Friday, April 11, 2014

The Sword in the Stone {1963}

{Animated Disney Film #18 of 53}

This is the first Disney movie on the list in quite a while (since The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, in fact) that I've never seen before. For whatever reason, we just never owned it on VHS and apparently never borrowed it to watch.

So, The Sword in the Stone is about King Arthur. Well...sort of. It's about a boy called Wart (his real name is Arthur) who meets the wizard Merlin. Merlin begins to sort of tutor Wart and teach him some life lessons. By life lessons, I mean he turns Wart into several different kinds of animals to reinforce the idea that brains are better than brawn. Then, at the end, Wart pulls the sword from the stone and is crowned the next king of England. Thus, King Arthur. That's the movie in a nutshell, and I don't think I'm spoiling anything by telling the end because of the movie title. (Actually, the pacing seems a bit weird because the sword is mentioned at the beginning, and then in the last five minutes, and that's about it.)

First of all, let me say that I don't really have any experience with the story of King Arthur in books or films. Except for reading Avalon High as a teenager.

This is a strange little movie. It's a story set in medieval times, similar to Sleeping Beauty. But Merlin has seen the future, so he mentions motion pictures and comes back from a trip to Bermuda wearing shorts and a flowery shirt. The music during the opening credits is very 60s, but the rest of the songs have that typical Disney feel. The animation is similar to that of 101 Dalmatians, and Wart's mannerisms and movements remind me of Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Basically, a lot of the aspects of this movie reminded me of other Disney movies.

After a mostly music-less film (101 Dalmatians), the songs are back here. Honestly, I didn't really find them very memorable. Maybe that's because I didn't grow up with this movie, so the songs aren't ingrained in my memory like those in other Disney films. I'm surprised that I didn't like the music more because it was composed by the Sherman brothers, who did a lot of famous film scores and songs (like the "It's a Small World" theme song, and the music for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, several Winnie the Pooh movies, the 1961 Parent Trap, etc.). I did really love the jazzy number that plays when Merlin sets the kitchen to magically clean itself, though. :) That's a perfect example of how this movie that's set in medieval times can have a 1960s feeling to it.

My favorite scene was probably the Wizards' Duel, or basically any of the scenes with Madam Mim. Because while she doesn't make a very convincing villain, she is wacky and fun to watch. (By the way, she was voiced by a lady named Martha Wentworth who did the voices of three small characters in 101 Dalmatians: Nanny, the cow, and the goose.)

Two other little random things: the voice of the man who is Wart's foster dad sounded so familiar to me. When I looked it up, I realized he was the voice of Bagheera in The Jungle Book and the narrator from the 1977 Winnie the Pooh film. No wonder he sounded familiar. :) Also, The Sword in the Stone was the last animated Disney movie that was released before Walt Disney's death.

Overall, I enjoyed The Sword in the Stone. It was pretty entertaining, though it's definitely not a favorite. It's not one I'll be rushing out to buy on DVD. I depend on a good story and catchy songs in Disney movies (and sometimes a dose of nostalgia :), and I guess that's where this one fell short for me. The story felt weak at times, and I didn't love the songs.

Up next is another childhood favorite: The Jungle Book!

Do you like The Sword in the Stone? What are some of your favorite King Arthur-related books, films, or TV? (I do have the BBC series Merlin in my Netflix queue, but I haven't watched it yet.)


  1. I know I've seen this movie before, but it was so long ago that I honestly don't remember anything about it. I did read the book, The Once and Future King, that it's based on when I was in high school.
    As far as King Arthur is related, I have read about half of The Quest of the Holy Grail and really need to finish it. I also have a facsimile copy of Malory sitting on my bookshelf, yet to be read.
    I saw the film with Clive Owen they made a while back and generally enjoyed the semi-historical approach that they took. However, I did find the anti-Catholic subplot to be rather tedious and ill-informed.

    1. Oh, I had forgotten about the movie they made a while back...I think Keira Knightley was in it, too.

  2. Great review! I like this movie, but like you, it was never a favorite of mine. My favorite part was always when they were turned into animals :)

    I'm a big fan of Arthurian legend. I've read a book of the tales (by Roger Lancelyn Green) and a few retellings. I've only seen the first season of the BBC's Merlin, but I really liked it!

    1. My favorite of the animal scenes was the bird one. :) I've heard wonderful things about Merlin, and BBC never seems to disappoint!

  3. I didn't grow up with The Sword in the Stone either. When it comes to Disney films like this - where I don't have any nostalgic connection – I have a hard time deciding whether it's really any worse than some of the ones that I love, or if I'm just prejudiced because I used a more critical eye when viewing it for the first time. I ended up liking this movie pretty well, but it didn't overly impress me. :) Oh, I totally noticed the similarities between Wart and Mowgli too! I'm not sure, but I think that it may have something to do with the involvement of Bill Peet (one of my favorite children's book authors) with both The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book.

    I've enjoyed the legends that surround King Arthur ever since my mom read a fantastic children's retelling to me and my brother when we were in elementary school. I like The Story of King Arthur and his Knights by Howard Pyle, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green, and I've had The Once and Future King by T.H. White on my to-read list forever. BBC's Merlin is awesome! I'll be curious to hear what you think of it. :)

    1. I know what you mean- I also wonder if I would like them more if I grew up with them! It's hard to be critical about something that you feel so nostalgic about. :)

      I hope to get to Merlin sometime relatively soon. It seems like my Netflix queue basically consists of old films and BBC shows. :) And the list continues to grow...

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