The Black Cauldron
By Michelle Erica Green,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Book-based fantasy is darker than much Disney fare.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is intended to entertain rather than educate.
The movie offers positive messages about working together and believing in yourself and your friends. That said, characters do rely on weapons to solve problems.
Positive Role Models
There's clear delineation between good and evil characters. Taran is a brave (albeit initially reluctant) hero. Girls may be frustrated at the non-centrality of the princess, but Princess Eilonwy makes a strong showing.
Violence & Scariness
The Forbidden Forest and the enchanted marsh contain lots of scary creatures. Other scenes feature violent soldiers, skeletons, a dungeon with a tomb, and the menacing Horned King. The hero is faced with death in several scenes. An adorable sidekick throws himself into the black cauldron and dies before being brought back to life.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A voluptuous witch attempts to seduce sidekick Fflewddur; at one point he's turned into a frog and nearly suffocates between her breasts.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drunken loutishness among the Horned King's followers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this dark Disney animated feature (based on the Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander) will have much greater appeal for those who enjoy ghost stories and war epics than for fans of musical comedy. There are no songs, and even the comic relief involves violent images. The Horned King twice attempts to murder the hero, skeletons come to life and attack people, and witches use magic to hurl objects. For grade-school kids, the cute sidekicks and rapid pace will be appealing, but the many frightening images could fuel many a nightmare. Older kids and preteens interested in fantasy will enjoy the mystical plot.
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Where to Watch
Based on 11 parent reviews
Scary but good
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Unique gem lost but not forgotten
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What's the Story?
THE BLACK CAULDRON follows the adventures of Taran (voiced by Grant Bardsley), an assistant pig keeper in Prydain who longs for adventure. The boy gets more than he bargained for when he discovers that the pig in his care has a gift for prophecy. The evil Horned King wants to use the animal to find the cursed black cauldron, which contains a spirit capable of animating the dead. Trying to save the pig, Taran ends up in the Horned King's dungeon. He hooks up with a princess, a minstrel, and an enchanted sword that helps them escape. Taran decides to find and destroy the black cauldron before the Horned King can use it to raise an army -- but when his plan fails, he finds himself and his friends trapped in the dark castle once again. Meanwhile, the Horned King's forces of evil prepare to destroy Prydain. Only a fierce battle and a tragic sacrifice can save Taran and his home.
Is It Any Good?
Perhaps the spookiest animated feature in Disney's collection, The Black Cauldron may frighten even fans of Goosebumps and other youthful horror videos. The main character is faced with death several times, while both animal sidekicks survive torture. With the face of a skeleton and a voice somewhere between Darth Vader and the Wicked Witch of the West, the Horned King emanates evil, while his minions act like representations of the Seven Deadly Sins. Prydain isn't exactly an inviting world.
Nonetheless, Taran makes a compelling hero. He starts out fearless because he has little to lose. As he makes friends, however, his concern for Princess Eilonwy (Susan Sheridan) and cuddly Gurgi (John Byner) makes him more cautious, until in the end he's ready to sacrifice his life to save the others. Girls may be frustrated at the non-centrality of the princess, but Princess Eilonwy makes a strong showing -- aside from a screaming fit near the end.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why Taran changed his approach to his quest as he gained friends. How did growing close to others change how much he risked?
Why was violence the main course of solving problems? What else could The Horned King or Taran have done?
- In theaters: January 1, 1985
- On DVD or streaming: October 3, 2000
- Cast: Grant Bardsley, Nigel Hawthorne, Susan Sheridan
- Director: Richard Rich
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic intensity and violence
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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