This 1963 adaptation of the children's classic book of the same name, which was written by Terence H. White and first published in 1938, tells the story of a young King Arthur. The plot of the book provides the underpinnings for this animated film. In the film, Arthur is a twelve year old squire to the numbskull son of his guardian. Naive and genuinely nice, he is known by the nickname "Wart". Merlin, the wizard of all wizards, takes him under his wing, seeking to educate young Arthur before he enters into legend. Wart has no clue what fate holds in store for him, when he goes to London to perform his duties as a squire. Little does he know about the sword in the stone and the legend that surrounds it. Is he in for a surprise!
This film is not as well known as other Disney animated films and has never had the acclaim of some of the others. Yet, it provides solid entertainment. The animation, as it is with all Disney animated films, is excellent, despite lacking the elegance of some other Disney animated classics. My favorite scene is that involving the evil sorceress, Mad Madam Mim, a scene that I simply loved. It is a scene that is totally funny, whimsical, and action packed. Having never seen this film before, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The seventy nine minutes that the film lasted passed all too quickly. Moreover, it is a film that the whole family may enjoy.
The 45th Anniversary edition comes loaded with many bonus features. My favorite feature was the inclusion of two classic cartoons. Both cartoons selected for inclusion follow the medieval theme of the film. The first cartoon, "Knight for a Day" dates back to 1946 and features "Goofy" as a medieval squire. With his master out of commission due to a mishap, Goofy takes his master's place at a joust that is to decide who will win the hand of the Princess. The second classic cartoon "Brave Little Tailor", dates back to 1938 and features "Mickey Mouse", who is deemed by his King to be the official giant killer, when Mickey overstates his fighting ability. Asides from a bucketful of money, if Mickey is successful in routing the giant, he will win the hand of Princess Minnie. I totally loved these two cartoons. To me, they turned this DVD into a must buy DVD.
This 50th Anniversary Edition of The Sword In The Stone was Walt Disney’s 18th animated feature and the last animated film released before Walt Disney’s death. It arrives on blu ray with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p 1.75:1 encode. This 1963 animated feature was released on DVD as Gold Collection (2003) and 45th Anniversary Edition (2008), and both had 1.33:1. For the first time, the picture finally appears as widescreen! Colours have been bolstered and black colour deepened. But unfortunately, there was excessive noise reduction, wiping off a lot of the grain and details, resulting in a very soft flat image with loss of sharpness and lack of pop in the colours. (Another prime example of excessive DNR was Unversal’s Predators). But don’t despair. After watching the HD version, I took out my 2003 Gold Collection DVD. The picture here in 1.33:1 was even worst with duller colours and softer images, immediately noticeable on the colours and sharpness of the opening credits. Although this current transfer cannot be compared to other Diamond Editions such as the Lion King, Bambi, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, all with vibrant saturated colours that pop, nevertheless, it is much superior than the DVD version. The technique in the drawing reminded me of Winnie the Pooh era, a totally different method compared to those more modern techniques. Nevertheless the picture was still very enjoyable and enchanting, especially when you introduce this to your young children. (4/5)
For the first time, this 1963 movie comes with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio lossless track, which is a significant improvement over previous Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Voices are clean and clear on the whole, with minimal hiss, and effects are bright and well-prioritized, despite some presumably unavoidable flatness and tininess. There is minimal rear speaker or subwoofer activity. I would have preferred a lossless track of the original mono. The music score by George Bruns was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Score of Music – Adaptation or Treatment, in 1964, but lost to Andre Previn’s Irma La Douce. When I watched the primitive menu of the 2003 Gold edition, there was no offering of any choice for sound – I guess it just defaunted to Dolby Digital, and the sound in the DVD was much inferior than that of this lossless version. (4/5)
This is the first Disney animated feature with songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who was responsible for songs from Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the famous theme-park song “It’s A Small World (After All).
