The Sword in the Stone (1963 film)
|The Sword in the Stone|
Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wolfgang Reitherman|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Story by||Bill Peet|
|Based on||The Sword in the Stone|
by T. H. White
|Music by||George Bruns|
|Edited by||Donald Halliday|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||$22.2 million|
The Sword in the Stone is a 1963 American animated musical fantasy comedy film produced by Walt Disney and released by Buena Vista Distribution. The 18th Disney animated feature film, it was the final Disney animated film to be released before Walt Disney's death. The songs in the film were written and composed by the Sherman Brothers, who later wrote music for other Disney films like Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
The film is based on the novel of the same name, which was first published in 1938 as a single novel. It was later republished in 1958 as the first book of T. H. White's tetralogy The Once and Future King. The Sword in the Stone was released to theaters on December 25, 1963 to mixed reviews, though it was a box office success.
A live-action adaptation of the film directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is scheduled to be released in 2019.
The King of England, Uther Pendragon, dies, and no heir to the throne is named, leaving England threatened to be torn apart by war. Miraculously, the "Sword in the Stone" appears inside an anvil in London, with an inscription proclaiming that whoever can pull it out is the rightful King of England. Many try to remove the sword, but none succeed, and the sword is eventually forgotten, leaving England in the Dark Ages. Years later, a 12-year-old orphan named Arthur, commonly called Wart, meets Merlin the wizard, and his talking pet owl Archimedes. Merlin declares himself Arthur's tutor. Sir Pellinore announces that the annual jousting tournament will be held in London, and the winner will be crowned king. Sir Ector, Arthur's foster father, decides to put his son, Kay through serious training for the tournament and appoints Arthur as Kay's squire.
In order to educate Arthur, Merlin transforms the boy and himself into fish to learn about physics. Afterwards, Arthur is sent to the kitchen as punishment for relating the lesson to a disbelieving Ector. Merlin enchants the dishes to wash themselves, then transforms Arthur and himself into tree squirrels to learn about gravity. They return to Ector who accuses Merlin of using black magic on the dishes. Arthur defends Merlin, but Ector refuses to listen and snubs Arthur by giving Kay another squire. Resolving to make amends, Merlin plans on educating Arthur full-time. However, Merlin's knowledge of future history confuses Arthur, prompting Merlin to appoint Archimedes as Arthur's teacher. Merlin transforms Arthur into a sparrow and Archimedes teaches him how to fly. During their lesson, Arthur meets Madam Mim, an eccentric, evil witch who is Merlin's nemesis. Merlin arrives to rescue Arthur, and outsmarts Mim, illustrating that knowledge can be more important than strength. Kay is knighted, but his squire comes down with the mumps, forcing Ector to reinstate Arthur as Kay's squire. Archimedes congratulates Arthur, but Merlin is disappointed and transports himself to 20th century Bermuda.
On the day of the tournament, Arthur realizes that he has left Kay's sword at an inn, which is now closed for the tournament. Arthur sees the Sword in the Stone in a nearby churchyard, and removes it almost effortlessly, unknowingly fulfilling the prophecy. When Arthur returns with the sword, Ector, Pellinore, and another knight, Sir Bart, recognize it and the tournament is halted. Ector places the sword back in its anvil, demanding Arthur prove that he pulled it. Thinking anyone can pull the sword now, Kay attempts to remove it himself, and Ector tries to aid Kay, but several other men then battle Ector and Kay over it, leading to Bart rebuking Ector's, Kay, and the other men's behavior. Pellinore and Bart stand up for Arthur, demanding for him to be given a chance, and encourage him to pull the sword again, which he does, revealing that he is England's rightful king. The crowd all proclaim Arthur as king, as Ector bows down to Arthur to beg his forgiveness for how he has treated him, and then orders Kay to bow down to Arthur. Kay, reluctantly does at first, then after looking at Arthur, accepts the situation, and does so sincerely. The newly crowned King Arthur, feeling unprepared for the responsibility of ruling, calls out to Merlin for help, and Merlin returns to reassure him, elated that Arthur is the king he saw in the future. Merlin tells Arthur that he will go on to lead the Knights of the Round Table, accomplishing many amazing feats and becoming a great king.
- Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, and Robert Reitherman as Arthur, also known as Wart, Disney's adaptation of legendary British leader King Arthur. Arthur was voiced by three actors, leading to noticeable changes in voice between scenes — and sometimes, within the same scene. Also, the three voices have American accents, sharply contrasting with the English setting and the accents spoken by most of the other characters in the film. Mari Ness of the online magazine Tor.com suggests that, "Given that the film is about growing up, this problem might have been overcome" with the three voices being interpreted as Arthur's character development both mentally and physically; however, she also notes that "the director inexplicably chose to leave all three voices in for some scenes, drawing attention to the problem that they were not the same actor." She notes even further that "Two [of the voice actors] were brothers, and sound somewhat similar; the third was not, and sounds distinctly different." Finally, she notes the issue of the American accents of the voices contrasting with the English setting and the accents spoken by most of the other characters in the film, noting that "The only positive: the vocal issues with Wart do help distract attention from the fact that the Brits aren’t particularly good here either."
