Orrdu: The Black Cauldron can never be destroyed. Only its evil powers can be stopped.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
After Walt Disney passed away, the studio began to enter its dark age. There were a good couple of movies none of them managed to appeal by the standards of the gold and silver ages. This movie sadly proved to be one of the worst movies of Disney’s dark age (to the point where it was even bested by the Care Bears movie on its opening week). Failing to make nearly half its budget, it nearly bankrupted the studio and the movie was not released on home video for over a decade. While it is well deserving of being one of Disney’s disgraces there is a little more to it than meets the eye.
The story involves a young boy in the land of Prydain named Taran who dreams of being a knight. He looks after a pig named Hen Wen who has the power to see the future whenever her head is dipped in a puddle of water. However a villain named the Horned King kidnaps the pig to find the whereabouts of a relic known as the Black Cauldron, which is capable of creating an unstoppable undead army. Taran sets out to stop the Horned King. Along the way he comes across a woodland creature named Gurgi and a princess named Eilonwy who help him in his quest.
The story is very character driven, which in any other film would be a good decision but sadly that is not the case with this movie. In a movie such as this set in a fantasy world, character is vital but the world around them must be as well. Such aspects include the forces of good and evil, the kind of magic and creatures inhabit this world, and what makes the world stand out. This is a concept not very much explored to the fullest. It’s mostly built on the characters’ interactions, which don’t tie into this world that’s been established. Thus it’s hard to get a sense of danger and adventure when the movie doesn’t tie the characters into this story
The animation is easily the movie’s best aspect. The human characters are given good designs as well as realistic movements. Others characters like Fflewddur Flam and Creeper that are animated much more comically. The Horned King often moved in a much slower manner to emphasize his threatening demeanor. This was the first movie to utilize computer-generated imagery and they did so in a strong manner when showcasing magic through things like light, smoke, or colors. All the supernatural characters are given very unique designs. The backgrounds, while animated well don’t have anything to separate themselves from any other Disney movie.
The characters are truly what deter the movie. Taran like most Disney heroes later down the road is your protagonist yearning for heroism. However this is the only definable trait of Taran. His heroism is only defined through the magic sword left by the original king. Eilonwy is established as princess despite there being no mention or even scene of anything making her royalty. Despite being a brave and bold character there is little to no depth to her. Characters like Creeper and Gurgi serve as mere comic relief for the villain and hero respectively. With all that being said the Horned King is easily the saving grace among the characters. His appearance and John Hurt’s voice acting instill a sense of fear, as he is an evil king with a great deal of power.
While this is far from Disney’s worst movie it is still one of their weakest. It has some great animation and a great villain but its story and characters are severely lacking. With all the live-action reboots Disney has been doing this is one that could definitely use one.