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Ghost Canyon

'The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Ed.'
(Grant Bardsley, Freddie Jones, John Hurt, et al / DVD / NR / 2010 / Disney)

Overview: Whoever releases the mysterious Black Cauldron’s power will be invincible! The fearsome Horned King will do anything to possess it, but he is challenged by the most unlikely adversary: a young assistant pig keeper named Taran, who dreams of doing heroic deeds. With a motley team of the brave Princess Eilonwy, a minstrel named Fflewddur Fflam and Hen Wen, a remarkable pig who can predict the future, Taran embarks on a quest to stop the Black Cauldron’s evil once and for all. Will he have the courage to succeed?

DVD Verdict: 'The Black Cauldron' has continually been dismissed by Disney enthusiasts and moviegoers since it was originally released in 1985. It was definitely one of the more ambitious animated projects undertaken by the studio.

Ten years in the making, it was also the most expensive project since 1940's "Pinocchio" and the first 70mm widescreen movie since "Sleeping Beauty" in 1959. In 'The Black Cauldron,' Disney attempted to cram Lloyd Alexander's densely-written "Prydain Chronicles" books into one movie, and the result was hardly a hit, but it's not a flop, either.

Taran (voiced by Grant Bardsley) is a dreamer, looking to find his place in the adventurous world beyond the cottage of his master, Dallben (Freddie Jones). Taran spends his days tending to a mystical clairvoyant pig called Hen Wen. The life of Hen Wen hangs in the balance when the evil Horned King (John Hurt) decides to use her powers to find the location of the Black Cauldron, where all the evil forces of the world are kept.

Hen Wen is spirited away to the Horned King's castle with Taran in hot pursuit. Once at the castle, Taran teams with young Princess Eilonwy (Susan Sheridan), eccentric musician Fflewddur (Nigel Hawthorne), and a cute little furry creature called Gurgi (John Byner). Their only hope lies in finding the Black Cauldron before it's evil powers fall into the wrong hands.

This is not your usual Disney fare. It's very dark, there are no musical numbers, no real "happily ever after" ending, and the overall tone of the piece does not sit well with the previous Disney animated movies. I believe the animators were trying to capture a feeling and mood that had been earlier established in other animated films of the period (Don Bluth's "The Secret of NIMH" and Ralph Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings" immediately spring to mind). Elmer Bernstein's music perfectly underscores every mood.

'The Black Cauldron' is a thrilling medieval adventure, and will appeal to those with a taste for that. Disney purists are sadly always going to have a problem with it, but hopefully it will be appreciated for what it is.

The new-to-DVD 25th Anniversary Special Edition some take it or leave it Deleted Scenes, The Witches’ Challenge Game (where you garner yourself, easily, a magical sword held by the Witches of Morva, and set about on a mini crusade to defeat the dark powers of the Horned King), a set-top game called "Quest for the Black Cauldron," the vintage Donald Duck cartoon "Trick or Treat," and amongst others, the Original Theatrical Trailer. [BK] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted scene: The Fairfolk: Join Taran, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi, and Princess Eilonwy as they travel into the depths of the earth, and meet the Fairfolk
The Witches’ Challenge Game: In order to defeat the dark powers of the Horned King, you must get the magical sword. The sword is held by the Witches of Morva. Solve their riddles and the sword is yours
Still Frame Gallery – Gallery of behind-the-scenes artwork and photos
Theatrical Trailer: The Original Theatrical Trailer
Quest For The Black Cauldron: Race to reach the Black Cauldron before the evil Horned King does in this trivia game
Trick Or Treat: Donald Duck cartoon from 1952