The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules
Character Description of Tarzan from "The Black Cauldron" (1985)
Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper who wants to make good by becoming a great warrior, is a member of that great fraternity of Disney central protagonists who are rather indefinitely characterized. To say that they are nonentities - as some critics have done - is to be a little harsh, because they are not; but they are definitely, and quite deliberately, painted in pastel colours so that the more ostentatiously bizarre characters around them may shine. The "new breed" of Disney animators saw fit to make Taran an amalgam between the (approximate) appearance of Wart and the personality of Mowgli. This was probably a wise decision, since, The Black Cauldron
is, debatably, overloaded with strong principal characters, and so a powerfully portrayed Taran would simply have eclipsed such delightful creations as Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi and Doli.
Voiced by the 14-year-old Grant Bardsley, Taran is a typical 14-year-old boy, with ambitions 'way above his abilities: his desire to be a great warrior is rediculous in terms of his own scrawny youth. His face is unpocked by a 14-year-old's acne, but he has most of the personality defects of a typical young adolescent - for example, his ability at the very wrong moment to fall into a daydream about his own glorification, so that Hen Wen is lost. Yet, when courage is called for and his life depends upon it, courage he is able to display. He is helped, of course, by the magic sword (a Freudian could have a lot of fun here), but nevertheless he still displays true bravery after the Witches have deprived him of the sword. He is even willing to surrender his life to aid the forces of good - although in the event Gurgi beats him to it.
Taran may not be a strongly depicted character but he is nevertheless a satisfying one - in a way that, say, Wart never was. (Wart was ideal for his role in what was anyway a very different movie, but he hardly inspired affection.) While some critics anathematized Taran as being just a sort of puppet hero, it should be noted that the Taran of Lloyd Alexander's novels is exactly the same character, In both cases, of course, the aim was to produce a character just "real" enough to be convincing but at the same time loosely defined enough so that little boys everywhere could identify with it. Thus Taran in the movie has hair that is neither red nor brown nor black; he has eyes which are dark but whose colour is otherwise indeterminate (sometimes they look dark brown, sometimes almost black, sometimes dark grey-blue); he has a face which is not distinctive; and so on. Even his English voice is of that timbre which could be upper-, middle- or lower-class.
If he has any fault it is that his tunic mysteriously changes colour between scenes - from brown-green to straight green - but then this was a movie worked on over a period of years by countless hands, and anyway most audiences never notice.