Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Screenplay: Bill Peet
Cast: Rickie Sorensen, Karl Swenson, Junius Matthews, Sebastian Cabot, Norman Alden, Martha Wentworth
Storyline: The untold legend of young King Arthur and Merlin, the madcap magician
The last time I watched this film was many years ago, but it still brings back a lot of happy memories, sitting at home with my Mum and Dad watching the wonderful world of Disney on a Bank Holiday Monday. This was a show I’m not sure that American Girl is familiar with. In the UK due to limited video releases of Disney features, the only regular viewings you could have of these films were on this show. It was clip based and would show you extracts from the films, typically a classic song or scene. This was where I first saw Sword in The Stone and the unforgettable wizard duel scene, with Madame Mim. Due to these memories and the recent completion of our blog on the book of the same name, I was keen to compare and contrast the story in two quite differing media. Would Walt Disney stay true to the story outlined by T.H. White? How much artistic license would be used?
I watched the Sword in the Stone many years ago, however, Brit Boy and I thought it deserved a fresh view as a celebration for finishing our “Sword in the Stone” book review. I don’t have many memories of the movie, or any preconceived notions if I will (or won’t) enjoy it as an adult. After struggling through the T.H. White novel I was excited for a lighthearted approach to the story (and of course with this being “Disney”, I knew at least it would be a fun gallop through the woods).
Set the Scene
It was with these questions whirling round my brain, I curled up on a hot Summers afternoon with American Girl (what a novelty) and started watching…..
I was very lucky to watch this movie with Brit Boy. He had made the 2500 mile trip to visit me for the 4th July holiday, and he brought the movie with him from his extensive Disney library. After struggling to get the disc to play in my brand new Blue-Ray player, we gave up and decided to watch it using the tiny TV/DVD combo in my bedroom (not quite the romantic movie I would imagine watching in bed together, but still we were content).
Final Cut / Review
Although not true to T.H. Whites original story I really enjoyed the film, I think one of the reasons for it not following the book completely was its length, at 79 minutes a very short film indeed by todays’ standards, it is however interesting to note the length of the films released prior to and subsequently by Disney.
I’m not really sure of the significance, whether this was a formulaic Walt Disney choice or was a technological limitation but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. Assuming that this was indeed a limiting factor of the movie, Disney (as always) did a very good job of capturing the Arthurian legend, with a good sprinkling songs and whimsical fun. The songs were catchy and the portrayal of Merlin bang on. As I mentioned in my disposition a long standing memory for me was the wizard duel between Merlin and Madame Mim, this was as brilliant as I remember and certainly the highlight of the film for me. I can’t help but feel that J.K. Rowling may have stolen this idea for her books, it’s the only other place I’ve heard of such a thing. Or do I just not move in the right wizarding circles….?
Having just finished the novel only days before watching the movie, I was surprised how different the story lines actually were. This could have something to do with the length of the film (as Brit Boy mentioned), or simply because Disney felt (as much as I did) that much of the novel was unnecessary. I have to mention I was a bit disappointed that in the film version Kay and his father were viewed more as villains (think wicked step sisters), while in the novel they seemed to have much kinder hearts. Merlin was of course perfect, and everything you would expect. He stole the show, along with Archimedes (the ever dependent furry, yet funny sidekick). (After all this, I must admit I may name my next pet “Archimedes”….) I really enjoyed the scene with the pike, I was happy to see it was included with the movie. And I will agree with Brit Boy that the wizarding duel was great, and definitely memorable, however, I am still trying to figure out who “Madame Mim” actually is…. Perhaps I am just not far enough along in T.H. White’s rendition to fully understand.
American Girl, unfortunately i think Madame Mim is the archetypal Disney baddie, no more no less, but we will see as we progress through the book.
I would regard this as a very well done middle of the road Disney production, not up to the meteoric proportions of Snow White or the Jungle Book but by no means a slouch either. I would be happy to watch this again with my kids and was a nice way to come full circle on our foray into Arthurian legend.
I would say this movie is definitely worth a watch, it is cute and easy to follow. Considering the year in which this movie was made, the graphics and effects were quite good. I should however mention that when curled up on a hot day with Brit Boy, there was more than one occasion that I may have closed my eyes for a few minutes when I thought he wasn’t looking…. (Selfishly I must admit my favorite part of the movie actually has nothing to do with the movie at all, but instead are the framed stamps from Gambia depicting movie stills which Brit Boy gave me as a little memento of our blogging adventure.)