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Villain Overview
Yes, yes my soldiers. Soon the Black Cauldron will be mine. Its evil power will course through my veins... and I shall make you... Cauldron-born. Yes, oh yes. Then, you will worship me! Me... oh, my soldiers, how long I have thirsted to be a god among mortal men.
~ The Horned King explaining his goal to a bunch of skeletons which would later become his Cauldron Born army.
Now I call on my army of the dead: the Cauldron Born! Arise, my messengers of death! Our time has arrived!
~ The Horned King's infamous quote, as he begins to summon his undead army.
Then instruct her to show me the whereabouts of the Black Cauldron.
~ The Horned King

The Horned King is the main antagonist in Disney's 25th full-length animated feature film The Black Cauldron, which is based on the 1960s fantasy novel series The Chronicles of Prydain by the late Lloyd Alexander, wherein he is a major antagonist. He is a treacherous, vindictive, malicious and spiteful monarch who plans to find the Black Cauldron and use its power to unleash an army of deathless warriors called the Cauldron Born. He is Taran's arch-nemesis.

He was voiced by the late John Hurt, who also played General Woundwort in Watership Down, Mr. Mole in Don Bluth's Thumbelina, Professor Broome in Hellboy, Lord Cotys in Hercules, Sailor John in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Harry in Pride, and Adam Sutler in V For Vendetta.

Roles

The Chronicles of Prydain

Horned King

The Horned King as described in The Chronicles of Prydain book series.

In The Chronicles of Prydain series, the Horned King appears only in the first book "The Book of Three". He is Arawn's champion and the War Leader of Annuvin. The Horned King is described as a huge man wearing armor (except for his arms, which are naked and stained crimson), a red cape and an antlered skull mask. The antlers are presumably where he gets his name.

Arawn sends the Horned King to capture the oracular pig named Hen Wen from Caer Dallben. He follows Taran across Prydain in search of Hen Wen, but cannot find her. In the end, he marches his army to Caer Dathyl and attacks Taran when he and Eilonwy try to warn the Sons of Don of the impending attack. Taran tries to fight him with the sword known as Dyrnwyn, but is nearly slain by the sword's fire in his attempt to draw it. Gwydion is able to defeat the Horned King by speaking and uttering his true name (Cornelius presumably), and upon the utterance of his name, the Horned King is struck by a flash of lightning and destroyed by flames.

The Black Cauldron

The Horned King on his Throne

The Horned King sitting upon his somewhat ancient-looking throne in Disney's The Black Cauldron.

The Horned King serves as the main antagonist here. However, the main antagonist was originally to be Arawn. In spite of this, the animators felt that people would prefer him better since he had horns (such as Maleficent and Chernabog). However, in The Black Cauldron, the Horned King is depicted as an elderly and sinister king with gnarled antler horns and a red robe covering undead, green, rotting skin of his body which indicates his appearance to be ghoulish.

His main plan in the film was to find the Black Cauldron and use its power to unleash an army of undead Cauldron Born. He tries by any means to find the cauldron, such as Princess Eilonwy's magic bauble and Taran's oracular pig named Hen Wen. After the Horned King unleashes his army of Cauldron Born at his castle using the power of the Black Cauldron, Gurgi flings himself into the cauldron to stop the army. After facing off against Taran, he is sucked into the cauldron and presumably perishes. The Horned King has a vast army of servants at his disposal including the troll-like goblin named Creeper, the Huntsmen of Annuvin, the dragon-like creatures known as the Gwythaints, and (of course) his Cauldron Born.

The Black Cauldron has never widely resounded with audiences. In theaters, the film's PG-rated intensity frightened children and upset parents expecting wholesome entertainment from the "Disney" name. However, those who have never avoided it often sing the film's praises, rather than singling it out as one of the weakest animated features in the studio's canon. The Horned King's increased role in the film renders him a treacherous, affecting and scary villain. His efforts to gain possession of the magical titular cauldron are drastic, as he calls forth an army of dead soldiers to find this key to ruling the world. Later, the Horned King while trying to pull himself away from the Black Cauldron before reviving his undead army again, was ultimately destroyed by the power of the very artifact that he now possessed, with him, his plans to dominate all life.

Personality

The Horned King's Castle

The Horned King's Castle

The Horned King is in great contrast with his predecessors and successors. While he exhibits the same outwardly arrogant and narcissistic qualities, desiring to become "a god among mortal men", he is very cold, brutal, composed, imperturbable and blasphemous, showing no outward anger until his plan fails at which point he lunges at Taran, believing it to be his doing (on Creeper's suggestion). He is also quite mysterious and inscrutable, and it is implied that not even his minions appear to know what he is, and is one of the less active villains, his only motion in the film (that is not carried out by his lackeys) is his role in the birth of the Cauldron Born.

