Disney+ Fantasy Adventure Epic Took A Decade To See At Home

By Christopher Isaac | Published

black cauldron

Today, The Black Cauldron is often cited as one of the hidden gems of Disney’s movie catalogue. If you were not around when it was released, or have not heard the history of the movie before, you might just think it is a fun movie that flew under many people’s radar. In reality, it was considered Disney’s biggest flop in 1985, and did not even get a home media release until 13 years after it came out in theaters.

The Black Cauldron

While it is certainly true that The Black Cauldron lacks a lot of the charm later animated Disney movies became known for, it is hard to find anything terrible enough about it for it to have the legacy it does. It is a pretty classic fantasy story, focusing on the farm boy Taran who daydreams of one day becoming a mighty hero. When the tyrant Horned King appears, Taran has his chance to prove himself.

Taran, Princess Eilonwy, and the friendly creature Gurgi join forces to try and stop the Horned King from locating the eponymous black cauldron. If the evil overlord does, he will use the cauldron’s magical abilities to take over the world by summoning an invincible army of the undead.

Mickey’s First Use Of CGI

black cauldron

All in all, The Black Cauldron is a simple enough story, and it actually pushed the boundaries in a few ways. From a technical perspective, this was the first time a Disney movie ever incorporated any CGI, giving the movie a unique look that still sets it apart today. It was also the first Disney movie to be rated PG, giving it a slightly more mature tone for older kids.

The Black Cauldron Nearly Cooked Disney

black cauldron

Unfortunately, those technical advances may have been part of why the movie failed, adding to the movie’s budget in ways that it was not able to recoup through the box office. While such a financial disappointment today would be no big deal for the Disney juggernaut, when they were still building themselves up in the ‘80s, the movie’s failure nearly killed the studio.

A Modest Loss Compared To Contemporary Disney Flops

For comparison, The Black Cauldron cost $44 million to make, and brought in $21.3 million. A loss, but not staggering by today’s standards. Compare that to more modern Disney flops like 2011’s Mars Needs Moms, which cost $150 million and only made $39.2 million. Even the Disney owned Marvel Studios film The Marvels only made $206.1 million against a $274.8 million budget, making it the worst performing Marvel movie ever.

Yet while in the case of The Marvels it’s prompted plenty of discussion of “superhero fatigue,” nobody talks about those movies as killing the Disney brand.

Stream It To Decide For Yourself

In fact, in 2016, Disney seemed willing to give The Black Cauldron another try, repurchasing the film rights to The Chronicles of Prydain series on which The Black Cauldron is based. Unfortunately for fans of the movie, nothing ever wound up happening with the rights, which is a shame since it has developed a cult following in retrospective years. But at least the original The Black Cauldron has endured despite all its hardships and almost not being released on home media.