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Wolfgang Reitherman
Rickie Sorensen, Karl Swenson, Norman Alden, Sebastian Cabot, Martha Wentworth, Alan Napier, Junius Matthews
Writing Credits:
Bill Peet (story), T.H. White (book)

A poor boy named Arthur learns the power of love, kindness, knowledge and bravery with the help of a wizard called Merlin in the path to become one of the most beloved kings in England history.

Rated G


Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 2.0
French DTS-HD HR 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 8/6/2013

• Two Classic Short Cartoons
• “Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers” Featurette
• “Sing Along with the Movie”
• “All About Magic” 1957 TV Show Excerpt
• Alternate Opening
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Sword In The Stone [Blu-Ray] (1963)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 21, 2017)

Although the studio completed most of 1967’s The Jungle Book during Walt Disney’s lifetime, it nonetheless wasn’t totally finished until after his demise in December 1966. As such, that left 1963’s The Sword In the Stone as the final animated release he would see.

While the film has its moments, Sword seems like a weak epitaph, and it’s become easily the least recognized Disney release of its decade. Since the studio had difficulty coping with the loss of its founder, the Sixties and Seventies marked an extremely slow period for animation from Disney.

Actually, that might have been the case even if Walt lived. He’d become much more interested in other venues - especially his theme parks - and production of animated films slowed.

As such, the Sixties and Seventies only offered three animated movies apiece. In addition to Jungle Book and Sword, the Sixties also featured the highly successful 101 Dalmatians.

As for the Seventies, they lacked the big hits seen in the prior decade. It was three bombs and out: 1970’s The Aristocats, 1973’s Robin Hood, and 1977’s The Rescuers.

For the record, each decade also featured some live-action films that included a little animation. Again, the Sixties proved to be the big winner. Only one of these hybrid flicks appeared, but it was a huge hit: 1964’s Mary Poppins.

The Seventies gave us 1971’s fairly fun Bedknobs and Broomsticks and 1977’s atrocious Pete’s Dragon. Not until the late Eighties with The Little Mermaid would Disney animation finally get back on track.

In retrospect, The Sword In the Stone clearly marked the start of “the Dark Ages” at Disney’s animation studio. Frankly, I’ve never been especially fond of The Jungle Book, but it made a boatload of money and it is too highly regarded to a lot of people to be seen as anything other than a success. That means it doesn’t belong in the same category with the clunkers of the Seventies and most of the Eighties.

Sword does, however. Actually, in many ways, it’s a decent little film, and it presents a number of quality segments. That fact sets its apart from the duds of later years, since they were bland and lifeless in most departments, so at least Sword boasts a few fun pieces.

However, its fragmented nature keeps it from ever approaching a high level of quality. More than almost any other Disney flick, Sword feels like little more than a collection of loosely related shorts.

The film attempts to tell the story of the youth and training of King Arthur. As depicted in the movie, “Wart” is about 11 and he’s the foster son of tubby blowhard Sir Ector, who - along with his favored son Kay - does little more than load work on Wart. He’s the number two boy, and that seems unlikely to change.

Or is it? Into the picture steps Merlin the wizard. His skills have foreseen potential greatness in Wart, and he takes it upon himself to educate and train the boy for his future role.

Most of the film depicts the exercises through which they go, though not until the end does Wart actually deal with the eponymous sword. As set up at the movie’s start, this blade was magically stuck in an anvil, and only the true king of England will be able to remove it.

Since we know Wart is Arthur of the Camelot legend, this renders the film’s ending as rather anti-climactic. Actually, the movie simply stops abruptly.

After about 70 minutes of Wart ‘n’ Merlin escapades, the story rushes to send Arthur to his destiny, and once he becomes king, it just kind of… ends. This makes the whole thing feel like little more than the start of a saga, but the rest of the series never arrives. Had there been a continuation in a later film, the flaws of Sword may seem less problematic, but as a “stand-alone” flick, it feels incomplete.

On their own, some of the snippets are a lot of fun, and most prominent is the battle between Merlin and nasty old Madam Mim. Although the latter’s presence actually accentuates the semi-incoherent nature of the plot - the character exists for no reason other than to provide some fun - the segment is strong enough to allow us to ignore that lack of purpose. She’s wild and manic and contrasts cleanly with the bland participants of much of the rest of the movie.