He is also shown to have no reservations about his intentions, as he is very open, practicable and nondiscriminatory on his dream of becoming "a god among mortal men" and then wiping out all living things with an undead army. He is notable for seldom exhibiting a sense of humor or giving wicked laughs. On the one occasion he demonstrates a sense of humor, it is notably snide, sarcastic, manipulative and traitorous. Unlike a lot of Disney villains who are instead driven by revenge, he is also driven by personal desire.

Powers and Abilities

Although it is implied that the Horned King is a sorcerer of some sorts, he actually performs very little magic, only displaying his powers to teleport into his castle's main hall and calling upon the spirit of the Black Cauldron. How he got into the position of King is merely unknown. Perhaps he was a great warrior or soldier, but then again he is never seen wielding a sword unlike in the book series where he was a warlord wielding a sword. However, he does have great physical strength, as he used that to assault Taran in the climax.

Other Appearances

Television

The Horned King (who is called "Mr. Cauldron" by Donald Duck) makes appearances in several episodes of House of Mouse. He is also notable to be one of the only characters from The Black Cauldron to appear in the series along with the Cauldron Born.

In "Gone Goofy", he enters the club and shakes hands with Donald.

In "Goofy for a Day", while Goofy sings a song that is a spoof of the song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Disney's 1964 film Mary Poppins, he is seen at a table where a penguin waiter serves him his dinner.

In "Max's Embarrassing Date", he sits at a table and laughs with other characters after seeing Goofy fall into a gopher hole dug by Gopher.

He also makes a possible cameo appearance in Mickey's House of Villains, but he does not take part in the takeover.

Videogames

Horned King & Creeper

The Horned King and Creeper as seen in the 1986 videogame The Black Cauldron.

The Horned King appears as both main antagonist and final boss of the 1986 videogame adaptation of Disney's The Black Cauldron.

Mickey Mouse vs. The Horned King

Mickey Mouse vs. The Horned King (as "The Phantom") in Land of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse.

The Horned King appears as the final boss of the 1992 video game Land of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse under the name "The Phantom", having stolen a magical gem from a village and taken away the valley's good magic that protects its once happy inhabitants. He is clad in dark blue and plum robes instead of his red and brown robes. The Horned King's Castle becomes a floating medieval palace in the sky under the name "Cloud Castle", serving as the game's final stage.

Wicked Horned King

The Horned King as seen in the 1989 videogame Mickey Mouse.

The wicked Horned King is the final boss in the 1989 action/puzzle video game Mickey Mouse, in which he is greatly larger than the titular Mickey. In the beginning of the game, he had kidnapped Minnie Mouse, a similar trait shared by a wicked queen named Mizrabel from who have crossed paths with Minnie and Mickey Mouse.

Disney Parks

The Horned King appeared along with the Cauldron Born and the Black Cauldron in the Tokyo Disneyland attraction Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour. In this tour styled walk-through attraction, the Horned King is the final Disney villain the guests confront. The tour guide will tell a guest the magic words to defeat the Horned King and his Cauldron Born army. At the end of the tour, the guest was awarded a medal for defeating him. The attraction served as inspiration for the final level of a Tokyo Disneyland-based game on the Super Famicom where Pete played the part of the Horned King.

Trivia

  • He is the first Disney villain to be a king (while Prince John became the king of England, he was chronologically a prince and his subjects only saw him as a phony and Scar overthrew Mufasa to become king).
  • He is ranked #21 in the Top 30 Disney Villains.
  • The Horned King's physical appearance is similar to that of Skeletor from the popular 1980s TV series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
  • The Horned King is one of the few Disney villains without a song. He shares this trait with the likes of Maleficent, Queen Grimhilde, and Shan-Yu.
  • In the Italian version of The Black Cauldron, Horned King was called Re Cornelius (King Cornelius) because the Italian word for "horned" ("cornuto") also means "a person that has been betrayed by the proper partner".
  • The Horned King's design later became an inspiration to many numerous villains. Some of the best-known examples would be the Lich from Adventure Time and Lord Hater from Wander Over Yonder.
  • One of the most disturbing traits of the Horned King is his very own appearance. While the film shows him trying to resurrect the Cauldron Born, he doesn't look human at all. He looks mostly like a living dead due his skeletal appearance in spite of having skin, let aside his horns. Whether he is a horrible-looking human being or a paranormal creature is beyond anyone's speculation. However, the Horned King is implied to have some human characteristics like eating and drinking, as Creeper served him bread and wine during a party at his castle.
  • The Horned King has one of the most brutal and graphic deaths in an animated Disney film, as the cauldron peeled off his skin, sucked off his bones and exploded him onscreen.
  • During his death, the Horned King's scream keeps being heard a little time after his body has been entirely destroyed. It might be an animation mistake, but it is also possible that it is meant to imply that he is screaming from his very soul.
  • Despite being the main antagonist, he has only around 14 minutes of screen-time.

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