Looking through the list of films released by Disney throughout the years, its 25th film "The Black Cauldron" sticks out like a sore thumb.

The imagery is so dark, the story so different from the usual Disney fare, the characters were so strange...

This film did not perform too well compared to other classics which led me to wonder Why would Disney Studios head in this direction in the first place?

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    I'd suggest for the same reason any movie gets made...they thought they could make money from what might be a franchise set. In this case they miscalculated...badly.
    – Paulie_D
    Nov 27, 2018 at 16:36
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    @Paulie_D agreed, it just seems too radical a change for a successful company to alter a working business model.
    – m1gp0z
    Nov 27, 2018 at 16:39
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    Fantasia was a flop too on release and didn't make a profit for 29 years!
    – Paulie_D
    Nov 27, 2018 at 16:41
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    I know they optioned the books in the early 70's, but I'm not sure what lead producers to think they were a good adaption choice? I mean there is a medieval fantasy quality that could make it comparable to The Sword in the Stone. I also know they had to cut the film by 12 minutes, because the 1984 children test audience thought one sequence was too scary...I don't know if that affected the quality or not? Nov 27, 2018 at 16:55
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    Disney is well known for mining its properties repeatedly for resale value, even Fantasia had a video game adaptation for the Genesis, the Kingdom Hearts adaptation of characters and other cartoons. Yet Black Cauldron is not often revisited, I don't see Princess Eilonwy becoming part of the Princesses sorority anytime soon
    – m1gp0z
    Nov 27, 2018 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


Disney had, in 1971, acquired the rights to Lloyd Alexander's "The Chronicles of Prydain". The movie, which took over twelve years to make, is loosely based upon the first two books ("The Book of Three" and "The Black Cauldron"). The Chronicles, in turn, are loosely based on the mythology of ancient Wales, a collection of tales known as the Mabinogion. Because of the numerous storylines and with over thirty characters in the original five-novel "Chronicles of Prydain" series, several story artists and animators worked on the development of this movie throughout the 1970s, where it was actually originally slated for release in 1980. The release date was eventually pushed from 1980 to Christmas 1984, in order to focus more attention on the completion of The Fox and the Hound (1981), and also due to the animators' inability of animating realistic human characters for this movie.

The Black Cauldron represented Walt Disney Productions' attempt to reach out to teenage fans of fantasy novels, a popular genre at the time. Test audiences left the theater in droves, however, which caused the studio to cut 12 minutes of the most disturbing imagery from the original film. It had also reignited debates about whether or not the animation movie genre can appeal beyond the children audiences, in light of the movie's dark, graphic nature; Jeffrey Katzenberg's controversial decision to edit and re-work the majority of the movie, when it was already completed prior to his arrival at the Walt Disney Studios; and the growing concern that mature audiences had no interest in sitting through and watching an animated movie, let alone any movie that was produced by Walt Disney Studios.

Info compiled from the IMDB Trivia page for the film

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    Removing the obnoxious prince character really weakened the story also. Nov 28, 2018 at 6:04

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