My opinion right after watching movie
My opinion right after watching the film is that it has no focus. Arthur is supposed to learn something form being an animal, but he never gets out of his situation, Merlin does not know what the fuck he is doing, he ends up being king when he had NO training or education for that. It is just all over the place. And it is very episodic and not pleasing to look at.
I found no information on the production of this film, except the director hired 2 of his sons to play Arthur after the initial voice actor fucked up their voice, Walt having little to nothing to do with the film, and it being the final film released in his lifetime (in the canon). Probably because this film is the first to not be considered a classic.
So the film starts with an introductory song of the guy who sings Johnny Appleseed. So the King Uther Pendragon dies with no heir, leaving England without a king. It was decided that whoever could pull the sword out of the stone, they will be king. It was impossible to do, and it led them to the Dark Ages.
Merlin (Karl Swenson) is preparing for someone to arrive in his hut, but does not know who, does not know why he will be there, and has a whole bunch of non answers.
Arthur (Ricke Sorenson, Richard and Robert Reitherman) is following his foster brother Sir Kay (Norman Alden), so he can be his squire. He screws up Sir Kay’s shot, and decides to go get the arrow. This somehow leads him to fall in the hut. In a way, Merlin demands to let him teach him.
They head to the castle owned by his foster father Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot), who rightfully refuses to let Merlin train him, because he does not think magic exists. Merlin disappears which somehow males Ector agree to let him stay in the crappiest room (one that is about to snap in half).
Sir Pellinore (Alan Napier) comes by to visit Ector to tell him that the annual jousting tournament in New Years will determine the next King of England, which gets Ector to prepare Kay for training, and Arthur as his squire. This is a 20 minutes gone good; sets up plot, and a great introduction.
So by his third lesson, he ends up being a bird, and ends up in a hut owned by Madame Mim (Martha Wentworth). She is a crazy witch, and as soon as she realizes that Arthur is Merlin’s student, she wants to kill him. Archimedes (Junius Matthews) tells Merlin about this,and they end up in a fight, which Mim loses.
Arthur is restored as a human and has to go with Sir Kay to his tournament. He gets Merlin mad because Merlin sees better, and Arthur got his dream, so Merlin abandons him to go to Bermuda. Arthur makes it there and forgets the sword, so he looks for a sword and pulls the one out of the stone, making him king.
Arthur is nervous and scared about being king, since he does not think he can have all the responsibility and has no training. He tries to escape, but to no avail. Merlin shows up and when Arthur asks for help, Merlin says he will be fine. Be a great hero and have motion pictures out about him (nods head). Merlin did not really help Arthur at all through this entire movie, and the movie just ends there.
The characters are likable enough. They don’t really develop, but the ones you are rooting for, you will root for. There is a certain charm about most of them, and they are entertaining.
The animation is not very good. It is even scratchier than One Hundred and One Dalmatians was, the backgrounds are less detailed, and while the colors are nice, you still see the pencil marks, and the character movements are kind of choppy. Sometimes, you see pencil marks show up and disappear.
This is the first film in the canon to have songs by the Sherman Brothers, and the songs are mediocre at best. Higitus Figitus is a bunch of random words, and the others are pleasant enough. The only ones that have something to do with the plot are That’s What Makes the World Go Round and A Most Befuddling Thing, which are the least memorable ones in the film. It does not really have much of a medieval theme to it, as you can clearly hear 60’s jazz through the score, which is a good score.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on Christmas of 1963, it made $4.75 million dollars in the box office; so it did alright. It got mixed reviews, as it was called out for having a thin narrative, and too much pop culture humor (this shit existed in the 60s). I did not do to well all around, but it is the 6th highest-grossing film of that year.
It’s reception today is not really great. Some people remember it, but it is not prominent and barely in the parks, it is not seen as a Disney classic, and this film will not come up automatically when people think of Disney. Most remember it being last film in the canon released in Walt’s lifetime.