- Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
- December 25, 1963
- Arthur-Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, and Robert Reitherman
- Merlin-Karl Swenson
- Archimedes-Junius Matthews
- Sir Ector, Narrator-Sebastian Cabot
- Sir Kay-Norman Alden
- Madam Mim, Granny Squirrel-Martha Wentworth
- Sir Pellinore-Alan “Alfred Pennyworth ‘66” Napier
- Sir Bart-Thurl “Tony the Tiger” Ravenscroft
- The Wolf-James MacDonald
- Little Girl Squirrel-Ginny Tyler
- Scullery Maid-Barbara Jo Allen
The story of Arthur before he became a king or a legend.
The Sword in the Stone is the Disneyfied version of the (young) King Arthur legend based on the book of the same name by T.H. White. This is probably the introduction to the Arthurian legend that most children of a certain age had.
I remember liking this as a kid but as an adult it does not have quite the same feel or the same magic as it did in my youth. The memories that compelled me to purchase this did not help buoy my level of enjoyment. Some movies from my childhood are still as good today as they were when I shared a soda and popcorn while in a theater with my family but others have not come along with me into adulthood.
More often than not The Sword in the Stone plays like a Disney educational film. Some like the Sport Goofy series were pretty good but they are not meant for feature films. Arthur has no villain or significant struggle to overcome. All he does is just really hang out with Merlin as a means to get away from his life with Sir Ector and Kay until the end of the movie. I admit to being unfamiliar with the book from which this comes but I am assuming he went through something beyond fetching the sword for Kay that ended up getting him the big job.
The character of Merlin has a minor irritant during his “journey” in the film but there is nothing much for him to overcome either. The witch Madam Mim is a hindrance but nothing more. A conflict in the context of the story looks possible as Mim’s magic is based on trickery and Merlin’s magic is based on truth. These are polar opposite concepts that are really not developed. They have a brief confrontation by the end of which Mim is easily dealt with.
I am not calling the film boring. I am just saying it is not as interesting as it could have been. It is bordering on dry. The closest we get to anything exciting are the moments when Arthur is being educated by Merlin and takes on the form of animals. During those instances he gets put in danger, but you know Merlin will not let harm come to him as he has seen the future and knows he needs to guide Arthur to be the next king and not let him get chomped in the castle mote.
That animation is the classic hand-drawn Disney style. Visually it’s very satisfying and engaging. You will be reminded of your childhood when watching this. Director Wolfgang Reitherman was part of the Nine Old Men. They were a group of Disney animators who were behind multiple classic Disney animated features. His skill is clear as he helps makes this special rather than forgettable.
Some people have complained about the character accents in The Sword in the Stone with the focus of most of the criticism being the character of Arthur. Sorensen hit puberty during production forcing Reitherman to cast his two sons leading to different voices in the same scene. Worse, none were British or spoke with the appropriate accent. Adults may pick up on that but the target audience even today will not. People are just nitpicking.
The Sword in the Stone is an okay Disney film. Unfortunately its lack of character arcs and dry presentation make it great for kids but only just okay for adults. I will call this an if you want.