Friday, June 27, 2014

Project Disney- The Black Cauldron

Project Disney: The plan is to tackle all of the Disney films, re-reading the classic stories and tales that inspired many of them and to look at how the changes the filmmakers made, the new elements they introduced and the essential elements they kept. We will, of course, be talking about the films as movies as well, saying why we enjoy them and what some of our favorite moments are, but our focus will be on looking at them as adaptations. For the films that are not drawn from any one work we’ll be looking at some of the possible literary influences that we see in the stories. I am participating in Project Disney inspired by Picture Me Reading!  

The Black Cauldron is surprisingly a Disney movie I may not have seen recently. In fact... I don't even remember it though I am sure I watched it as a child. It came out in 1985 and I for sure saw all the movie back then. The movie is based off the first two books in the Chronicles of Prydain series by Llyod Alexander.  The first is called the Book of Three and the second is called The Black Cauldron written in 1964.

I didn't love this movie.  I don't know what it is... this is a darker Disney film.  More for adults I think then kids.  There are no songs in this film.  Really this is a big fantasy novel series for young adults so I give Disney props for attempting to make this a film. This is like Disney's Lord of the Rings. Lloyd Alexander's reaction was this: "First, I have to say, there is no resemblance between the movie and the book. Having said that, the movie in itself, purely as a movie, I found to be very enjoyable." You usually don't get an author who is alive to be able to talk about the Disney movie based off their book.

I have a feeling most of you, like me haven't really seen this film.  So let's talk about what the movie is about. The movie follows a young man named Taran who is an Assistant Pig Keeper at a farm.  The pig is named Hen Wen and she can tell the future.  Hen Wen tells Taran that the Horned King is looking for the Black Cauldron so that he can unleash it's power. The Horned King is also after Hen Wen since he knows of her powers.  So Taran and the pig head to a cottage to hide.  While they are on their way to the cottage Taran daydreams about being a big hero and loses Hen Wen. Now we get introduced to one of the worst characters in Disney film, Gurgi.  Ughh... in the movie this creature is presented as a dog, the book he is a cross between a human and a beast.  In the movie.. this dog is more like Jar-Jar Binks (Star Wars character).. or really Gollum.  Seriously he sounds just like Gollum.  In the book.. he is a much more agreeable character.

Next up in the movie we see Hen Wen being attacked and sent to Mordor oh wait.. umm the Horned King's castle. So of course Taran follows.  Hen Wen is forced to tell the King where the Black Cauldron is.  Taran falls in through the ceiling and is captured. Next we see him in the dungeons. While in the dungeon he meets Princess Eiloney (who by the way is the one of the only Disney princesses who is a princess by birth not marriage). They go to escape the dungeon and find a tomb of a king where Taran takes the King's sword.  They also meet Fflewddue Fflam who is bard in the dungeon.  They escape from the castle where Taran discovers the sword is magic.

Do you seen Tinker Bell in this screen shot??

So they leave and run into Gurgi again.  While traveling they end up in a storm which takes them down to a cave where fairies live. The fairies reveal that the Black Cauldron is safe and hidden.  Taran declares he will destroy it. So they travel there where there are three witches guarding it.  The witches agree to trade the Black Cauldron for the sword that Taran found. The group is told that you can't destroy the cauldron but you can stop the evilness if a living being jumps into it willingly.  The Horned King shows up and takes the cauldron and the group back to his castle.  He uses the cauldron to bring back to life a group of zombie soldiers.  Taran decides he wants to jump into the cauldron to save everyone but Gurgi won't let him and jumps in himself. This destroys the army and sucks the Horned King into the cauldron and destroys him too.

They escape and the witches come back to get the cauldron.  The witches say they will give back the sword in place of the cauldron but the group demands Gurgi back.  So now he is back to life. They all go back to the farm.  Let's be honest... this film is so not typical of Disney. This is the first Disney movie to be rated PG and had to be cut down to not be rated PG-13. Disney does make a scary villain in this film though.. and I love that!