Although Walt Disney never knew it, he himself was character designer Bill Peet's model for Merlin. Peet saw them both as argumentative, cantankerous, playful and very intelligent. Peet also gave Merlin Walt's nose.
Arthur was voiced by three different boys - Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman and Robert Reitherman. The changes in voice are very noticeable in the film because of the way Arthur's voice keeps going from broken to unbroken, sometimes in the same scene. One of the easiest noticed is in the last scene in the throne room when Arthur asks in his "changed voice", "Oh, Archimedes, I wish Merlin was here!" Then, the camera cuts farther back and Arthur shouts in his "unchanged voice," "Merlin! Merlin!" Pay attention to see if you also notice the above difference.
The Sword In The Stone remains one of Disney’s lower profile animated features, even fifty years after it was released. This movie is one of my beloved favourite Disney films, and my wife’s favourite one. Unfortunately, the video suffered through unnecessarily excessive noise scrubbing, removing a lot the details and grain. The movie is still very enchanting and lovely to watch, and both video and audio are much more superior than the DVD version. For now, this is the best version of this enchanting movie available, and is still highly recommended.
One little shopping tip for blu ray discs, it is wise to scan the website on a regular basis. I have an Excel spreadsheet listing all the movies or CDs that I like to purchase, plus their prices. For major releases, the initial price is usually the highest, and as the release date draws closer, the price may drop. In this case, the original price was $30.74. But suddenly it dropped to $24.99 and I immediately ordered it. Now the price has gone back up to $29.97. Opposite is true for non-major release. Here, the initial announced price is usually the lowest. Shop wisely and you can save a few dollars. I hope this shopping tip is helpful to you.
Finally, get this blu ray version, and watch it with your young children. They will all glue to the TV and this movie will enchant a new generation of youngsters.
As other reviewers have duly noted, this film (first released in 1963) is based on the first of four parts of T.H. White's The Once and Future King (1958), focusing on Arthur's birth, childhood, and youth before he became king of England. The film has been reissued as a 45th anniversary edition. It features the well-selected voices of Sebastian Cabot (Sir Ector/Narrator), Karl Swenson (Merlin), Rickie Sorensen (Arthur/"Wart"), Junius Matthews (Archimedes), and Alan Napier (Sir Pelinore). Frankly, I was underwhelmed when I first saw it many years ago and had little patience with the antics. While seeing it again recently, I found the film much more entertaining and frequently charming.
In our family, a film's "acid test" for grandchildren is for them to want to see it again, immediately. After I watched it with several of the younger ones, they requested that but agreed, instead, to check out "Merlin's New Magical Academy Game," passing on the other bonus features. I would not rank The Sword in the Stone among the "classic" animated features produced by Disney (e.g. Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Pinocchio, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and Pixar (e.g. Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and WALL-E) as well as DreamWorks' Antz and Shrek. However, how many animation features do?
Perhaps there are other grandparents and parents who also saw The Sword in the Stone years ago, as did I, and are not inclined to have a copy available for children to see. I urge them to reconsider because it possesses a unique "magic" of its own. I think they will also enjoy the bonus features. Hopefully this reissued version will attract the interest and gain the appreciation the film clearly deserves.
on March 21, 2001
It's been reformatted folks - you don't get the full picture. There's nothing in the published specs to tell you that (as the early Disney animateds were originally 1.33:1), but you're missing 25% of the picture here. Wish I'd noticed the itty bitty print on the back before I broke the seal.
THE SWORD IN THE STONE [1963/2013] [50th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] [US Release] It’s HIGUST-FIGITIS for Magical Mirth and Music! The Untold Legend of Young King Arthur and Merlin, the Madcap Magician!
Disney proudly presents the 50th anniversary edition of a spellbinding and beloved animated classic. Conjure up magical family fun with the humour, adventure and Academy Award® nominated music for Best Score: Adaptation or Treatment for George Burns in 1963 for `The Sword in the Stone' and now on Blu-ray Combo Pack for the first time ever!
