Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Sword in the Stone

Walt Disney Animation Studio’s 18th feature film.

http//www.cornel1801.com/disney/Sword-Stone-1963/movie-film.html

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.

Production

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.

Story

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.

So you meet this wizard who does not know what the fuck he is doing demand to train you? Especially when you have an extremely strict foster father who gives you shit to do? You nor Merlin does not know what the purpose of this is, but you let him move in with you. What the heck? I guess we have to go with it.

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 we follow a formula for 30 minutes. Arthur has a chore to do, Merlin gets him out of it to teach him a lesson, Arthur needs to get saved, Merlin does not help, Arthur gets punished by Ector. He turns into these animals to teach something he never learns or will need to know for his fate in the end. Episodic pacing, which is a huge issue here, but not as bad as Alice in Wonderland. Bad decision WDAS.

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.

I don’t see the point in her being in the film. It is like she is supposed to be a villain, but was inserted there because they were bored. This is one of the examples as to why the film does not gel well.

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.

I see where they were trying to go with this; I really do, but nothing was thought or carried through in the film. It did not really feel like it was a flowing narrative, but a bunch of random things happening that adds little to nothing to the story. Merlin ended up being useless to Arthur and did not know what he was doing half the time, the episodic segments turned out to he useless, Madame Mim was an alligator moment. This needed to be re-written, and it shows that Disney was not involved here. Between Lady and the Tramp and this movie, they just stopped trying.

Characters

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.

He is the typical naive, optimistic kid. He does not come off as a brat though, and is grateful for what he has. One of the more likable child characters.
He is a very fun character, but a bit too fun. He fails as a teacher and a guide to Arthur, and his pop culture references are not THAT grating. They made him too much as a comic relief instead of fulfilling his role properly.
Merlin’s confidant is more serious and sensible, which is very entertaining as well.
Forgettable.
Ugly, annoying and a douche.
I believe I covered most of her above. Completely useless, and thrown in just to have a villain, but she is crazy in a good way, and a complete riot to watch.

Animation

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.

Music

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.

Reception Today

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.

Final Score

Story: 4.5/10

Characters: 6/10

Animation: 6.5/10

Music: 7/10

24/40= 60%

Next Time…

Review: April 21st, 2014
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20 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Sword in the Stone

  1. There is at least one scene everyone remembers: The wizard’s duel.
    I really like the movie…I like the songs, I like the characters, and I like that each “learning sequence” is dipping into another genre…horror (fish), tragedy (squirrel), adventure (bird). It’s a great movie for children.
    And that’s in a way my main issue with is (scratchy animation aside): It is made for children. It is, at the end of the day, like most movies from this era a very safe movie.

    1. Yes, the Silver Era was full of VERY safe movies. At least in the Dark Age, they took more risks (The Rescuers, Black Cauldron, Fox and the Hound). I was bored with this film even as a little kid.

      The thing with the learning scenes is that they are extremely episodic and turns out that he did not need it anyways, as he is the king by mere chance.

      1. Your opinion. WDAS was still doing well during this time period. Some say that it ends with The Jungle Book, and I have even heard some say that it ends with The Rescuers; just like some people think the Renaissance ends with The Lion King or Fantasia 2000. There is a reason why I tagged this review under both Silver Age, and the Dark Era.

  2. I really liked this film when I was younger, and now I think it’s just OK. The wizard’s duel is the stand-out scene. Aside from that, nothing special. I wonder what you’ll have to say about “The Jungle Book.”

      1. I like how maniacal they get each time they turn into different animals, all the slapstick, and how Mim breaks her own rules and suffers the consequences.

  3. I agree with the previous commenters about the awesomeness of the wizard’s duel. That’s my favorite animated scene ever!

    And I disagree that Merlin doesn’t know what he’s doing. I feel that in every adventure Merlin knows what he’s doing although he might lose control over the situation at times.

    1. I thought your favorite animated scene in Disney history was the climax of “Robin Hood,” unless you meant favorite scene in the movie.

    2. I honestly do not get what is so special about that scene.

      It seems like that because he says one thing with the right side of his mouth, and says another with the left side of his mouth, and it seems like he improvised on the spot. He loses control a lot.

  4. I enjoyed the film as a kid, but after I rewatched it, I remembered nothing…
    it was very episodic like u said, and I don’t find the characters interesting. after everything, the only question I had was, “what was the point of the whole learning and teaching if he get to be king immediately?” without remembering that they actually learned something during the movie. this isn’t a good sign.

    1. You pretty much summed up my entire point about this film. I did not remember anything watching it from when I was a kid either. It is sad that this is the last film released in Walt’s life.

      1. Wait, I thought his last was The Jungle Book??? That’s what I found through my research? Or am I wrong?

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