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The The Sword in the Stone - 45th Anniversary Edition - animated DVD / children's and family DVD review
Rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Sebastian Cabot, Karl Swenson, Rickie Sorenson, Junius Matthews, Martha Wentworth
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman   Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 17 June 2008   Feature runtime: 79 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Animated, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD Features: Audio tracks (Dolby 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, Spanish, French), Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers, Disney Song Selection (optional on-screen lyrics), Merlin's Magical Academy, "All About Magic," The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook, Film Facts, Bonus shorts (A Knight for a Day, The Brave Little Tailor), Sneak peeks

In 1963 Disney released its 18th animated feature-length film. The Sword in the Stone, based on T.H. White's popular book, hit the big screen on December 25 of that year. It was also the last animated feature released during Walt Disney's lifetime.

The Sword in the Stone tells the tale of young Arthur before he became king of the Britons. We first meet young Arthur (Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman and Robert Reitherman (!)) when he's helping Kay (Norman Alden) on a hunt. Arthur (or "Wart", as he's called), manages to ruin Kay's shot at a deer and must enter the hideous forest to retrieve Kay's arrow. He falls through a roof and into a chair opposite Merlin (Karl Swenson) and his owl, Archimedes (Junius Matthews). Merlin sees great things in Wart and decides that it's important that he be educated, but Wart has other responsibilities working as squire for Kay, who is an aspiring knight and an accomplished pompous braggart. Merlin packs up all his things and moves to the rickety old tower of the castle run by Wart's foster father, Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot).

For the bulk of the film, Wart's time is spent working hard for Sir Ector, squiring for Kay and learning lessons taught by Merlin. In these lessons, Merlin turns Wart into a fish, or a bird, or a squirrel; Wart will have fun to begin withbut eventually has to use all his wits to escape serious harm, as well as the amorous advances of a really cute she-squirrel. When transfigured into a bird, Wart happens upon the evil witch Madam Mim (Martha Wentworth) in the woods, and a fantastic magical battle ensues between her and Merlin. They transfigure themselves into different creatures to attack and counterattack. The ultimate conclusion of the battle is something I wouldn't have thought of, but Merlin's been around the block a bit.

The Sword in the Stone is a fine film, but despite Merlin's powers, it lacks a certain magic. The songs are clever, though not as catchy as others in the Disney canon, and the animation is wonderful, though from the sketchy era. Some good gags aren't enough to save the film from its lack of movement. There simply is not enough story to keep the viewer enthralled. It is an interesting part of the legend of King Arthur, but it's only the beginning of the story. Never mind that pulling a sword from an anvil (why an anvil?) is not the best basis for a system of government.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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