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The Black Cauldron

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 77 mins . PG . PAL


Even with the vast studio resources of Walt Disney, a pisspoor effort can still sneak through the net. Disney’s 25th full-length feature (if 77 minutes could be called ‘full-length’) is a disappointment on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. The transfer to DVD has been particularly unkind to the original copy – there are so many cel reflections, artefacts and even cel repairs evident they tend to occupy the viewer more than the rather dreary story.

Taran is a boy with big hopes. He dreams of becoming a warrior, rather than the pig herder he is now. When his pig is discovered to be clairvoyant (yep, you read that right) by the Horned King, Taran must set off to hide her somewhere, which will save her from the evil clutches of his henchmen. Typically, before they get there, the pig is captured. The Horned King wants anything in the kingdom that can tell him the whereabouts of the fabled Black Cauldron, a demon imprisoned forever as an item of cookware. It soon becomes a race against time as both parties try to grab the cauldron (hopefully to cook up a better plot.)

With its simplistic storyline this film is almost an insult. Holes appear at every twist, action is limited and the artwork and special effects are subpar. There is evidence of cels painted without colour continuity in more than one instance (28:56 + 30:08) and in darker scenes the cel reflection is unfalteringly glaring and obvious (see 36:38 + 51:00). This entire film struck me as being a second rate animated knock-off of a Disney film, and that is a disgrace from this usually excellent leading studio.

The story resembles Lord of the Rings in more ways than one, including a Gollum-like character named Gurgi (big leap…). The Horned King looks like Skeletor from He-Man. I kept waiting for him to call Beast Man an incompetent fool. Or me for watching this DVD...


For some reason this film is presented in 2.35:1 and whilst the case pronounces its transfer is 16:9, it hasn’t been enhanced. Probably for the best. There’s so much film grain, artefacts and glare off this feature we probably shouldn’t see it too close. Colours are dreadfully washed out and muddy for the most part. Some of the lighting effects were impressive though, particularly during the castle sequence when the Princess and her ill-defined ‘bauble’ enter the picture. There are also some cutting edge technologies thrown in, but whether they asked ‘could we?’ rather than ‘should we?’ I shall leave up to you. Just to top off the wonderful video section I’ll add that there are instances of aliasing throughout, though not too many. Enough to notice, but not enough to make you cross-eyed.


At least they’ve presented this in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it doesn’t sound too bad. The dialogue is clear and crisp (if the characters aren’t), so we’re never left confused by what major players have said. The sound effects are okay and they’re well synched to the animation. There are instances of skeletons walking around and the nice ‘bone-clinking’ sounds work well. Bunches of cute little characters called the Fair Folk appear, who speak in childlike voices, and while the words might trip one or two viewers, they sound pretty clear and legible (and not that they have much to say anyway and little to do with the plot). In fact, as far as this entire package goes, the sound is the best part. Unfortunately that just isn’t enough to show any respect to the buying public.


Alright, get this: There are three Special Features included on this disc. The first is a Game entitled Quest for the Cauldron and is a rather simple multiple choice quiz to get you to the goal. You get two choices of path as well, making it two games for the price of one. When you successfully navigate your way through, you win a video prize. Which is the second Bonus Feature and readily available on the extras menu anyway. That is so weak! (The cartoon is a 1952 Donald Duck title called Trick or Treat). Lastly there is a Still Gallery which contains over 100 images from Behind The Scenes, Concept Art, Worldwide Promotion and even The Black Cauldron Ride at Tokyo Disneyland. This is only really worth looking at for the concept art, and incredibly, includes five images of early Tim Burton work, making that page the highlight of the extras.


This is a very, very disappointing effort from Disney. Whilst the transfer is quite satisfactory for the most part, the quality of the film really lets them down. The story is mundane (even embarrassing), the art is average at best and the colour looks like crap. This DVD represents the cash cow as I have rarely seen it and is incredibly poor value. It’s an insult to not only the public, but to Disney themselves. For shame.

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      And I quote...
    "Disney falling down."
    - Jules Faber
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