If you are searching for a story from which to make a successful animated film, there are certain elements that you can’t go wrong with – swords and a bit of sorcery (couldn’t hurt), a battle between good and evil (now you’re talking), a brave young hero on a quest to save the world (gotta have it) and, of course, a psychic pig (Right? Right?). Put all these ingredients in a pot, give it a good stir, and the result is The Black Cauldron, an 1985 animated Disney film based on Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy book series, The Chronicles of Prydain.
The hero of the story is an unassuming pig keeper named Taran, who is entrusted with the care of a very special swine named Hen Wen, a psychic pig who happens to know the whereabouts of the magical black cauldron, an object that possesses virtually unlimited power and is coveted by the diabolical Horned King. To keep Hen Wen from the King’s evil grasp, Taran decides to hide the pig in the forest and soon after, loses track of the pigs whereabouts.
He enlists the help of Gurgi, a greedy but helpful creature and together they find Hen Wen. Unfortunately, the whole gang is captured soon after and placed in a prison. They escape with the help of a new friend, fellow prisoner and princess, Eilonwy. Along their way, they manage to find a powerful magical sword as well as a trio of wacky witches, before they face an army of undead minions commanded by the Horned King. They wage battle in a valiant attempt to win back the powerful cauldron and save the world.
Unfortunately, even the novelty of a psychic pig wasn’t enough to save The Black Cauldron, a film that Disney unwisely attempted to market to an older than usual crowd, and one that uncharacteristically carried a PG-13 rating. The result – droves of typical Disney-loving families stayed away and the film was unable to recoup its production costs. It faded quickly into obscurity as a result. Over a decade later, however, release on VHS would introduce the film to a new generation of fans who were a bit more forgiving towards the mature themes. Perhaps one day, it will earn its deserved place in the tradition of Disney animated features. Only the pig knows for sure.
If you remember watching The Black Cauldron, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this underrated film.