The Sword in the Stone

Critics Consensus

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.



Total Count: 27


Audience Score

User Ratings: 194,035
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Movie Info

Another of the fantastic animated creations from the Disney studios, this is the animated version of The Once and Future King, a T. H. White story. This is the story of King Arthur in childhood as he is being instructed by the magician Merlin and his owl, Archimedes. Although it doesn't stick to the original story and something of the quality of myth is lost, the animation is superior and the tale intriguing and amusing. A delight for the whole family.


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Critic Reviews for The Sword in the Stone

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (9)

Audience Reviews for The Sword in the Stone

  • May 10, 2017
    Disney films are almost always great, especially the animated classics. Sadly, The Sword in the Stone is one that doesn't really hold up whatsoever. With an overabundance of goofy humor, no antagonist, little plot movement, and an ending that comes out of nowhere, The Sword in the Stone is a disappointing take on Arthurian Legend. At this point, pretty much everyone knows the basic story of King Arthur, so I guess the film ignoring most of what makes the legend popular is a bold move, but it isn't one that the film benefits from. I understand that this film deals with a young Arthur, or better known as Wart, but I'm not a fan of watching an 80-minute adventure that has little to do with anything involving King Arthur. The worst part is, the title only applies to the last 10 minutes, with the rest of the movie failing to set-up any potential payoff the ending could have. If this film wasn't titled The Sword in the Stone and didn't share some of the names of famous people, I think I could have enjoyed it a little more. Merlin and Wart go through several entertaining adventures involving many different animals and obstacles that I'm sure would be fun if it weren't supposed to live up to the legend of King Arthur. With that said, there is basically no plot at all. Merlin comes across a scrawny and clumsy boy named Wart and he just assumes that he is destined for greatness, but there's never any real movement on that besides a few training sessions. Training sessions for what you ask? It's never made clear. As I said before, if it weren't for the title this could be viewed as a halfway decent animated adventure, but the film hardly does anything to live up to the name. 4.7/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Feb 09, 2015
    T.H. White's work on Arthurian legend comes to life in the Walt Disney animated film The Sword in the Stone. Set in Medieval England, an eccentric magician named Merlin takes an aspiring squire named Wart under his tutelage. There really isn't much actual story, as most of the film consists of a series of random adventures where Merlin turns Wart into an animal in order to teach him some vague lesson. And, there aren't any memorable musical numbers. Part of this is likely do to the tone, which doesn't have much joy to it. Unfortunately, The Sword in the Stone is a disappointing and lackluster film (especially considering the richness of the source material).
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 31, 2013
    Seriously, why didn't this movie received better than the reception it had? I thought that this was a very underrated Disney flick next to Robin Hood and The Black Cauldron. Sure, it's not in the same depth as the later films including most of the Renaissance films, but it's still a good movie to watch for the whole family. Now that it celebrated it's 50th Anniversary, this is my final review for 2013 before 2014 starts. It tells the story bout Arthur/Wart, a measly servant knave who dreams of becoming a knight but is barely certain he may act as squire to castle lord Sir Ector's son Kay. Then, the sorcerer Merlin and his grumpy, talking owl Archimedes invite themselves to the castle and move into its dilapidated north tower. Merlin, who can magically access the future, intends to prepare Wart for a grand future, so he gives the squirt dangerous lessons, transforming themselves into animals to learn the mental skills befitting a knight and a ruler. With that said, there are a lot of good things about this film. The animation is beautiful and it's character animation is decent. The characters are likable and the voice acting is solid. The story has heart and comedy mixed perfectly, the writing is excellent, and there is a great moment where Merlin battles against Madam Mim in their animal forms which made the whole movie worth it. The songs, while not the best work from the Sherman brothers, are tolerable enough to listen to and the music score is solid. Overall, The Sword in the Stone came this close to becoming a masterpiece, but with all of my heart, as a Disney fan, this is an extremely underrated movie that deserves a lot more recognition than the reception it received. Thumbs up! :)
    Gavin C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2013
    In my reviews of Disney efforts from the 1960s and 1970s, I've spoken at some length about the creative decline that followed the death of Walt Disney. I've railed against the Company retreating into the safety of convention, and its increasing apathy towards the quality of animation. And I've come down hard on Wolfgang Reitherman for overseeing and encouraging this rapid descent into the pale and pedestrian. On these grounds, you would expect me to hate The Sword in the Stone, both as a film in and of itself and because of what it represents. Reitherman's first solo effort as a director is plainly very flimsy, with a ton of visual shortcuts and a plot that amounts to total tosh. But however much time one takes to list all its shortcomings and explain the legacy it left behind, the film is just too gleeful to generate any feelings of hate. Even if you were a die-hard Disney fan, you'd have a hard time arguing that The Sword in the Stone could visually hold its own against the Golden Age. The animation is incredibly pale and thin, with everything that had started creeping in with 101 Dalmatians being fully manifested here. The character models are scruffy and scraggy, and while the basic proportions of the characters are up to scratch, the articulation of their limbs is