Thirty years ago, the writers, producers, and artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios embarked on their most expensive, ambitious project to date: a lushly drawn adaptation of Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy cycle The Chronicles Of Prydain. Titled The Black Cauldron, the darker, more mature film—which also featured the company’s first dalliances with computer animation—was meant to open the studio’s work back up to older audiences, after a decade of younger-aimed projects like The Rescuers, Robin Hood, and The Fox And The Hound. Instead, it nearly killed the company’s internal animation arm outright, earning back just a little more than half its massive $40 million budget, drawing widespread critical jeers, and forcing a change in company culture and production that would eventually lay the groundwork for the studio’s Little Mermaid-led domination of the 1990s.
Now, in what seems like either a massive act of hubris, or one of potential adaptational atonement, Variety is reporting that Disney has reacquired the rights to Alexander’s books, with an eye on developing a new feature based on the author’s high fantasy world of noble swineherds, oracular pigs, and references to Welsh mythology. It’s not clear if the books—which follow the rise of would-be champion Taran from bumbling youth into heroic maturity—will serve as the basis for another animated film, or if the company will shunt the series over to its rapidly growing live-action side. Either way, we’re pretty sure we won’t be seeing “Based on the career-ending The Black Cauldron!” on any of the posters if it ever makes its way to theaters.