The Black Cauldron 25th Anniversary Edition Due September 14
August 31, 2010

I somehow have missed seeing The Black Cauldron until now (although I was a fan of the books by Lloyd Alexander; I loved Gurgi). This 25th Anniversary Edition, although bare-bones, may be a good chance for me to remedy that.

I’m curious to draw my own opinion, since reaction to the movie appears very mixed. I was surprised to see that it was Disney’s first PG-rated animated film, as well as the first to use computers, and the darker nature of its content seems to spur debate (as well as discussion about how faithful to the source material it is). It was considered a flop, in part due to how expensive it was to make.

The Black Cauldron cover
The Black Cauldron
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The new 25th Anniversary Edition DVD is due out September 14 with these new bonus features:

  • A deleted scene in which Taran, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi, and Princess Eilonwy travel into the depths of the earth and meet the Fairfolk
  • A Witches’ Challenge game in which you solve riddles to win a magical sword

They’ve also included the bonus features from the previous release: the theatrical trailer, another trivia game, an art gallery, and “Trick or Treat”, a Donald Duck cartoon from 1952. There’s no Blu-ray version, which suggests Disney doesn’t have high hopes for this re-release. They are promising a new movie transfer to digital, though.

So, if you’ve seen the film, is it worth watching? And does that opinion depend on whether or not you’re familiar with the books?

11 Responses  
Faith writes:  

I’m a raving Lloyd Alexander fan (two characters in my upcoming GN are named after him), and while I liked this movie because I AM a raving fan, it’s a total mess. It’s failure at the box office nearly caused the collapse of the Disney Animation studio in the 80s. I wish someone would remake it, because the books are just so freaking awesome. Sadly, that’s yet to happen.

Jennifer writes:  

I’m not an Alexander fan – I’ve skimmed a couple books, but never really got into them. And yeah, this movie is a mess. It’s like something you’d expect from one of those cheap animation studios films you pick up at Walmart for a couple bucks. A few mildly amusing moments, but mostly really, really bad. I’m not going to spend $25 of my library’s budget on it.

Johanna writes:  

Wow, sounds like I’m not missing much. No one wants to defend it? Are there any good bits about it?

Thad writes:  

@Faith: Yeah, now that we’re several years post-LotR and approaching the end of Harry Potter, it seems like it WOULD be a good time for a live-action Prydain series.

Course, given the absolute mess that was the Dark is Rising movie, the fact that MGM can’t even seem to get its act together for The Hobbit, and all the troubles making Dawn Treader, children’s fantasy adaptations aren’t really doing so well right now.

David Oakes writes:  

I will defend it. I hadn’t read the books, and still haven’t as far as I can recall. I didn’t even know it was a book until years later, since this was an age when there still were original works on the screen, even at Disney.

The computer animation was stunning for it’s time, and should still stand up well. Gurgi was well portrayed, stealing the show as Disney comic relief is wont to do. And it turned me on to “The Heroes Journey”, making Campbell’s thesis more universally applicable than the pean that was “Star Wars”.

I will probably buy it out of nostalgia. But it is still worth a rent to animation fans, Disney fans, and Fantasy fans. Though apparently not Lloyd Alexander fans…

Nathan writes:  

The Dark Cauldron really represents a low point in Disney animation although the movies that preceded it (The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound) were indicators that the studio was going through a tough patch of poor direction and problems keeping quality high. That said, what suffers in my opinion the most with this movie is the storytelling and conception of characters like Gurgi. In the books he’s described as something between an animal and a human, with more human traits than animal; but Disney interpreted him more like a terrier that talks, not the impression I got from the books.

They also included a musical-style song which the studio had abandoned back in the seventies, unfortunately it only proved them correct as it added very little to the story, was totally forgetful and detracted from the storyline,IMO. I really think the story was too subtle for Disney to adapt for animation. It really would work better as live-action.

There is more to complain about the movie, but I can praise some of the artwork for the spooky sequences of raising dead warriors which were reminiscent of designs from Fantasia and Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately this few images can’t make up for the poor direction and lack of consistent storytelling.

Dawn writes:  

Despite its flaws, as a child I loved this movie on its own merits. And the flaws it had were not single to this movie, but were cropping up all over animation movies, Disney or otherwise. The messages were a little heavy-handed, but the overall design was something I enjoyed.

Seeing it again recently, the issues were a little more apparent, but I still was able to enjoy it.

However, don’t expect to see much of the books reflected in the movie. So far as adaptations go, it’s a perfect example of Disney’s ongoing and irritating penchant for taking the names, places and most fantastical creations from the source material and shoe-horning their own plots in place.

So if it’s a good adaptation you’re wanting, take a pass, this move will only tick you off. If it’s a silly way to spend an hour and change you want, it’s not too bad.

Johanna writes:  

I think I’ll pass, then. I’ve got plenty of silly movies on the stack, no need to add one that’s of mixed reputation. Thanks to everyone for sharing their opinions.

kellen writes:  

I love this film!! back when Disney had balls!! now its hanna montana and cutesy princess and tinker bell crap…this film is up there with Treasure Planet and Hunchback for being severely underrated…I do agree Gurgi’s character is too “Cute” for the film, but he takes the edge off…

bryant writes:  

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Tim Burton’s involvement in this film! Supposedly this was the last straw that led him from traditional animation to stop motion animation and directing. (I believe he was a key-frame artist or something…)

The Black Cauldron 25th Anniversary Special Edition » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] I didn’t expect much from the movie, after hearing some of my readers’ reactions, and it didn’t entirely hold my interest, but it has very impressive fantasy sequences […]


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