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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Disneyear: The Black Cauldron (1985)

Remember in my AristoCats review that after Walt died, the films were very hit and miss? They had a good flick every once in a while, but the films never hit that Snow White and Fantasia standard. On top of that, the films took longer and longer to make. So if a film didn't exactly "wow" an audience, you kind of felt gypped. But out of all the films of this particular era, there is one that many Disney fans call the ultimate achievement of failure: The Black Cauldron. For a film that had a lot of money thrown into the animation and advertising, it failed to please critics and audiences alike and so was a bomb. How bad did it flop? Well I did some research and according to, on it's opening weekend at the box office... it lost to The Care Bears Movie. Yeah, you read that right: Care Bears made more money on it's opening weekend than a Disney film did. And just to add salt to the wound, it actually made 11x more than it's $2 million budget. The Black Cauldron didn't even make it's $25 million cost back! It was considered the bottom of the barrel: the lowest point in the studio's history. Ever since, it gained a reputation as Disney's worst film. Hell, Disney even tried to deny it's existence! It didn't garner a home video release until 15 years after it was made. So... crap, this must be a really bad movie right? Well... yeah.

Once upon a time, the land of Prydain was ruled by the evil Horned King who wants possession of a plot device called the Black Cauldron, an object that can bring dead bodies to life. Meanwhile, a kid named Taran is in charge of keeping a pig where if you put her head in a puddle of water, she can see the future... isn't that... creative? Anywho, Taran has to keep the pig safe from the Horned King who wants to use the pig to find the cauldron. On the way, she does get caught, the Horned King finds out it's real and the kid is sent a prisoner. While there she meets with Princess Zeld.. I mean Eilonwy. Complete with her own Navi. (Sorry for all the Legend of Zelda jokes. Kind of hard to avoid!) They also meet a minstrel named Fflewddur and escape the castle with a magic sword. Then they meet a comic relief named Gurgi who looks like a Shih Tzu mixed with a chimpanzee. All four decide to search for the pig and cauldron and meet up with some fairies and witches that trade Taran's sword for the cauldron. One problem: you can't destroy the thing. You have to stop it's powers by sacrificing yourself by jumping in it. They get caught, escape again, but win thanks to Gurgi sacrificing himself. The Horned King is defeated, the witches revive the dog-monkey, and walk off happily ever after.

....Yeah, this one's kind of bad. It really doesn't hold up that well, at least for my taste. Why? It's pretty annoying: the characters, the story at parts, I got a headache after watching it again. It's extremely chatty with very little action for something with it's premise. I know we're supposed to root for the heroes but I'll make an exception here. Taran want's to be a great hero. The problem is his bark is worse than his bite. I mean it. He doesn't shut up!  He barely does anything in the movie! His voice is annoying. His ego is annoying. He just goes on and on about being the greatest warrior and praises himself and God, I want to punch him!

Then there's Gurgi. Not as bad as Taran, in fact he does more than the kid does in the end, but his voice is sort of grating to me. If you thought Jar-Jar Binks' voice was earsplittingly annoying, listen to this.

Every one else is just kind of meh. To be fair, this was made from three books from a series of five and compressing all of them into an hour and a half film isn't the easiest thing to do. It's not like Lord of the Rings where Peter Jackson had three films to develop characters. We only get 80 minutes in one film here, so I'll give it some slack. This princess character is a good example of what I'm talking about. Judging from the movie alone, she really can't be called a princess. It sounds like she took the name princess because it sounded cool. We don't even see her kingdom or even where that floating thing of light came from. Even the villain is more talk and less do. The animation's meh, the music by Elmer Bernstien is... well, all I heard when I listened to the soundtrack was Ghostbusters!

Despite my bitching and moaning, is this really the worst Disney film out there? I actually don't think so. I mean, yeah it's annoying but there's nothing really that horrendous about it. It's not offensive nor are there any mixed messages. I just think it's just kind of a bad film. But there are some folks that like it. I find it has a growing fan base and I'd be lying if I didn't see why. It is a little darker than your usual Disney fare and some of the mythology is kind of cool. But it didn't please a lot of folks when it was first released and it certainly doesn't hold up to my tastes today. It's not godawful, just bland, forgettable, and annoying at parts. It's not the worst Disney film, but I'd still skip it.


Chris Sig said...

reg; Gurgi, when I first watched this movie some years back, a friend told me she was reminded more of Gollum from "Lord on the Rings" if anything else. Most likely it's the voice that does it, but you be the judge.

And as for Eilonwy, it was about this time when her voice actress, Susan Sheridan, had started making a very good name of herself in the United Kingdom. Susan is well-known for voicing younger characters, small boys a speciality. Well worth Googling if you've not heard her before.

Justin Smith said...

Susan Sheridan? I think I'll look her up. As for Gurgi, I was thinking Gollum because I first saw this well after "The Lord of the Rings" was made.