Disney gets its first ever PG rating and a film flops bad enough that it changes the creative direction of the animation division in the 1985 Walt Disney Animation Studios film, “The Black Cauldron.” It’s based on the first book in the five part series, “The Chronicles of Prydain.” While a young boy dreams of being a hero, the Horned King is searching for the mysterious Black Cauldron. Eventually, the boy must flee with a magical pig, loses the pig, gets captured and has to rescue the pig and find the Black Cauldron himself. He meets friends along the way, and one of them sacrifices himself to save the realm from The Horned King who had found the Black Cauldron.
This is a very unusual film. I’ve never read the book this film is based on, so I have no clue how faithful the adaptation is, but the film left me feeling unfulfilled. It has all of the basis for an interesting story, but it just never seems to get there. I’m curious to know if pertinent plot points were dropped from the film to make it more family friendly. That might explain why so much of the film feels slapped together to me.
I know the new head of the animation division at the time, Jeffrey Katzenberg, went in and edited the film himself, because he didn’t like the initial cut. I don’t know if he improved it or destroyed it, but this film just doesn’t work for me. It takes place during what is known as the Disney’s First Dark Age of Animation; that timeframe between the death of Walt Disney and the resurgence of the Renaissance. While this timeframe is not as vaunted as the Golden Age, Silver Age or Renaissance; it has a lot of high quality films, unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. But, it really feels like it could’ve been one.
This is a film that I would like to see Disney remake in live action. I believe if they remade the film, restored some of the stuff that had to be cut, and worked in some, but not too much, CGI; this can finally be a well-made version of the story. A modern audience is also more willing to accept darker tones in their family films, so there’s definite potential here. I like the basis, but don’t like the finished product.