Who is perhaps one of the most terrifying, most horrifying, and most underrated Disney villain to date? Why, that award goes to this guy:
Now for those of you who don’t know (which actually might be quite a few of you) this is the Horned King, supreme villain from the extremely unsuccessful movie, The Black Cauldron. (Let me put this in perspective: Disney tried to disown this particular film for several years after its release, and it was a huge box office bomb, almost putting our beloved animation company out of business. Yeah, not good.)
Perhaps one of the best (and worst) things about this film, is the Horned King.
The Horned King is so terrifying. He is skeletal and red-eyed, with horns protruding from his head styled after Maleficent’s own, except even more horrifying because they are actual bones. (The similar horns have actually inspired a multitude of fan art based around the two having a romance. I mean, some relationships are based on a lot less, I suppose.)
Originally, an evil king named Arawn was supposed to be the villain, but they chose the Horned King instead. In the book series the movie was loosely based off of, The Chronicles of Prydain, the Horned King was actually a much more minor of a villain who only appeared in the first book, but he’s a pretty scary dude, so it works.
Unlike some of the Horned King’s heinous predecessors (*cough, cough*King John *cough, cough*) the Horned King was not humorous, but instead was purely cruel. Narcissistic and composed, he worked from far away, interacting very little with protagonists Taran and Eilonwy, but instead utilizing a network of minions (who admittedly could have been better.)
The King also had extremely nefarious goals in mind. Not one to be stifled, he planned to use the Black Cauldron to raise an army of the undead Cauldron Born (as seen above), and become a god, ruling the world and slaying all of the human race. I suppose it never hurts to reach for the stars with your goals. Unfortunately, the King is defeated by an assistant Pig-Keeper and a Gurgi. Ouch.
There was a lot wrong with The Black Cauldron, a lot I shouldn’t get into because this article is supposed to focus on the villain rather than the movie. But I will still go into brief discussion, because I feel that the movie lends to the King. The Black Cauldron was supposed to revitalize the House of Mouse. It was supposed to draw in teenagers and snub the renegade Don Bluth. Fresh-faced animators came onto the scene, expecting this to be a classic, the new Snow White that would be lovingly watched for years to come. Sure, there was some bad luck. Things became too expensive, there was some poor planning, and any movie released within the month after Back to the Future was going to struggle. But in the end, this movie’s problem was in the lack of story and character development.
This hurt a lot of characters (especially poor Eilonwy, who will never be acknowledged as in the Princess Pantheon,) and this includes the Horned King. His character could have been better fleshed out (Get it? Fleshed out? Oh, never mind…), and he could have been not quite so easy to destroy.
But you have to give the animators a lot of credit on this one. The Horned King is perhaps the most visually terrifying of the Disney Villains. I still have the occasional nightmare about him, and recently, I sat and watched this movie with my family, and at the end my mom expressed how terrifying she thought the villain was, and she couldn’t believe she let us watch that as kids. There were even scenes in the movie that were cut because they were deemed too terrifying, and this was the first Disney movie to ever be rated PG.
He could also rank in the top five for villain deaths as well. No cliff-falling for this guy, no no no. Instead, you get to watch the skin sucked from his body into the cauldron. (Okay, theory time: is this the same cauldron that Voldemort used to come back to life in Goblet of Fire? But I digress…)
Isn’t that a lovely visual?
At the end of the day, he wasn’t a perfect villain, but man was he a creepy-looking dude, who should definitely get more recognition than he does. (I mean seriously, does attempted world domination count for nothing these days?)