- Karl Swenson as Merlin, an old and eccentric wizard who aids and educates Arthur. Merlin was animated by several of Disney's Nine Old Men, including Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and John Lounsbery. Kahl designed the character, refining the storyboard sketches of Bill Peet.
- Junius Matthews as Archimedes: Merlin's crotchety, yet highly educated pet owl, who has the ability of speaking.
- Sebastian Cabot as Sir Ector, Arthur's foster father. Cabot also provides the brief narration at the beginning and end of the film.
- Norman Alden as Sir Kay, Arthur's older foster brother and Ector's son.
- Martha Wentworth as Madam Mim, a black magic proficient witch and Merlin's nemesis. Mim's magic uses trickery, as opposed to Merlin's scientific skill. She is the only antagonist of the film to be part of the official Disney Villains line-up. She was animated by two of Disney's legendary Nine Old Men, Milt Kahl (who designed the character, refining storyboard sketches from Bill Peet), and Frank Thomas. Kahl animated her initial interaction with Arthur, while Thomas oversaw her part of the Wizards' Duel with Merlin. Wentworth also voiced the Granny Squirrel, a dim-witted, elderly female squirrel that develops an attraction to Merlin.
- Alan Napier as Sir Pellinore, a friend of Sir Ector who announces the tournament where Arthur is revealed as king.
- Thurl Ravenscroft as Sir Bart, one of the knights seen at the Jousting Tournament.
- James MacDonald as The Wolf, an unnamed, starving wolf that wants to eat Arthur.
- Ginny Tyler as The Little Girl Squirrel, a young female squirrel that develops an attraction to Arthur.
- Barbara Jo Allen as Scullery Maid, Ector's maid who believes Merlin to be an evil sorcerer.
In 1939, Walt Disney first obtained the film rights to T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone, and the initial storyboards were produced in 1949. When work on One Hundred and One Dalmatians was completed in 1960, two projects were in development, which were Chanticleer and The Sword in the Stone. The former was developed by Ken Anderson and Marc Davis who aimed to produce a feature animated film in a more contemporary setting. Both of them had visited the Disney archives, and decided to adapt the satirical tale into production upon glancing at earlier conceptions dating back to the 1940s. Anderson, Davis, Milt Kahl, and director Wolfgang Reitherman spent months preparing elaborate storyboards for Chanticleer, and following a silent response following a story reel presentation, a voice from the back of the room said, "You can't make a personality out of a chicken!" The voice belonged to Bill Peet. When the time came to approve one of the two projects, Walt remarked that the problem with making a rooster a protagonist was that "[you] don't feel like picking up a rooster up and petting it." Meanwhile, work on The Sword in the Stone were solely done by veteran story artist Bill Peet. After Disney had seen the 1960 Broadway production of Camelot, he approved the project to enter production. Ollie Johnston stated, "[Kahl] got furious with Bill for not pushing Chanticleer after all the work he had put in on it. He said, 'I can draw a damn fine rooster, you know.' Bill said, 'So can I.'" Peet recalled "how humiliated they were to accept defeat and give in to The Sword in the Stone...He allowed to have their own way, and they let him down. They never understood that I wasn't trying to compete with them, just trying to do what I wanted to work. I was the midst of all this competition, and with Walt to please, too."
Writing in his autobiography, Peet decided to write a screenplay before producing storyboards, though he found the narrative "complicated, with the Arthurian legend woven into a mixture of other legends and myths" and finding a direct storyline required "sifting and sorting". After Walt received the first screenplay draft, he told Peet that it should have more substance. On his second draft, Peet lengthened it by enlarging on the more dramatic aspects of the story, in which Walt approved of through a call from Palm Springs, Florida.
For the voice of Merlin, director Wolfgang Reitherman estimated that seventy actors read for the part, but "none evidenced that note of eccentricity that we were seeking. We wanted Merlin to be eccentric but not hokey." At the same time, Karl Swenson was initially cast for Archimedes, but the filmmakers decided to cast him instead as Merlin. Rickie Sorensen, who had voiced young Arthur, entered puberty during production, which forced the older Reitherman to cast his sons, Richard and Robert, to replace him.
