Connect with us


Why For did Disney’s “The Black Cauldron” fail to connect with audiences back in 1985?



LAlexanderFan5 writes in to ask:

Disney is releasing a 25th anniversary edition of "The Black Cauldron" later this month. Do you have any insights as to why this animated version of Lloyd Alexander's "The Chronicles of Prydain" failed at the box office?

Films fail to connect with audiences for a variety of reasons, LAlexanderFan5. Sometimes it has to do with the way a particular motion picture is promoted (There are "Rocketeer" fans who – to this day – insist that that Joe Johnston movie didn't connect with audiences back in June of 1991 because Disney's publicity department opted to go with far too stylized a poster for this period action-adventure film). And in other cases, it's just because the Studio chose the wrong release date (Witness what happened with "Bolt" — a really is this terrific little animated feature — in November of 2008. But because this Walt Disney Animation Studios production was released to theaters on the exact same day as "Twilight," it wound up being seriously overshadowed. Which is why this Byron Howard & Chris Williams film didn't do nearly as well domestically as it should have).

But when it comes to "The Black Cauldron" … To be honest, there are a number of reasons that this animated feature (which was supposed to have been the "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" for that generation of Disney animators) under-performed during its theatrical release.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

For starters, producing a successful feature length cartoon is a lot harder than it looks. Let's remember that — when Walt Disney was trying to produce the "Snow White" for his generation of animators (which actually was "Snow White") — it took him the better part of three years to finally settle on which story he should use for his Studio's animated feature film debut.

For a while (due to the projected production costs as well as the amount of time that it was going to take to crank out over an hour's worth of high quality, story-driven animation), Walt explored the idea of producing a hybrid. As in: A feature-length project that would have combined live-action with animation. Which is why – for a number of months — he went back-and-forth between the ideas of producing a mostly live-action version of "Alice in Wonderland" (which was to have starred silent screen legend Mary Pickford) or a mostly live-action version of"Rip Van Winkle" (which would have starred humorist & social commentator Will Rogers.

But in the end, Disney opted to go with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" for reasons of economy: And when I say "economy," I'm not talking about what it would actually cost to produce this animated feature. But — rather — story economy. As in: This Grimm's fairy tale had a fairly simple, straightforward storyline with a limited number of characters. Which would (in theory, anyway)  make "Snow White" far easier to adapt to the screen than Lewis Carroll's episodic / character-heavy "Alice" tales and/or Washington Irving's rather thin short story.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But even after all that careful consideration,  Walt still made some fairly expensive missteps during the production of "Snow White." Which eventually resulted in having to cut two nearly completely animated sequences (i.e. the soup-eating & the bed-building scenes) because – though they were entertaining – these scenes didn't further that film's storyline.

Now contrast that with "The Chronicles of Prydain," Lloyd Alexander's 5-volume series of children's fantasy novels that Walt Disney Productions purchased the movie rights to back in 1971. To be blunt, this literary property was no "Snow White" (i.e. a model of story economy with a limited number of settings & characters). Alexander's sprawling tale featured over 30 main characters which drew their inspiration from Welsh mythology. Its decades-long storyline featured intrigue & numerous battle scenes, which ultimately made this series of books extremely difficult to adapt to the screen.

Difficult, but not impossible. Let's remember that – after George Lucas wrote his "Journal of the Whills" (in which he mapped out the entire saga of the Star Wars) – Lucas then went back-and-forth over this epic storyline, looking for the easiest entry point for an audience; a self-contained story that could serve as the best possible introduction to the Star Wars world and its characters. That story eventually resulted in "A New Hope."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And "Black Cauldron" producer Joe Hale thought that he had done the same thing with "The Chronicles of Prydain". By combining story elements from the first two books of Alexander's saga (i.e. "The Book of Three" and "The Black Cauldron") he thought he had a self-contained story . In particular, he took a relatively minor character from this series of fantasy novels (i.e. the Horned King) and made him the proposed villain of this new animated feature.

"And why did Hale do that?," you ask. Well, every good story needs a villain. And given what Disney concept artist Mel Shaw had done with the character of the Horned King in that series of inspirational pastels that he'd created while "The Black Cauldron" was still in early, early story development … Hale felt that this character really had the makings of another Maleficent (i.e. a truly memorable Disney villain).

But – again – it was 16 years from the time when Disney first acquired the film rights to "The Chronicles of Prydain" to when "The Black Cauldron" was finally released to theaters. And that span of time was a particularly volatile period in the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios. What with much of the Old Guard (i.e. Disney's "Nine Old Men" and that generation of animators) dying off and/or opting to retire and the new crew (i.e. Don Bluth's group at the Studio plus those first few waves of CalArts animation class graduates) struggling to find their own way.  George Lucas & Steven Spielberg had usurped Disney's position at Hollywood's top provider of family-friendly entertainment which meant that the studio needed to create the sorts of animated features that they felt would interest the audiences of the late 1970s / early 1980s.

Copyright MGM. All rights reserved

That's why it's always important to remember that motion pictures aren't produced in a vacuum. That when you're watching a movie, in order to get a clear understanding of why this particular production turned out the way that it did, you sometimes have to look back on that particular period in time in Hollywood. See what forces were at play in the marketplace while this film was actually being produced.

