OK, deep breath. Back in the long lost days of 1985 Disney released a film called The Black Cauldron, based on the first two novels of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. It quickly became clear that the film was not a success, and it’s often cited as a low point in the studio’s history. But now, like mythical heroes who realize they’ve let the Oracular Pig escape and resolve to go on a quest to bring her back, Disney is tackling Prydain again! According to Variety, while the project does not yet have a director or writer, they are in “early development”.
For those who haven’t read the books: The five Chronicle of Prydain, “The Book of Three,” “The Black Cauldron,” “The Castle Llyr,” “Taran Wanderer” and “The High King” draw on the Welsh tales in The Mabinogion. Alexander transforms those stories into the story of young Assistant Pig Keeper Taran as he learns what it takes to be a hero as he aids his land, Prydain, in its battle against Annuvin, the Land of Death. Along the way he befriends Princess Eilonwy (who is kick-ass and often more of a hero than Taran), the bard Fflewdurr Fflam, and Gurgi, a feral creature who is far more appealing in the books than in Disney’s movie.
The sad thing about The Black Cauldron is that it could have been brilliant. The film had some unique visuals (a young Tim Burton was one of the animators) and obviously great source material. Unfortunately it tried to shove too many disparate elements into one short film, couldn’t decide whether to be a fun kids movie or a more adult piece of high fantasy. Worst of all, it tacked on an egregiously happy ending that undid most of the emotional arc.
There’s no word yet on how many films are being developed, but hopefully they’ll give each of the stories room to breathe rather than stuffing multiple books into a single movie. Also, hopefully Disney’s surging animation department is willing to commit to the depth of the series. The books often go into extremely dark territory (as tends to happen when you’re battling the Land of Death) so it will serve the series’ fans far better if Disney does justice to Taran’s journey.
What does everyone think? Are you excited about Disney’s second crack at the series? Or are you still haunted by the crunchings and munchings of Gurgi?