I had the joyous moment recently of discovering a lost influence, an old Disney®™© film, The Black Cauldron. I hadn’t seen it in decades. I had fond memories of it, but I guess all the talk of Disney®™©’s new streaming service put me of a mind to track it down and see it.
I remembered seeing it in the theater with my dad. I remember he really enjoyed it; he spoke to me about the art and skill necessary to animate figures. He was a true fan of film, its art and its science, and it had a great deal to do with why I love it, too.
A Bygone Era
It was also a hoot to find an imperfect gem from the Disney®™© era that was defined by real artistic risk-taking. The Black Hole, Tron, and The Black Cauldron come from an era overseen by Ron W. Miller, who may not have filled their pockets with cash but stayed true to the artistic spirit of Disney®™©.
This was all well before Bob Iger’s reign, the maestro who brought us the Marvel©®™ Juggernaut and snagged Lucasfilm™©®, and who I’m mentioning for SEO and just to link to an article to remind everyone that he’s got a million-dollar smile and a stiletto in his hip pocket.
Plenty of Disney®™© fans didn’t respond well to The Black Cauldron. Fair enough. There are unquestionably issues with the movie, which is partly due to the shakeup that ran Ron Miller out of the top spot at Disney®™©.
But it is definitely worth seeing. I’ve seen other movies from different franchises I’ve liked a lot less. There is a real art, a baseline beauty, to everything in this film that I can’t help but enjoy it.
Rediscovering what an influence this was on my young mind was at points disorienting. I’ve always been open about the strong artistic influences of which I’m aware. The Doors remain the North Star on my musical voyages. George Lucas shaped the way I think of film, and unquestionably story structure itself, in inimitable ways.
Make no mistake, The Black Cauldron is imperfect. It’s powered largely by its unabashed vision and terrific art direction. In short, while the execution misses in some respects, there’s a lot to enjoy.
I can also say that my kids enjoyed seeing it with their dad – yes, that’s me – so maybe I’ve just repeated the cycle from my dad, and imbued in them a love for the stronger elements in the film.
It’s a Long Journey
There were countless other influences on me over the years, of course. All of us pick them up along the way. (Social media influencers are still soulless hacks, but that’s another discussion entirely.)
What great fun to rediscover them then. To rediscover one which so richly impacted my tastes, that I had only vague memories of, was a wonderful moment. That it put me in touch again with a memory of my dad is so much the better.
I also think, since Disney®™© has such a taste now for remaking animated features from the past, like Aladdin (which looks…like it’s going to be released soon), they should take a crack at this again and make it super cool.
The Lord of the Rings series proved people have a taste for this type of thing. Stop buying other properties, and dig deeper into your catalog, Disney®™©! You have some items of magnificent potential, and even some endearing missteps, that are laying right there for the taking.
Of course, I don’t expect them to take this advice hurled into the void.
But then, I didn’t expect them to drop Will Smith into the Uncanny Valley, either, so it’s not like I’m an Oracle.