The Sword in the Stone was a financial success at the box office and became the sixth highest-grossing film of 1963, earning estimated theatrical rentals of $4.75 million. The film was re-released on March 25, 1983 and grossed $12 million. The film received a lifetime gross of $22,182,353 in North America.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who thought it had too much humor and a "thin narrative". Variety wrote that the film "demonstrates anew the magic of the Disney animators and imagination in character creation. But one might wish for a script which stayed more with the basic story line rather than taking so many twists and turns which have little bearing on the tale about King Arthur as a lad." Bosley Crowther of The New York Times praised the film claiming it is "an eye-filling package of rollicking fun and thoughtful common sense. The humor sparkles with real, knowing sophistication — meaning for all ages — and some of the characters on the fifth-century landscape of Old England are Disney pips."
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 71% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 24 reviews with an average score of 6/10. Its consensus states that "A decent take on the legend of King Arthur, The Sword in the Stone suffers from relatively indifferent animation, but its characters are still memorable and appealing." Nell Minow of Common Sense Media gave the film four out of five stars, writing, "Delightful classic brings Arthur legend to life". In his book The Best of Disney, Neil Sinyard states that, despite not being well known, the film has excellent animation, a complex structure, and is actually more philosophical than other Disney features. Sinyard suggests that Walt Disney may have seen something of himself in Merlin, and that Mim, who "hates wholesome sunshine", may have represented critics.
|1.||"The Sword in the Stone" (Sung by Fred Darian)||1:07|
|2.||"Higitus Figitus" (Sung by Merlin)||1:49|
|3.||"That's What Makes the World Go Round" (Sung by Merlin and Arthur)||2:21|
|4.||"A Most Befuddling Thing" (Sung by Merlin)||1:07|
|5.||"Mad Madam Mim" (Sung by Mim)||2:10|
|6.||"Blue Oak Tree" (Ending of the song, sung by Sir Ector and Sir Pellinore; and the knights beginning and the middle of the song deleted)||0:50|
- Deleted songs
- "The Magic Key"
- "The Sand of Time"
- "Blue Oak Tree"
The Sword in the Stone was released on North American VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc in early 1986 as a part of the Walt Disney Classics collection as well as another VHS and Laserdisc release on July 12, 1991. It was first released on VHS in the UK in 1988 followed by a re-issue the following year. It was re-released on VHS and Laserdisc on October 28, 1994 as a part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. It was released on DVD on March 20, 2001 in a Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection line-up. It includes two classic short films, A Knight for a Day and Brave Little Tailor, as well as the film facts. The DVD of the film was re-released as a 45th anniversary special edition on June 17, 2008. For its 50th anniversary, it was released on Blu-ray on August 6, 2013.
Several characters from the film made frequent appearances in the Disney's House of Mouse television series. Merlin was voiced by Hamilton Camp. One notable appearance in the series was in the episode: "Rent Day", in which he tells Mickey Mouse that he will give him the 50 ups only if he gives Arthur a sword. Madam Mim appears as a villain in the spin-off film Mickey's House of Villains. Merlin frequents the Disney Parks, the only character from the film appearing for meet-and-greets at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. He appears in the opening unit of Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams at Disneyland Park. He also hosts the Sword in the Stone ceremony in the King Arthur Carrousel attraction in Fantasyland at Disneyland. In 2014 and 2015, UK health directive Change4Life incorporated "Higitus Figitus" as the soundtrack to adverts promoting their Disney-sponsored "10 minute shake up" summer program.
Madam Mim was adopted into the Duck universe where she sometimes teams with Magica De Spell and/or the Beagle Boys. She also appeared in the Mickey Mouse universe where she teamed with Black Pete on occasion and with the Phantom Blot at one point. She was in love with Captain Hook in several stories; in others, with Phantom Blot. In many European Disney comics, she lost her truly evil streak, and appears morbid yet relatively polite.
Mim has appeared in numerous comics produced in the United States by Studio Program in the 1960s and 1970s, often as a sidekick of Magica. Most of the stories were published in Europe and South America. Among the artists are Jim Fletcher, Tony Strobl, Wolfgang Schäfer, and Katja Schäfer. Several new characters were introduced in these stories, including Samson Hex, an apprentice of Mim and Magica.
Madam Mim appears in the video game World of Illusion as the fourth boss of that game.
