14. Eilonwy (The Black Cauldron)
The Black Cauldron, released in 1985, was one of Disney’s risk-taking films. During the 1970s and 1980s, Walt Disney Studios was on truly shaky ground. After the animated film triumphs of the early days, the animation giant’s fame had shrunk. Furthermore, they’d wasted money and effort on weird, generally unsuccessful films, such as the 1979 live-action flop, The Black Hole.
This isn’t to say that The Black Cauldron isn’t worth watching. It’s just easy to forget that there are quite a few interesting, even daring Disney films that were released before the Disney Renaissance exploded onto the scene with 1989’s The Little Mermaid.
That’s a bit of a shame, really. As it turns out, there’s quite a bit to like about The Black Cauldron and its characters in particular. You’ve got Taran, the assistant pig-keeper turned unlikely hero who bravely fights against the Horned King (one of Disney’s truly creepy villains).
There’s also Princess Eilonwy. Now, alas, this one is a bit of a cheat. In the film, Eilonwy doesn’t have much to do. It’s unsurprising to an older viewer, if not still frustrating. However, this film may open a gateway to the Chronicles of Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander.
In the novels, Eilonwy is a powerful enchantress with a strong will and an even stronger sense of stubbornness. She is also a powerful fighter, both with weapons and without. At least in the books, which inspired the Disney film, Eilonwy is a formidable role model.