increasingly jagged and angular. The background designs are also far less detailed than before, with most of them having very simple patterns and differences in colour. It's a complete contrast to Sleeping Beauty, which skimped on movement in certain places but compensated with beautiful backgrounds and smooth designs for all the main characters. Finally there is the reuse of footage, along with the same four or five sound effects turning up like clockwork. Every time Merlin marches along in middle distance, we eagerly await the next 'poof' sound as something or someone disappears. All of these features belie an increasing sense of apathy within the Disney Company towards hand-drawn animated features. The box-office failure of Sleeping Beauty had been accompanied by the company diversifying into theme parks and investing more money into live-action films. It's not entirely Reitherman's fault that The Sword in the Stone looks second-rate, but the shortcuts he takes only serve to reinforce this apathy, which at its worst mutates into a seeming contempt for the audience's intelligence. Whether for creative or financial reasons, The Sword in the Stone is a very small film. It's ironic that a film deriving from the epic legends of King Arthur should seem so relatively stake-free throughout its running time. The best adaptations of the Arthur legend have always captured the sense of a country or landscape undergoing seismic shifts, whether politically or in a more supernatural manner. This is even true of tangential adaptations like A Royal Affair, which use the Arthur framework to illustrate a more recent upheaval. For most of its running time, The Sword in the Stone is terribly gentle in both its pacing and its dramatic content. It's far more concerned with comedic whimsy and misunderstanding than it is with fleshing out the backstory of history's most famous fictional king. The characters are all likeable, or at least are too bland to get angry about it, but there isn't as much danger or tension to their circumstances as there should be. Not every Arthur adaptation has to be as portentous as John Boorman's Excalibur, but neither should these relationships be entirely trivialised for the sake of humour. I've spoken in many places about needing to view Disney adaptations on their own merits - in other words, to not judge them entirely by how faithful they are to the source material. The Disney versions of classic fairy tales are some of the company's strongest work, but there are so many variations in the stories of Snow White, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty that it is impossible for any adaptation to be called definitive. The only provisos are that 'the Disney version' should be entertaining in its own right, and reflect the spirit of the original even if it doesn't follow the narrative word for word. On this basis, we can view The Sword in the Stone as a partial success, much like Peter Pan and Cinderella before it. Like these efforts, it isn't going to win any awards for being a faithful adaptation - though unlike these films, it has the excuse of being a prequel and therefore has more room for manoeuvre. It succeeds primarily as a piece of entertainment, providing enough laughs to fill the time but having its fair share of issues if you stop and think about it. We are fortunate that the film is slight and silly enough that its issues are mainly mechanical, rather than being rooted in possible racism (Peter Pan) or questionable gender politics (Cinderella). For all its technical shortcomings, The Sword in the Stone does have a gleeful energy to it which is evident all throughout its running time. Alongside the magical set-pieces, which evoke 'The Sorceror's Apprentice' from Fantasia, there is a lot of really fun slapstick which brings the period to life. The Dark Ages were a period of great physical prowess and aggression, and so it makes sense for the characters to spend a lot of their time either bashing things or banging into other things. The film has great fun putting its fall guys through the mill, particularly the unfortunate wolf that ends up floating downstream trapped in a log. The film benefits in this regard from two of the best supporting characters in Disney history. On the one hand we have Archimedes, arguably the greatest sidekick ever to grace a Disney film. His bad temper and snarky commentary on Merlin's attempts to educate the boy bring a spark to what could otherwise be a series of dull scenes. He reflects audience scepticism towards Wart and in doing so makes the future king into a more endearing character. He also gets some of the film's best lines, including the immortal putdown: "Man will fly alright... just like a rock!", followed by his famously infectious laughter. On the other hand, we have the magnificent, marvellous, mad Madam Mim, voiced by Martha Wentworth. Wentworth had previously leant her voice to Nanny in 101 Dalmatians, and here she is allowed to fully let loose, creating a character that is both hilarious and completely unhinged. Mim is one of the great comedy villains, being so eccentric that you can't help but laugh, but also having the power and ruthless edge needed to threaten us. The Wizard's Duel between her and Merlin is the highlight of the film, with a quicker pace, sharper humour and much more thought being put into the animation. The Sword in the Stone also deserves praise for the message it sends out. Unlike the weaker princess films, which prize beauty over intelligence or hard work, this film has a protagonist who is effectively emancipated by education. Wart cannot rely on physical strength to make it in a world that is shaped by such a value; with Merlin's guidance he finds a different way of expressing himself and eventually emerges with the prize. Making him pull out the sword is not just a plot contrivance: it reinforces the idea that true leadership comes from a pure heart and a sense of self-respect The Sword in the Stone is a film which offers a lot of silly pleasure in amongst its many, many flaws. It's a film to love with your heart, and childhood nostalgia, since any attempt to appreciate it intellectually will come up short. But if nothing else it makes for good, passing entertainment, with a lot more laughs and a better message than many Disney efforts of the period.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer

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