Take an amazing journey with a young orphan named "Wart" and the extraordinary wizard Merlin. According to legend, only someone with the purest character and inner strength can pull the enchanted sword from the stone and claim the throne of England. Armed with newfound confidence and the power of friendship, Wart discovers his destiny and learns the best magic is the kind you find inside yourself! Narrated by Sebastian Cabot.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nomination: 1963 Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Score and Adaptation or Treatment. The film is based on the novel of the same name, 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.”
Voice Cast: Sebastian Cabot (Narrator), Karl Swenson, Rickie Sorensen, Junius Matthews, Ginny Tyler, Martha Wentworth, Norman Alden, Alan Napier, Richard Reitherman, Robert Reitherman, Barbara Jo Allen (uncredited), Mel Blanc (uncredited), Fred Darian (uncredited), James MacDonald (uncredited), Tudor Owen (uncredited) and Thurl Ravenscroft (uncredited)
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Producer: Walt Disney
Screenplay: Bill Peet and T.H. White (based on the book)
Composers: George Bruns (score), Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (songs)
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 5.1 DTS-HD HR, Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Russian: 2.0 Dolby Digital and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian
Running Time: 79 minutes
Region: Blu-ray: All Regions and DVD: NTSC
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: With the release of Walt Disney's `The Sword in the Stone' in 1963, the studio initiated an unfortunate series of uninspired animated titles which, with the occasional exception, seemed to stamp its once unmatched animated features with a new label of mediocrity. It wasn't until `The Little Mermaid' in 1989 that the Disney name reclaimed its glorious title as the hallmark in animation, but by then, there was a quarter of a century of damaged reputation to undo. On its own, `The Sword in the Stone' isn't a terrible animated feature so much as it's a forgettable one. With no memorable characters or take-away songs from the music score, the film slightly lacks the magic and surprise, but still a nice looking animation, especially now in the stunning Blu-ray format, something none of its animated classics from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were ever guilty of.
The sorcerer Merlin [Karl Swenson] knows that the young, fumbling page Wart [Rickie Sorensen] will one day rule England as King Arthur, but in order to get him ready, he subjects the lad to a series of experiences turning him into various animals in order to teach him valuable life lessons. With Merlin's wise owl Archimedes [Junius Matthews] as an assistant, Wart makes some progress in his lessons though his foster father Sir Ector [Sebastian Cabot] and foster brother Kay [Norman Alden] are none too happy to be losing their assistant as Kay prepares for a jousting tournament in London which will determine the new king since no one has yet been successful at pulling the enchanted sword from the stone which legend says will signify the rightful King of England.
Merlin's rather antic household magic is played strictly for laughs. The three experiences where Wart is changed into a fish and a bird, both of which are used to teach him lessons about brain over brawn and contain a fair share of action and excitement, and a squirrel, where he learns the powerful lure of sensual attraction, are animated well but without the real depth of background and vibrant colour that distinguished earlier masterpieces. The showdown between Merlin and the evil Mad Madame Mim [Martha Wentworth] perhaps contains the closest thing `The Sword in the Stone' possesses to Disney's earlier brilliance in imagination and execution, but even its brain-over-brawn theme is repetitive after the previous animal-transformation sequences. And the Sherman Brothers' score, their first for a Disney animated feature, contains no memorable tunes. "That's What Makes the World Go Round," the ditty used to teach the fish sequence lesson, is the most tuneful of the lot, and "Higitus Figitus" shows them coining their own words long before they arrived at Mary Poppins' famous magic word. "Mad Madame Mim" gives the evil witch her own expository melody while the title song, the most period appropriate of their efforts, might have been outfitted with additional sets of lyrics to comment on the story throughout the film and add a touch of dignity to the often lowbrow proceedings, especially the jokes about Bermuda shorts, films, and television.
