An Overview of Disney’s ‘The Black Cauldron’

The Black Cauldron was released in 1985 by Walt Disney Pictures and produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation in association with Silver Screen Partners II. It was Disney’s 25th animated feature film that is loosely based on the first two books of The Chronicles of Prydain and a series of novels that are in turn based on Welsh mythology. 

The Black Cauldron was the first Disney animated film to receive a PG rating as well as the first Disney animated film to feature computer-generated imagery. It was also the most expensive animated film ever made and bombed at the box office. Even then, the movie still deserves some recognition because it made history in several areas. Let’s discuss.

Plot

The black cauldron is based on a teenage boy and “assistant pig-keeper” who lives on the land of Prydain, Taran on the small farm of Caer Dallben, which is the home of Dallben the Enchanter. He dreams of becoming a warrior. 

Dallben comes to know that the evil horned king is in search of a mystical relic known as the Black Cauldron, which can create an invincible army of undead warriors the “Cauldron-Born”. As a result, Dallben fears that the horned king might use his pig, Hen Wen, who possesses oracular power to locate the cauldron. 

Dallben directs Taran to take Hen Wen to safety but unfortunately, Taran’s foolish daydreaming leads to the capture of Hen Wen by the Horned King’s dragon-like creatures called Gwythaints. Taran then visits the Horned King’s castle and meets Gurgi, the dog-like creature who wants to be friends with him. Being frustrated at Gurgi’s cowardice and antics, Taran leaves him. 

Taran manages to sneak into the castle and help Hen Wen escape but is caught and thrown into the dungeon. Another capture Princess Eilonwy frees him while she tries to escape as well. 

While they escape, Taran and Eionwy discover an ancient burial chamber of a king in the catacombs underneath the castle. Taran arms himself with the swords that feature the magic of allowing him to fight the Horned King’s minions, thus, fulfilling his dream.

Later, they come across Gurgi as they try to escape from the castle. However, the Horned King is informed of the situation who sends his Gwythaints to follow and capture Taran and company. Following Hen Wen’s lead, the four companions come across an underground kingdom of the Fair Folk who take Hen Wen under protection.

Meanwhile, King Eidilleg reveals the location of the cauldron and Taran plans to destroy it. Therefore, Eilonwy, Gurgi, and their third companion Ffewddur agree to join him. Doli, the right-hand man of Eidilleg is tasked to lead them to the Marshes of Morva while Hen Wen is escorted to Caer Dallben by the Fair Folk. 

At Morva, the companions learn that the cauldron is held by three witches, Orddu, Orgoch, and Orwen. Orwen happens to fall in love with Ffewddur at first sight. They make a deal of switching the king’s sword with the location of the cauldron.

 However, just before vanishing the witches share that the cauldron is indestructible and its power can only be broken if someone willingly climbs into it, which will kill them. 

Doli angrily leaves the group while Taran feels foolish and shares a kiss with Eilonwy. Meanwhile, Gurgi plants a kiss on the cheek of Fflewddur and is found by the minions of the Horned King. The companions are taken back to the castle where the Horned King uses the cauldron to raise the dead. 

Meanwhile, Gurgi believes that he should not leave his friends this time and sneaks into the castle to help them escape. Upon escaping, Taran plans on jumping into the cauldron but Gurgi does it, which kills the cauldron and him, sacrificing his life. When the Horned King spots Taran, he blames him for interference and throws him toward the cauldron. 

However, the cauldron is out of control and consumes the Horned King in a tunnel of fire, eventually killing him and destroying the castle. Then, the witches arrive to recover the now-inert Black Cauldron. Taran asks them to retrieve his friend Gurgi in exchange for giving up the sword permanently. Gurgi appears and is resurrected to everyone’s joy.

Finally, the four companions head back to Caer Dallben where Taran is finally praised by Dallben for his heroism. 

Box-Office Performance

The black cauldron was released in North America in 1985. Disney executives had budgeted the movie at $25 million. However, the movie in total cost $44 million. It made the movie the most expensive animated film ever made while grossing $21.3 million domestically. This was a huge loss for Disney and put the entire animation department in jeopardy. 

Critical Reception

When it comes to discussing the black cauldron review, it managed to achieve a rating of 55% based on 33 reviews with an average score of 5.6/10. It was termed a technical brilliance but the movie lacked the compelling characters of other Disney animated classics. 

Overall, the movie was severely bashed by the critics who believed that it could have done a lot better. They compared it with the other Disney animated films and concluded that the Black Cauldron had major flaws and shortcomings that took away the charm and attraction. 

Theme Parks

While the Disney black cauldron review by the critics was something unexpected the film managed to influence and make its mark at the Disney Parks and Resorts mostly in Fantasyland. Additionally, The Horned King also made an appearance in Tokyo Disneyland in the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour. 

Final Word

The Black Cauldron was one of the biggest flops of Disney. It lacked vision and research. Despite being aware of the risks, Disney continued with the project. This put a severe dent in his portfolio, financially too. As a result, the movie along with its characters was not as dominant or popular as other iconic characters. Therefore, this one failed to make it even out of the United Stated let alone history books.