B is for The Black Cauldron
Next up in the April 2017 AtoZ Challenge, let’s look at the dragons (called Gwythaints) in the 1985 Disney animated movie The Black Cauldron.
From the Disney Wiki: “Gwythaints are minor villains in The Black Cauldron. They serve as the Horned Kings minions and dragons … [and are] based on wyverns, with sharp talons, large, leathery wings, antelope-like horns, and gray/black scales. [They] are evil and savage, but also very intelligent [as shown when] tracking down their targets.”
The movie is based on a series of five novels and eight short stories collectively titled The Chronicles of Prydain, written by American author Lloyd Alexander and published in the 1960s. According to the Prydain Wiki, Alexander’s work is “based on medieval Welsh legends and folktales,” and although initially written for a young adult audience, “the series remains popular among readers of all ages, many of whom consider the series to be on par with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” I’ve never read the series myself, but I am certainly intrigued to do so now! The Black Cauldron is the second book in the series.
Interestingly, the animators at Disney in the 1980s made one major change to the Gwythaints (pronounced “GWITH-aints”) when they adapted the Alexander’s stories for the silver screen. According to The Prydain Companion: A Reference Guide to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles by Michael O. Tunnell (page 133 and available on the Google Play store at that link, and elsewhere in digital and print), and also the Prydain Wiki, in the books:
Gwythaints are enormous black birds of prey, ‘greater than the greatest eagle,’ with ‘blood-red eyes’ and ‘curving beaks and talons as merciless as daggers’ ….
[however, while] the animators initially produced concept sketches of black birds, as the gwythaints are described in the series, … at some point the filmmakers decided to depict them as wyverns.
Here is a really neat piece of color concept art for the movie, done by Disney Legend Mel Shaw and found at the Living Lines Library: Collections of Animated Lines, depicting the (now) wyvern-like Gwythaints menacing the heroes:
The Villans Wiki goes into more detail about the reason the Gwythaints serve the Arawn Death-Lord, the main villan in the Prydain Chronicles:
Arawn captured them long ago and tortured them into his service; he keeps them in iron cages in his stronghold of Annuvin and they serve him out of terror. Reminiscent in spirit to the Flying Monkeys of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, the Gwythaints are the eyes and ears of Arawn, spying and bringing information. They are not above attacking, however, and do so on several occasions.
In this series, the dragons are merely supporting characters, the henchmen to the big bad rather than the final boss themselves. Contrast that to yesterday’s portrayal in Avatar: The Last Airbender, where the dragons are more god-like creatures of legend, and you can begin to see why I decided to tackle Dragons in Our Fandoms as my theme for this year’s challenge — there are so many interesting variations!
And speaking of variations, here are a few artists with their own take on the Gwythaints from The Black Cauldron. This first piece comes from American comic and deviantartist ALBuning90, called Dragon-uary, Day 6 – Disney Gwythaints:
Next up, a deviantartist from the United Kingdom who goes by Expression created a great sketch tutorial called Notes on Disney Dragons: Gwythaint. I’m only including a small part of the larger image here (so you can see the detail), but please check out the full version at that link, especially if you’d like to know how to draw the head, wings, and body of a wyvern!
And finally, here is a really well done Gwythaint done by American professional artist Trevor Petersen, posting as Snipetracker. I feel like this could have been taken right out of the movie, right down to the shading.
Well, I hope you enjoyed these wyvern dragons and another example of dragons in our fandoms for my second post of the AtoZ Challenge. Come back tomorrow for a mega-sized post for the letter C, and be sure to leave me a comment with a link to your own blog if you’re participating this year! Thanks for reading, and stay creative!
Screencap from The Black Cauldron (1) from the Disney Wiki
The Black Cauldron book cover from the Prydain Wiki
Color concept art by Mel Shaw from the Living Lines Library: Collections of Animated Lines
Screencap from The Black Cauldron (2) from the Villans Wiki
Dragon-uary, Day 6 – Disney Gwythaints by ALBuning90
Notes on Disney Dragons: Gwythaint by Expression
Gwythaint No. 2 by Snipetracker