As Disney did with ‘PETER PAN,' an American actor, in this case Rickie Sorensen, has been cast to voice one of the most famous English characters extant, and it seems a dubious choice. He acts the role of the inexperienced, gangly lad Wart/Arthur just fine, but his vocal presence seems anachronistic in a Dark Ages-set story. Karl Swenson plays his absent-minded professor-like Merlin with the proper befuddlement, and Junius Matthews as the starchily efficient owl Archimedes makes a perfect polar opposite companion. Martha Wentworth has loads of fun as the cackling witch Mim while Sebastian Cabot and Norman Alden are just right as the thoughtless foster father and brother who treat Wart with uncommon indignity.
Arthur doesn't even become King until the end of the film when he eventually pulls the sword out of the stone, and then the movie just kind of ends. It's an all-around strangely-structured film that's structured around these whimsical set pieces of Arthur becoming a fish, then a squirrel and then a bird. He runs into trouble here and there, mostly from Mad Madam Mim, and a broken-hearted lady squirrel, which guts me every time I see the film, but it's just some light-hearted fun in the grand scheme of things. That's not entirely a bad thing though. I still enjoy the film, even though I can see its flaws a little more clearly now than I did when I was a child, but I still think it's a worthy animated film, and one that today's children should enjoy just as much as we did.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The film is being presented in a 1.75:1 transfer at 1080p resolution. Sharpness is not always consistent throughout; occasionally in long shots the sharpness becomes momentarily soft and there also seems to be some motions blur which may or may not be related to Disney's digital tampering which is part of their customary treatment of their animated features on Blu-ray. Colour is nicely under control and is rich enough without any fear of blooming, though some orange/salmon backgrounds come close. There is a slight bit of banding to be seen, but it's never overpowering, and the line structures of the animation show no evidence of aliasing but do display a lack of fine detail due to the digital manipulations of the transfer.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound mix is quite definitely front centric with very little going on in the rear channels. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and resides in the centre channel. The music and sound effects never obfuscate the dialogue but are mixed skilfully to complement the animation. There is very little bass in this sound mix.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Never-Before-Seen Alternate Opening [1080p] [4:00] From Disney's vault comes a never-before-seen alternate opening in black-and-white storyboard form. It's a different take on how Wart meets Merlin.
Special Feature: Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers  [480i] [8:00] The famed brothers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman composer duo talk briefly about their careers and the memorable music they produced for Disney.
Special Feature: All About Magic [Excerpt] [480i] [7:00] A fun little piece from a Walt Disney hosted television show called 'All About Magic.'
Special Feature: Disney Sing-Along With The Movie [1980p] A sing-a-long feature created for the show's music.
Special Feature: Classic Animated Shorts [480i] [16:00] There are two great Disney shorts included here. One is a Goofy short called 'A Knight for a Day.' This is a 1946 Disney short film starring Goofy. Directed by Jack Hannah, this 7-minute animated comedy short was written Bill Peet. The other animation short is for one of my favourite Disney shorts of all time, Mickey's 'Brave Little Tailor.' This is a 1938 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The cartoon is an adaptation of the fairy tale "The Valiant Little Tailor" with Mickey Mouse in the title role. The film was directed by Bill Roberts and features original music by Albert Hay Malotte. The voice cast includes Walt Disney as Mickey, Marcellite Garner as Minnie, and Eddie Holden as the king. `Brave Little Tailor' was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Animated Short Film at the 11th Academy Awards in 1939, but lost to Disney's own `Ferdinand the Bull.' In 1994 the film was chosen as the 26th greatest cartoon of all time by members of the animation field. The list was compiled in the book The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
Finally, `The Sword in the Stone' is a perfectly pleasant but sadly unremarkable animated effort from the Walt Disney Studios. The Blu-ray offers a picture which will please some but definitely annoy purists of Disney animation and with sound that's quite above average. The disc also ports over the unremarkable extras from the previous DVD release, but this is definitely at best a second tier Disney animation effort. But despite this, I am still glad I have added it to my Walt Disney Blu-ray Collection as you still get a magical adventure and with several repeat viewing, you get see other aspect of all what happens in the animation film and I will never be so negative about `The Sword In The Stone' as I love it and will give me endless hours of viewing pleasure. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on January 13, 2010
The Sword in the Stone has appealing colourful images but it wasn't as great as I had hoped. There was no real opponent and the ending happened so quickly without any fight. This is a story when Arthur was a child. There are many songs of Merlin conducting magic, which I found were uninteresting to watch. When the story ended, I felt like nothing really happened and that the story ended where it should have began.
