THE BLACK CAULDRON: 25th Anniversary Special Edition
Written by Jason Flick
October 4, 2010
The month of scares is quickly approaching so what better way than to kick things off a little early with the release of one of Disney’s darker animated films. The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition on DVD releases this week with very little fanfare. I only knew about it due to the fact that I’m reviewing it and I saw it on the shelf amongst all the new releases at one of my local establishments. I first saw The Black Cauldron some years ago and I rather enjoyed it, despite the dark nature of the film. Years later I saw the film again and my feelings for the film still haven’t changed.
The Black Cauldron tells the tale of Taran, a young assistant pig keeper, who want to do heroic deeds for his country. However what he doesn’t know is that the pig his looking after is no ordinary farm animal. Hen Wen, the pig, can predict the future and the evil Horned King will stop at nothing to use her to locate the mysterious Black Cauldron. It’s up to Taran and the unlikeliest of friends to stop him in this fantasy tale of magic, swords and sorcery. The story has its ups and down moments emotionally especially towards the end and may still scare some little ones even today with some of its imagery.
There are several things that I like about this film. The first is that it is different from anything Disney has ever done. Sure several of their films have had dark moments like Sleeping Beauty and The Lion King but The Black Cauldron is by far the darkest of them. Most Disney films are light, cheerful and come with a heartfelt message not that this film doesn’t have the latter. The message of this film to me is that anyone can be a hero in their own way.
I also like the motley crew of individual that make up the good side in this battle of good vs. evil. The feisty but lovable Princess Eilonwy, the over exaggerating bard Fflewddur Fflam, and a cute and lovable creature named Gurgi make an unlikely bunch of heroes. The dialogue between these characters makes for some of the lighter parts of the film and is quite funny at times.
The Black Cauldron might have been a disappointment in the theaters but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of my favorites in the Disney line and a favored title amongst some of my friends. It is nice to see that Disney tried something new and outside their normal happy fare. The film features dark imagery, sad moments with a hint of Disney’s trademark happy moments and moral messages. The Black Cauldron also happens to be the first film to be given the rating of PG so it might be a bit dark for some young children.
The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition features a vibrant picture even in its dark parts with a new digital master of the film. Disney always has been really good at touching up and revitalizing their older titles. This was the first animated film to use computer technology and it shows in some of the scenes. There are times where you can see the different planes of animation such as any time you see the Horned King. This is also the first animated Disney film that I’ve seen to have blood in it. For being 25 years old, The Black Cauldron looks really good in its 2.35:1 widescreen presentation.
Not only does The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition look good but it sounds good as well. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, the music and voice acting is better than ever. The voice actors for the film did an admirable job especially the man behind the voice of Gurgi. While he didn’t have much screen time, his role in the film is quite memorable. The sound quality of the music for The Black Cauldron in this DVD presentation is quite good, with its harrowing evil moments and happy melodies throughout the film.
The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition comes with a few new features this time around including a deleted scene, The Fairfolk, and a new game called “The Witches’ Challenge.” In this new challenge viewers must solve 4 riddles to find the magical sword that Taran gave up in the film. Do you have what it takes? Viewers of the film will also get to answer trivia questions about the film in the “Quest for Black Cauldron” game which was fun. The folk’s at Disney have even thrown in a classic Donald duck cartoon, “Trick or Treat” in the spirit of Halloween into this $14-15 dollar DVD release.
The Black Cauldron is one of those films that you will either enjoy or not care for. In my case, I highly enjoyed this trip down memory lane. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this film and thanks to the new digital master, The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition is a welcome addition to my Disney collection. The characters are memorable, the story is solid and the picture is really vibrant for such a dark film. While it may not be suitable for some young ones, this fantastic fantasy tale is well worth a buy.