The Black Cauldron (1985)

black cauldron poster 1985 movie disney
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting attempt at a dark Disney film

Choppy story and underdeveloped characters

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Black Cauldron

Studio:  Walt Disney Pictures

Genre(s):  Animated/Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s):  July 24, 1985

MPAA Rating:  PG


Awakening the power of the Cauldron!

Taran is just an assistant pig keeper charged with helping Dallben watching over the oracle pig Hen Wen. When Hen Wen is kidnapped by the Horned King who hopes to use Hen Wen to find the powerful Black Cauldron to raise an army, Taran sets out free Hen Wen. With the help of a girl named Princess Eilonwyn, an aged musician named Fflewddur, and a creature called Gurgi, Taran might become the unlikely hero needed to stop the threat of the Horned King and the Black Cauldron forever.


Cute fairies…that don’t really contribute much

Directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich, The Black Cauldron is the twenty-fifth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classic series. Following The Fox and the Hound in 1981, the movie had a long path to the screen and was the first Disney animated film to be rated PG. It was met by mixed to negative criticism and considered a box office failure.

The Black Cauldron is problematic. It is based on the first two books of The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander: The Book of Three (1964) and The Black Cauldron (1965). With this basis, there is the problem is that these stories are part of a bigger story…yes, they stand alone, but no, they don’t stand alone well.


I like Hen Wen…Creeper not-so-much

The film was on Disney’s “To Do” list for years and went through heavy editing once it was produced because it threatened to be rated PG-13 or even R.  The movie was considered too graphic and dark and rumors that a harsh rating would land here had Disney scared (I’m thinking Disney really was not in the market for a Fritz the Cat or Heavy Metal type movie starring cute little critters).  As a result, the movie was cut down to get the PG rating, but I don’t know that the edits could have changed the general feel of the movie which just feels so choppy and anticlimactic.


Well…we’ve got the Black Cauldron now….

The characters are very developed and the nature of the story feels very episodic.  None of the characters really feel whole (with the possible exception of Gurgi and Taran…and you might want to kill Gurgi).  Many of the supporting characters feel like they are going to be major players then disappear like the witches and the fairies.  They show-up, take a lot of time, and then disappear with no real fanfare…even Hen Wen just leaves after the fairies.

The art of the movie is also hit or miss.  The Black Cauldron is much, much darker than any previous Disney not just in subject, but also the physical look of the movie.  The closet Disney has ever come to it is probably “A Night on Bald Mountain” from Fantasia (which is actually scarier than this).  I like some of the scarier designs but often the more cartoon looking characters don’t mesh well with them.


Yep, not terrifying whatsoever

The books of The Chronicles of Prydain are rather interesting, and don’t let this movie turn off checking them out.  I still would be interested in seeing a live action Prydain Chronicles hit the screen sometime with the success of other ventures like The Lord of the Rings (which it shares many thematic similarities).  If you are Disney “completist” check out this movie, but it doesn’t feel like many other Disney films. The Black Cauldron was followed by The Great Mouse Detective in 1986.


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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