The Black Cauldron – Read Along – Taran is an assistant pigkeeper with boyish dreams of becoming a great warrior. However, he has to put the daydreaming aside when his charge, an oracular pig named Hen Wen, is kidnapped by an evil lord known as the Horned King. The villain hopes Hen will show him the way to The Black Cauldron, which has the power to create a giant army of unstoppable soldiers. With the aid of a stubborn princess, an exaggerating bard, and a pestering creature called Gurgi, Taran will try to save the world of Prydain from the Horned King. As the new friends face witches, elves, magic swords, and the Cauldron itself, Taran starts to learn what being a hero really means and that some things are more important than glory.
Cast and characters from the full movie version were…
Grant Bardsley as Taran
Susan Sheridan as Princess Eilonwy
Nigel Hawthorne as Fflewddur Fflam
John Byner as Gurgi and Doli
John Hurt as The Horned King
Phil Fondacaro as Creeper / Henchman
Freddie Jones as Dallben
Arthur Malet as King Eidilleg
Eda Reiss Merin as Orddu
Adele Malis-Morey as Orwen
Billie Hayes as Orgoch
John Huston as Narrator
Walt Disney Productions optioned Lloyd Alexander’s five-volume series in 1971, and pre-production work began in 1973 when the film rights to Alexander’s books were finally obtained. According to Ollie Johnston, it was he and Frank Thomas that convinced the studio to produce the movie, and that if it had been done properly, it might be “as good as Snow White”. Because of the numerous storylines and with over thirty characters in the original series, several story artists and animators worked on the development of the film throughout the 1970s, where it was originally slated for release in 1980. Veteran artist Mel Shaw created inspirational conceptual pastel sketches in which then-Disney CEO Ron W. Miller considered to be too advanced for the animators. Therefore, in August 1978, the studio pushed its release date back to Christmas 1984 due to the animators’ inability of animating realistic human characters; its original release date would later be assumed by The Fox and the Hound. During its development limbo, one of those writers was veteran storyboard artist Vance Gerry who was chosen to create beat storyboards that would outline the plot, action, and locations. Having set up the three principal characters, Gerry adapted the Horned King into a big-bellied Viking who had a red beard, fiery temper, and wore a steel helmet with two large horns. Desiring an experienced British screenwriter to write the screenplay, the studio signed Rosemary Anne Sisson onto the project.
The first director attached to the project was animator John Musker after he was proposed the job by production head Tom Wilhite. As director, Musker was assigned to expand several sequences in the first act, but were eventually deemed too comedic. When production on The Fox and the Hound had wrapped, several feature animation directors Art Stevens, Richard Rich, Ted Berman, and Dave Michener became involved in The Black Cauldron. When Miller decided too many people were involved, he decided Stevens was not appropriate to supervise the project so he contacted Joe Hale, who was a longtime layout artist at Disney Studios, to serve as producer. With Hale as producer, actual production on The Black Cauldron officially began in 1980. He tossed out visual character artwork submitted by Tim Burton and along with The Fox and the Hound directors Richard Rich and Ted Berman, they desired a Sleeping Beauty-style approach and brought Milt Kahl out of retirement to create character designs for Taran, Eilonwy, Fflewddur Fflamm, and the other principal characters. He and the story team (including two story artists David Jonas and Al Wilson that Hale brought to the project) revised the film, capsulizing the story of the first two books and making some considerable changes which led to the departure of Sisson who had creative differences with Hale and the directors. Animators John Musker and Ron Clements, also cited creative differences, were removed from the project and began development on The Great Mouse Detective. Displeased with Vance Gerry’s concept for the Horned King, the Horned King became a thin creature donning a hood and carried a spectral presence with shadowed face and glowing red eyes where Hale decided to expand his role, making him the composite villain of the several characters from the books. Taran and Eilonwy eventually acquired elements of the past designs and costumes of earlier Disney characters especially the latter who was drawn to resemble Princess Aurora.
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