The book of course starts out much differently. It does begin with Hen Wen running off from the cottage.  Taran tries to hurry and go find him but instead runs into a great warrior Gwydion who is also looking for the pig. Gwydion is the person who gives Taran the name Assistant Pig Keeper.  They end up being captured in a totally different castle, though Taran does meet Princess Elioney there and Fflam.  It is actually Elioney that gets the sword and later in the first book gives it to Gwydion. Gwydion isn't in the story after the castle scene till the end of the story.

In the book Taran actually meets Fflam by accident.  Elioney decides to help Taran escape the castle for a little fun since she lives there with her evil aunt.  He tells her his friend (Gwydion) is in there somewhere and she knows someone is in the next cell.  So she helps that guy escape and then when Taran goes outside expecting to meet his friend he meets the bard instead. Who is just as surprised as everyone else.  They end up teaming up together.  Gurgi ends up with them because he kows Gwydion and then comes back to find him (he is missing) and he also ends up with the group.  The Horned King actually dies in this book and never has anything to actually do with the Black Cauldron.

The books are quite good.  A neat fantasy series that includes all the elements a fantasy would have.  I really enjoyed it.  The movie is one I have to watch again now that I have read the books.  Sometimes I find that watching a movie after reading a book can make for a better experience.  The film did so poorly at the box office that it didn't get released on home video for an entire decade!!  That is crazy to me. There are so many rumors about what was cut from this film to make it PG.  Honestly I don't think it's a terrible film but it just isn't my style.  I really do enjoy the books though.  Disney tried to make a great fantasy film but fell a little short with this one.

Be sure to check out my other Project Disney:
Snow White
Peter Pan
Treasure Planet
Sleeping Beauty
The Great Mouse Detective 
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Princess and the Frog
Beauty and the Beast
Lady and the Tramp
Alice in Wonderland
The Rescuers
The Rescuers Down Under
Oliver and Company
The Little Mermaid
101 Dalmatians
Fantasia 2000
The Jungle Book
The Emperor's New Groove
The Sword in the Stone
The Aristocats
The Lion King
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Robin Hood
Mary Poppins
Lilo and Stitch  
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Make Mine Music
Fox and the Hound
Melody Time 


  1. This movie was AWFUL!! The Chronicles of Prydain are some of my favorite books, and the movie slaughters it!!

  2. I loved this movie when I was a kid, but I barely remember it now. I remember a lot of bitching from some people that it was "too dark for kids." I hope I get the chance to see this one again.

  3. I just watched this recently and yeah, it's pretty mediocre. It had trouble holding my interest. But the book sounds much better - I would like to read it one day! And it is very kind of the author to have been nice about the movie - I mean, I wonder if he really enjoyed it! :)

    I always love reading your posts for the review AND for the extra behind the scenes info you include so I just wanted to clarify what you were saying about Eilonwy cause there are other Disney princesses who are princesses from birth. Was there another bit of trivia connected with her being a princess??

  4. I did watch The Black Cauldron as a kid and never liked it. Not just because it was scary but it was also just dark and not fun.

    I read the first book years later as an adult and didn't love it. But I think if I'd read it when I was younger I probably would have liked it more. Still, wasn't fun and pretty and happy and I like those sorts of things :) Pigs are not cool or glamorous animals and Taran really isn't a hero (much) (yet).

    I love the point you made about Eiloney being a princess by birth and not marriage. Interesting.

  5. This movie doesn't really have the fun and carefree feeling you get from the book. The books are a fun fantasy... this is just dark and well the story is disjointed. Plus I learned a lot of the scene with the Cauldron Born was cut to make it PG so that scene is just a mess.

  6. I don't think it is too dark for kids... well maybe in the 80s but now not so much. I mean... look at the Nightmare Before Christmas. There is a creepy movie for kids, even Coraline is creepy. I love those movies but this one the story just wasn't good.

  7. Ah I see! I guess there is that nice fairy tale aspect to an ordinary girl marrying a prince that lends itself well to Disney - so that might be why there are so many more princesses by non birth! That post was really interesting to read btw!

    I'm glad that the books are short too - sometimes it's nice to know I can get through a book quickly! ;)

  8. Taran really looks bad in the movie. Always doubting himself... just not the typical hero we are used to seeing. The book is very middle grade. I didn't dislike the book ... but it is a little slow. A high fantasy for middle school readers. A lot of people I ask about this movie don't even know what it is, or that it's a Disney film.