England lost its king a long time ago, and there was no one to take the throne. Thus, a miracle was sent down of a sword placed into a stone that was to be pulled out only by England's future king. Nobody could take the sword out and still England was left without a king.
It is the story of Arthur, who is often called Wart, when he is about twelve-years-old. He works in a kitchen and is an orphan. One day, he wanders off into the forest in search of an arrow, and falls into Merlin's home. Merlin has been expecting him.
Merlin goes back with Arthur to his place of employment. Merlin tries to aid Arthur to finish his chores, and then Merlin and his owl try to teach Arthur, since Arthur has never had any proper education. Arthur learns to read, to swim in the form of a fish, to jump around as a squirrel, and to fly as a bird. With this he learns to get out of trouble and manoeuvre better, but nothing more is really taught throughout the movie.
The story ends when Arthur ascends the throne, still in his childhood, clueless about what to do next.
I did not like the fact that there was a long scene of Arthur and Merlin as squirrels, and there were two female squirrels that fell in love with them. Those female squirrels were shown chasing the two around and kissing them. It is definitely not something I would want my children to see at a young age.
Released in 1963, "The Sword in the Stone" was based on the novel of the same name by T.E. White, and tells how the great wizard Merlin took under his wing the future King Arthur, at this point a young lad nicknamed Wart. Feeling no need to wait five more years for a round-number, watching this 45th Anniversary Edition DVD of "The Sword in the Stone" really strikes me as being a third tier Disney animated feature film. It occurs to me that whereas with some of the best children's films, animated or otherwise, you can claim that it is too good for kids (mainly because some of the best bits are way over the heads of the little folk), that is not the case with this one. With the lessons on perspective taking Merlin puts Wart through there is certainly something for kid's to take away from watching the movie. But adults? Not so much, which would explain why watching the film again many decades later did not match up with fond memories of originally seeing it in the theater. This time around I was rather put off by many of the comic twists with Merlin, and found the final joke of the film with the character in Bermuda shorts to be the lamest of all Disney endings. The last Disney animated feature released when Walt Disney was still alive, it is part of what is called the "English Cycle" of Disney animated films that includes "Alice in Wonderland," "Peter Pan," "The Jungle Book," and "Robin Hood," all of which are superior, to greater or lesser degrees, than this one. This would tend to reaffirm the notion that this is a lower tier animated Disney movie, but the key word there is "Disney," which means the bottom of their barrel is still located up there in the penthouse.
The fact that there is but a single DVD this time around is another clear indication that this is not a top tier Disney film, because it lacks the sheer quantity of stuff from "Vault Disney" that we find on the recognized classics. The high points of the special features are the bonus shorts, which start with Goofy's "A Knight for a Day"(1946), directed by Jack Hannah, where Cedric (Goofy) replaces his master, Sir Loinsteak, in the joust against Sir Cumference (best pun on the whole DVD). But then we get the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon "Brave Little Tailor" (1938), directed by Bill Roberts, that was nominated for the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (It lost to Disney's "Ferdinand the Bull"). When animators voted on the top 50 cartoons (shorts) of all-time, this one ended up #26 on the list ("What's Opera Doc?" is #1, Disney's "The Band Concert" is #3, and "Bambi Meets Gozilla " made it to #38, so its a nice eclectic list). The Games and Activities section has viewers solving problems to collect "relics" (shields); my ability to answer history questions far outstrips by swimming ability.