Merlin is a supporting character in the Kingdom Hearts series, now voiced by Jeff Bennett in Kingdom Hearts II. In Kingdom Hearts, Merlin lives in an abandoned shack in Traverse Town with Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, sent by King Mickey to aid Sora, Donald, and Goofy in the art of magic. He owns an old book which features the world of The Hundred Acre Wood, home of Winnie the Pooh. The book's pages, however, have been torn out and scattered across the universe, and Merlin asks Sora to retrieve them for him. He reprises the same role in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, as a figment of Sora's memories. In Kingdom Hearts II, Merlin moved to Hollow Bastion to aid Leon's group as part of the town Restoration Committee, though he is at odds with Cid who prefers his own computer expertise rather than Merlin's magic. Merlin again instructs Sora, Donald and Goofy in the art of magic, and again requests that they retrieve the stolen parts of the Pooh storybook. At one point in the game, he is summoned to Disney Castle by Queen Minnie to counter the threat of Maleficent, and he constructs a door leading to Disney Castle's past (Timeless River) for the trio to explore and stop Maleficent and Pete's plans. In the prequel, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Merlin encounters Terra, Aqua and Ventus, and grants them each access to the Hundred Acre Wood. The prequel also reveals that it was Terra who gave him the book in the first place after finding it in Radiant Garden. According to series creator Tetsuya Nomura, a world based on the film was initially to appear in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, but the idea was scrapped. Merlin returns in Kingdom Hearts III, where he asks Sora to restore Pooh's storybook once more (though it does not involve finding any missing pages), but his involvement in the story is minimal beyond that as he spends his time at the bistro in Twilight Town having tea.
Live-action film adaptation
According to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, Disney began developing a live-action film adaptation to be offered on their streaming service Disney+ with Bryan Cogman writing and Brigham Taylor producing. In January 2018, it was announced that Juan Carlos Fresnadillo will direct the film. Principal production commenced on September 24, 2018, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. On September 17, 2018 cinematographer Enrique Chediak joined the project.
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- "Box Office Information for The Sword in the Stone". The Numbers. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
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- Hill, Jim (December 31, 1999). "The "Chanticleer" Saga -- Part 2". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
- Hill, Jim (December 31, 1999). "The "Chanticleer" Saga -- Part 3". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
- Solomon, Charles (December 2, 1995). The Disney That Never Was: The Stories and Art of Five Decades of Unproduced Animation. Hyperion Books. p. 87. ISBN 978-0786860371.
- Barrier, Michael (2008). The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. University of California Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0520256194.
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- Canemaker, John (October 21, 1999). Paper Dreams: The Art And Artists Of Disney Storyboards. Disney Editions. p. 184. ISBN 978-0786863075.
- Bill Peet (May 10, 2012). "Seldom Re-Peeted: The Bill Peet Interview". Hogan's Valley (Interview). Interviewed by John Province. Bull Moose Publishing. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
- Peet, Bill (1989). Bill Peet: An Autobiography. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 168–71. ISBN 978-0395689820.
- Thomas, Bob (December 28, 1963). "Changing Voices a Problem". Evening Independent. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
- Hischak, Thomas (September 21, 2011). Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland & Company. p. 176. ISBN 978-0786462711. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, January 6, 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is based on rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
- "The Sword in the Stone (Re-issue)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
- Sinyard, Neil (1988). The Best of Disney. Portland House. pp. 102–105. ISBN 0-517-65346-X.
- "The Sword in the Review". Variety. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
- Crowther, Bosley (December 26, 1963). "Screen: Eight New Movies Arrive for the Holidays". The New York Times. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
- "The Sword in the Stone (1963)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 1, 2009.
- Nell Minow. "The Sword in the Stone - Movie Review". Common Sense Media. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
- "The 36th academy awards (1964)". Oscars.org. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
- "Amazon.com: The Sword in the Stone (45th Anniversary Special Edition): Norman Alden, Sebastian Cabot, Junius Matthews, The Mello Men, Alan Napier, Rickie Sorenson, Karl Swenson, Martha Wentworth, Barbara Jo Allen, Vera Vague, Wolfgang Reitherman: Movies & TV". Amazon.com. June 17, 2008. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
- "Amazon.com: The Sword in the Stone (50th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray: Rickie Sorenson, Karl Swenson, Norman Alden, Sebastian Cabot, Martha Wentworth, Alan Napier, Junius Matthews, Ginny Tyler, Barbara Jo Allen, Thurl Ravenscroft, Richard Reitherman, Wolfgang Reitherman: Movies & TV". Amazon.com. August 6, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
- First is in S 65051, according to the Inducks
- "Samson Hex - I.N.D.U.C.K.S." coa.inducks.org.
- Square (November 15, 2002). Kingdom Hearts. PlayStation 2. Square Electronic Arts.
- Square (December 22, 2005). Kingdom Hearts II. PlayStation 2. Square Electronic Arts.
- Kit, Borys (July 20, 2015). "'Sword in the Stone' Live-Action Remake in the Works With 'Game of Thrones' Writer (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
- Kit, Borys (January 19, 2018). "Disney's 'Sword in the Stone' Live-Action Remake Finds Director (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- Karlston, Marmaduke (April 7, 2018). "Disney's Live-Action 'Sword and the Stone' to Begin Filming in September". FilmExodus. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
- Christopher Marc (September 17, 2018). "Disney's Live-Action 'Sword In The Stone' Movie Adds 'Bumblebee/28 Weeks Later' Cinematographer". Retrieved October 3, 2018.
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