Centuries ago, in the land of Prydain, a young man named Taran is given the task of protecting Hen Wen, a magical oracular pig, who knows the location of the mystical black cauldron. This is not an easy task, for The Evil Horned King will stop at nothing to get the cauldron.Written by
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. See more »
When Taran is opening the gate to the drain before the castle is destroyed, the gate can be seen through his hands and the chains. See more »
Legend has it, in the mystic land of Prydain, there was once a king so cruel and so evil, that even the Gods feared him. Since no prison could hold him, he was thrown alive into a crucible of molten iron. There his demonic spirit was captured in the form of a great, Black Cauldron. For uncounted centuries, the Black Cauldron lay hidden, waiting, while evil men searched for it, knowing whoever possessed it would have the power to resurrect an army of deathless warriors... and with ...
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There are no opening or cast and crew credits. See more »
Appalled by the film's darkness and graphic nature, and also concerned with its long length, Jeffrey Katzenberg requested that the film's release be delayed from its scheduled Christmas 1984 release to July 1985 so that the whole film could be reworked. The Black Cauldron was ultimately cut by twelve to fifteen minutes, all of which were fully animated and scored. As a result, some existing scenes were rewritten, reanimated, and reedited for continuity. Many of the cut scenes involved the undead "Cauldron Born", who are used as the Horned King's army in the final act of the film. While most of the scenes were seamlessly removed from the film, one particular cut involving a Cauldron Born warrior killing a person by decapitating his neck and another one killing another person by decapitating his torso created a rather recognizable lapse because the removal of the scene clumsily creates a jump in the film's soundtrack. Other deleted scenes include: many scenes of graphic violence such as the ones where Taran fights his way out of The Horned King's palace with the magic sword Dyrnwyn; shots of Princess Eilonwy wearing ripped garments, as she's hanging for her life with Taran and Fflewddur Fflam; whole sequences involving the world of the Fairfolk; scenes of the Horned King with a flowing cloak; one scene featuring one of the King's henchmen being mauled by one of the Cauldron Born warriors, which causes him to form horrifically detailed lacerations and boils, before he rots away to become one of the Cauldron Born warriors himself (a couple of animated cels of that particular scene can actually now be found on the Internet); and a more action-oriented, dramatic, and intense climatic fight scene between Taran and the Horned King before the latter is sucked into the Cauldron. See more »
"The Black Cauldron" provides us with "Exhibit A" of the disorganized nature of the Disney organization from the mid-1970s through the mid-80s. The company's feature films were attracting smaller and smaller audiences, and no real creative force had emerged since Walt Disney's death in 1966. By the mid- to late-70s, it was clear that new ideas needed to be tried. The phenomenal success of "Star Wars" appeared to offer a sure-fire way to box-office success: sci-fi/fantasy movies. At the same time, Disney Studio's full-length animated features continued their descent from the heights scaled in 1959's "Sleeping Beauty", at first downscaling the subject matter, then progressing to less and less impressive animation, and finally combining the first two trends with boring storytelling (see "The Fox and the Hound" - 1981).
It was in this context that pre-production began on "The Black Cauldron" in the late 1970s. From an artistic standpoint, its goals were two-fold. First, the film was to recapture the lead in animation quality that Disney had traditionally held, while the second goal was to incorporate the advances in animation and subject matter made in the 1970s (i.e., playing "catch up"). Some early decisions were good: the source material was top-notch. Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" are fantastic works of fantasy for the young adult - I loved them as a middle-schooler in the mid-80s, and the choice to film the story in 70mm widescreen harkened back to the glory days of "Sleeping Beauty." Unfortunately, not much else worked. The studio's writers did a terrible job of condensing the first two books of Alexander's series, and we end up caring little for the characters that emerge, or for the plot as it unfolds. Also, the movie's tone is uneven. Overall, the work is very dark and un-Disney, which would've been fine had it been executed better. Further, the grimness of the plot doesn't mesh with occasionally clumsy and earthy attempts at humor, and the character animation fluctuates between sober naturalism and exaggerated, cartoonish mannerisms (stretching ears, gaping mouths, etc.) Still, some of the shots are stunning and rank among the best in the history of hand-drawn animation (e.g., multiplaned exterior shot of the Horned King's castle, beautiful backgrounds within the same, Hen-Wen's capture by the Horned King's creatures). The result of this mish-mash was a box-office flop ($25 million to make, $5 million in ticket sales upon its 1985 release).
In short, see this film for its often-impressive animation and intermittent charm. Be sure to get the newly-available widescreen version on DVD. Bemoan the end of the era of stunning hand-drawn animation (Disney has closed up its shop; "Home on the Range" was its penultimate hand-drawn feature). Don't expect a classic, but appreciate the vision of its artistry - even if the final product didn't quite mesh satisfactorily. "The Black Cauldron" is a noble failure.
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