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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Black Cauldron

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie and blog about it in a futile attempt to bring meaning to my life.  Taking a look at a Disney animated film that I love, but doesn't get a lot of love in general.  That would be The Black Cauldron.  This is in my notes at January 6, 2017.

The 1970s up until the mid-1980s was a weird time for Disney.  When Walt passed away in the late-1960s, the studio was left without a guiding vision, and they just kinda floundered for a while.  As the 1970s dragged on, they started to get a little more experimental, and this is where we got such films as The Black Hole, Tron and Watcher in the Woods.  Around this same time, animation was starting to grow up, and we were getting more adult fare, like Heavy Metal and the works of Ralph Bakshi.  So Disney decided to try their hand at this grown-up animation.  But then, someone said, "Wait a minute.  We're Disney!  We can't do grown-up animation!"  So they wound up doing...teenage animation. 

This is The Black Cauldron.  It was so different for Disney at the time, that it flopped, and Disney was this close to shutting down their animation division for good.  But then their next one was a film about a great mouse detective, and that was a big enough hit that the Disney Renaissance began. 

But I love The Black Cauldron.  I have such vivid memories of seeing it in the theatre.  Every summer vacation me and my siblings would spend a few days with my grandparents down in Red Deer.  And my grandmother would usually treat us to a movie.  The Black Cauldron, being the latest Disney animated film, seemed like a good one for us to go see. 

I don't know why it was burned into my brain.  Maybe it was because Masters of the Universe was one of my favourite toys at the time, so I took to its fantasy setting.  The villainous Horned King does look a lot like Skeletor, and there's a magic sword.  Or maybe it was the undead army.  Guys, this is a Disney animated film with a zombie army.  How awesome is that? 

Loosely based on the epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Prydain, The Black Cauldron tells us the tale Taran, an assistant pig-keeper.  But he soon learns this his pig, Hen Wen, is clairvoyant, and the evil Horned King is after her.  For Hen Wen is the key to showing the Horned King where the Black Cauldron is, and with its power, the Horned King can create an army of deathless warriors..the Cauldron-born..a zombie army with which he can conquer the land.  So Taran is soon on the run to protect Hen Wen from the Horned King, and he's soon joined by many companions.  There's Princess Eilonway, another captive of the Horned King.  There's the cowardly bard Flewder Flym.  And of course, our comedic relief sidekick, the bear-like thing Gurgi. 

This is high adventure on such a grand scale, but I can see why it bombed back in the day.  This has got to be Disney's bleakest animated film.  It's just so dark and dreary. 

And did I mention there's a zombie army?  There's a zombie army.  The Horned King actually gets to unleash them at the film's climax, and it truly is a chilling scene, as they're always enshrouded by this ghastly green mist. 

Disney took a long time to release it on video.  It hit theatres in 1985, but Disney didn't release it on video until the late 1990s.  You know, that stretch in the 90s when they finally started releasing everything on video.  I bought it twice on DVD now.  I have the original "Gold Collection," and I finally broke down and bought the "25th anniversary edition," because the 25th anniversary edition is finally in widescreen.  I was holding out for Blu-Ray, but because it is one of the lessers of the Disney animated canon, that's looking less and less likely to happen. 

I've got so much nostalgia wrapped up in this film.  I love it. 

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