20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Sword in the Stone’

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The Sword in the Stone is a particularly fascinating entry among Walt Disney’s films. Sandwiched between One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Jungle Book, it seems like it was destined to be a classic. However, as most Disney fans know, it doesn’t have the following of the other films made during that period. This is true for a lot of people, but I also speak from personal experience as this was the only Walt-era film I didn’t see as a kid (save for the package features).

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’

It is worth noting that this was the last animated film released by Disney during Walt’s life. Though he had a hand in The Jungle Book, that was released after his death. Knowing this, it is too bad that this film was not a better one. However, after Sleeping Beauty, his interest turned to other things and in many ways, that was really the epic finale of his animation career. Interesting, though he was appalled by the use of Xerox with One Hundred and One Dalmatians and swore he would never allow it again, that same technique was used here. Ub Iwerks had refined the technology between the two films, with some animators actually liking it better, believing that it better represented their work and left less room for error in the animation process.

Like many of the films made at this time, The Sword in the Stone was a musical. For this film, Walt Disney employed two young songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman, most often referred to as The Sherman Brothers. They would be later best known for writing the music for some of the studios most memorable films, such as Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. However, the music here is mostly forgettable. Observant fans of their work will notice patterns with some of their choices that they made here, most notably in their ability to make up words and phrases like “Higitus Figitus”. Of course, they would later invent the word write an entire song around the word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” for Mary Poppins.

I believe the biggest problem with this movie lies with its lack of memorability. There is almost nothing in this movie that stands out. Forgettable songs, forgettable story, and a forgettable villain all make this movie uninteresting, which is indeed unfortunate. The legend of the Sword in the Stone is so well known, yet they spend so little time on the sword itself.

Live-action remake: There is currently a live-action remake in the works which is set to be released on Disney+. The film is written by Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman and began filming in 2018. The current status of the project is unknown and no release date has been set. In addition, a live-action spinoff project centering around Merlin was set to be directed by Ridley Scott, but this project seems to be on hold as well.

The Sword in the Stone in the theme parks: In Fantasyland in Disneyland, there is a replica of the sword and the stone with a plaque that has the note on it from the film. The character of Merlin sometimes will make special appearances, most often at throwback events.

The Sword in the Stone is now available for streaming on Disney+.

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