The Sword in the Stone – animated film review

"The Sword in the Stone" theatrical poster.
“The Sword in the Stone” theatrical poster.
I remember first seeing The Sword in the Stone when I was fairly young. I don’t remember if it was in theaters or on TV, but I remember enjoying it. After rewatching it again recently, I still enjoy it.

Based on the 1938 novel of the same name by T.H. White, it tells the story of a young orphan boy named Wart who is cared for by his foster father, Sir Ector. After stumbling upon Merlin’s cottage in the woods, Wart is taken under Merlin’s wing (in one part of the story, quite literally) and begins learning science, writing, reading, and whatever else pops into Merlin’s head. The young Wart turns out to be Arthur Pendragon, heir to the throne of England, after he effortlessly removes the title sword from the stone.

Over the years, I have heard many people complain about the “sketchy” style used in The Sword in the Stone, but I think it fits the film rather well. Seeing as I am also a fan of the similar animation style used in One Hundred and One Dalmatians, maybe I am just an odd duck. To me, the style reminds me of book illustrations, and I think that speaks directly to my book-loving heart.

The musical numbers were quirky and a little odd, but still fun. They did not always flow seamlessly in the scenes in which they appeared, but they never felt out of place, either. George Bruns wrote the music for a number of my favorite Disney animated features (including this one and the Dalmatians, and he always does good job. “Higitus Figitus” and “Mad Madam Mim” were my favorite tunes from The Sword in the Stone. They were toe-tapping fun.

Karl Swenson did an excellent job as the kind and absent-minded Merlin, the powerful wizard of Arthurian legend. His foil was the owl Archimedes, played by Junius Matthews (best known for his role as Rabbit in the Winnie the Pooh films from Disney). They two reall struck a chord with me, and I enjoyed every minute they were on the screen. I also really enjoyed the performance of Martha Wentworth as Merlin’s arch-nemesis, Madam Mim. She brought a certain glee to the role.

The story is quite changed from the book, but it is still strong enough to stand on its own. I thought the pacing was right where it should be. It told the story it needed to, without a lot of tangents, so it kept my interest even though I am now far older than the original target audience. The Sword in the Stone is film which can be easily enjoyed by kids of all ages.

Release Date: December 25, 1963 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G

MySF Rating: Three point five stars
Family Friendliness: 100%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some social drinking, some pipe smoking)
Language: 0
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 0 (unless you count squirrel flirting)
Violence: 1 (mostly for comic effect)

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