This article is about the movie. For object of the same name, see Sword in the Stone (object).
The Sword in the Stone is a 1963 American animated musical fantasy comedy film produced by Walt Disney and originally released to theaters on December 12, 1963 by Buena Vista Distribution, in the UK before being released in the United States on December 25. The 18th film in the Disney Animated Canon, the songs in the film were produced by the Sherman Brothers who wrote other Disney movies such as Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and The Jungle Book. The film is based on the the novel of the same name, first published in 1938 as a single novel. It was published again in 1958 as the first book of T. H. White's tetralogy The Once and Future King. It is generally considered a modest success from a Disney company standpoint.
The film begins in England with the death of the king, Uther Pendragon. No heir is named, and so England is threatened to be torn apart by war. Miraculously, the mystical "Sword in the Stone" appears in London, with an inscription proclaiming that whomever pulls it out is the rightful King of England. Many try to remove the sword, but none succeed and the sword is soon forgotten, leaving England in dark ages.
Some years later, Arthur (a.k.a. Wart), a 12-year old orphan training to be a squire, accompanies his older foster brother Sir Kay on a hunting trip. Arthur accidentally prevents Kay from shooting a deer and goes to retrieve the arrow to make up for his mistake. In the woods, he falls into the cottage of Merlin, a powerful wizard. Merlin announces he will be Arthur's tutor, packs up and the two return to Arthur's home, a castle run by Sir Ector, one of Uther's knights and Arthur's foster father. Ector does not believe in magic and refuses to allow Merlin to tutor Arthur. Merlin creates a blizzard and disappears, which persuades Ector to let Merlin stay, albeit in a decrepit old tower with countless leaks. Ector's friend and fellow knight, Sir Pellinore, arrives with news about the annual jousting tournament to be held on New Year's Day in London, only this time whose winner would be crowned King of England. Ector proposes that Kay be knighted and compete for the title, despite Kay's obvious ineptitude in both jousting and sword fighting.
Merlin begins his tutoring by transforming Arthur and himself into fish and going into the castle's moat. Arthur is chased and attacked by a pike, and is saved by Archimedes, Merlin's owl. Arthur is sent to the kitchen as punishment after he tried to tell his lesson to a disbelieving Ector. Merlin arrives and magics the dishes to wash themselves. He then takes Arthur for another lesson, where he transforms Arthur and himself into squirrels. Merlin teaches Arthur about gravity, and about male-female relationships (as two female squirrels become infatuated with them). When they return to human form, Arthur's female squirrel cries sadly when she sees he is really a boy. When they return to the castle, Ector accuses Merlin of using black magic on the dishes after trying unsuccessfully to undo the enchanted spell on the dishes. Arthur defiantly defends Merlin, but Ector punishes Arthur by first setting him with a mountain of chores, then essentially told Arthur he cooked his goose for "popping off" and choosing another boy named Hobbs as Kay's squire. Arthur is devastated, but Merlin convinces him to continue with his education.
For his 3rd lesson, Merlin transforms Arthur into a sparrow. Arthur then accompanies Archimedes on a flying lesson. Arthur is attacked by a hawk and flies down the chimney of Madam Mim, a witch who is a rival to Merlin. Mim's magic uses trickery, as opposed to Merlin's scientific skill. Mim turns into a cat and chases Arthur around her cottage. Merlin arrives, having been summoned by Archimedes, and begins to rebuke Mim. Mim challenges Merlin to a Wizard's Duel, a battle of wits where the players try to destroy one another by transforming into different animals. Mim sets several ground rules, including the rules that only real animals may be used (no imaginary ones like pink dragons), and no disappearing. During the battle, both wizards transform themselves into a variety of creatures, with Merlin turning onto a turtle, a rabbit, a caterpillar, a walrus, a mouse, a crab, a goat, with Mim being a crocodile, a fox, a hen, an elephant, a tiger, a snake and a rhino.
Finally, Mim transforms into a purple dragon which is supposed to be against the rules (though Mim notes that she never explicitly outlawed purple dragons). Merlin is able to think quickly, and transforms himself into a germ, and infects her. Mim is put to bed, ill, though it is said she would recover in a few weeks.
At Christmas, Kay is knighted, but his squire Hobbs comes down with the mumps, so Ector reinstates Arthur as Kay's squire. Arthur excitedly tells Merlin and Archimedes the news. Archimedes is thrilled by this, but Merlin is disappointed that Arthur still prefers war games over academics. Arthur tries to explain that he cannot become a knight because he is an orphan, so a squire is the best position he can attain (and in his words, he doesn't know how to move forward in life). This aggravates Merlin, who transforms himself into a rocket bound for Bermuda.
Ector, Kay, Pellinore, Arthur, and Archimedes travel to London for the tournament. Moments before Kay's match, Arthur realizes that he has forgotten Kay's sword at their inn, which is now closed because of the tournament. Archimedes notices a sword in a stone in a nearby churchyard and points it out to Arthur, who pulls the sword from the stone, unwittingly fulfilling the Sword in the Stone’s prophecy.
When Arthur returns with the sword, Ector and Sir Bart recognize it as the Sword in the Stone, and the tournament is stopped. Demanding that Arthur proves he pulled it, Ector replaces the sword in its anvil. Kay attempts to remove it himself, but he and none of the other men succeed in removing it. Finally, Wart manages to pull it out a second time with ease. The knights all proclaim, "Hail!! King Arthur!! Long live the king!!" as the crowd, Ector, and Kay all kneel to Arthur, asking for forgiveness.
