The Black Cauldron
The Disney Studio’s 25th full-length animated feature film is the result of yet another raid on children’s books. After Pinocchio and Bambi, Alice and Winnie-the-Pooh, The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book, the latest subject for Disney fiction is Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. This five book mythological Tolkien-type fantasy was first published in the United States in the sixties. The final volume The High King, won the Newbery Award (the American equivalent of the Carnegie Medal) in 1969, and the second book, The Black Cauldron, was a runner-up in 1966.
Disney bought the screen rights to The Chronicles in 1971 and throughout the seventies several writers tried their hand at an adaptation. Joe Hale was appointed producer in 1980 and set about producing a script himself. ‘Eventually,’ he says, ‘we came up with a narrative that neatly capsulized Alexander’s sprawling story.’ To achieve this Joe Hale confesses, ‘We had to take a few liberties with the plot.’ For instance? ‘The Horned King is a minor character in the series but since he had so many interesting possibilities when animated we expanded his role. He’s actually a composite of several characters from the books.’ Purist Alexander devotees, you have been warned. But young Taran, the assistant pig-keeper, is still the central character in search of a heroic adventure, and Hen Wen, the magical pig, and Princess Eilonwy are two from the books who make it to the screen. Condensed to screen length we have a quest adventure in which Taran and friends have to prevent The Horned King getting his evil hands on the black cauldron whose power will enable him to rule the world.
The film was five years in production using the latest techniques in animation which incorporate video and computer technology. Twenty-five million dollars went into the project; ‘the most ambitious animated production since Pinnochio.’ Producer, Joe Hale, asserts that the result retains the blend of high adventure and humour which characterises the books: ‘We tried to remain true to the author’s vision.’ We shall see.
The film has its first showing at a Royal Premiere on 11 October and will be on general release throughout the country by the Christmas holidays.
Hippo are publishing two book-of-the-film Storybooks, both illustrated with full colour stills from the film and written by Alison Sage.
Both are entitled The Black Cauldron: large-size (0 590 70419 2), £2.50; condensed version for younger readers (0 590 70506 7), £1.50.
The original Chronicles of Prydain are available in Fontana Lions. The Book of Three, 0 00 670592 8, £1.25; The Black Cauldron, 0 00 670593 6, £1.25; The Castle of Llyr, 0 00 671128 6, £1.25; Taran Wanderer, 0 00 671498 6, £1.50; The High King, 0 00 671499 4, £1.50.
A New Jan Mark
On 1 October Thames Television’s Middle English programme shows the first of a new three-part play by Jan Mark.
Interference is about a family – three children, two parents whose marriage is disintegrating. They take a country cottage for holidays and weekends. Strange things happen: electrical equipment goes on the blink, the phone won’t work – but only when the very aggressive father is in the house. Is this a ghost story? An account of a family breaking up? A comment on a technology-dependent society? Watch it and see.
We understand that Interference will probably appear in book form as a novel – with lots of dialogue!
Take it From the Top
Judy Garland sang about being born in a trunk in the Princes Theatre in Pocatello, Idaho; William Worthington was born in a trunk on Frinton Station during an air raid in 1942. William Worthington (Bill Odie, thinly disguised) is the anti-star of Central Television’s new series, From the Top, written by Bill Oddie and Laura Beaumont, (starts 23 September) and of the Magnet book-of-the-series by the same authors.
The series tells William’s story: abandoned at eighteen months by his jazz musician mother, expelled from the Home for Really Unwanted Boys for ‘putting on the show right here’, self-made swot, graduate of a posh university, family man, rich and successful bank manager who at forty-three remembers that what he really wanted to be was A STAR. He plunges into a rock-crazed delayed teenage, is thrown out by his family, reunited with Mum and enrols as a ‘mature student’ at The Jolly Theatre School – which turns out to be a far cry from its counterpart in Fame. (Don’t put your son on the stage Mrs Worthington?).
It’s an Oddie-flavoured concoction – Bill’s wife appears to share her husband’s sense of humour – and on screen it may be child-centred enough to pass; but on the page much of the humour will probably appeal most to jazz lovers of a similar age to Worthington/Oddie whose experience encompasses early Hollywood musicals – note the Garland parody – and the Swinging Sixties. But I could be wrong; I’d like to think I might be, Oddie fun is an innocent and engaging thing.
From the Top, Bill Oddie and Laura Beaumont, Magnet, 0 416 51160 0,£1.50.
In View Soon
A new series of Tucker’s Luck (BBC 2) starts on 23 October. Jan Needle’s Tucker in Control will be available from Magnet. (See BfK No.33)
Graeme Farmer’s Golden Pennies (ITV) an eight-part Australian series originally scheduled for May will now be shown in the weeks running up to Christmas. Tie-in Novel from Puffin.
Repeats are scheduled for:
Danger – Marmalade at Work (ITV) from 13 November. Book by Andrew Davies in Thames/Magnet.
The Box of Delights (BBC 1) will be repeated in three hour-long weekly episodes in December. Abridged editions of the John Masefield original in paperback from Fontana Lions and in hardback from Heinemann. (See BfK No.29)