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The Black Cauldron back to reviews
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Probably the most generic, forgettable Disney cartoon ever
Of all of Disney's animated features, The Black Cauldron was the only one I never saw as a young child. I first saw it in a list of Disney movies and had no idea what it was, so I rented it and promptly forgot about it. Upon a recent re-viewing, I find that this is perfectly understandable: burdened with a prosaic, tired fantasy plot, The Black Cauldron doesn't have much to make it stand out.

The story is basically the same quest narrative we've seen in countless JRP Gs and fantasy novels. Many of those came later, though, and this is a kids' movie anyway, so I'll give it a pass on that. The problem is the presentation is so lackluster. Taran is an extremely generic Failure Hero type. The Horned King, while definitely menacing (and maybe a Skeletor Expy?), is your basic Evil Overlord. Princess Eilonwy (what exactly is she a princess of, anyway?) is indeed a step in a more assertive direction for Disney and could be an interesting character, but she doesn't do much. Her magic bauble almost disappears from the movie after its debut. Flewdder the bard looks too much like Taran's father and does even less. That leaves Creeper, a classic comic villainous henchman, and Gurgi, who's actually the only thing I remember from the first viewing and actually pretty cute and loveable in his own strange Gollum-ish way.

The writing is also pretty bad. The writers opted for a more classic fantasy-style register which is delivered appropriately by the mostly British actors, but generally it comes across as stilted and awkward. Taran and Eilonwy have zero chemistry. Many lines are flat and stale. The comic relief is usually fairly strained to boot - the scene with the witches and Flewdder, for example, was obviously inserted for some cheap laughs; Taran and Eilonwy disappear during it.

Finally, I have to say this movie's Disney Death is pretty cheap, and it would've been better off without it.

That being said, this movie did have a lot of promise. The animation is usually great (though only by Dark Age standards, and there are many awkward motions too) and the artistry is detailed and atmospheric. I haven't read the books, but it seems there was serious potential for a more interesting plot and some more character development. It's worth watching, at least.
The books ARE much better. Part of the problem is that the movie tried to shoehorn two of them into one story, resulting in major plot-stripping and Flanderization.
comment #7640 Maven 10th May 11
I still don't know how they got Taran and Gurgi so wrong. Gurgi is supposed to be the annoying one. He has an annoying voice, is hyperactive, annoys the other characters, and is generally treated as a pest in the movie. However, Taran's obnoxious "I'm only a pig keeper, durrrrr" schtick and his casual dismissal of Gurgi as a stupid beast when they first meet (Fantastic Racism?) always made me dislike him.

Taran's voice somehow is more grating than Gurgi's and Creeper's combined.
comment #10922 Scardoll 19th Oct 11
The Horned King was more of a Darth Vader expy than a Skeletor one. And Dalben (whom Flewdder ressembles) isn't Taran's father, BTW.

And yeah, the movie's just average at best.

comment #10944 ManwiththePlan 21st Oct 11
I just got around to watching Cauldron recently and was going to write a review of it, but you've said pretty much everything i would have said already.

I actually talked to a Disney storyman, Floyd Norman, who worked on the film, and he agrees that the story was an absolute mess. They tried to take a plot that would have needed a trilogy to properly flesh out and tried to squeeze it into an 80 minute film, and what did get in feels like a cliche, poor mans Tolkien. The characters are bland and poorly developed, and have no chemistry. The comic relief scenes (i.e. the fair folk, witches, gurgi, that creeper) feel forced and out of place with the tone of the film, and just drag down the pacing in scenes where they could have fleshed out the narrative and characters. The film also lacks contrasting environments—everything, even the scenes that are supposed to be lively, feel dingy and depressing.

Thats all i have to say about it. Not unwatchable, but theres a reason it lost out to The Care Bears Movie at the box office.
comment #11130 Prinzenick 29th Oct 11 (edited by: metabad)
I have a very different opinion of this film. Firstly— I loved that there was no singing. I never really enjoyed how every animated movie had to be a musical as well. I also don't believe that, in 1985, it was as "cliche" as it's made out to be here. There's definitely something to be said for some problems with characterization though: Creeper is more sympathetic than Gurgi (probably why he was allowed to survive at the end) and I always found the little goblin to be one of the better parts of the movie. I loved the whole "darker and edgier" vibe to the movie, especially when I first saw it as a kid. Also, am I the only one who noticed Disney recycled a lot of this movie for the Gummy Bears? The princesses are similar, Taran and Gavin are similar, you've got Toadie who's similar to Creeper and small furry friends who are like a family of much (MUCH MUCH) less annoying Gurgi's.
comment #11653 Madcapunlimited 1st Dec 11
This movie infuriates me because the books ARE so good. Generally speaking, every problem with the movie comes from a change from the books. Had Disney not crammed together two books, cutting out plot and character development, and adding in..... Disnification..... it might have worked.

You could compare the Prydain books to Narnia very easily, and had they worked on adapting the novels properly, this could have been a GREAT film. But it is one of the cases where They Changed It Now It Sucks isn't just bitching, it's just a very valid statement.
comment #11885 Meiriona 13th Dec 11
^^ I loved Gummi Bears and I just...kind of like The Black Cauldron. But truth be told, Gummi Bears could have used a villain like The Horned King.
comment #11893 ManwiththePlan 14th Dec 11 (edited by: ManwiththePlan)
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