The Sword in the Stone (1963)

sword in the stone poster 1963 movie walt disney
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 6/10

The squirrel romance

Average art, story, and acting

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Sword in the Stone

Studio:  Walt Disney Productions

Genre(s):  Animated/Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  December 25, 1963

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

sword in the stone arthur merlin war

We got some business, kid

Little Wart is accustom to being kicked about as the ward of Sir Ector and his son Kay.  When a chance trip into the woods leads Arthur to meet Merlin and his owl Archimedes, and magically inclined Merlin sees potential in Arthur.  Merlin begins to train Arthur and teach him about the world through transformations into animals like fish and squirrels.  Will Arthur achieve this destiny?

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, The Sword in the Stone is a family action-adventure musical.  Following 101 Dalmatians in 1961, it is the eighteenth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classic series. The movie was based on T.H. White’s 1938 novel that was later collected in The Once and Future King in 1958.  The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Score.

sword in the stone squirrel scene

You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals…

I have always found the story of Camelot and King Arthur to be a strange one.  While kids like castles and wizards and knights, the rest of the story of the Knights of the Round Table is very adult and rather tragic.  To turn it into a story for children is odd (especially considering what ended up happening to Arthur, Merlin, and the others) is strange…and Disney goes full Disney on the story.

There is a lot of criticism of The Sword in the Stone in the fact there isn’t much story.  Wart just jump to adventure to adventure with Merlin and it gets a bit repetitive.  Wart’s relationship with the female squirrel does provide a nice little break, but it isn’t enough.  The big action scene involves Merlin’s battle with Mim, but even that didn’t create enough excitement to hold my interest as a kid.  The pulling of the sword from the stone is almost a weird coda that feels tacked on to the lessons (and the bit of crisis and anxiety that Arthur feels at being named king…as a child…is merited).

The vocal cast is not the strongest of Disney films as well.  With a child lead Rickie Sorensen, the movie brings in Richard Reitherman and Robert Reitherman for additional vocals for Wart.  Of the cast Sebastian Cabot might have the most recognizable voice as Sir Ector (and narrator), but Karl Swenson is solid as Merlin.  Batman butler Alan Napier provides the voice of Sir Pelinore.

sword in the stone wart arthur

Wait…pause for effect…now pull the sword

The animation I find so-so.  I’m not a fan of that period of Disney art (starting with 101 Dalmatians and ending probably with The Great Mouse Detective).  A lot of similar art was used in Sleeping Beauty with more style and class though the artwork on the Mim battle is clever, fast, and ferocious.  Unlike a lot of Disney movies, it also doesn’t contain much of a soundtrack with no memorable songs to leave the movie with.

The Sword in the Stone always seems like a second tier Disney film.  It isn’t remembered fondly by many and never seems to get a big release like other films.  With the story being meant as an introduction to the story of King Arthur, the movie feels kind of incomplete and ends rather abruptly.  While some Disney movies (especially modern ones) test a child’s attention span, The Sword in the Stone is fortunately rather short…which is one of its best aspects.  Disney followed The Sword in the Stone with The Jungle Book in 1967.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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