THE BLACK CAULDRON: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL (DVD)
Many of you are asking yourselves, "Now why is Cyrus
devoting web space to a review of some Disney
direct-to-DVD title?". Surprisingly, at least as far as Disney
's post-theatrical treatment of their 1985 adaptation of Lloyd Alexander
's "Chronicles of Prydain"
series of books, "The Black Cauldron"
was one of their major animated theatrical releases. It was even a benchmark for them in a number of ways; it was the first of their films to integrate CG into the animations, it was the most expensive animated film ever made at time of its release, and, most tellingly, it was the first of Disney
's animated features to get stamped with the dreaded PG rating. It seems silly now, but a lot of parents kept their children away from the film in droves because of its slightly
darker story than was per-usual for the company. Seeing rated R screening after rated R screening packed with parents bringing their toddlers in with them these days, 1985 seems like a LOOOONG time ago. Taran
) is a young and unhappy pig keeper who works for an enchanter (Freddie Jones
) in a small cottage in the Middle of Nowhere, Shitsville, Magical Fantasy Kingdom. His days are mainly occupied with caring after the enchanter's prize pig, Hen Wen
, until the pig, revealed as having special oracular powers, is abducted by the minions of the Disney Villain™
, The Horned King
). He wants to use its mad scrying skills to ascertain the location of the perhaps mythical Black Cauldron, which has the power to create armies of undead warriors. Taran
is sent out, rather under-equipped if you ask me, to chase down Hen Wen
, and unsurprisingly, almost immediately ends up in the dungeons of The Horned King
, awaiting the time that the villain bothers to do something with him. He's rescued by a fellow prisoner, Princess Eilonwy
) and the two hook up with a old bard (Nigel Hawthorne
) with a magical harp whose strings break loudly when he lies (why would you keep that around?) as they make their way out of the castle. They begin their own quest to find the Black Cauldron before the big horny evil guy does, although what they think they're gonna do with it once they actually find it seems unclear. Oh, and did I mention they're accompanied by the single most annoying animal Disney
side-kick since Gilbert Gottfried
played a parrot? It's no wonder I almost forgot; John Byner
plays the weird, creepy thing called Gurgi
, that I can only presume is related to Grover
as part of some unidentified, talkative, and irritatingly needy cryptozoological species.
"The Black Cauldron"
isn't horrible or anything, it mainly suffers from a feeling of being rushed. This isn't surprising, as it speeds around through the plot of the first two books of Alexander
's pretty awesome fantasy series. Make no mistake, as a kid, the Prydain
books were my second favorite just after Narnia
and there's good reason for that: they were frelling
more often than not is adapting from folk tales or nursery rhymes so their 'Disneyfication'
of their stories doesn't seem as painful (or as obvious) as it does here. None of the characters seems particularly well-fleshed out, Gurgi
and the odd little fairy/elf/collectible figure
creatures they run into are made into annoying and little more than marketing cute toy schemes, but at the very
least, there's no singing. Worst of all, the actor voicing Taran
, who only worked in the industry once more after this, is just terrible and flat. It's hard to get past not particularly liking your lead.
I don't want to give the impression that this was a waste of time either. Fans of animation are definitely going to want to check this out as it certainly holds up to Disney
's standards of theatrical releases and holds an important place in the history of it as well. The CG inserted into the film, used largely around the activated Cauldron's smokey tendrils, looks fab, and the hand-drawn work, while easily stamped as from the Disney
studios, is distinctive nonetheless. There's also no denying that things get pretty cool towards the end, with the undead tromping around. Call me predictable, but the moment you get anything vaguely like zombies involved, I perk right up.
Despite not releasing this to Blu-Ray (WTF Disney?) they managed to clean it up nicely and even snuck a few extras on there. There's two kids games on there, as there always is with these, that is utterly skipable if you're past the age when you still find sandboxes irresistible. Better is a classic 1952 Donald Duck
cartoon, "Trick or Treat"
. Best of all is a ten minute, albeit, unfinished, scene from the film referred to as "The Fairfolk"
. That, combined with the fact that this is the first time this has been available in anamorphic wide screen, are what make this, despite its many problems, a worthwhile purchase for fans of Disney
's animated features. Come on, don't be embarrassed, you know you're out there. Fess up. If Cyrus
can do it, you can. I'll even start the 'slow clap'
for ya if you do. How's that?
CLICK HERE TO BUY The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition