, "When (Jeffrey) Katzenberg first screened the film, he told us to cut it by ten minutes. Roy (Disney) and I got together and found some scenes we could get rid of, that didn't affect the story that much." When they ran it again for Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the film finished, he asked Roy Edward Disney, "Is that ten minutes?" When Disney replied, "No, it was only around six minutes." Katzenberg stated, "I said ten minutes!" Hale continued, "Eventually he cut out about twelve minutes, which really hurt the picture."
There is an urban legend that, despite the film's failure in the U.S., it was popular in Japan, so much so, that the creator of the Legend of Zelda series, Shigeru Miyamoto, based a lot of the game's elements on this film.
During the beginning of the film, when Dallben uses Hen Wen's magic to find the Horned King, the first image that appears in the water was a recycled section from "The Night On Bald Mountain" sequence from Fantasia (1940).
The movie is loosely based upon the first two books in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles ("The Book of Three" and "The Black Cauldron"). The Chronicles, in turn, are loosely based on the mythology of ancient Wales, a collection of tales known as the Mabinogion.
This is the first Walt Disney film to feature the "classic" Walt Disney Pictures logo: the white castle and text over a blue field. This logo would be used until the new CGI logo was introduced with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006).
Ralph Bakshi was approached to be involved with the film in 1979 after the success of his own fantasy film Wizards (1977), and his animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (1978). He turned it down, believing his style is far too mature for a Disney film for family entertainment.
This was the first and last movie since The Jungle Book (1967), where the old multi-plane cameras were brought briefly out of retirement (with a few improvements this time). New technologies, such as computer graphics imagery, now available to all studios, have made multi-plane photography obsolete.
The version of the film released to theaters, omits about ten to fifteen minutes fully animated footage, including: Scenes of graphic violence as Taran fights his way out of the castle, and shots of Eilonwy wearing ripped garments as she's hanging for her life with Taran and Fflewddur. The most well-known deleted scene, due to a clumsy jump it left in the film's soundtrack, and a cell of the infamous scene appearing online, is that of a man being mauled by one of the Cauldron born, which causes him to form horrifically detailed lacerations and boils, before he rots away to become one of the Cauldron born. Other deleted scenes: some Fairie footage, and a Fairie musical number, scenes of the Horned King with a flowing cloak, a fight scene between Taran and the Horned King before he is sucked into the cauldron.
The first Disney movie to not have "THE END" at the end of the film. Instead, it just went straight from the final scene to the closing credits of the movie. A few later films, such as The Great Mouse Detective (1986), Aladdin (1992), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), and The Emperor's New Groove (2000) would have "THE END" appear before the credits roll, but this was for a special occasion usually.
The redheaded henchman, who shakes Creeper and yells "More women!", is a self-caricature of Animator Phil Nibbelink, who also voiced the character.
When the Horned King activates the power of the Black Cauldron, the sound of a space shuttle launch was used.
According to former Disney Animator Michael Peraza, Jr., there were multiple openings that were conceptualized by different people. Peraza worked with Art Director Don Griffith and Artist Vance Gerry on one version, that showed the Horned King and his gang burning down a village. Sweeping flames were used as transitions between scenes of destruction. Michael Peraza, Jr. and the artists wanted a contrast to the peace and quiet of Taran's farm life.
A technological breakthrough in this movie was the development of the APT (Animation Photo Transfer) process. The first major change in the studio's method of transferring the artist's drawings to a cel since Xerox copying replaced hand-inking over twenty years earlier, the APT greatly improved the quality of the animator's art. Dave Spencer was awarded an Academy Scientific and Technical Achievement Award for his development of the APT process.
A video game of the same name was designed by Al Lowe of Sierra On-Line and released in 1986. It was made shortly after the first King's Quest game, so it resembled that adventure in many ways. Along with The Dark Crystal, it remains one of only a few adventure games by Sierra to be based on films.
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In 2016, it was reported that Walt Disney Pictures had (once again) purchased the film rights to The Chronicles of Prydain from what was now the estate of the late Lloyd Alexander. Given the popularity of fantasy adaptations such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and Disney's recent acquisition of franchises, such as Star Wars and the Marvel titles, Disney may intend to adapt the entire five-book series, rather than just a stand-alone film.
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Various members of Disney's "Nine Old Men", as well as Don Bluth, took stabs at making this film during the 1970s.
