YMMV / The Black Cauldron


  • Adaptation Displacement: It might be fair to say that more people know about The Black Cauldron than The Chronicles of Prydain, even if for the wrong reasons.
  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: Gurgi sacrifices himself to destroy the Cauldron Born Army, but he is resurrected.
  • Anticlimax Boss: Despite all the build up the character had, the Horned King doesn't put up much of a fight before he is sucked into the cauldron: he lunges unarmed at Taran and grabs him, showing no display of powers or fighting abilities whatsoever, and is killed when Taran pushes him in the general direction of the cauldron.
  • Awesome Music: Courtesy of Elmer Bernstein.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: The film's darker story could be counted as such, having none of Disney's trademark lightheartedness or kid-friendly moments with which to balance it out. Tellingly, it would be years before Disney would try again for a more exclusively adult audience, again to a similar mixed response.
  • Bile Fascination: A downplayed example; It has certainly found a respectable fandom in later years, but its status as the black sheep of the Disney Animated Canon continues to draw newcomers who are curious as to how it gained its reputation.
  • Broken Base: The movie as a whole. Either it's one of Disney's most unique underrated classics, with an enchanting world, likable characters, and a genre Disney hasn't tackled much (high dark fantasy/medieval fantasy ala The Lord of the Rings — the closest we have to that is Sleeping Beauty), or it's one of the most generic, clichéd movies that tries to be something ambitious but mostly comes off as a poor rip-off, and barely stands out compared to the other fantasy films of the 80s (Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, The Last Unicorn...).
  • Complete Monster: The Horned King, a dark, terrifying, power-hungry lich tyrant with a god complex and absolutely No Sense of Humor (a rare case for a Disney villain which makes him more creepy). He plans to obtain the powers of the eponymous Cauldron in order to raise an army of undead skeletons to rule the world and so destroy thousands of human lives. He stops at nothing to achieve his goal, even if it means kidnapping and/or killing an innocent girl or a harmless little pig, or harvesting his own perfectly loyal men to make more skeletal warriors. When it seems the Cauldron might need another body he immediately decides to sacrifice his most sycophantic servant to it. He also has a bit of an ego to him since his motive behind conquering the world is forcing all of humanity to worship him as a god. Because the mindless Cauldron Born turn their enemies into more of themselves, he's planning to turn the world into a graveyard so he can be king of the dead if he can't be king of the living.
  • Counterpart Comparison:
    • Predating The Legend of Zelda by a year, Taran wears clothes and carries a sword strikingly similar to those of Link in his very early years. Plus looting dungeons, working well with animals, wielding a magic sword, having to stop a very old Big Bad from getting an artifact of great power, and breaking lots of pots. Also, Eilonwy seems to be this to Zelda.
    • Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis seem to have taken inspiration from Gurgi's voice and mannerisms when it came to Gollum for The Lord of the Rings... Heck, the comparisons don't end there; after all, the story happens to be about a boy from the countryside guided by his elderly mentor to go on a quest to destroy a magical artifact that would kill the evil overlord ruling over the land. You draw your own conclusions from here.
  • Cult Classic: One of the few films in Disney Animated Canon to become this.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: The Horned King. Even if the movie failed at the box office and is one of the lesser known Disney feature films, The Horned King is a cult favorite within the Disney fandom and many times is compared with the likes of Maleficent and Chernabog. He probably would've had a respectable presence in Disney properties if it hadn't been for the movie's poor initial reception. Fans have even demanded Disney to let the Horned King to make an appearance in future Kingdom Hearts games. Being played by the late John Hurt probably has quite a bit to do with it.
  • Genre Turning Point: The film was meant to be this for animated Disney movies in general, an attempt to darken and "modernize" the studios feature film output while also proving that Walt Disney's one-vision method of film making was still viable in the 1980s. And it was a turning point... just not in the way that the film makers had hoped; its massive box office failure not only led to a trend of lighter Disney animated films (which culminated with their "true" turning point in 1989, The Little Mermaid), but also ended (most of) Walt Disney's methods as solid company policy in favor of a more "Hollywood" style of movie making (stricter deadlines, tighter budgets, more committee meetings, more executive influence, attempts on franchise integration, etc.).
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The Horned King has plenty of attention in Japan. This may have had to do with the extinct attraction in Tokyo Disneyland. Shall we begin?
    • 'Mickey Mouse'' on the Game Boy in 1989 has him as the final boss.
    • Mickey Mouse II on the same system two years later again has him as the final boss.
      • Both of these games replaced him with Witch Hazel when they were converted to the Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle games.
    • Mickey Mouse III: Dream Balloon in 1992 again puts him as the final boss, only to be replaced by Night Mayor when it was converted to Kid Klown in Night Mayor World.
