Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary to The Black Cauldron!

The Black Cauldron (also known as Taran and the Magic Cauldron in some countries) was produced by Walt Disney Productions, and originally released to theatres on July 24, 1985 by Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Distribution. It is based on Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain book series.

The Black Cauldron represented the Disney studio's attempt to reach out to teenage fans of fantasy novels, a popular genre at the time. However, the gamble proved unsuccessful as the film failed at the box-office. Some critics blamed the film's lack of appeal on the dark nature of the book (though some gave it a good review; Roger Ebert's review at the time of the film's release was mostly positive). The film's failure at the box office combined with its dark tone led to Disney shelving the film for nearly 15 years.

Although Disney traditionally re-released their animated features every 7 or so years to theatres, The Black Cauldron remained out of circulation (both theatrically and on home video) for well over a decade after its release. Finally, it was released on home video in late 1998. In 2000 the video was re-released on VHS, and released for the first time on DVD under Disney's Gold Classics Collection banner. Though the R1 DVD is unrestored and non- anamorphic; the R2 release in France is restored, remastered, and anamorphic. The US DVD release features the film's theatrical trailer (though no mention is made of this anywhere on the packaging), as well as a still frame gallery, the Donald Duck cartoon Trick or Treat, and a Quest for the Black Cauldron set-top game.

The company rarely incorporated characters from the film into any Disney-related merchandise since shortly after the film's debut, although The Horned King
has made several low-key appearances in recent Disney merchandise and a series of The Black Cauldron themed beanie toys were produced in limited quantities for sale at Disney Stores in the late 1990s. Despite the film's lackluster reception, it seemed to have developed a cult following among viewers, and it also got score of 65% "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes.

A restaurant called Gurgi's Munchies and Crunchies was opened at Walt Disney World
at the time of the film's release. It featured artwork of the film's characters on the walls and a picture of Gurgi on the front. Due to the film's failure, most attempts at tie-ins at the park were removed, but the restaurant remained for several years (even as the film it referenced became more and more obscure) until it was redesigned and renamed with a Beauty and the Beast motif. The Horned King was also the main villain of Tokyo Disneyland's now removed Cinderella's Castle Mystery Tour, in which a guest from the tour group would be chosen to defeat him with the power of a magic sword in the attraction's finale.

Although it was first released to video in 1998 as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection
video line, it was originally going to have its home video debut in 1989 as part of the Walt Disney Classics video collection which ran from 1984 to 1994. It was even mastered on tape, but didn't make it due to the success of The Little Mermaid.

To date, nothing has been released from The Black Cauldron as part of the Walt Disney Classics Collection. The Horned King has probably been the most requested character from this film from collectors along with Gurgi, Taran and Princess Eilonwy. The Horned King has been mentioned as a consideration on the ballot of this year's new members-only series, Collectors Choice Series though personally, I would like to see him done as part of the Villains Series.

Happy Anniversary Black Cauldron!


Babette said...

I agree, I think the Horned King would be better in the Villian's Series. Gurgi is the right size to be a membership piece, but I'm sure he'd never be done in that format. I would assume all characters from this film would fit the definition of 'obsure', secondary characters. He is cute tho, in a gollum sort of way.

Behr said...

You know it would really nice to have representation from this movie in WDCC. I wish they would add pieces from ALL of their animated films and stop doing the same characters over and over and over again, ie tinkerbell. I love tinkerbell just as much as the next disney fanatic but come on how many are in the series now? Has to be pushing 10 I bet. JMHO Behr

Koen said...

I've watched this movie this afternoon and i think Taran and Eilonwy could make a nice pair to start a scene from this movie.