And as for "The Black Cauldron" … Well, it's crucial to remember that this was the first Disney animated feature to come out after "The Secret of NIMH." Which – back when that Don Bluth movie was released to theaters in July of 1982 – had been highly praised for combining the craftsmanship & attention to detail that had been found in "Snow White," "Pinocchio" and "Bambi" with the storytelling savvy of a Spielberg or a Lucas.

And given that Bluth had been bad-mouthing the Mouse ever since he, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy and 11 others had walked off the Disney Lot in September of 1979 to form Aurora Animation … Well, Mouse House execs felt that they had to do something in response. They needed to reestablish Disney's dominance in the feature animation field.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which is why Walt Disney Productions decided to follow "The Fox and the Hound" with "The Black Cauldron." Which would not only be shot in Super Technirama 70mm and feature 6-track Dolby sound, but (for a while, anyway) was supposed to have featured the first in-theater holographic effect used in an animated film. When one of those Cauldron-born was to have risen up out of that Cauldron and then loom out over the audience.

Speaking of the Cauldron-Born … It's this somewhat controversial aspect of "The Black Cauldron" that resulted in this July 1985 release being the first-ever Disney animated feature to receive a PG rating. But the artists & animators who worked on this film felt that they were perfectly justified in including such grisly characters in a Walt Disney Production because Spielberg & Lucas had incorporated these same sorts of horrific elements into 1982's "Poltergeist" and 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

Which is kind of ironic. Given that – as soon as Jeffrey Katzenberg was put in charge of Feature Animation (right after Ron Miller was removed from power in the Fall of 1984 and Michael Eisner & Frank Wells were made the new heads of The Walt Disney Company) – one of the very first things that he did was begin whittling away at the scarier portions of "The Black Cauldron."

One of the images of the Cauldron-Born that was cut from "The Black Cauldron" prior
to its initial theatrical release in July of 1985. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

And that (according to conventional wisdom, anyway) is why "The Black Cauldron" failed to connect with audiences back in 1985. Because reviews for this new animated cartoon continually stressed how dark & scary this Walt Disney Productions release was, parents deliberately gave this picture a wide berth. "The Black Cauldron" came in fourth at the box office over its opening weekend, only selling $4.1 million worth of tickets. And as its domestic run came to a close, this ambitious animated feature had earned a meager $21.2 million. Which didn't even come close to covering "Cauldron" 's $25 million production costs.

With the hope that a shift in marketing strategies might then improve this feature length cartoon's chances of  success overseas, Disney's publicity department actually renamed "The Black Cauldron" for several key markets in Europe and Asia. Calling this animated feature "Taran and the Magic Cauldron" instead.

And if you'll look closely at that poster art for "Taran and the Magic Cauldron" below, you'll note that — in order to play down the more horrific elements found in this new Walt Disney Productions release — the Horned King is nowhere to be seen now.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But even that name change failed to win over audiences. Which is why why the Mouse House's new management team tossed "The Black Cauldron" towards the very back of  the Studio's film vaults and then never ever gave this production another theatrical release. Hell, it would take The Walt Disney Company another 13 years before they'd finally allow this film to be released on VHS.

But the upside of this story is … In much the same way that Walt Disney learned from all of the mistakes that he made while making 1961's "Babes in Toyland"  then applied all of those lessons to "Mary Poppins," "The Black Cauldron" was kind of a necessary mis-step in the history of Walt Disney Feature Animation. You see, the lessons learned on that project were eventually applied on 1986's "The Great Mouse Detective."  Which then resulted in a creative rebirth at WDAS and all of the great films (i.e. "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "The Lion King" et al) that followed.

So when I check out "The Black Cauldron" on September 14th (Which is when Walt Disney Home Entertainment will be releasing the 25th anniversary edition of this animated feature to stores), I won't just be marveling at this new digital transfer and/or enjoying that deleted Fairfolk scene which is included as part of this DVD. I'll also be thinking about the movie that the Mouse tried to make here. That "Snow White" for the next generation of Disney animators that didn't quite turn out as planned.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, what's kind of intriguing about the cover art for the 25th anniversary DVD of "The Black Cauldron" is — just like with that poster for "Taran and the Magic Cauldron" — the Horned King is nowhere to be seen. Which tells me that — even in this age where a mainstream cable channel like AMC can produce a gory TV series like "The Walking Dead" — The Walt Disney Company is still pretty squeamish when it comes to the more horrific elements found in this 1985 animated feature.

And speaking of that particular generation of Disney animators … If you'd like to hear about what it was like to work on "The Black Cauldron" from someone who was actually on the inside at the Mouse House at that time, then I'd suggest that you head on over to Mike Peraza's Ink and Paint Club. This talented Disney artist currently has a great three part series (i.e. "The Cauldron of Chaos") up on his blog which is well worth a read. So go check it out.

Anyway … That'll do it for this week at JHM. Remember, if you have any Disney-related questions that you'd like to see answered in a future Why For column, please send them along to

Have a great weekend, okay?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



Listen to the Article

Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Continue Reading


Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



Listen to the Article

Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

Continue Reading


Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



Listen to the Article

Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

Continue Reading