Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) Review

Image: Disney, Wikipedia.org

Oh, the whimsy and wonder of magic!

PLOT –

The powerful wizard Merlin trains a young boy named Arthur to become the destined King of England. As Arthur learns through the teachings and trials of Merlin’s magic, he discovers that the real lessons come from within.

The plot moves at a mid-level pace. Not really that slow, yet not too fast either. I did find myself asking “wow, we’re at the end already?” but even then there were 15 minutes of plot left. The story is pretty easy to follow, but is sometimes burdened with unneeded characters that, while they flesh out the world, are mostly used for gag fodder rather than plot development. The film has a good plot structure, with identifiable first, second, and third acts, all containing rising action, with an interesting use of climax that wraps up Merlin’s story, and a resolution that wraps up Arthur’s story. There are also a lot of great growing up lessons in the film to take away, no matter what age you are.

My PLOT RATING is 4 / 5.

CHARACTERS –

Arthur (Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, Robert Reitherman) (called Wart through most of the film) is our protagonist. Something I really love about this character is that he noticeably grows more and more confident throughout the film. His continued interactions with his adoptive father figure and his teachings with Merlin show his courage and bravery that help him gain the confidence to pull the sword at the end of the film.

Merlin (Karl Swenson) is a really great character. He teaches Arthur moral lessons through the use of magic, and his character is humorous, mentioning future events to deaf ears, and having a delightful air of whimsey to him. His interactions with the regular human characters are He’s stern sometimes, which effects his magic casting in fun ways, and easily gets flustered. What I really like is that he doesn’t give up on Arthur, and strives to teach his young pupil.

Archimedes (Junius Matthews) is the comedic relief of the film. Merlin’s talking owl is a hoot! (sorry) He has a lot of brains and opinions, but they don’t really matter much and he gets ignored a lot by other characters just because he isn’t human. He does help Arthur out when he’s in trouble and ends up becoming a guide to him when Merlin isn’t present. It reminds me of Grumpy’s character arc from Snow White.

Ector (Sebastian Cabot) and Kay are Arthur’s adoptive family. Kay is sadly the weakest character in the film, he’s just a lazy lunkhead jock that picks on Arthur throughout the film, being a dark reflection of Arthur if he didn’t apply himself. Ector, on the other hand, is a fascinating character for Disney. He’s a magic skeptic, comes in contact with magic, and doesn’t care. He doesn’t use it to his advantage, and is only negative on it when others point it out to him and are distressed. This is similar to the generational culture clash when it comes to new ideas and technologies being more complex than the older ways. It seems marvelous to the new generation, yet a burden to the old. It’s a great parallel and character that isn’t really seen that much in Disney, especially when it comes to magic.

Mad Madame Mim (Martha Wentworth) is a good villain without much fanfare or screentime, yet she’s memorable for her fight scene and insanity. She seems weird in the beginning, but gets increasingly more weird and threatening as her screentime increases. Her logic only applies to her and she does whatever she can to get the upper hand. I like how she has a connection to Merlin, and while it could be explored, it’s actually better left unexplained. She represents the dark version of Merlin if he used his magic for evil instead of good. She also has a lot of threatening and funny moments, very similar to Willie the Giant from Fun and Fancy Free‘s Mickey and the Beanstalk.

The various animals and creatures featured in the film are pretty good, and threatening, except for the wolf, who is pathetic and seems like a copy of Warner Brothers’ Wile E. Coyote. The girl squirrel (Ginny Tyler) is the best of these, featuring a very memorable and sad story.

My CHARACTERS RATING is 4 / 5.

DIALOGUE –

This film is very script and character-driven. The character interactions and dialogue are also standouts, having several characters on uneven footing using wits to talk out their problems rather than action scenes or long moments of quiet. However, there is some reuse of voice clips. Six “Woah what, woah!” exclamations from Arthur, and three voice actor changes from him as well, even in the same scene. The dialogue is somewhat more modernized and easier to follow, with a nice flow to the lines, but once you notice the aforementioned issues, it gets grating.

My DIALOGUE RATING is 4 / 5.

EFFECTS –

This film has really stepped up its game, featuring some great backgrounds, and better animation and lighting. The fur and feather effects are fully realized, especially with Merlin’s beard and Archimedes’ wings. The best animation from the film comes from the Wizard’s Duel, with inventive transformation effects and creative character designs for the two combatants. The bubble, soap, and water effects are also meticulously done down to the glare lines of the bubbles!

My EFFECTS RATING is 5 / 5.

MUSIC –

The score is a constant throughout the film, but complements the animation well. This is George Bruns once again, along with the Sherman Brothers. Would you expect less?

“The Legend of the Sword in the Stone” – A ballad that starts off the story, and is really good to the ears.

“Higitus Figitus” – Jazzy and fun, with a lot of visual and verbal humor, filled with great rhymes and nonsense words.

“That’s What Makes the World Go Round” – Simple and cute, with a light tone and tune.

“Most Befuddling Thing” – A song about the inevitability of love at first sight. The message is outdated sixty years down the line though.

“Mad Madame Mim” – Not really a song, yet it’s perfect for Mim. Truly an insane tune, and explains Mim from the get-go.

My MUSIC RATING is 5 / 5.

OVERALL –

The Sword in the Stone is a wonderful film. It has great plot and character progression, an assortment of really good characters, amazing effects and music, with good dialogue marred by overused voice clips and three different voice actors for Arthur. That being said though, this one is one of my favorites, and definitely worth the watch. There are also a few good morals and nuggets of wisdom for people of all ages in this story.

Image: Disney, D23.com

My OVERALL RATING is 88%.

Next time, we’ll exit the forest and —

“Woah what, woah!”

Fall into the jungle.

Stay Tuned!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s