The film cuts to Arthur, now crowned King, sitting in the throne room with Archimedes, feeling completely unprepared to take the responsibility of royalty. Overwhelmed by the cheering crowd outside, Arthur calls out to Merlin for help, who arrives (in 20th-century attire) and is delighted to find that Arthur is the King that he had seen in the future. Merlin tells the boy that he will rise and lead the Knights of the Round Table, accomplishing many amazing feats and becoming one of the most famous figures in literature and even in motion pictures (such as this film).
- Arthur/Wart: Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, and Robert Reitherman
- Merlin: Karl Swenson
- Archimedes: Junius Matthews
- Sir Ector and Narrator: Sebastian Cabot
- Sir Kay: Norman Alden
- Madam Mim and Granny Squirrel: Martha Wentworth
- Sir Pellinore: Alan Napier
- Girl Squirrel: Ginny Tyler
- Knights/Nobles in Crowd: Tudor Owen
- Scullery Maid: Barbara Jo Allen
- Wolf, Tiger and Talbot, Pike: Jimmy MacDonald
- Sir Bart: Thurl Ravenscroft
There are several scenes with animation recycled from other Disney films, as well as original animation that itself would be recycled in later productions. Some of the backgrounds of the opening credit is reused from another Disney animated film that was also set in the Medieval era and released four years early, Sleeping Beauty. The deer Kay tries shooting at with his arrow was copied from Bambi's mother from Bambi. In the jousting scene the entire scene with the red knight is taken from the Disney short, The Truth About Mother Goose. This is the only occasion where a scene was used in is original form in another film. When Kay and Ector are in the kitchen fighting against the enchanted dishware, Ector swings his sword backwards and accidentally hits Kay on the head, with Kay groaning. Jasper and Horace in One Hundred and One Dalmatians were animated in the same way during the fight scene with Pongo and Perdita, and archive audio of J. Pat O'Malley (who voiced Jasper) was used for Kay's groan. Also, the footage where Arthur is affectionately licked by the two castle dogs is reused in The Jungle Book four years later. The scene where Arthur is a squirrel jumping from one tree to the next was reused in The Fox and the Hound in 1981. When Arthur goes into the forest to retrieve Kay's arrow, he pushes aside a branch and weaves in and out of a few small trees. This animation was reused in The Black Cauldron.
- Main article: The Sword in the Stone (soundtrack)
- "The Sword in the Stone" (Sung by Fred Darian)
- "Higitus Figitus" (Sung by Merlin)
- "That's What Makes the World Go Round" (Sung by Merlin and Arthur)
- "A Most Befuddling Thing" (Sung by Merlin)
- "Mad Madame Mim" (Sung by Mim)
- "Blue Oak Tree" (Ending of the song, sung by the Sir Ector and Sir Pellinore)
- "The Magic Key" (Deleted Song, sung by Merlin)
The film was originally released to theaters on December 25, 1963. In the United States, it was re-issued to theaters on December 22, 1972, and released jointly with Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore on March 25, 1983.
- International releases
|Country||Title||Distributor||Date of release|
|Japan||王様の剣 (Ōsama no tsurugi)||RKO Pictures Japan||July 18, 1964|
|Italy||La spada nella roccia||Rank Film||December 23, 1964|
- Main article: The Sword in the Stone (video)
The film was first released in VHS format in the UK in 1983 and in the US on March 1986, as well as another VHS release in July 1991. Both of these were in the Walt Disney Classics line. The film was released on VHS again on October 28, 1994, as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. The film was released on VHS again, along with a DVD release, of the film in March 2001 as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection. A special DVD edition was released for the 45th Anniversary of the film in June 2008. The Deluxe Edition, which included lithographs, a book, a lenticular card, and a certificate of authenticity, was also released in June 2008. For its 50th Anniversary, the film was released on Blu-ray on August 6, 2013 with a matted 1.75:1 transfer. The Blu-ray release was widely criticized for the overuse of DNR (digital noise reduction) as well as the original frames being overmatted. Following this, Disney did a new digital remaster of the film and released it on its original matted negative on Disney+ when the streaming service was first launched, this time in 4K and 5.1.
The film was a moderate financial success at the box office and became the sixth highest grossing film of 1963 in North America, earning estimated rentals of $4.75 million It was better received by British critics than American critics, who thought it had too much humor and a "thin narrative." Rotten Tomatoes reports that 74% of critics gave positive reviews based on 23 reviews with an average score of 6.1/10. Its consensus states that "A decent take on the legend of King Arthur, The Sword in the Stone suffers from somewhat 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 animation is excellent, a complex structure, and more philosophical than most 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.
The American Film Institute nominated The Sword in the Stone for its Top 10 Animated Films list.
Madam Mim was adapted 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.
The Sword itself appears in all of the Disneyland-style parks, located in front of their respective Carousels, with Disneyland's being King Arthur Carrousel. A sword pulling ceremony hosted by Merlin where a lucky child who pulled the sword would be declared the temporary ruler of Fantasyland was a common show until the ceremony ended in 2006 in the Magic Kingdom. The show operates seasonally at the other parks.
On February 27, 2020, Sword In The Stone debuted their own parade float for the first time in Disneyland's parade, Magic Happens.
- The film's copyright was renewed on October 3, 1991. The copyright to the story it is based on was also renewed in the U.S.
- This is the last animated film released when Walt Disney was alive.
- The film makes a cameo appearance on Once Upon a Time in the episode "The Dark Swan" as the film a young Emma goes to see and receives a cryptic warning from a disguised Merlin.
- This is the first film in the Disney Animated Canon to be exclusively released in 4K UHD and 5.1 on Disney+ without any physical 4K UHD release, followed by The Black Cauldron.
- The UK DVD version omits the second half of Madam Mim's first line "Sounds like someone's sick. How lovely. I do hope it's serious. Something dreadful" for unknown reasons. She only says "Sounds like someone's sick. How lovely." This version would be used on Disney+.