Many Disney flicks feature rather generic protagonists, and Wart is no exception. He has very little personality and never gives us any idea that he’ll become the legendary King Arthur.

Lots of films deal with children who seem to be predestined to leadership. This was well-shown in Terminator 2, as John Connor indeed developed a strong character arc, and despite Jake Lloyd’s atrocious acting, at least some of Anakin Skywalker’s potential came through during The Phantom Menace. Wart, on the other hand, is a total cipher, and he shows no signs of charisma or greatness.

It doesn’t help that - bizarrely - three different actors perform Wart’s lines. Rickie Sorenson does most of the work, but we also hear dialogue from Richard and Robert Reitherman, sons of director Wolfgang.

It’s not clear to me why Sorenson could not complete his own material, and it’s less sensible that it took two other boys to do the work. However, the changes frequently appear obvious - and jarring. Wart’s voice deepens and raises from scene to scene, and it becomes quite distracting.

As for the other characters, the main humans receive decent portrayals, and Sebastian Cabot actually adds some humanity to the poorly defined role of Ector. However, the highlights of Sword come from some non-human participant. Early in the film, Merlin gives life to a sugar bowl, and it provides some of the movie’s best moments. There’s more spark and personality in that utensil’s brief screen moments than we see in all 75 minutes or so of Wart.

Speaking of whom, one scene has Merlin transform Wart into a squirrel, a while in that guise, a female rodent falls in love with the boy. Animated by Frank Thomas, this girl achieves more character and life than one should reasonably expect, and when her segment comes to a bittersweet ending, Sword achieves its only moment of true emotion.

That’s the kind of stuff at which Disney can excel. Their animation can bring to life squirrels and sugar pots in such a way that not only do you believe the characters, you really care about them.

It’s that magic that’s largely absent from The Sword In the Stone. It’s a very serviceable movie, and it has some very entertaining moments, but it can’t maintain a sense of wonder or a spark for long.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

The Sword In the Stone appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.75:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a flawed presentation but not a terrible one.

Sharpness was the primary area of weakness. While much of the movie showed good delineation, periods of softness occurred, mainly due to the overuse of digital noise reduction. That technique left wider shots with a lack of definition, and fine detail suffered as well.

This impacted some shots more than others. For the transfer’s nadir, go to chapter 13 and view the shots of birds – these lost the dark edges, as the noise reduction scrubbed away significant amounts of art. The picture doesn’t normally suffer to that degree, but clearly a more subtle use of noise reduction techniques would have been preferred.

Other aspects of the film fared better. I saw no examples of moiré effects or jagged edges, and print flaws remained absent.

Sword boasted a nicely varied palette, and all of its bright and vivid hues looked fine. Blacks looked deep and solid, and shadow detail was similarly well-rendered. The movie could’ve looked better, but I thought the image remained acceptable most of the time.

In regard to the sound of Sword, the original monaural mix has been gently reconfigured into a DTS-HD MA 5.1 affair. I say “gently” because the audio was really nothing more than a glorified one-track presentation.

This was what I call “broad mono” because although sound indeed came from all five speakers, it did not create much of an engaging environment. Instead, the audio from the side and rear channels really seemed to just echo the center speaker’s sound.

Frankly, I rarely detected any non-musical activity that stemmed from anywhere but the center, so it sounded to me as though most dialogue and effects emanated from that channel. As for the score and the songs, they indeed appeared in all five speakers, but as I noted, the effect was modest.

The music presented a minor stereophonic presence at times, but I was hard-pressed to detect any form of discrete localization of voices or instruments. This isn’t really a complaint, as I often prefer 5.1 remixes that don’t stray too far from the original material, and the soundtrack of Sword simply provided a mild extension of the source information. Nonetheless, I thought I should comment upon the lack of dimensionality.

As far as audio quality, it seemed fine for its era. Dialogue appeared a little thin at times, and I detected some edginess to lines spoken by Sir Ector, but as a whole the speech was acceptably distinct and relatively natural.

Effects were also somewhat lifeless, but they were decent for the period, and we even got a little bit of bass from them at times. For example, when the drawbridge of Sir Ector’s castle dropped, it landed with a nice thud.

