Movie Review: The Black Cauldron

by Josh Larsen
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black cauldron

  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Running Time: 79 minutes
  • Recommended for ages 8+

Quick Take: A darker Disney tale than you may be used to.

Arriving just before the Disney renaissance that began with 1989's The Little Mermaid, the underappreciated The Black Cauldron is something of a bridge between the studio's animation eras.

The visual scheme -- especially the painterly, pastoral settings -- harks back to early classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, while the addition of a self-sufficient heroine -- the brave and determined Princess Eilonwy -- points to the Ariels and Belles to come.

All its own, however, is the movie's dark and dramatic visualization of the Horned King and his cohorts. It seems as if the animators saved all their creativity for the spooky parts. From the spires on the king's castle to the blood that spills from the cauldron, the movie at times feels downright demonic.

Kids Will Like:

The Black Cauldron overdoses on cutesy supporting characters, but the cowardly Gurgi -- who looks like an Ewok and talks like Donald Duck -- will win their hearts, especially when he musters up some courage for the climax.

Parents Will Like:

The grave opening narration, delivered by none other than directing legend John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen).

Heads Up:

Besides the omnipresent, demonic imagery, The Black Cauldron features plenty of scenes of literal violence: Taran's pig is nearly branded and beheaded by evil henchman; a troubadour is threatened with torture in the castle dungeon; a sidekick seemingly sacrifices his own life to save Taran's. There is also a scene of the henchmen drinking beer, while at another point a character is turned into a frog by a witch and then gets stuck in her cleavage.

Own It?

No. An interesting entry in the Disney canon, but not an essential one.

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