Video cameras gave animators and directors an immediate and inexpensive record of what their efforts might look like. The dimensions and volume of the objects were fed into a computer and then their shapes were perfectly maintained as their movement was generated by programming.
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The Black Cauldron (1985) is currently, as of 2018, the last motion picture to date to be filmed in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen 70mm film process.
The first full-length animated motion picture to be presented in 70mm 6-track Dolby Stereo sound. Other films presented in the same sound system include The Abyss (1989), Alien (1979), Amadeus (1984), Apocalypse Now (1979), Back to the Future (1985), Batman (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Black Stallion (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Dances with Wolves (1990), Days of Thunder (1990), The Deer Hunter (1978), Dick Tracy (1990), Die Hard (1988), Empire of the Sun (1987), The Exorcist (1973), Fame (1980), Glory (1989), the 1967 theatrical rerelease of Gone with the Wind (1939), Grease (1978), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), the 1989 theatrical rerelease of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Lethal Weapon (1987), The Little Mermaid (1989), The Mission (1986), the 1994 theatrical rerelease of My Fair Lady (1964), Out of Africa (1985), Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982), Poltergeist (1982), Predator (1987), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Right Stuff (1983), RoboCop (1987), the 1991 theatrical rerelease of Spartacus (1960), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Superman (1978), the 1989 theatrical rerelease of The Ten Commandments (1956), Terminator 2 (1991), The Thing (1982), TRON (1982), the 1989 theatrical rerelease of West Side Story (1961), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).
According to Michael Peraza, Jr., Disney showed this film to the public at the studio theater, to gather their reactions to the rough cut of this film. But the reactions of the audience were mostly negative, due to the dark content of the film. So some scenes were cut.
Originally intended to release in Christmas of 1984, but was moved to Summer of 1985 possibly after the introduction of the PG-13 rating, urging some editing to be done with it under the MPAA's new rating standards.
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This Disney animated feature became the last film to be shot in the Super Technirama 70 70mm widescreen system. Notable films shot in Super Technirama 70 include The Big Country (1958), El Cid (1961), King of Kings (1961), The Leopard (1963), The Music Man (1962), The Pink Panther (1963), Sayonara (1957), Sleeping Beauty (1959), Spartacus (1960), and Zulu (1964).
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According to Internet rumors, Disney actually planned to release this film on VHS as early as 1990, but the release was cancelled, to make room for the video debut of The Little Mermaid (1989). No legitimate evidence exists to back up these allegations.
Kellogg's released plastic models of eight of the characters free with their Corn Flakes cereal. They include one of the witches, who they referred to as Orddu, but the model is actually of her sister witch, Orwen.
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The only PG-rated Disney animated feature film to be released in the twentieth century. The others were released in the twenty-first century.
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Hayley Mills was originally considered for the role of Princess Eilonwy. Lloyd Alexander, author of the five-novel "Chronicles of Prydain" trilogy, suggested Olivia Hussey for the role.
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Before appearing in this fantasy adaptation for Disney, John Huston (Prologue Narrator) and Sir John Hurt (The Horned King) had lent their voices to animated adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth fantasy novels. Huston voiced the wizard Gandalf in Rankin and Bass' The Hobbit (1977) and The Return of the King (1980), and Hurt voiced Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings (1978).
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Even though Walt Disney Productions had purchased the film rights to Lloyd Alexander's "The Chronicles of Prydain" book trilogy in 1971, it wouldn't be until 1980 when the film would finally be put into production. The reasons why are as follows: (1) the studio, at the time, had a habit where they would allow only one animated film to be made, once every three-to-four years. With the limited resources they also had, at the time, they could only produce one animated film at a time. After when an animated film is completed and released in theaters, the studio would, then, put all of their resources in financing the production of another animated film which would have the best chances of being finished and ready for theatrical release, next; and (2) It was the studio's decision, right from the beginning, to only condense the first two "Prydain" books into one single motion picture and its title would have its name from the second novel in the trilogy: "The Black Cauldron". Because of the numerous storylines and with over thirty characters in the original five-novel "Chronicles of Prydain" series, several story artists and animators worked on the development of the "Black Cauldron" throughout the 1970s, where it was actually originally slated for release in 1980. The film's release date was eventually pushed from 1980 to Christmas 1984, in order to focus more attention on the completion of The Fox and the Hound (1981), and also due to the animators' inability of animating realistic human characters for "The Black Cauldron".
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This was the first animated Disney film made in cooperation with Silver Screen Partners II.
