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Welcome to the first edition of “In Defense Of…” This is where I write an editorial covering a couple of positive elements of Disney, Dreamworks, or Pixar films that were negatively reviewed or downright panned by the critics and audiences.
Pop quiz time! What do you get when you have a big budget, take seven years to make a movie, and then release it in 1985? Well, you get what is widely known to be Disney’s biggest flop in terms of an animated film, The Black Cauldron. Most people these days are more familiar with the huge financial and critical Disney flops like John Carter and The Lone Ranger, two infamously horrible movies that did incredibly poorly at the box office. Not United Passions flop, but it did so badly that it was beaten out by The Care Bears Movie. Think about that for a moment, a film so bad, that another mediocre movie did better. The Black Cauldron put the studio into major jeopardy, which was luckily saved by the likes of The Great Mouse Detectives, Oliver and Company, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and of course, The Little Mermaid, which started the famous Disney Renaissance of the 90s. So, with all of this failure behind the movie and its development history of last-minute changes, is there anything good/redeemable for this movie? Well, yes. I think there are a couple of good elements, and apparently, I am not the only one who thinks so, since the film is now getting a cult following. Let’s begin! Oh, and spoilers!
- The beautiful animation
During this time at Disney, they were pretty much reusing a lot of their animation from past films like The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Snow White, and so on. It made the films feel cheap, and while I like movies like Disney’s Robin Hood, it felt like they were doing this because the films took a long time to make, and they wanted to save a lot of money. However, from what I have seen, The Black Cauldron is 100% original animation. No rehashes. It also looks good with the smooth movements and, during the death scene of the villain, very detailed. It’s a good-looking movie. It’s just a shame so much money went into the animation, but it had a mediocre story.
- The Villain/Villain Death
While you can argue that there isn’t much to this villain, The Horned King is one of the most intimidating villains in Disney’s cannon. It doesn’t hurt either that he is voiced by famous actor John Hurt. There is something really unsettling about him from his design to the raspy voice. I bet for the kids that saw this movie, The Horned King gave them nightmares. On top of that, his villain death is probably the most graphic out of any Disney film. At the end of the movie he is forcefully pulled in to the titular Black Cauldron. His skin peels and tears away from him, and his bones turn to dust as he is pulled into the cauldron kicking and screaming. It’s gruesome, if you couldn’t tell.
- The Atmosphere
The movie lacks in a lot of elements, but The Black Cauldron has some great atmosphere at some points. The film makes you feel like you are in this grungy fantasy world, where there is no hope among the human and creatures that live there. Sure, the immersion sometimes comes to a halt when you have to deal with some of the pointless side characters, but when the film is quiet, you feel fully inside the film’s world.
Unfortunately, even looking at all of these positives, this is easily one of the weakest Disney films I have ever seen. Its story is thin, the characters are either forgettable or annoying, the ending is underwhelming, and for all the money and time put into the film’s animation and marketing, you would think this would have been great. I guess it also doesn’t help that The Black Cauldron is based off a series of books. I don’t know, I feel like if they made the characters more interesting and not have the many Disney tropes, the film would have at least been solid. They probably should have gone full-on dark fantasy. I’m fine with you if you like it, since as I listed, there are good elements. It’s just not personally my favorite Disney film. Well, I hope you all enjoyed this because we are going to next time do a companion piece to In Defense Of with The Negatives, where we take a look at the negatives of the most popular/widely acclaimed Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks movies. So, since we looked at one of the worst Disney disasters of all time, how about we look at Disney’s recent Golden Goose with Frozen? Thanks for reading!