The Sword in the Stone: Fond Memories of Disney’s ’60s Romp

The Sword in the Stone by Disney
Heave, sonny jim!

Released in 1963, this was the final Disney film completed before the death of founder Walt Disney.

Although The Sword in the Stone is far from the studio’s best effort, it holds a special place in our hearts as we watched it so many times as stupid kids.

The Sword in the Stone

Set in England (yes, that one) we find Kind Uther Pendragon has died – the nation is in chaos as there’s no heir to the throne.

Suddenly, a sword set in stone appears in London (yes, that one).

The inscription on the thing states that whomever can yank the blade from the stone will be England’s next tally, bally ho king.

A big batch of egos turn out – mainly knights and whatnot – convinced they’re set to be the next king. But the sword won’t budge. There is no king!

Several years on and a scrawny young orphan called Arthur (nicknamed Wart by his bullying foster brother Kay) stumbles across a mysterious wizard called Merlin.

He also has a pet owl called Archimedes, who can talk (and laugh).

The duo take on Arthur to tutor him – as part of this education.

But not before a hungry wolf (who we always really liked) has a good at turning young Arthur into lunch.

After this, Merlin begins transforming the young lad and himself into various animals to find out about physics.

This includes a bird, fish, and squirrel. All three expeditions are pretty disastrous, involving life-or-death struggles to overcome the the odds. Mad Madam Mim is a highlight.

In typical Disney fashion, there’s a pretty heartbreaking bit where a female squirrel falls head over tail in love with the Arthur-squirrel hybrid.

Of course, the latter can’t repay that in any way and the female is left to, forlorny, stare into the distance never able to get at Arthur again.

Many of you will know the story, anyway, but it turns out young Arthur/Wart can then easily yank the sword from the stone. To the consternation of many (except Merlin and Archimedes).

Right, so it’s a good fun film with plenty going for it. For 1963, there are some highly impressive visual flourishes from Disney. Really pushing boundaries, in many respects.

This was the 18th Disney film and features the usual elements of slapstick and silly humour, life lessons, dark moments, and catchy songs by the Sherman Brothers.

Those darker elements aren’t on the level of Bambi, but as kids they sure made us think about the unpleasant people in the world out there.

A good fun film, then, and one that marks a poignant coda in Disney’s long and illustrious history.

Production

Directed by American animator Wolfgang Reitherman (1909-1985), the budget of $3 million brought in a solid $22 million box office hit. An impressive return back in 1963.

The animated film is adapted from the eponymous novel by T. H. White. The autor died in January 1964, aged 57, and was barely able to see the film. It had launched on Christmas day in December 1963.

As we know, Disney is currently going through its back catalogue and producing live-action versions of its various works.

It’s currently in development, but there are no official trailers as of yet. Or cast details. We do know Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is directing, who is famous for 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.

They’re incredibly violent and terrifying zombie films. So, yeah… a lighthearted kids film seems like the next natural step.

But at least The Sword in the Stone will get a new lease of life. As we have a soft spot for it to this day.

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