MOVIE REVIEW | The Sword in the Stone (1963)


“For every to, there is a fro, for every stop there is a go, and that’s what makes the world go round.”

Does the world need another movie telling the legend of King Arthur?  I’d say that in 2015, the answer to that question is a clear no, despite what Guy Ritchie might think.  Even in 1963, more than half a century ago, I probably would have thought the same thing.  But no matter how played out a story and set of characters might be, knowing that it’s a Disney animated version, and that it’s the story of Arthur as a boy, without the knights of the round table, without Guinevere, it’s hard to not get a intrigued about this seemingly fresh take on the story that is The Sword in the Stone.

Merlin (Karl Swanson) is waiting for the arrival of a young, scrawny boy.  He doesn’t know why he’s waiting, or who the boy is, but he knows that destiny can’t be denied.  When the boy arrives, it’s in the form of Arthur, AKA Wart (Rickie Sorenson, Richard Reitherman and Robert Reitherman.  Yes, three kids provide the voice for the same character, and the different voices stick out like dog’s balls).  An orphan, Arthur has been taken in by Sir Pellinore (Alan Napier), a fat, old and lazy knight.  Working as a page / slave to Pellinore’s son, Kay (Norman Alden), the most Arthur can wish for in life is to continue working as Kay’s right hand once Kay is knighted.

Merlin sees more in Arthur however, and takes him on a series of adventures, turning him into different animals that open up the world in ways he has never even imagined.  And, because the title of this movie is The Sword in the Stone, there is also sword in a stone.  England has been without a king for years, whoever can pull said sword from said stone will claim the crown.

This is a fresh take on some stale old characters, and for the most part, the animation and new spin on things is more than enough to make The Sword in the Stone more than entertaining enough.  I can’t imagine anyone sees it as being in the top echelon of Disney classics, but it’s perfectly fine.  The one, big problem though, is about story structure and pacing.

The titular sword in the titular stone is introduced immediately, then basically forgotten until the last few minutes.  Not only is Arthur never aware of it, he’s never really perusing anything in particular at all.  He just aimlessly stumbles through a series of set pieces with Merlin.  Even the introduction of Madam Mim (Martha Wentworth), the closest thing a villain in The Sword ion the Stone, comes out of nowhere, more than half way through the movie.  And it has nothing to do with the rest of the story.  It’s almost like they just made this movie scene by scene, with no eye on the big picture.

The Sword in the Stone may have found a way to make an old story kind of new and kind of interesting, but the execution is pretty sub par, especially by Disney standards.

The Sword in the Stone
Directed By – Wolfgang Reitherman
Written By – Bill Peet

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