25th Anniversary DVD of Disney’s failed animated adventure, it’s hard to believe that it was merely four years later that we saw The Little Mermaid. A lot changed between the time the former film flopped and the latter hit, and even more in the intervening years, leaving The Black Cauldron floundering at the bottom of the Disney canon. It also didn’t help that it was the film that nearly ended Disney animation for good.
Based on the book series “The Chronicles of Prydain” by Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron was Disney’s attempt to toughen up its image. And, with scary scenes of a walking dead army and glimpses of blood and gore, they succeeded to an extent, at least as far as the MPAA was concerned. The rating service branded the film with a PG rating, the first ever for a Disney animated feature.
However, even with such attempts at prestige as employing 70 mm widescreen (much like its obvious inspiration, Sleeping Beauty) and enlisting legendary film composer Elmer Bernstein (The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird) for the score, not to mention a budget that was the highest for an animated feature at the time, The Black Cauldron was dead on arrival back in 1985. Audiences just weren’t interested in a dark Disney cartoon fantasy with no songs and, more importantly, no heart ...
Click here to continue reading my Toon Talk review of The Black Cauldron at LaughingPlace.com.