The Sword and the Stone (1963)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Sword and the Stone</strong> (1963)

(On DVD, September 2018) Released in-between One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Jungle Book, it’s easy to see why The Sword in the Stone doesn’t have the best reputation—not only does it pale in comparison to its better-known siblings, taking out the Arthurian legend for a juvenile comic spin is a marked step down from what could have been possible with such source material, and the execution leaves much to be desired. The comedy is aimed at kids, without much narrative substance for adults. Narratively, it doesn’t help that much of The Sword and the Stone is a series of episodes aimed at showcasing a visual gag or an animation challenge—it often looks good, but there’s no sense of build-up. Still, the film still does have its strengths. Merlin, as a magician unstuck in time and bringing back anachronisms in an Arthurian setting, is quite likable as a character. The final fight is notably inventive, and the squirrel sequence gets points for being a squirrel sequence (even if it ends with heartbreak). It’s not a whole lot to go on, but it is something. Definitely second-tier material (and maybe teetering on the lowest tier), The Sword and the Stone doesn’t have the staying power of its Disney contemporaries, but it’s worth at least a watch to see the sheer artistry of the Disney animators even in tackling substandard material.

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