Making the Grades
Once again the Disney marketing team proves its prowess for recycling. Twenty-five years after the release of The Black Cauldron, the studio opens its vaults and brings this adventure to home theaters. Based on the first two books of Lloyd Alexander’s The Prydain Chronicles, the story follows the adventures of Taran (voice of Grant Bardsley), a young, assistant pig herder who cares for a porker with oracular abilities.
However, Taran soon discovers that The Evil Horned King (voice of Arthur Malet) is after his curly tailed charge. The regal ruler wants the prophetic pig to show him the whereabouts of an enchanted black cauldron. Imprisoned inside the ebony colored pot is a powerful spell that can create an unstoppable army of soldiers from the bones of skeletons. With this legion of undead militia, the king plans to take over the world.
When his little hog is captured, Taran embarks on a rescue mission. Along the way, he meets the outspoken Princess Eilonwy (voice of Susan Sheridan) and an aging minstrel (voice of Freddie Jones) who agree to help him find the piglet. Taran also stumbles upon a magical sword that gives the scrawny teen an edge when he fights off hoards of the Horned King’s gruesome goons. (Giddy with his newfound power, Taran envisions himself as a great warrior until he is forced to choose between it and the life of a friend.) Together with a puppy-like creature named Gurgi (voice of John Byner), the threesome encounters a trio of witches (voices by Eda Reiss Merin, Adele Malis-Morey and Billie Hayes) and a group of fairies (voices by Lindsay Rich, Brandon Call, Gregory Levinson) who point them in the direction of the cauldron.
The first ever Disney movie to receive a PG rating, the film failed to garner strong audience appeal when it was first released in 1985. With none of usual musical interludes to lighten the mood, the dark plot includes some gruesome characters and frightful moments that may be too intense for young viewers. (A young Tim Burton worked as a conceptual artist on the production.)
Whether a new generation of viewers is more taken with The Black Cauldron or not remains to be seen. But parents of little ones may still want to take a cautionary approach to introducing their youngest family members to this boiling pot.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Black Cauldron.
What does Taran learn about the value of friendship? What sacrifices does he make?
How do the characters in this film learn to work together? What do they learn from each other?
If you’ve read the books, do you think this movie is a good adaptation?