51 Days of Disney (Day 18): The Sword in the Stone

We have now arrived in 1963 and the second film in the British Cycle of Disney films, and the second film based off of literature, this time being based off of the first book in the Once and Future King, the Sword and the Stone.

The Sword in the Stone follows the story of King Arthur’s youth, mostly following his growth from squire to intellectual ruler. Upon the death of King Uther Pendragon, a sword is placed into a stone with the inscription “Who so Pulleth Out This Sword of this Stone and Anvil, is Rightwise King Born of England.” Many tried but failed to remove it, and it quickly became forgotten. Years later, Arthur, also known as Wart (voiced by Rickie Sorenson, and Richard and Robert Reitherman), is training to become a squire, but a chance (read prophecized) meeting with the wizard Merlin (Karl Swenson) and his highly educated owl, Archimedes (Junius Matthews, who also was the original voice of Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh), changes the course of his life.

Merlin gives Arthur the education he needs, covering the topics of mathematics, biology, english, latin, and history, all while being pestered by the Wart’s adoptive father, Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot, who went on to voice Bagheera in the Jungle Book, and narrated two of the Winnie the Pooh shorts) and his brother Sir Kay. After months of learning and training, the yearly New Years Tournament comes around, but this time the prize is the crown.

The film ends rather abruptly, as it only covers the first book of the Once and Future King. This is one of the few Disney films that I genuinely want a sequel to. The character of Arthur is very endearing (despite the fact that his three different voices get distracting at times) and Merlin, being the proto-Genie that he is, is always fun to watch. The film was well received, both critically and commercially. It even went on to be the sixth highest grossing film of 1963 when it was released, considering the fact that Walt wanted to make some sequels to some of the animated films and also the fact that some were actually put into production but never made, it surprises me that the rest of the books were never made into film.

This is the first Disney animated film to have songs written by the incomparable Sherman Brothers (but not the first Disney film to have them, 1961’s Parent Trap was) and marked one of the earliest points in the decade spanning connection between the Sherman’s and the Disney Studios. They went on to write the songs for numerous Disney films, gaining an Academy Award for their work on Mary Poppins, and eventually working on music for the parks. The best song out of the bunch in this film is easily “Higitus Figitus” and is also one of the most fun scenes to watch. Also, I wish I could pack like Merlin, that would make life so much easier. George Bruns did another fantastic score that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, but it unfortunately did not win.

One of the best scenes animation-wise is the scene when Merlin and Arthur are going back to the castle and being followed by the wolf. The wolf is just so expressive that it really sells the pain and frustration he’s going through just trying to get a meal. The best animation goes to the Wizard duel between Merlin and Madame Mim near the end of the film, though. It’s highly enjoyable to watch due to its chaotic nature.

The film runs at a very fast pace and has a surprisingly philosophical plot compared to other Disney animated films, that combined with fantastic music (as always) makes the Sword and the Stone a great film, despite the fact that it is not nearly as well known as other Disney films of similar quality.

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One response to this post.

  1. Keep working ,terrific job!

    Reply

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