Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Bill Peet
Based on book by: TH White
I love this movie even if it’s not the best. But I also love the story of King Arthur.
It’s the story of young Wart (future King Arthur) as he grows up with Merlin as his caretaker. He turns into a fish, a squirrel, and a bird, learning the lessons that these animals can teach him. Oh, and Merlin fights Madam Mim.
That’s really about all there is to it. There’s some conflict between Wart’s foster father and brother and Merlin. They’re very anti-magic so, of course, they don’t like their ward learning from a wizard who can travel through time. (He doesn’t live backward in this version. He actually travels forwards and backward in time.)
Merlin is kind of a precursor to Aladdin’s Genie. He makes reference to things that are completely anachronistic to the time period of the film. He’s incredibly happy-go-lucky but has important lessons for the kid he’s taking care of. And he’s the most memorable character, overshadowing the lead by a mile. (Do you even remember Wart? Any of his lines? The fact that he’s voiced by three different kids, sometimes in the same scene, because their voices kept changing?) His relationship with the owl, Archimedes, is definitely a high point.
The best and most memorable scene is the Wizard’s Duel between Merlin and Mim. Mim is a Disney villain that never seems super dangerous, but she’s amazing. Hilarious, kinda dumb, incredibly silly and just makes for a fun antagonist for Merlin.
Other than that, the movie is a bunch of vignettes of Wart learning about life and, ultimately, not really being ready to be a king. But, of course, at the end, he pulls the sword out and becomes the Once And Future King, much to everyone’s chagrin. (Even Merlin seems to be scared for the boy.)
Like I said, Sword In The Stone isn’t the best Disney movie. It’s a little disjointed, the animation is good but not great, most of the characters are kinda meh, and there’s hardly any real conflict at all. But there’s just something about this movie. Everyone loves it, including me! It’s a simple version of a great and complex novel and, hopefully, got tons of kids into the legend of King Arthur. Hell, people love it enough that Disney is making a live-action version of it next year. Then again, it doesn’t take much for them to do that, if we’re being honest.