Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day Twenty Two - The Black Cauldron

Movie: The Black Cauldron
Released: July 24, 1985
Formats Released: 2 DVD
Format Watched: 2000 DVD Release
Watched with: My cat, Kelsey
Snacks: Jif creamy peanut butter on saltines, sugar free grape kool-aid

I had originally planned to watch The Rescuers today, I even started watching it but it is on VHS and my VCR decided that after all this time it is now going to start acting up. Having no backup plan I picked The Black Cauldron at random and popped it into the PS3.

As I remember, the Black Cauldron has always been one of my top Disney picks, but after watching it today I have no idea why. I don't know if it was the original print, the digital transfer, or even the multiplane camera used in the original filming, but this movie was a hot, steamy mess.

This movie came during a time of transition in Walt Disney Feature Animation. A new studio head, Jeffrey Katzenberg, came on during production, at one point or another all of the nine old men were involved with then left the project, the studio was trying out a new animation system (which the company would win an Academy Award for) and the studio lacked vision. All of this clearly comes out in the final product.

My Thoughts on the Film:

When the movie finished I literally said "Seriously" to the TV, not expecting it to talk back. I just don't know if I can count the ways that this movie is wrong. If people thought that they forest scenes in Snow White were scary, they must have been hiding under the bed after watching this film. The subject matter is dark, a Horned King is trying to raise an army of the undead. The animation of the undead is haunting, and that's after they cut the really scary stuff. There is almost not motivation for any of the characters, the Horned King wants to rule, Taran wants to be a warrior, Eilonwy wants to be out of the dungeon and the bard is just there.

The consistency of the animation was terrible. Tarens hair changes color during shots, getting lighter and darker, like they suddenly ran out of one color and just used the next closest one. It might be an artifact of the digital transfer, or Disney might have just kept this movie in a damp basement, but at times it looks like there are smudges on the screen, like it's dirty. Twice I stopped the movie to check my screen... It's the movie.

At points in the film they made heavy use of live action effects like smoke and fire and at one point a whole background was a live effect. It didn't work. While watching it I was totally aware of the difference between the animation and the live action. In the scene where Taren is getting ready to go to the Horned King's castle there is a live action shot of smoke that has been tinted red behind the characters. For some reason there is a white outline between most of the animation and the background, I'm sure it's not supposed to be like that.

The biggest problem I have with this film is Gurgi. He is a cute, hairy creature. His motivation reminds me of a dog. He wants to eat and he wants to have friends. His entire existence is to please others. Except for one line, it's not clear if Gurgi even understands everything that is happening. This is the character that the writers thought would be ideal to sacrifice for the rest of the characters. This is just lazy storytelling. Gurgi is the only character that most people identify with because he is like a dog or a pet, and to "kill" him off to save the others is a cheap trick to try and get some emotion (other than terror) into the film.

Favorite Part of the Film:

The end credits...

Things I never noticed before:

- The animation in general reminds me of Gummy Bears, and I can't figure out why
- The movie is terrible...
- that's all i've got... sad I know

Final Thoughts:

If I knew nothing about this film and I came across it on TV I would be sure it wasn't a Disney film. It's like they needed to keep the animators busy and came up with this as a joke. It's like they take everything that is good about Disney Animated films and do the opposite. I would like to say that at least the animation is good, but it's not. It's so inconsistent that it's not even funny. I wish I could say that this is a single black mark on Walt Disney Feature Animations record, but I know I still have Treasure Planet and Home on the Range ahead of me.

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