  9. Wow I have no memory of this movie! I think I was one of the many who enjoyed the books as a kid though, maybe it's for the best I didn't see the film.

  10. I know I saw this as a kid, and I remember my reaction being similar to yours. This could also have to do with the fact that I read this series over and over as a kid, so the movie was....very different.

  11. That's too bad I remember enjoying this film when I was younger I think more so because I liked the crunchins and munchins line

  12. I had this in computer game form back in the 80s and really enjoyed it so my memory of the movie is really good. I bought the movie in audio form when my youngest was really little because I had such a positive association with it and was surprised and the slowness of the basic plot.

  13. I love the Prydain Chronicles as books, but I was bitterly disappointed by the movie. Sometimes I can treat the movie as something totally different from the book, but I just couldn't do it with this one. Someday I hope the books get the (live-action) film treatment they deserve. I know people who saw it without reading the books and liked it, though, so the movie must have some good points -- and thank you for pointing them out, because I've not been able to see past my anger and disappointment.

  14. This movie is just an odd Disney film. I am actually checking the movie out from the library to watch one more time now that I have read the books. I want to see it again from a different stand point. Sometimes I find if I watch something twice I like it the second time around. So I am going to give it a go again.

  15. Crunchins and Munchins!!! LOL!! Well .. I was a little bothered that it was a dog saying it when in the book it's some sort of beast that goes around with the group.. not looking for an apple I might say. Much darker.

  16. YES the computer game!!! Did you know it was only the second game Sierra put our after King's Quest (you probably know from the blog I am a gaming geek). I think maybe had I seen this movie more as a kid I would've liked it. But since Disney withheld it from being released on DVD (meaning it didn't get released until 1995) that could be why I never loved it. By 1995 I was a teenager and other Disney movies has surpassed this film that year ( the Lion King in 1994 and Toy Story in 1995). So this film was way off my radar.

  17. At least you remember it! Most people when I tell them about it are like.. what movie?

  18. YES! This movie compared to the books is nonsense. The more I think about it.. the more I really do think it was Disney trying to get a LOTR film. The authors main inspiration was Tolkien, which is very very apparent in the books. So Disney brings this to the screen since LOTR rights were tied up at the time. I think this would be a good live action film too. ... one even made more for kids like the Harry Potter films.

  19. I've never seen the movie or read the book. I'm a bit surprised that it doesn't have any songs in it, I thought all Disney animations had songs in them. Well, for except for Bolt, which the only other that I can think of, but that's from a different generation. That Gif you posted kinda looks like Mumbra from He-Man!

  20. There are actually a couple movies with no music. This one, Treasure Planet, Emperor's New Grove, I tried to google a list but actually couldn't find one. There are a few films without music. Bambi I think also. I am surprised I can't find a list out there! Shocker!

  21. Off topic... are you going to go and see Transformers 4? I have been watching your blog for a review but haven't seen one yet.

  22. yes - the book was very middle grade is a big part of why it didn't work for me. It works sometimes - the Winterling series is also pretty middle grade, but I enjoyed it. But you kind of have to be expecting middle grade fantasy because you know that's what you're getting into in order to enjoy it. Or, at least, I do.

  23. I will probably check that series out!

  24. I actually have this movie. It is super dark. I also remember a PC game version. I had that as well. I own the books but I have never read them. I guess I should do that.

  25. Or The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth

  26. I have this movie, and I love it. I'm not sure how I missed this post. I've never read the books, so I have nothing to negatively compare it to. Maybe cause I'm a guy, and this was one film that had a boy as a hero. Who knows, but I still really enjoy it.

  27. I want to play this PC game!! I love video games so I think this might be fun. Though sometimes when games are based off movies they get rushed and aren't fun. Soo.. who knows?

  28. Yes.. the whole Disney has no boy movies!! So this fits that mold. Tarzan, Hercules, Peter Pan. Only a few. Though with Tangled they try to make that movie work for both boys and girls. We never had this movie growing up and I am surprised by that!