Disney animated fairy tales are treasured by so many, both young and old. I grew up watching Disney films just like so many other kids. What’s so great about some of them is their ability to still be appealing as you get older. The Black Cauldron was one Disney film I never saw as a kid and only saw for the first time recently. Right off the bat, there were two things I adored about this film: the animation and the fact that they weren’t afraid to go pretty dark with the villain. On the other hand, some of the writing isn’t as solid as other beloved Disney films.
As I said, right from the get go, it’s obvious that great artistic talent was involved in the animation and visuals. The animation is truly stunning and has a very creative look. Disney has always been great when it comes to visuals so the quality is not surprising. Also, while it’s true that Disney has had other dark villains in past films, the Horned King may be the darkest and most devil like they’ve ever created. I admire the willingness to go dark and make him appear completely demonic. The Horned King’s look suits the character and his voice is very well done too.
While on the subject of the villain, I do think the Horned King could have used some more attention. I didn’t feel we got enough of him by the end; there could’ve been a couple extra scenes focused on him and I think that would’ve been helpful.
So what about our protagonist and his friends? Well the main “hero” is Taran, a young ambitious pig keeper and I did like him overall. He’s certainly not the best hero Disney has put forward but he is fairly likable and he’s well designed.
The first friend that Taran meets on his journey is called Gurgi. Let me just go ahead and tell you, Gurgi is hands down the best character in The Black Cauldron. Gurgi is a woodland creature that is a bit cowardly but is completely adorable and has such a pure heart. He has the best moments of comedy and drama. He elicits a number of good laughs and also breaks your heart… just a great character! The visual design of him is so cute and imaginative as well.
The next character Taran comes into contact with is Princess Eilonwy. I didn’t really care for Eilonwy because I don’t think she was developed enough for us to really connect with her or care about her very much. She doesn’t go through trials like Taran or Gurgi and is just sort of…. there. The next and final companion Taran meets is Fflewddur. Fflewddur isn’t as strong of a character as Taran or Gurgi but has some nice comedic moments that are endearing. (That’s another thing; Fflewddur at least brings some comedy but Eilonwy doesn’t even bring that. She just wasn’t given much to do.)
It’s a Disney film…. of course there’s witches! These witches are funny and extremely charismatic. They come in and breathe some needed life into The Black Cauldron’s journey and it ends up being a delightful detail. I especially liked the main witch. Her part was well written and they had some fun with her character.
As for the storytelling and the journey that’s taken, there are some interesting and entertaining parts for sure. Now, it’s not as well put together as other stories told by Disney films, but it’s not a stinker that’s for sure. Like I mentioned, the witches are a wonderful detail and that part of the film is very entertaining and the scenes involving the fairies are nice too. The fairies have amusing personalities and are well realized too.
Now unfortunately, the writing does have its flaws and the biggest mistake that’s made is not paying enough attention to some of the characters. The Horned King doesn’t have enough screen time in my opinion and they really should’ve done something with Eilonwy. As you watch the film, while you’re mostly entertained, it’s pretty obvious that the development for the main characters just isn’t as strong as it usually is in Disney films. And lastly, I think the finale could’ve been larger in scale. The journey had such good elements to it and the finale felt slightly underwhelming.
The Black Cauldron boasts fantastic visuals, a few great characters, and a journey that’s entertaining for the most part. Unfortunately, one of the main characters is largely useless and specific parts of the script needed improvement. Disney has defiantly done better but hey they’ve also done a lot worse.