It feels like we still need the iconic Arthur and Camelot big screen story and if anyone could put together a decent version of that legendary tale, it should be Disney. Unfortunately, Sword in the Stone is not it. Rather than tell a tale of round tables, dragons, knights, princesses and battling wizards, Disney opt for a much sweeter, tamer and ultimately, rather dull version of the story.
The rationale makes sense. Sword in the Stone appeals to children, with young Arthur being befriended by an old, fairly befuddled Merlin, and over the sparse running-time, they find themselves in all sorts of fairly tame adventures. Most involve being turned into different sorts of animals and although these are decent enough little moments, nothing will engage that well and none of these segments really amount to anything that interesting.
The villain of the story offers one of the only highlights and a clever “Wizard’s Duel” showcases some of the usually perfect Disney animation. Sword in the Stone feels like a rare miss for Disney however, and the animation doesn’t hold that Disney magic that films which have come before all seem to do. Even this villainous moment only lasts for a fleeting scene though and it reverts back to something much more “cutesy.”
That isn’t to say The Sword in the Stone doesn’t have its moments and the film comes together nicely for the finale. The titular Sword and the iconic moment in the Arthurian legend come together effectively and the now iconic scene of the sword being pulled from the stone is done both inconsequentially and with a fan-fare in two key moments for the end of the movie. In fact, it is done so well, you wonder what type of movie we could have gotten if Disney had opted for a “proper” version of the Arthurian tale.
Overall, The Sword in the Stone is not Disney at its best. It is a movie that seems to pander to the child audience, which is probably necessary in 1963 but feels tame and “cutesy” by today’s standards. The story is not the Arthurian legend you want and the animation doesn’t quite feel up to scratch. The ending shows there could have been a much more iconic movie hidden beneath the more silly aspects.
Rating – 2.5
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