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In 1983, it was announced by Joe Hale that Jonathan Winters would be voicing King Eidilleg. It is unknown as to why the role was re-cast to Arthur Malet in the final film.
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Was part of the summer show at New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall in 1985. The film was paired with a stage show, and the full program was called "Disney's Summer Magic".
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According to Ollie Johnston, it was he and Frank Thomas who, in 1971, convinced Walt Disney Productions to produce the motion picture adaptation of Lloyd Alexander's Newbery Medal-winning and widely acclaimed epic high fantasy book series "The Chronicles of Prydain". As fans of the book series, the two animators hoped that if the film would be done properly, it might be "as good as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)".
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The Disney sound editors began experimenting with newly-recorded sound effects, beginning with this film, to replace many of the classic effects heard in many animated Disney movies up until after The Fox and the Hound (1981). This included newer, more-realistic thunderclaps (to replace the "Castle Thunder" sound effect used on most 1937-1981 animated Disney features), newer crashes and explosions, and more. A rare 1985 trailer of this film, however, did use the Castle Thunder in it, and The Great Mouse Detective (1986) (released the following year) made heavy use of the old Disney sound effects. After that film, the classic sound effects (including "Castle Thunder") were officially retired from Walt Disney Feature Animation, and the Disney sound editors went back to experiment with newly-recorded sound effects and sound mixing in Oliver & Company (1988) and has continued to do so in every new Disney animated feature film onward.
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The Black Cauldron (1985) represented Walt Disney Productions' attempt to reach out to teenage fans of fantasy novels, a popular genre at the time. The gamble, however, proved unsuccessful as the film failed at the box-office, received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, and nearly bankrupted Walt Disney Feature Animation. The film had also reignited debates about whether or not the animation genre can also appeal beyond the children audiences, in light of its dark, graphic nature; Jeffrey Katzenberg's controversial decision to edit and rework the majority of the film when the whole film was already completed prior to his arrival at the Walt Disney Studios; and the growing concern that mature audiences wouldn't pique any interest to sit through and watch an animated film, let alone a film that was produced by the Walt Disney Studios.
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The production of the film, which initially lasted from 1980 to 1984, represented the rift between the studio management of Walt Disney Productions and the newer and less-experienced animators of the studio's animation department. The second group - the newer and less-experienced animators - had always dreamt of working at Disney's animation department, were very enthusiastic about the film project, and really wanted to prove their worth by creating the film that would hearken back to the glory days of great Disney storytelling and filmmaking, as well as pushing the envelope of what can be accomplished in animation. They also felt that they're continually bogged down by the old guard (i.e. the studio management). The first group - the studio management - on the other hand, felt that the animators are spoiled brats and commanded them to follow orders and do as they were told. This has resulted in many instances of creative differences between the two groups and the final result is that neither may have gotten exactly what they wanted.
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According to the Summer 1985 issue of "Disney News" magazine, over 2,500,000 total drawings were used: 1, 000 conceptual, 75,000 story sketches, 22,000 layouts, 576,000 animators' drawings, 1,036,800 in-between drawings, 345,600 assistant animators' drawings, and 460,800 painted cels. In all, it took 400 gallons of paint, 15,000 pencils, 300 erasers, 400 paint brushes, 1,165 different hues & colors, and over 34 miles of film stock.
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This is the third and final Disney animated film to be shot in a widescreen format of 2:35:1 aspect ratio until Wreck-It Ralph (2012).
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The Black Cauldron (1985) is based on the first two novels in the five-volume "Chronicles of Prydain" book series written by Lloyd Alexander: "The Book of Three" and "The Black Cauldron". Since that the decision was ultimately made for the basis of the film's story to be based on the first two novels, the filmmakers and animators took artistic liberties with the source material in the creation of the film. Among the many noticeable differences between the film and the first two novels include:
  • Quite a number of significant characters were omitted from the film, including Coll, an assistant to Dallben, an evil queen/witch named Achren, a war hero named Gwydion, and an evil lord Arawn who was actually the master to the Horned King.
  • Also missing is Ellidyr, a prince who sacrifices himself to the Cauldron; Gwystyl, a Fair Folk who has a way post near Annuvin; Adaon, Son of Taliesin; Medwyn, an enchanter who helps the companions; Morgant, a king who tries to use the Cauldron for himself; Smoit, a king who helps Gwydion find the Cauldron; and Kaw, a crow who can talk.
