The Black Cauldron is an odd installment in the Disney canon. The animation took an abrupt turn, possibly not for the best, but it really does reflect the common animation for the time–1985. I wish I could say what they were doing that made it different–media, camera, lighting, or what–but I’m not knowledgeable enough about animation to know those particular details.
They were pretty ambitious when they made this–I suspect because The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings had been animated not long before. They even had some cross-over actors (our narrator is John Huston, who also played Gandalf). The Black Cauldron is based on The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, which is no easy story to fit into a Disney movie. It’s hard to portray a long journey to prevent an evil overlord from finding the key to full world domination in short cartoon fashion.
The Horned King will be familiar to Harry Potter fans–John Hurt, whom we also know as Mr. Ollivander. Fans of Harry Potter may find it a little odd to see him as the chief villain, but he’s done bad before and does a nice job, actually. The Horned King is not really a well-known Disney villain, and hearkens to John the Fearless (forgive the obscurity … IMDb doesn’t know it in English. Points if you know this film). More people appreciate Gurgi (think Dobby crossed with Gollum with a little Ewok thrown in). He’s funny and oddly endearing, so he has our title line.
The strangest feature for me is that this one has no in-movie original songs, despite the fact that one character is a minstrel (voiced by Nigel Hawthorne, who much later will play the Professor in Disney’s Tarzan). There is a score, of course, but no songs, which is highly unusual for Disney. Though some of Disney’s animated films admittedly have relatively few musical numbers, their complete absence in this film marks its uniqueness within the studio’s canon.
During this time, it’s interesting to note, Disney had a few other things starting, including the Fluppie Dogs, which were originally going to be a new series (with similar animation). But the pilot was the only episode ever aired, leaving a generation to treat it as a basic Disney film. Were they spread thin at Disney? We don’t really know. Though decent in plot, and having some pretty good voice talent, with The Black Cauldron, Disney created an undeniably odd duck in its repertoire of films.