My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it has many issues. The characterization is weak, the “adventure” takes place too late in the film and it is too short; with it being CLEAR where the 12 minutes that was taken out was. There was not much to engage in with the bad humor, characters, and the decent story, and especially when many of the characters do nothing. What I will say is that there IS creativity.
This film is the first WDAS film to be rated PG, first to use the Walt Disney Pictures logo, first to use computer generated animation (CGI on the bubbles, effects, and the cauldron), and the first to not have a “The End” at the end of the film (The Great Mouse Detective, Aladdin, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame would be the final WDAS films to have a titled The End after it). The newer generation had complete control of this film, with most (if not all) the originals dead, left, or retired.
This film had a long production, starting from 1971. Joe Hale joined the production in 1980, and completely changed everything about the movie; The Horned King was promoted, and the script was re-written. Things were extremely challenging with trying to get a low rating, and to work the issues in the film, and a new face to the company named Jeffrey Katzenberg ruined the film even more, by removing and editing out 12 minutes out of an 80-90 minute film, and they STILL barely got a PG rating. This film was in development hell, and should have STAYED in development hell….meaning that it should never have been released.
So the film starts with some dialogue, explaining how the Horned King (John Hurt) was a king of a mystic land, and that the gods even feared him. Does this make him a god? Just immortal? Never explained. Apparently his demonic spirit was captured and put into the Black Cauldron, and he has been finding it ever since.
This is apparently common knowledge, as Dallben (Freddie Jones), our protagonist Taran (Grant Bardsley), and others know about it. Taran is too distracted by the illusion of being a war hero, and imagining beating The Horned King. Dalbeen tells him that he needs to focus on his work as an assistant pig keeper, which causes Taran to complain about his worthless life and wanting to be a hero, and when he is not complaining, he cockily treats the others like they are below him, as he interprets a hero.
The Oracular pig Hen Wen starts to freak out as he is about to have a vision, with Taran trying to calm him down. Taran is told the truth about Hen Wen when he is brought inside. The vision reveals that The Horned King knows about Hen Wen (though only Dalbeen knew before a few seconds ago), and commands Taran to bring Hen Wen to another cottage to hide him, which he takes with content.
The duo walk, and take a break so Taran can play Hero with his imaginary friends, long enough for Hen Wen to wander off and to get captured. Hen Wen is so cute and the most likable character in the film. I feel really bad for her.
Gurgi (John Byner) appears, and irritates us all (including Taran) with his….voice and actions. He tries to steal from Taran, but then switches it up to where he wants to be his friend; this is extremely odd. Anyways, Taran and Gurgi (who soon ditches him) finds Hen Wen, to only see her get kidnapped by the dragons. When Gurgi returns, Taran tells him off.
Taran makes it to the Horned King’s castle, and sees Hen Wen with the knights/servants/other occupants at the castle. He fucks it up, which causes them to notice and almost beat him up. The Horned King tells Taran to get Hen Wen to find where the Black Cauldron is, but refuses, After Hen Wig is almost beheaded, Taran gives in, to only back out of it.
Taran throws the pig over in the lake and as he hops, Taran is captured and put in a cell. Elionwy (Susan Sheridan) and her magical ball arrive in the cell as they try to escape. She says Taran can come along if he wants to, and they both discuss how they were there because Horned King wants to find a way to the Cauldron, (he did this with her magical ball; which never appears again after this scene.
They are in the forest, and Gurgi soon joins them; to the chagrin of Taran. The little boy is so excited about saving the day, and Elionwy points out that his sword saved the day, and not much him. They get into an argument, and he insults her by calling her a girl (slaps hand on forehead). Didn’t they learn from the last film? This is SO a step back from the subtleness of the Golden and Silver Age.
So she loses it on anyone who sides with Taran, and cries. Everyone makes up soon after, and this will never be mentioned again in the film. Gurgi leads them to follow Hen Weg’s footsteps, and they end up in some fairy place where Hen Weg went after he was released. An issue with this movie is that Hen Weg is used as a plot device. She has SUCH an important role in the film, and has a presence in the beginning , but as the film goes on, it is like they have nothing to do with him, so he is almost always off-screen in the second half, though the entire story revolves around her.
So they end up at a campfire, and they are bummed. Taran says he is nothing
no debate here but Elionwy disagrees, and the young teens show their belligerent attraction. They are soon captured and arrested back at The Horned King’s castle.
So The Horned King gets the Cauldron, and creates his skeleton army, as he is going to use them to take over the world (I don’t really get his motivation and goal). They were told that in order for the Cauldron to be down with, someone has to willingly sacrifice themself. Everyone is rescued by Gurgi. and Taran is ready to jump in the Cauldron, but Gurgi beats him to it. For some reason, it is not enough for the Cauldron, and then the most anticlimactic climax in the history of WDAS happens. No one defeats the villain, but he is swallowed by himself. The villain does not do anything during the entire film, and neither did any of the characters.
Anyways, they leave the castle and the Witches meet up with them. They make a deal to give them the cauldron, and the crew to get Gurgi. That ends up happening. I am confused by this; wouldn’t all the stuff that was caused by the cauldron have to be reversed or anything? Anyways, he gets Taran and Elionwy to awkwardly kiss and they live happily ever after, as they are all going “home”, where they do not live together, and we never see Taran go back home.
The characters in this film are either stale, unlikable, or accomplishes nothing, or a mixture of both. There is no real character development, I do not really know these characters, and they are duds overall.
The animation is actually kind of good, The character designs are pleasing, and the backgrounds are really great. You can definitely tell that the newer generation were still having issues with the Xerography, but it is not as obvious as it was in the previous two efforts. One thing that I will say about it is that the animation is kind of dull because the color scheme has a lot of greys and dark colors.
This is the first film in the canon to not have ANY songs. The score is pretty good, but it is done by the guy that did the score for Ghostbusters, but it is too similar, and the score is too 1980s.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on July 26th, 1985, it flopped hard. It was the most expensive animated film, and the third most expensive film to be made (behind Cleopatra and Heaven’s Gate), with $44 million as its budget, and it only made half of its budget, with $21,288,692 in the box office, putting them in a bigger financial disaster than they already were (and have been for many years).
To make things worse, it got mixed reviews, with some praising it for its visuals and entertainment (what entertainment?), and with others panning it’s bad characterization, storytelling, and ignoring many things from the book.
The reception of the film is probably the worst in the entire canon. Fans of this movie had to wait over a decade to get a VHS on it, and Disney mentions it as their worst moment ever, but many see it is a wake up call. This film is at the absolute bottom of the barrel; and yes, even lower than Home on the Range and Chicken Little.
= 23.5/40 = 59%