Film Review: The Black Cauldron (1985)


There was definitely potential. A dark Disney movie based on Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, about a farm boy’s brave attempt to stop a demonic king from conquering the land with his army of skeletal warriors? Sign me up! Unfortunately, Disney wasn’t willing to go the full mile with PG content (even the current DVD is edited for violence). It didn’t help that their entire animation department was new and relatively inexperienced. Most of the revered ‘Nine Old Men’ who gave us all the Disney classics up to that point had retired. The Black Cauldron was to be a proving ground for the new talent, and when it failed spectacularly, Disney moved the animators off the lot and into a warehouse, and locked the film in a vault for many years, not even releasing it to home video until the late `90s.

But is it really that bad? Well, kinda. There’s an amateur quality to the film, both in its storytelling and the quality of the animation. The story loses momentum at the half-way point, the characters aren’t terribly endearing, the showdown between good and evil is anti-climactic, and the finale presumes emotional investment that the movie never quite earns.

I like the villainous Horned King, voiced very well by John Hurt, but he’s an ornament on a bare tree. Even with unproven animators, I think The Black Cauldron could have worked if it only had a better script.

Rating: 2.5/5 ★★½☆☆ 


About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (

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