The Black Cauldron (1985)

When you think of animated Disney films, horror or dark fantasy, or however you want to call the genre of this film, is not something that crosses your mind. So I was very surprised to find Disney's The Black Cauldron in a top 10 list of best animated horror movies and out of curiosity I decided to check it out. 

This film tells the story of a young man, Taran (voiced by Grant Bardsley), an assistant pig keeper who dreams of becoming a great warrior. When Hen Wen, the magical oracular pig he was supposed to protect, is kidnapped by the evil Horned King (voiced John Hurt) who needs the pig to discover the location fo the black cauldron which has the power to create an army of unstoppable soldiers, Taran joins forces with a pestering creature, Gurgi (voiced John Byner), the stubborn Princess Eilonwy (voiced by Susan Sheridan), and a minstrel, Fflewddur Fflam (voiced by Nigel Hawthorne), to find the cauldron before the Horned King does.

At first sight, it looks like The Black Cauldron does have a story that is deeper and more complex than your typical Disney story. If you look more carefully though, as you see it unfold, you'll notice that is far from being as complex and deep as it could have been. There's barely a plot as it is pretty much a succession of action sequences and most of the important events happen by chance. It is way darker than every other Disney film I've seen, it has more mature and serious themes --self sacrifice, pride, social equality, and ecology even-- but unfortunately, they are dealt with in such a shallow way. Also, the typical Disney happy ending not only ruined the film completely but it seemed forced as well. 

The characters don't get any better. They lack characterization and development, therefore they are bland, uninteresting and boring. Gurgi's only purpose is for us to have a character we care about but I doubt anyone will care if you don't even bother writing a decent character. It's a little different for the supporting characters. They still are bland but the supporting cast provide quite funny performances which makes you enjoy the film a little more. Also, Hen Wen is quite adorable. Probably because she's a pig and would have never had characterization or development anyways. 

Buena Vista Distribution 
As for the villain, the Horned King, he kinda looks like a cheap Scooby-Doo villain. However, the magnificent voice work by John Hurt makes the Horned King one of the most memorable and threatening Disney villains ever.

The animation, on the other hand, is beautiful. There are moments when the drawings are a bit more sketchy --I'm not sure it's a problem with the movie or with the copy I had, I'm going with the first though--, but overall is lovely and the computer effects are very good considering how old the film is and that this was the first time Disney used them. Another great thing about The Black Cauldron is that there isn't even a song. How great is that?!


  1. I haven't seen this in years. I'd like to watch it again, even though I know it's not great.

    1. It's still better than some Disney classics though.