Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Black Cauldron


This was an experiment, a movie at least a decade ahead of its time, and like several Disney experiments going all the way back to Fantasia, it was a failure. There have always been scary scenes in Disney animation, but few images of real horror. The only one I can think of is the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence from Fantasia, from which the artists on this one stole liberally. This movie is chock full of that sort of image, even after the new head of animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg, actually cut some scenes he deemed too strong. You hardly ever cut scenes from an animated movie, there are no outtakes (no matter what Pixar would have you believe), because each scene is so carefully planned. It was widely condemned as too ugly, too violent, too gory … too much of a lot of things, which is really laughable today, where children see images 1000 times as violent and horrific all the time. Such a difference 25 years of moral degeneration can make. That said, this movie is no Fantasia. It was adapted from a series of books called Chronicles of Prydain, and there is simply too much plot and not enough time to do justice to it. I didn’t find any of the characters to be very engaging except for a little bug-eyed troll, the toadying servant of the Horned King. One of them, a minstrel named Fflewddur Fflam, just seems to appear for no reason at all except that he was in the book, does pretty much nothing at all, and is about as superfluous and unfunny as a comic character can be. Another, a fuzzy thing called Gurgi, is quite annoying. This movie is noteworthy mainly as the first use of computer animation by the Disney studios. Some of it looks pretty good, and some of it sucks.