"Get up you fools! Kill!"
For many years, the Disney studio has dedicated themselves to keeping the imagination in the child in all of us and delivers usually excellent and stellar visual effects. But in 1985, Disney hit rock bottom with their fantasy adventure The Black Cauldron, an infamous flop that was notoriously beaten by The Care Bears Movie at the box-office (Ouch!). The film was also hated by many people, particularly parents who were disturbed by darker moments of the film (this was Disney's first PG-rated cartoon). Jeffrey Katzenburg, head of Disney animation at the time, supposedly went as far at to cut violent scenes including decapitations to appeal to more families, but the film was still considered too scary that it wasn't released on video until a decade later. Looking at it today, while it's not Disney's perfect, epic masterpiece, it's an underrated Disney adventure that I think is worth a second look.
Taran is an assistant pig-keeper who longs to be a knight and hero in the medieval land of Prydain. When it's discovered that the evil Horned King is after a magical black cauldron that will allow him to unleash an army from the dead and that the cauldron can be found by Taran's future-predicting pig, Taran goes on the adventure of a lifetime, teaming up with a princess, a minstrel, fairies, and a creature named Gurgi to find the cauldron before the Horned King does and save the kingdom from mass destruction.
One thing that you have to admire when watching this film is the animation. Disney retuned to fantasy-styled animation, something the studio hasn't done since Sleeping Beauty, with impressive medieval looks and stellar colors, and looking at it today, it's outstanding. There's a reason why I love the traditional, hand-drawn, 2D animation, and The Black Cauldron is a fine example of Disney's excellent animation. The best part in this animation is the design of The Horned King, one of the creepiest Disney villains in the history of Disney villains, right up there with Chernabog from Fantasia.
The Horned King is a creepy villain, and John Hurt's voice is chilling. Hurt's sinister voice is the sole reason why I like this film. The other characters are fun as well. Taran's voice is not super mature, but I appreciate the character's determination to doing good. The princess needed a ton more development in why she ended up in the adventure, and same thing with the funny minstrel, but they are pretty fun characters. Gurgi can be annoying, but I was entertained by his personality.
While The Black Cauldron is a fun film, there are a few flaws I had. As I said earlier, the princess and minstrel characters needed more development in why they joined the adventure with the hero. Also, The Horned King's goblin sidekick is very annoying and not really that evil. And last, the most disappointing thing about the film is Elmer Bernstein's score. While I was impressed with the heroic and adventurous themes in the film, the score lacks emotion and some cues, including The Horned King theme, is the exact same theme as the Zool theme in Ghostbusters, which was a much, more memorable score. It's really disappointing because Bernstein is one of my all-time favorite composers and has developed many memorable themes in his excellent career, particularly The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven.
Yes, there are flaws, and it's not a masterpiece, but The Black Cauldron is an entertaining and underrated Disney adventure, with excellent animation and visuals and fun characters. Despite the darker elements that scarred a lot of 80's generation kids for life, I think that kids today can handle a creepy-looking king and a skeleton army, and hopefully, if the story is true or not, Disney will release the director's cut edition featuring the "supposed" cut decapitation scenes.