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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week 23: "The Sword In the Stone"

(Originally published on 6/8/22)


The Sword In the Stone

Run time: 79 min.

Release Date: December 25, 1963.

Where/when I first saw it: Arlington Theater, 1983.

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Sunday evening

As a kid, I remember seeing “The Sword In the Stone” at the Arlington Theater in Arlington Heights, IL on a double bill with “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” I remember thinking “Sword” would be cool because it dealt with King Arthur and Excalibur, which I was already familiar with from the 1982 John Boorman film. I had hoped for some cool battles and seeing the Knights of the Round Table, all in a more easily digestible animated form.

Yet, halfway through the movie, as Arthur kept turning into birds, rabbits and frogs, I just sat there thinking “is the whole movie just this? What’s the point?” And here I am today, watching it for the first time since, and my thoughts are pretty much the same. It’s clear here that Walt had been taking less interest in the animated films and more of an interest in his theme park. Maybe the artists were, too. After a strong comeback of films, starting with “Cinderella” and concluding with “One-hundred and One Dalmatians,” the Disney artists appear to be directionless, uninspired and desperate to fill in their running time with more and more animal antics. You’ll have to wait until the very end for any kind of payoff regarding the titular sword and stone.

The character of Arthur is hard to relate to and invest in. Merlin the Magician comes off like a clumsy buffoon and he’s supposed to be our guide, our wisened old sage. There are no sequences that save it from total boredom (even the lackluster post-war Disney films had at least one saving grace in each of them) and no songs worth remembering. The animation style from “One-hundred and One Dalmatians” is utilized again, but it looks a bit cheapened this time. No flair.

And yet, I don't exactly hate it either. It has moments and it’s reaching for…. Something… that seems worthwhile. Maybe if it hadn’t used King Arthur as its background, maybe something more interesting would have come out of it. In the end, it feels like they rested on their laurels here, but the wrong laurels. They seemed to be using the scattershot, unfocused Disney playbook from the mid-late ‘40s.


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