The Sword in the Stone Review

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An amnesiac Merlin (Swenson) leads a young Arthur, known as Wart (Sorensen), through trials and tribulations so that he may become a great leader. This involves being transformed into various animals to learn the lessons their characteristics can teach us humans.


Disney’s adaptation of the first book in T. W. White’s colourful Arthurian trilogy The Once And Future King (which also served as the source for the musical Camelot) is formulaic matinee fare, competent and sprightly but undistinguished. Once again the scene is set with a fairy tale book being opened, once again there is a cunning animal sidekick (in this case the owl Archimedes), a mean witch (this time a comically ineffectual Madam Min) and the good old clean-up-the-kitchen-by-magic routine comes courtesy of a dotty Merlin. Variations on the educating of the child Wart - King Arthur to be - in ye olde English forest include transforming him in peril-fraught spells as a fish (the best animated sequence), squirrel and bird. Curiously and irritatingly from the Anglophile studio, one or two voices are genuinely English, others are Americans affecting accents badly, while some don’t even bother, and Wart is inappropriately an all-American boy.

It feels older than contemporary Disney work due to flat, creaky animation. The story still has resonance for kids, though.