The Sword in the Stone (1963)

THE SWORD IN THE STONE (1963)
Article #1616 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-17-2005
Posting Date: 1-14-2006
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Featuring the voices of Karl Swenson, Rickie Sorensen, Sebastian Cabot

A young boy named Wart meets the great wizard Merlin, who takes him in order to give him an education.

For me, the story of Disney’s progress with animated feature films from the thirties to the eighties was one of steady decline; they reached their peak early on (possibly with SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS), and each succeeding feature (with a few exceptions) lost a bit of that magic. Granted, you might not notice it unless you start comparing the earlier movies with the later ones, and I suspect for the most part it didn’t bother the kids, but there is a dropping off of quality. It wasn’t entirely their fault; animated features were expensive and risky, and corners had to be cut to keep them profitable. This entry from the early sixties (based on the first of a series of clever novels by T. H. White which retold the King Arthur story) has some amusing moments, but the script is pretty weak. We have several scenes of Merlin engaging in magic that are reminiscent of the fairy godmother sequences from CINDERELLA (which, if you think about it, this movie somewhat resembles), then we have some sequences where Merlin turns Wart into a variety of animals, and though these sequences are amusing enough (particularly the squirrel sequence), they really don’t take the story anywhere because Wart really doesn’t learn anything from them that he can apply to his real life experiences (at least in the story as is). There is a talking owl, a duel between Merlin and Madam Mim the witch, some anachronistic jokes (Merlin is portrayed as something of a time traveler, but if my memory serves me right, in the novel he actually lived backwards through time), and lots of cuteness. But in comparison to many of Disney’s earlier movies, it’s a rather bland and soulless affair for the most part.

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