    • Finally appeared without alterations in Land of Illusion on the Game Gear and Sega Master System in 1993, although this time colored from older concept art and given the name of "The Phantom." And this was the only time that he appeared in North America and Europe in a Japanese produced game.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Most of the violence and death in the movie (both what was allowed to be shown and what Katzenberg left on the cutting room floor) these days wouldn't be out of place on Cartoon Network's Adventure Time.
    • The Horned King gets far less terrifying if you compare him to another, albeit more comical, horned skeletal overlord.
    • The magic sword sounds and glows much like a lightsaber, as well as being able to cut through most anything. The Horned King also has a habit of throttling his underlings when they have failed him. Then Disney acquires the rights to Star Wars...
  • Mis-blamed: Gurgi's mannerisms were not in fact Disney putting in an obvious Comic Relief Character - things like talking in the third-person, speaking in redundant phrases, referring to Taran as a lord, and "Munchies and crunchies" are in fact in the books, and Gurgi still does play somewhat of a Comic Relief Character.
  • Most Annoying Sound:
    • The witch's deranged laughter quickly becomes this when she does it constantly in her scene.
    • Gurgi's voice, to most viewers.
  • Never Live It Down: The troubled production and ultimate box office failure of the film shook the Walt Disney Company so much that even after the successful revitalization of its animation department in the years that followed, they largely ignored it for the next decade or so and have released virtually no merchandise tied to it; not even of Princess Eilonwy who remains absent from the Disney Princess lineup. It eventually received a full VHS release and later a DVD release thanks to its respectably cult following, but remains one of its least-publicized pictures. Disney made some noise in 2016 about trying a more faithful adaptation of the Prydain novels in live action, but so far it seems stuck in Development Hell, probably due to this reputation, as well as the Prydain series not being very well known, especially compared to Harry Potter or Narnia.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: One could say the video game is better than the film it's based on.
  • Older Than They Think: Everyone seems to think The Little Mermaid's Ariel started the trend of assertive Disney heroines — see the Rebellious Princess entry. But it started with Eilonwy here. Glen Keane, who later made Ariel, even designed her.
    • Same with Taran and three-dimensional Disney characters; he has a very flawed personality, but because of that, a very human one.
  • Quality by Popular Vote: It could be argued that the film has suffered from this. Because it was unpopular in the theaters, it's been severely underrated.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Gurgi, once he makes his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Gurgi isn't quite as bad as most examples, but he has the makings of one: a small, nonhuman comic relief character with a grating voice whom the filmmakers are desperate to prove is cuter and more charming than he is.
    • Creeper may also qualify, given his tendency to break the mood during some of the Horned King's more genuinely frightening scenes.
    • For some folks, Taran qualifies as one. Most people find his bragging annoying, and they do not like how he patronizes Eilonwy in a very sexist demeanor ("What does a girl know about swords, anyway!?"). Sadly, this is actually fairly accurate to Book!Taran, and losing this arrogance is part of his character arc in the book series, which the cancellation of any sequels prevented being shown.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • For the Disney version, this movie actually predated The Great Mouse Detective in the animated canon's use of CGI. These days, it's very obvious to see the moment it's used, and it borders upon Special Effect Failure. But back in the 80s, that wasn't done before.
    • Towards the book series it was based off of, it reads almost like a shopping list of cliches. Except one has to consider that the series was originally published in the sixties - Taran predates Luke Skywalker in the "Farm-boy turned hero who befriends a princess".
  • So Okay, It's Average: The wider consensus of the film, which agrees that while it's far from the worst animated movie and actually has a few good points, its story and characters are thoroughly underwhelming with few of the traditional Disney elements to compensate for it.
  • Squick: Orwen's unsettling attraction to Fflewddur.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: The Horned King is held by some to be a genuinely terrifying Disney villain, yet sadly has little to show for this due to his surprisingly easy defeat at Taran's hands.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Who else is disappointed Taran had to give up the awesome magical sword midway through, instead of maybe using it on The Horned King?
    • The fact that the Eilonwy is a scullery maid only gets mentioned in passing. We also never find out why she has that bauble and what it isnote . What doesn't help is the last time it's seen is in Morva.
  • Toy Ship: Eilonwy and Taran.
  • Ugly Cute: Creeper.
  • Vindicated by History: Its noticeably darker tone, new animation format, Executive Meddling and a lot of bad luck made 1985 viewers see the film as a train wreck; modern viewers can appreciate it more.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: For all its problems, the film's animation stands out as one of its more polished elements and really lends itself on the dark tone and atmosphere of the story.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Most definitely not. Or at least not originally intended to be before the Executive Meddling. Adverts lured kids in with a light-hearted fantasy adventure of wonder and magic. The actual product is nothing like that. Still didn't stop it from getting a Universal — a "suitable for everyone" rating in the UK (it got a PG rating in the US). Yeah... you might wanna run that classification check through again guys.
  • The Woobie: Gurgi, to some.
    • Also the Creeper, who is constantly at the mercy of his overlord. Although he's from the jerkass variety...


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