In the "Magic Music: The Sherman Brothers" featurette in the Music and More section they look at the songs that were dropped from the movie, and given the main lesson of the film it is a shame the song "Magic Key" was dropped, because it is really on point regarding the importance of learning. There are also captioned versions of all of the songs in the film, so that you can sing along. In the Backstage Disney section, Walt Disney shows up for an excerpt from "All About Magic," which is not exactly on point for "Sword in Stone" but does cover basic movie magic. The Scrapbook section has concept art, behind the scenes looks, publicity shots, and the Merlin Show attraction at Disneypark Paris, where you can click on pictures to enlarge them. The Film Facts section is rather sparse, consisting of just eight frames of text, again indicating that we are not dealing with one of the shining moments in the history of Disney. Still, the extras are enough to round up on this one, and those trying to put together a complete Disney library will be happy to find that the company puts out above average DVDs of even their average animated films.
on December 5, 2003
Although not one of the shining gems in Disney's "canon" crown, this movie still has a charming quality some will appreciate.
Loosely based on White's "The Once and Future King", although "Sword in the Stone" does no justice to the original material, it is still a fun filled romp that children will love.
The Transformation bits are the best. The young Wart (the future King Arthur, believe it or not) is transformed into a bird, a fish, and a squirrel to teach Wart lessons that he will need to know once he becomes king. These are the highlights of the film.
Younger audiences will enjoy the dancing dishwashing sequence.
The final conflict between Merlin and Mim is almost anti-climatic. But we do get to see Wart withdraw the Sword from the Stone and become King Arthur. I rather liked the few references to modern technology that Merlin throws at an unknowing Wart. It gives him an aura of "I know what's going to happen" that is sorely needed by Merlin as the wizard that trains Wart.
Note that I would have given this DVD four stars if it had been presented in letterbox format (true 16X9 ratio) as well as the included pan-and-scan version.
Worth looking at for any library of children's videos, and well worth adding to a collection of Disney's classics.
on March 27, 2003
I remember "The Sword in the Stone" as a widescreen movie, so I was dismayed to find that Disney had released this animated favorite to DVD in a cropped/pan-and-scan format. However, on further investigation, I discovered that, to my surprise, "The Sword in the Stone" was not a widescreen motion picture... at least not originally. Apparently, like "101 Dalmations" and other films of the late 1950s and early 1960s, "The Sword in the Stone" was made to be projected in one of two formats: either widescreen or full-frame, depending on the theater where it was shown. It seems that the Disney animators designed the film with a bit of 'extra picture' at the top and bottom of each frame; that way this 'extra' could be cut off without ruining the image in theaters playing it in widescreen. In other theaters, and on television, the film could be shown in a standard full-frame (1.33:1) format. So, according to Disney, the current full-frame DVD of "TSITS" is indeed the film in it's "original format'. Admittedly, it may not be the way that most of us remember this great little movie, but it is the way the folks at Disney made it.
on January 29, 2002
4 stars for the movie, 3 for the DVD.
Love the movie. Remember it from my youth. Highly recommended for young aspiring kings and princes. It's a laughter-filled romp, and Disney at his best for great storytelling, and great character development.
However, this DVD gets only three stars from me because it is in Full Screen format, when the original was widescreen. As usual in these cases, in the tiny print at the bottom of the box, the dreaded words for any 16:9 TV owner:
"This presentation has been modified from the original. It has been formatted to fit your TV screen".
You'd think by now, the studios would get a clue, ESPECIALLY Disney, and release either the original with letterbox, or put both on the disc like so many do... Does anyone here like "Pan and Scan"?
My complaint ends there. It is otherwise a wonderful film to share with your kids... I enjoyed watching it again after so many years, this time with my four-year-old son. We laughed and marvelled together over the antics and magic of the Wizard Merlin, and the adventures of young "Wart". He was ready to see it again as soon as it ended.