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The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition - animated DVD / family DVD / adaptation DVD / fantasy DVD / Disney DVD review
THE BLACK CAULDRON: 25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Featuring: Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Freddie Jones, Nigel Hawthorne, Arthur Malet
Directors: Ted Berman, Richard Rich Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD release: 14 September 2010 Feature runtime: 80 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Animated, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Surround - English), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Deleted scene ("The Fairfolk"), The Witches' Challenge game, Still frame gallery, Quest For the Black Cauldron trivia game, Trick Or Treat (classic 1952 Donald Duck cartoon)

Walt Disney's *The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition*In 1985, Disney produced its 25th animated feature. Seven years in the making, THE BLACK CAULDRON tells the story of Taran (Grant Bardsley), an assistant pig-keeper. The particular pig he helps to keep is Hen Wen, a swine with oracular abilities who demonstrates early on that she is psychic, squealing in panic early on and imparting her wisdom unto her keeper, Dallben (Freddie Jones), and Taran.

Gazing into a bowl of water, they watch shadowy images come clear: the Horned King is searching for the Black Cauldron, a magical pot capable of bringing the dead to life to form an invincible army. With this army of the undead, the Horned King hopes to take over the world.

Dallben tells Taran to take Hen Wen to a secret place in the forbidden forest to protect her from the desires of the Horned King. If the Horned King is able to use her psychic powers, he'll know where to find the magic kettle and have his way with the world. Taran and Hen Wen journey to the secret place but are distracted on their way. Hen Wen is taken to the Horned King's castle, and Taran is dragged into a conflict that leads him to his heart's desire: to become a warrior and hero.

In the Horned King's dungeons, Taran meets Eilonwy (Susan Sheridan), a princess who has been captured for reasons similar to Taran's. Together they escape, meeting Fflewddur (Nigel Hawthorne), a minstrel with a magical harp that can judge when Fflewddur is lying. They join forces in hopes of finding the cauldron before the Horned King.

THE BLACK CAULDRON is based on Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Pyrdain. I am not familiar with the literary source, but it is based on Welsh mythology (which explains the excess of double consonants in some character's names). While it's not a bad story, I found myself growing frustrated with the number of gags in the film distracting from the momentum of the story, especially when our heroes visit three witches. They produce a number of magical embellishments to punctuate their speech that, while entertaining from an animation-appreciation standpoint, detract from the story's progression.

I also find fault with the shallow development of the Horned King (John Hurt). In other Disney features, we see such frightening villains as the witch/evil stepmother who gave Snow White the poisoned apple; Maleficent, the awful woman who sent Princess Aurora to her lengthy slumber; J. Worthington Foulfellow, who led Pinocchio astray, and so many more. The Horned King here is menacing, but no more than nearly voicelessly menacing. He strangles his toadies, but he's got no power.

THE BLACK CAULDRON is entertaining as Disney films go, but I can't recommend it for more than just occasional viewing. If this 25th-anniversary special edition contained in-depth making-of featurettes I'd be more interested, but this is a plain-jane release of a film that's not too bad. The animation is good and enjoyable if derivative. One of the scenes near the end is strikingy similar to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. You'll know it when you see it.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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