And here we come to a milestone – not only is this the 25th entry into the Disney Odyssey, it is the first film which I have never seen before.
Our special guests this time around are Neal and Nathan. Neal is a lovely friend of ours from the Teslacon cast family with a broad fantasy literature background. Nathan is a die-hard Chronicles of Prydain fan as well as a writer, performer, and gamer as well… Both Nathan and Neal were very eager to participate in the Disney Odyssey for this specific film… so I’m extra-intrigued to find out what it’s all about.
Nathan Thompson & Neal Hill
The Film: The Black Cauldron (1985)
- This is the first Disney animated feature film to have no songs in it. No songs in the background, no songs sung by characters, nada. That’s a pretty notable aspect, I’d say, considering the material that has come before this one.
- Apparently the content was so dark that they had to re-edit it several times to avoid a PG-13 or R rating. It was also blocked from being released on video for many years. It’s apparently a film that Disney “tried to bury” – despite fantasy fans’ efforts over the years to restore deleted footage.
- It is the first full-length film since Snow White to have completed animation scenes cut from the film before the theatrical release.
- Perhaps unshockingly, Tim Burton was involved in this film in animation and concept art. It was his last work with Disney before becoming a filmmaker in his own right. He modeled some of the Horned King’s minions after the ‘facehuggers’ from the 1979 movie Alien.
- The Disney studios purchased the film rights to Lloyd Alexander’s “The Chronicles of Prydain” back in 1971. The film took 12 years to make, 5 years of actual production, and over $25 million in budget. Alexander’s books are based loosely on Welsh mythology.
- A moment in the beginning of the film is a recycled cell from the “Night on Bald Mountain” portion of Fantasia. Which may simply be an omen to how dark this film really is…
- The film was beaten out in the box office by The Care Bears Movie, but the dark, fantastical nature of the film was not exactly unpopular at the time, despite Disney’s demographical concerns: also released in 1985 were Legend, Ladyhawke, Red Sonja, Return to Oz, and one of my personal animated favorites, Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, which arguably could be considered sci-fi, but I won’t get into that now.
- Roll for initiative, cause this movie is ABSOLUTELY a D&D campaign.
- Taran is the Luke Skywalker of this film. He’s reeeeeally hard up to go to war and he’s only fourteen.
- Hen-wen’s a PIG? …a pig that can tell the future? *squint*
- This is all just… very Welsh.
- JOHN HURTTTTTTTTTT.
- “All right, time to go on this journey and hide Hen-wen from the — oh. The Horned King lives like, right there. We’re practically neighbors.”
- Dobby + Gollum + Jar Jar = Gurgi. THE TRUTH.
- I can’t trust anything that’s covered in hair like that but has human-hands and isn’t an ape.
- Ye Olde Traditional Court happening in the basement of this ruined castle… “I mean they’re basic level one bandits,” Drew agreed.
- The Horned King has a solid special effects team to make his entrance with. Really solid work.
- I repeatedly forgot Taran’s name during this movie… I called him Taurus a few times.
- Neal’s favorite line from the Horned King: “I assume that you are the keeper of this oracular pig?” AMAZING LINE, THANK YOU JOHN HURT.
- Me: “So this is like if he’s the level one hero who accidentally skipped the main story and went right to the level fifteen boss.” Nathan: “Yes. That’s exactly what’s happening here.”
- Neal: “When chasing or sneaking up on someone, never say ‘I’ve got you’ because inevitably – you don’t.”
- [Eilonwy enters.] Drew: “The lost disney princess.” Neal: “Everyone, meet Zelda.”
- “I’m Princess Eilonwy.” Neal: “As Welsh as it gets.” Aly: “The only way it would be Welsher is if it was Branwen. Or Gwyneth.”
- Neal: “What’s really amazing is Eilonwy has no sense of dread.” Nathan: “She doesn’t in the books, either.”
- Neal: “I told you…Gurgi is the true villain of this film.” Aly: *dawning realization* “He’s….Stitch. He’s proto-Stitch.” Drew: “Oh my GOSH.”
- Somewhere in the middle of the movie we got into an argument about the voice actor of the Sultan, Piglet, and the main pixie guy. Huge nerd confusion ensued.
- “We’ll take her home, don’t worry!” Aly: “What? WHAT? That was not the point of this side-quest!” Neal: “We were supposed to take her to… never mind.” Drew: “Is the quest over?” Nathan: “Do we level up now?”
- The witches are proto-Fates from Hercules. Also with a special dose of Mad Madam Mim.
- Gurgi’s sacrifice would mean so, so much more to us as an audience… if we actually liked Gurgi.
- The end of the Horned King is horrrrrrrrrifying. On par with Rasputin’s death in Anastasia.
- “I’m alive! I’m alive!” Gurgi rejoices. “What did you see, Gurgi?” we ask. “Nothing,” he laughs. “Just waves and waves and endless miles of nothinggggggg ahahahaha!”
- An UNNECESSARY and out-of-the-blue smooch between Eilonwy and Taran at the end perfectly explains that this movie is trying to incorporate three books into one movie.
Because we had such a delightful in-depth discussion for this film, I’ve added as a bonus our post-viewing chat audio. Backers on the Patreon have access to the audio commentary and discussion, but for funsies, I have included this here. 🙂 Enjoy!
Up Next: Sherlockians ahoy… it’s The Great Mouse Detective!
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