Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My Review of The Sword In The Stone (1963)

Written by Bill Peet
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

Arthur:"Knowledge and wisdom is the real power."
Merlin: "Right you are,Wart, so stick to your schooling, boy."

I really do have an unbridled love for this movie. Adaptations of Merlin and Arthur are ten a penny with some obviously being better than others and this lovely little movie from Disney is definitely in the category of one of my favourites.

Following the death of Uther Pendragon, England is in disarray with no heir in sight, which means there's competition to be seated on the throne. This is where Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot) comes in, determined that his boorish son, Sir Kay (Norman Alden) could be the next king, while at the same time, the former's foster kid, or Kay's squire known as Wart (Rickie Sorenson) comes into wizened wizard Merlin (Karl Swenson) who is determined to educate the boy along with his snarky owl, Archimedes (Junius Matthews).

Wart's education seems to be mostly changing him into different animals and putting him into a series of dangers. As a fish, Wart has to avoid a crocodile from trying to eat him while as a squirrel, he's forced to fight off the affections of a female squirrel as well as a hungry and malnourished looking wolf. Then he's turned into a little bird and soon finds himself in danger of Madam Mim (Martha Wentworth), the closest to a proper antagonist that the movies seems to have.

Madam Mim is a fun baddie to watch as she revels in human suffering with a song in her heart and an ability to change into various animals. This leads to a brilliant battle of wits between Mim and Merlin as the two try to outdo each other on the animal front before the latter comes up with an underhanded way to deal with Mim. Unlike some other Disney baddies, Mim actually managed to survive this movie.

As for the rest of the movie, there's a bit of a falling out between Merlin and Arthur when the latter shows an interest in being Sir Kay's squire but given what this is based on, it's not long before Arthur discovers his true destiny and removes a sword from a certain stone and ends the movie by becoming England's newest King.

For an adaptation, this one is a lot of fun with Arthur, Merlin and Archimedes making for a joyful trio. There's a few allusions to Merlin's abilities to travel into the future and one hilarious moment where Archimedes takes satisfaction in Merlin being wrong about humans being able to fly.

- This movie is based on T.H White's book of the same title. The book was released a few years before this movie's release.
- There's a few obvious riffs to Sleeping Beauty in this movie.
- Bill Peet largely drew on Disney himself in his depiction of Merlin for this movie.
- The movie is also getting a live action version.

The Sword In The Stone is probably one of the more underrated Disney movies but it's a lot of fun. I really loved this one as a kid and even now having watched it again recently, it still holds up pretty well for an animated take on the Arthurian legend.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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