The Black Cauldron is like a shroud that covers the Dark Days of Disney. It’s hard to believe it now, given their monolithic status in the entertainment world, but the 1980s were a rough time for the House of Mouse. The Golden Age was over, the Rennaisance was still years away, and in the meantime, The Black Cauldron had only taken in half as much as it cost to make. It was one of the studio’s most notorious failures, and even the production was plagued with a variety of problems. If it was up to them, everything about this movie would disappear. That doesn’t mean this isn’t on the list of possibilities for a live adaptation, however.
The Black Cauldron symbolizes a lot of the problems Disney was facing during this era, and although the movie had some merit in the sense that it was ahead of its time when it comes to the darker side of animation, it was a box office bomb. Despite the foibles, the movie has a dedicated cult following, and producers and creators are still making attempts at film adaptations of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. The movie was actually the first time Disney had used certain kinds of new technology and this was also the last film to use a few old ones.
10 A Skeleton Crew After 13 Animators Left With Don Bluth
Don Bluth, along with a crew of about 13 other animators, left the studio during the production of The Fox and the Hound. Their departure left only a few animators left, some from the team of Nine Old Men from the old days and others from a new crop of animators who had yet to be fully trained.
To make matters worse, a deep ideological rift lay between the two groups, with one looking back to the days of animation for kids and the other focused on the influence a new phenomenon called “anime” was having on cartoons for adults. The rifts were never really mended and it shows in the disorganized final cut.
9 Restore the Burton Cut! Tim’s Work Ends Up On The Cutting Room Floor
The Black Cauldron was the first movie since Snow White to have completed scene cuts before the film was released. Some of those scenes were drawn by Tim Burton, who was one of Disney’s most promising young animators and had survived the Bluth purge, at least initially.
The Black Cauldron should have been a perfect match for Burton’s quirky style. However, when some of his scenes were cut by the upper management even though his fellow animators thought they were great, he had seen enough and left definitively at that point. Fans of the show have been asking for a release that includes all the completed scenes that were cut, and some of the scenes that fans are asking to be restored are Burton’s work.
8 The International Audience Liked It A Lot More & It Made Decent Money Overseas
The movie lost money domestically, but overseas audiences had more of an appreciation for the more literary animated material. The movie had a decent showing in France, where it was the 5th most attended film of the year. In Britain, it was given a “U” rating, the same as a “G” in North America, perhaps because the stories themselves are based on fairy tales that originate in Wales.
Japan, a country where animation for adults wasn’t strange at all, gave the movie a warm reception. There are rumors swirling around the internet that the material influenced Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto as he was creating The Legend of Zelda. Miyamoto has stated that his influences did include medieval European folklore but whether or not that means The Black Cauldron specifically has never been confirmed.
7 Is It Really a Disney Movie Without Any Music?
In another twist that isn’t typical of Disney, The Black Cauldron is missing any musical numbers. In fact, it’s almost missing a score entirely except for one or two pieces. What’s really weird about this is that a musical score was made for the movie by Elmer Bernstein and it’s one of the best Disney soundtracks that exist, according to some critics.
It was even released at the same time as the movie, but it’s hardly in the movie at all. The last-minute revisions that deleted Tim Burton’s animation and certain important plot points also left the better part of the music on the cutting room floor.
6 The New Classic Logo Was Shown For The First Time
This would be the first Disney movie to open with the iconic blue and white “castle and falling star” logo that lasted for decades. It wasn’t until the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in the 21st century that it was replaced by the CGI logo fans are familiar with today.
It’s an interesting bit of foreshadowing that the first movie that had some new marketing features meant to herald a new and better age would end up being one of the studio’s only really devastating economic losses.
5 It Received A PG Rating, Alienating The Target Audience
Plenty of critics point to the PG rating as one of the things that sunk The Black Cauldron initially, as this made it inaccessible to the audience that was normally Disney’s bread and butter. The rating is an indication of the disagreements that plagued the film’s production, most of which revolved around how dark and scary the overall movie should be.
Tim Burton’s vision actually included face-hugging creatures as part of the Horned King’s minions and people turning into undead zombies. Had the movie been released as is, it would have received an even higher PG-13 rating.
4 It Was Fuzzed Out By The Care Bears Movie For Box Office Profits
It’s not just the money Disney lost in the process of making The Black Cauldron, it was also prestige. To add insult to injury, The Care Bears Movie, which was released in the same year a few months before The Black Cauldron, made almost the same amount of money. However, the difference was in the production costs.
Canadian animation company Nelvana had made The Care Bears Movie for only $2 million dollars, making the profit margin for this humble film about colorful talking bears a Hollywood heavyweight compared to a disappointing Disney movie, and many who were already questioning the viability of the Disney animation studio used this as evidence to prove their point.
3 Ralph Bakshi Was Another Famous Animator That Was Approached About The Black Cauldron
The 1970s was an interesting time for animation designed to entertain adults, and one of the most notorious artists of the time was Ralph Bakshi. He’s best known for his interpretation of The Lord of the Rings, which suffice to say hasn’t aged well, but other shows like Wizards and Fire and Ice have stood the test of time.
Bakshi was approached by the Disney Studio to contribute to The Black Cauldron, but he refused. The reason he gave was that he didn’t think his work was appropriate for children, and aren’t they Disney’s target audience?
2 Technological Breakthroughs That Were Brand New & Already Obsolete
This was the first Disney movie to use CGI integrated with the animation. The technique had been used for a few limited scenes in The Fox and the Hound but it wasn’t until The Black Cauldron that CGI was used more extensively to depict bubbles, a floating orb of light, and the cauldron itself. The Great Mouse Detective, which was completed at the same time, also included CGI but was released later.
Another new technology that was used for the first time on The Black Cauldron was APT, or animation photo transfer process. This consisted of taking pictures of the original animation cells with high-contrast litho film. The process improved the look of the hand-drawn animation, but eventually, CGI technology rendered the method obsolete.
1 The Novelty of The End Credits, Which Were New To Movies At The Time
Times were changing, and a lot of what’s different about The Black Cauldron lies in the basic format. Audiences were tiring of musicals, for example, which is one of the reasons the executives thought the score was worth cutting. Another change is the placement of the credits. Up until this film was released in 1985, every Disney movie had the credits at the beginning of the movie and a simple “The End” card when the movie concluded.
It was about this time in cinema history that this practice changed and studios started to put the credits at the end instead. It seems the entertainment industry finally figured out that audiences aren’t interested in sitting through the credits. This would change yet again with the rise of the mid- or post-credit scene.
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