Disney’s is going full steam ahead on its live action remakes. We’ve seen hits like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast in recent years and have The Lion King, Aladdin and Tim Burton’s Dumbo on the horizon. But as the remakes continue, it’s clear that Disney is clearly focusing the greatest hits from its catalog. And while that’s likely the best move financially, as more people will likely go see something they enjoy already, I think Disney should go deep into the vault and pull The Black Cauldron from out of the darkness.
There’s a good chance you’re thinking to yourself, “what’s The Black Cauldron again?” And you’d be okay to ask that as the film doesn’t have the prestige or the respect of some of the other films in the Disney Vault. But that’s why Disney should consider remaking it. The Black Cauldron is a dark fantasy film in which a young boy named Taran who embarks on a quest to stop the Horned King from obtaining the so-called black cauldron (aren’t all cauldron’s black?) With the power of the cauldron, the Horned King would be granted unlimited power and would become ruler of the world. It became the first Disney film to ever get the PG rating, and this was due to it’s frightening imagery and I must say, this movie is pretty dark!
At the time of release, the film fared so-so with critics, and currently sits at 57% on the Tomato Meter and did poorly at the box office, which basically led to the film vanishing into the vaults of obscurity. But despite the fact that it’s not a critical darling or a beloved classic, I think this is a great move for Disney if they ever chose to remake it. With many of these new live action films, we have previous emotional attachments to the originals and thus are always comparing the two films. Sometimes, they turn out much better than we thought they would, like Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book, but other times they are just okay (Cinderella) or worse, Alice in Wonderland (bad). The Black Cauldron, being largely forgotten, gets the rare opportunity to expand its lore, change certain story beats and create new content without angering a mass contingency of fans. They have a chance now to write their wrongs and give the film another shot and try to make it a classic this time around. But if Disney were to remake it, they’d have to fully commit to another facet of the film.
There’s another reason why a live action version of The Black Cauldron would be great to see and that’s the art style and visual aesthetic of the original animated film. This movie is easily the darkest and most twisted thing Disney has ever created. It looks more like a fantasy horror film than a family friendly adventure. It’s full of the usual fantasy tropes, such as magic, swords and castles, but this isn’t the shiny and clean version you’d find in traditional fairy tales. Just look at this clip from the original film.
It’s pretty messed up actually. But it also feels like Disney at their boldest. Imagine a live action version of this? Combining practical effects with Industrial Light and Magic special effects. Disney could be sitting on the next Lord of the Rings and they don’t even realize it yet. It’s actually really cool and refreshing to see a Disney film fully embrace darkness. Disney’s main objective is to make films that the whole family can enjoy, which in turn nets them a largely profit. But they just fully embraced the scary imagery here. Haunting castles, skeletons, army of the dead, grotesque face melting. Yup-it was the 80s, but they didn’t hold back here and I have to tip my hat at that effort. A live action version of this would likely give youngster-and some adults-nightmares, but that’s also part of the fun, to watch something that’s different and shocks you.
The production of the original film was marred with bad decisions, delays and an untested team. When the final product was released to the masses, all those errors that were abundant during production, such as the estimated $44 million price tag, which is insane to think of in 1985, and numerous delays due to strikes, creativity and the budget meant that the film was essentially DOA (no pun intended). In fact, newly minted Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg hated it so much he cut 10 minutes from the film himself-which is apparent in the clip embedded above and didn’t do the film any favours. The film ended up making around $20 million, one of the biggest loses for Disney.
But all that’s in the past now. As Disney continues to crank out remakes of their classics, looking deeper into their vault and pulling something obscure out of it could be a really bold move that could very well pay off. I for one can’t remember much of the The Black Cauldron. It’s not a timeless classic for me and I had honestly forgotten about it until very recently. But there’s no doubt that the film, based on Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain could work better in the twenty-first century and in live action. Fantasy is at an all time high right now, with Game of Thrones and it’s prequel series generating massive amounts of buzz, a Witcher series coming to Netflix and a Lord of the Rings prequel series at Amazon incoming, it seems audiences want more of the fantasy genre and studios are willing to give it to them. I think Disney should take advantage of it and get this into production before the trend shifts.
But what do you think? Would you like to see a live action version of The Black Cauldron? Let us know in the comments and check out our E3 2018 roundup and where the other Game of Thrones prequel series could explore.