27 May 2006

Black Cauldron ever to bubble up again?

Entertainment Weekly has a periodic little item called "Remake This!", urging Hollywood executives to remake movies that could actually be better or more relevant the second time around, rather than only those that are already excellent. The magazine's latest issue gives the remake nod to The Black Cauldron, Disney's animated adaptation of Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" series.

Of course, the magazine isn't suggesting that cartoon is worthy of imitation. Back in 1998, EW's critic Ty Burr (now reviewing for the Boston Globe) called Disney's Black Cauldron videocassette second worst release of the year--"Shoddily animated, charmlessly written, too creepy for small fry." The only place you'll hear worse words about the Disney version is at Disney itself. The Black Cauldron movie has become a corporate scapegoat--the poor animal that symbolizes the animation studio's pre-Katzenberg doldrums and must be driven away. (The movie was actually released the year after Jeffrey Katzenberg arrived at Disney, but had been in development for years before. Since it was a huge flop, he was especially eager to distance himself from it.)

There's plenty of untapped potential in the Prydain series. Not only are there four other books, but Disney didn't even really tackle The Black Cauldron. As Alexander said in an interview with Scholastic-selected schoolchildren, "I have to say, there is no resemblance between the movie and the book." And now that Hollywood has discovered the money-coining power of fantasy series, screenwriters might be able to map out more than one movie.

In comparison to other fantasy series, however, the following for Alexander's lacks breadth and fervor, with a few fan sites here and there. It also lacks a genuine British genesis; though Alexander was inspired by Welsh mythology, he's a Pennsylvanian. With the cost of entry for a fantasy movie these days in the low nine figures, given the cost of CGI, it may be a while before studio executives decides Taran's saga is worth that big a gamble.


Camille said...

My fantasy entlings read these books but they did not resonate the way Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising or the other classics like LOTR and Harry did.

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, it may be unfair, but I think of the Prydain series as bubblegum Lord of the Rings or Once and Future King. As the recent Narnia movie showed, in Hollywood's hands that can be very entertaining and remunerative--but it might need a big following to start with.

fusenumber8 said...

With one importance difference. LOTR and "The Dark Is Rising" are obviously better written, but Alexander used an element in his books that gives it an entirely different edge: humor.

J. L. Bell said...

I see more of T. H. White's Once and Future King behind the Prydain books, and that definitely has humor. Plus, of course, the bumbling young squire coming of age.

A coupla years ago I heard Gregory Maguire speak at Vermont College about the humor in Lord of the Rings, and how it refreshed him in the dark days of late 2001. Perhaps anything looked funny in comparison to reality then, but Gregory insisted that, though we rarely remember it, Tolkien used a fair amount of humor in his epic. It's just swallowed up by the huge dollops of epic-ness.

Janet Aldrich said...

Sorry, here I am very late to the discussion. I disagree that the books aren't well written -- I recently reread them and liked them very much. Adore Eilonwy's spirit and independence -- a rare characteristic in female characters at the time (and still, occasionally). IMHO, the best of the books is Taran Wanderer, which is probably the hardest one to turn into a movie. Still, that's where Taran grows up and really becomes the man who will eventually be High King.

Crosswalker said...

By Crosswalkx
Yes I think the Disney Company needs to do a Black Cauldron movie remake because the 1985 cartoon movie crammed "The book of 3" and "The Black Cauldron" into one movie, left out alot of characters out of the movie like Lord Arwen, Archen, Kaw, Gwydion, Adaon, Ellidyr, Coll, Gwystyl.
Anyways that's what the movie left out and left out alot of scenes. Also Gurgi didn't jump in the Black Cauldron, Prince Ellidyr did. Also Taran didn't give the sword to the 3 witches he gave them Adaons Brooch. Also Taran and his friends did ride horses in the book but not in the movie. Doli is a dwarf not a small flying fairy. Also the horned king didn't just hang out in the castle He hunted Taran on horseback and Creeper the sidekick was never in the book.
I could go on but it will take too long. Thankfully the Disney company didn't do anymore sequels. I hope one day in the future someone in the Disney studios will remake the Prydain series into live action or a better cartoon movie. There needs to be a petition for the Black Cauldron movie remake. Because the 5 Prydain books are my favorite.