  • In the books, Princess Eilonwy is described as having red-gold hair and bright blue eyes, but in the film, she has long blond hair and light blue eyes.
  • Dallben had a beard in the books, perhaps having an appearance closer to Gandalf, in "The Lord of the Rings".
  • Creeper, who served as the henchman to The Horned King, is an added character in the film, not found in the books.
  • Fflewddur Fflam is described as having more yellowish hair in the books, as well as being lankier and much younger than what he appeared as in the film.
  • In the first novel, "The Book of Three", Taran does, indeed, find Dyrnwyn (the magical sword), but is injured when he attempts to clear it from its scabbard. Dallben later tells him that had he drawn it completely, it would have likely killed him. (He is able to wield it in the fifth novel, "The High King", since by that point he is able to draw it "for noble worth").
  • The Horned King did not try to get his hands on the Black Cauldron. Unlike the film where the Cauldron is hidden and being sought by the Horned King, in the books the Horned King was the servant to the evil lord, Arawn, who already owned the Cauldron to release the Cauldron-Born. In the beginning of the second book, "The Black Cauldron", the good characters planned to steal it from Arawn, only to find it had already been stolen (by the Witches of Morva).
  • In the first book, Prince Gwydion defeats the Horned King by shouting his true name aloud. In the film, the Horned King dies by being swallowed up by the Cauldron.
  • In the film, Doli is clearly able to disappear/become invisible. In the first book, "The Book of Three", Doli's main wish is to be able to have the power to become invisible.
  • In the film, Taran meets Eilonwy in the dungeon of the Horned King's castle. In the first book, "The Book of Three", Taran was trapped in the evil witch, Achren's castle, and was then rescued by Eilonwy.
  • In the film, Taran and Eilonwy meet Fflewddur Fflam in the dungeon. In "The Book of Three", however, Taran and the war hero, Gwydion are separated in different dungeons. Taran sends Eilonwy to rescue his war hero friend, but mistakenly takes Fflewddur Fflam for Gwydion.
  • At the end of the film, The Horned King's castle collapses. In the middle of the first book, Achren's castle collapses.
  • There were inconsistencies in character motivations. Doli is presented as a bit of an oaf in the film, when in the books he is an ill-tempered but talented craftsman. Eilonwy is much more hot-tempered, stubborn, sarcastic, and resolute in the novels than in the film. The Witches of Morva, in the second novel, are more care-free about the Black Cauldron, opting to trade it to Taran for Adaon's Brooch. When the Witches (who really aren't all that afraid of Arawn or the Horned King) meet the protagonists, they are much more motherly and kind and much less sinister and cruel.
  • In the film, Gurgi puts his body into the cauldron to destroy its powers. In the second book, however, it was a character named Ellidyr. Ellidyr goes into the Cauldron and dies. (In the film, Gurgi died, but was brought back to life by the Witches of Morva.) The Cauldron is also destroyed when Ellidyr jumps into it, but he is not restored to life. The Cauldron is destroyed, but Arawn's Cauldron-Born warriors still serve him.
  • In the film, Hen Wen is a piglet. In the books, she is a full grown white sow.
  • In "The Book of Three", Hen-Wen runs from Caer Dallben because she is frightened by the nearby presence of the Horned King. Taran is hooked into his adventure when he chases after her to return her to Caer Dallben. Dallben wants to keep her home so she can read a prophecy that might help them fight the Horned King. In the film, however, Dallben is sending Hen-Wen away with Taran to keep the Horned King from getting her.
  • In the film, Hen-Wen uses her oracular abilities by gazing into a dish of water. In the books, Dallben has a set of ash-sticks with symbols carved on them. Hen-Wen, then, points to the symbols with her snout to dictate the prophecy.
  • In the film, Eilonwy's bauble is depicted as a semi-sentient object which floats through the air under its own power. In the books, it is described more like an orb of gold which must be carried.
  • In the film, Eilonwy tells Taran that the Horned King kidnapped her so that her bauble would give him information about the Black Cauldron. In the books, Eilonwy lives, more or less reluctantly, with her "Aunt" Achren, who is keeping Taran prisoner.
  • In the film, Taran and the others are pulled into the Fair Folk realm by mistake. In the books, the lake is made to pull people in on purpose, as it is felt that if they reach the lake, they are already "too close" to Fair Folk territory to leave.
  • In the film, Doli is depicted as a fairy. In the books, he is depicted as a dwarf.
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