The Black Cauldron (1985)

Rating: **
Music: Elmer Bernstein

Disney's last box office flop before their miraculous comeback with "The Little Mermaid" (1989) is dark, creepy, and scary, but ultimately empty and unsatisfying. It was also Disney's first and only PG-rated animated film to date, and the film seems confused as to whether it wants to be a scary kid's film or a fluffy adolescent fantasy picture. The story concerns a young boy who finds himself at the center of a struggle to obtain the dark and evil powers of a relic known as the black cauldron. The nasty Horned King wants to resurrect an army of the dead with its power, while the young boy, his clairvoyant pig, a young princess, a clumsy bard, and an annoying furball have to stop the catastrophe from occuring. The result is something between "The Sword In The Stone" (1963) and "Heavy Metal" (1981), in that no-man's land of innocuous pre-teen entertainment. In fact, the Elmer Bernstein score and the character design of the Horned King are frighteningly similar to "Heavy Metal." The animation is good, but the characters are flat and uninteresting (shades of Ridley Scott's "Legend" (1986) ). An interesting side note is the complete lack of singing and musical numbers, so prevalent in Disney's other animated pictures. A visionary work, but in need of a stronger bite.