The Black Cauldron Review
The Black Cauldron is a 1985 animated fantasy film which is the 25th film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. It is their most underrated film which is quite solid and very authentic.
It follows a young pig keeper who sets on an adventure in search of his missing pig and eventually must prevent the evil king from ruling the world by the means of a powerful cauldron. The story itself could have definitely used more detail and originality in its concept. But what I liked about it is how it is a great adventure, but above all a really engaging fantasy flick and such a dark one at that. The first act is so good because it instantly hooked me in the story and I wanted to know more. The second act is also really good and the third has a good conclusion, but is messy in certain areas. But I was honestly intrigued by this film and it captivated me from beginning to end, despite its flaws.
The character development is the film’s major weakness and the one aspect that significantly lowers its quality from good to solid. Taran is an okay protagonist. He is frankly boring, but as these dark fantasy films go, he is passable. Princess Eilonwy is such a clichéd love interest, but the one that isn’t entirely useless. The relationship between the two is typical, but has its moments. Flewddur Fflam is very annoying at first, but he grew on me a bit later on. Dallben is solid and caring and Creeper is a fine henchman with a memorable relationship with the villain.
As for The Horned King, his goal is childish and his backstory is vague, but I still loved him as he is such a memorable and creepy individual. And he posed some real threat which I liked, even though he died in a disappointing manner. But his voice, the way he speaks and the way he walks is so menacing and he definitely can give you chills. He is the reason why The Black Cauldron scared me as a kid and he alone earned this movie a PG-13 rating, that’s for sure. And I have to talk about Gurgi. He is another expected creation, but the one that is so lovable and so cute that you fall in love with him regardless. The relationships and interactions he has with the others is the heart of the film and he is the only truly well realized and deep character in the whole movie with such a good conflict.
The animation is good here. It isn’t polished and it isn’t particularly inspired, but the backgrounds are pretty good and some of the visuals are absolutely fantastic with the cauldron itself being terrific, the forests being so good, the underwater scenes being memorable and the castle being so well realized. I also loved the cottage at the beginning and the character design is pretty good with the humans on the team being typical, but with the villain being so memorable and some of the other creatures are also very well animated. Gurgi is such an endearing creation. The whole movie is very dark and I liked that about it and the animation accentuates that aspect quite well in my opinion.
The Black Cauldron isn’t a musical which is great because it does not need music. But what it does have is a score and what a score that is! As is the entire movie, it is pretty underrated because this is in my opinion one of the best scored Disney films ever. That theme that was repeated often is just astonishing being so dark, creepy and dramatic. Such a perfect theme for such a menacing villain. But the more adventurous and light-hearted moments are accompanied by some catchy and likable musical cues. The dramatic scenes are also really well done with some loud, but superbly memorable music. The score really is one of the best aspects of this film.
This is a very dark movie. It is without any doubt the most mature Disney animated film of all time due to a creepy villain, some very dramatic and intense moments and such a dark and very ominous atmosphere filled with danger and threat. I honestly loved that and I cannot understand why this film is so underappreciated. It has its evident flaws in characterization and vague plot, but it most definitely is worth the appreciation because the filmmakers tried something different here. They really tried to make an animated film just for adults and to me they mostly succeeded as the film scared me as a kid and I appreciate it now as an adult. And it is incredibly ambitious which is admirable because Disney films of the seventies and eighties were just the opposite. And although that ambition was ultimately too lofty for the filmmakers to reach, they still managed to craft a memorable, dark and menacing movie that stays with you long after you’ve seen it.
The Black Cauldron is well paced and solidly directed. The voice acting is mostly good, but not as great as you would expect. It has such a solid world building. The imagery is striking and my favorite scenes are definitely the beginning with the pig abduction being so well done, the ending is cute and endearing and the first scene in the castle is just fantastic. The humor here is familiar with Gurgi, but at least he managed to put a smile on my face from time to time as he is so likable. The dialogue is unimpressive and the film is a bit cold emotionally, but near the end becomes engaging with some heartwarming scenes. This film is one of my most fondly remembered as a child and I still like it now. It is to me a solid film that is mostly pretty good, but inherently flawed in some areas. It isn’t on the level of most of the 1980s Disney films, but to me it is definitely better than ‘The Aristocats’ and ‘Robin Hood’. It is one of the most hated Disney movies which to me is baffling as it is far from a great, but also far from a bad movie.