Eager to produce something different from their output during the '60s and 70's (where safe, cost-cutting features such as THE ARISTOCATS, ROBIN HOOD, and others took the place of more ambitious, grand offerings like SNOW WHITE, PINOCCHIO, and BAMBI), Disney produced this 1985 animated swords-and-sorcery tale based on a well-loved series of books, Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain". Unfortunately, it was a colossal box office disaster and wasn't released to video until 13 years after its release. Since then the film has acquired a cult following, although there are some who still scorn it.
In spite of its failings (save Gurgi and the evil Horned King — impeccably voiced by John Hurt — the rest of the characters are not particularly well defined and the plot is both underdeveloped and overplotted), THE BLACK CAULDRON, honestly, is not as bad as its reputation may suggest. It's an appropriately dark and scary adventure (very fitting for a story of this kind) with moments that may be too intense for youngsters (hence the PG rating). Elmer Bernstein's musical score is spectacularly epic and rousing; arguably one of the best from Disney (it should also be noted that the movie has no songs — a rarity for a Mouse House production). And of course, the animation is amazing, particularly the climactic moments where the titular object unleashes skyward and an army of skeleton warriors comes to life.
Is THE BLACK CAULDRON one of Disney's greatest films? No. But it still deserves credit for attempting to do something totally different from the Mouse House's usual tradition as well as featuring some genuinely dark moments. And personally, I don't think it's the weakest Disney animated film ever made — HOME ON THE RANGE and perhaps TREASURE PLANET were, IMO, far worse disasters, and THE SWORD IN THE STONE, THE ARISTOCATS, ROBIN HOOD, HERCULES, and BROTHER BEAR all pale even in comparison. THE BLACK CAULDRON, meanwhile, remains a flawed but still interesting experiment from the Mouse House that nonetheless does merit a viewing.