Music offered a modicum of bass as well, but as a whole the tunes seemed without much dynamic range. Ultimately, the soundtrack of The Sword In the Stone seemed perfectly decent for the time frame in which it appeared, but it lacked any special qualities.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 45th Anniversary DVD from 2008? Audio was a little warmer but not substantially altered from the prior Dolby 5.1 mix.

Picture quality was a different story, partly because the Blu-ray used a 1.75:1 image versus the 1.33:1 of the DVD. Many have debated which is “correct” and no one seems to have a firm answer.

Visuals were a contrast because the Blu-ray was considerably cleaner than the DVD – and also usually sharper, though the noise reduction meant the level of improvement suffered. Even with its flaws, I’d still take the Blu-ray over the DVD.

The Blu-ray includes some – but not all – of the DVD’s extras. We find two classic Disney shorts. This set features a Goofy vehicle from 1946 called A Knight For a Day (7:06), and it also includes a Mickey Mouse program from 1938 entitled Brave Little Tailor (9:01).

I expected to like Tailor since it’s a fairly well known and highly regarded clip, and indeed I did think it was fun. The story pits Mickey against a giant with amusing and inventive results.

However, I was surprised by the quality of Knight. I’m not fond of Goofy, and since he plays all of the roles in this short - even Princess Penelope! - I really thought it’d be a dud. Instead, it was easily one of the best Goofy offerings I’ve seen, and I thought it was among the top Disney shorts period.

Here we watch a medieval battle, the prize for which is the affection of the princess. It’s a clever, witty and just darned goofy affair that I really enjoyed. Maybe the old Goof’s not so lame after all!

Music Magic focuses on the work of the famed Sherman Brothers. Apparently part of a series shown on the Disney Channel, this eight-minute piece looks at their work for Sword.

Robert and Richard Sherman discuss what they wanted to do with their songs, and we also hear two tunes that didn’t appear in the finished film. The featurette combines modern interviews with the Shermans and a mix of production stills and film clips. All in all, it’s a fun and informative program.

This disc includes an excerpt from a 1957 TV show called All About Magic. In the seven-minute, 19-second clip, Walt takes us into the studio’s “magic room”, shows us some tricks, and introduces us to the Magic Mirror from Snow White, depicted here by Hans Conried, who played Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

As originally broadcast, this was an introduction to a collection of animation. The show included two shorts - “Magician Mickey” from 1937 and “Trick or Treat” from 1952 - and some snippets from 1950’s Cinderella. This excerpt ends before we see any animation. That makes it a curiosity and not much more.

Apparently new to the Blu-ray, we find an Alternate Opening. A mix of narration and storyboards, it runs four minutes, two seconds and indeed gives a different beginning to the film. It proves to be moderately interesting.

Sing Along With the Movie works as expected. During songs, the lyrics show up at the bottom of the screen. Since “Sing Along” adds no text the changes colors as the tune progresses – or other way to highlight specific lyrics – this feature seems pointless. Just turn on the subtitles and it works as well.

The disc opens with ads for The Little Mermaid, Planes, Super Buddies and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Sneak Peeks adds clips for Jake and the Neverland Pirates, the Lion King stage production, The Muppet Movie and Return to Neverland. No trailer for Sword shows up here.

Compared to the 2008 DVD, the Blu-ray adds the alternate opening and the “sing-along”. However, it drops still galleries, production notes and a game.

Note that the original 2001 DVD boasted a much longer version of the “All About Magic” program; it ran 37 minutes vs. the seven-minute excerpt found on the BD and the 45th Anniversary DVD.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Sword. It offers a literal duplicate of the 45th Anniversary DVD. It’s too bad Disney didn’t toss in the 2001 DVD so we could see the longer version of “All About Magic”.

After more than 50 years, 1963’s The Sword In the Stone remains one of Disney’s most ordinary animated films. Although the movie seems to boast few serious detractors, it also fails to excite many fans, and it maintains a status as a bland but mildly enjoyable offering. The Blu-ray offers erratic visuals and audio as well as minor supplements. This isn’t a terrible presentation but it could use a reworking.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SWORD IN THE STONE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main