The Sword in the Stone (1963 film)

The Sword in the Stone is a 1963 American animated musical fantasy comedy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by Buena Vista Distribution. The 18th Disney animated feature film, 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. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, the film features the voices of Rickie Sorensen, Karl Swenson, Junius Matthews, Sebastian Cabot, Norman Alden, and Martha Wentworth.

The Sword in the Stone
Original theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Reitherman
Produced byWalt Disney
Story byBill Peet
Based onThe Sword in the Stone
by T. H. White
Music byGeorge Bruns
Edited byDonald Halliday
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • December 25, 1963 (1963-12-25)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$22.2 million[2]

In 1939, Walt Disney acquired the film rights to the novel, in which various attempts at developing the film would last two decades before actual production on the film officially began. The Sword in the Stone would be the final fully-animated Disney film to be released before his 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 Happiest Millionaire (1967), The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), The Aristocats (1970), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977).

The Sword in the Stone was released to theatres on December 25, 1963 to mixed reviews, though it was a box office success.

A live-action remake of the film directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is currently in development.[3]


The King of England, Uther Pendragon, dies, leaving no heir to the throne, and 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 whomsoever removes it will be the new king. No one succeeds in removing the sword, which becomes forgotten, leaving England in the Dark Ages.

Years later, a 12-year-old English orphan named Arthur, commonly called Wart, accidentally causes his older foster brother Kay to launch his arrow into the forest, whilst hunting a deer. In searching the woods for the arrow, Arthur meets Merlin, an elderly wizard, and his talking pet owl Archimedes. Seeing great potential in the boy, Merlin declares himself Arthur's tutor and returns with the boy to his home, a castle run by Sir Ector, Arthur's foster father. Ector's friend and advisor, Sir Pellinore, arrives with news that the annual jousting tournament will be held in London, and the winner will be crowned king. Ector decides to put Kay through serious training for the tournament and appoints Arthur as Kay's squire.

In order to educate Arthur, which is to consist of reading, science, and magical transformations, Merlin transforms the boy and himself into fish to swim in the castle moat in order to learn about physics, but more importantly for Arthur to rely upon intellect in facing dangerous situations. Merlin then transforms Arthur and himself into tree squirrels to learn about gravity, and to understand to think before acting. After the latter lesson though, Arthur is severely punished by Ector by having his position of squire given to someone else after an incident at the kitchen, which he and his son discovered while his adopted son was away with Merlin. Later, 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 is challenged to a battle of animal transformations. Despite Mim transforming into a dragon, Merlin outsmarts her, by becoming a bacterium, causing her to fall ill. This finally proves to Arthur that knowledge can be more important than strength. Kay is knighted, and Arthur begins his service as Kay's squire after the latter's substitute squire contracts the mumps. This causes a falling-out between Arthur and Merlin, who is frustrated that Arthur still finds war games more fun than academics, unintentionally transports himself in time 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. Others attempt to remove the sword and can not. Arthur once again removes the sword, proving that he is indeed England's new king, and earning Ector's and Kay's respect. Arthur, crowned king, feeling unprepared for the responsibility of ruling, calls out to Merlin for help, who returns to reassure him, and is 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 one of the most famous figures in history and even the subject of motion pictures.


  • 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.[4] Mari Ness of the online magazine 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."[4]
  • Karl Swenson as Merlin, an old and eccentric wizard who aids and educates Arthur.
  • 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. Though he loves Arthur, he often treats him harshly. Cabot also voiced the narrator at the beginning and end of the film.
  • Norman Alden as Sir Kay, Arthur's irritable older foster brother and Ector's son.
  • Martha Wentworth as Madam Mim, a black magic proficient witch and Merlin's archnemesis. Mim's magic uses trickery, as opposed to Merlin's scientific skill. Martha 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 jousting tournament.
  • Thurl Ravenscroft as Sir Bart, one of the knights at the jousting tournament.
  • James MacDonald as The Wolf, an unnamed, starving wolf that tries 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.
  • Tudor Owen as the background voice of one of the knights in the crowd during the tournament.


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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] Anderson, Davis, Milt Kahl, and director Wolfgang Reitherman spent months preparing elaborate storyboards for Chanticleer, and, following the silent response to 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.[8] 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."[9]

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.[10] 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.'"[11] 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."[12]

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".[13] 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.[13]

A new animation technique, "touch-up", was created during production. The animation process had previously involved the use of clean-ups where assistant animators transferred the directing animators' sketches by hand onto a new sheet of paper, which would later being copied to an animation cel. Clean-ups was replaced by touch-ups, where the assistants would draw directly on the animators' sketches before the drawing was xeroxed onto a cel.[14]


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,[15] which forced the older Reitherman to cast his sons, Richard and Robert, to replace him.[16]


Box office

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.[17] The Sword in the Stone was re-released to theatres on March 25, 1983 as a double feature with Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore. This re-issue grossed $12 million.[18] The film has had a lifetime gross of $22.2 million in North America.[2]

Critical reception

The Sword in the Stone received mixed reviews from critics, who thought it had too much humor and a "thin narrative".[19] 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."[20] 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."[21]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a 65% positive rating based on 26 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."[22] Nell Minow of Common Sense Media gave the film four out of five stars, writing, "Delightful classic brings Arthur legend to life".[23] 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.[19]


The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Score—Adaptation or Treatment in 1963, but lost against Irma La Douce.[24]

In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated The Sword in the Stone for its Top 10 Animated Films list, but among the 50 nominated, it did not reach the top ten.[25]


All tracks are written by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.

Side one
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
Side two
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"

Home media

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.[26] For its 50th anniversary, it was released on Blu-ray on August 6, 2013.[27]

Other media

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. Wart also made a few appearances in the series, usually seen in crowd shots with Merlin. He also appears with Merlin in the audience in the episode: "Mickey vs. Shelby" after a cartoon ends. Sir Kay was also seen in the episode: "Ask Von Drake", when he tries to pull the sword from the stone with Arthur, Merlin, and Madam Mim. 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 franchise where she sometimes teams with Magica De Spell and/or the Beagle Boys. She also appeared in the Mickey Mouse franchise 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,[28] 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.[29]

Video games

Madam Mim made a surprise appearance 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.[30][31] 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 Remy's bistro in Twilight Town having tea.

Live-action film adaptation

A live action feature film adaptation entered development beginning in July 2015, with Bryan Cogman and Brigham Tyalor respectively serving as screenwriter and producer. The film will be offered as an exclusive on their streaming service Disney+.[32] By January 2018, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo signed on as director.[33] By September, Enrique Chediak had joined the project as cinematographer. Principal photography was about to begin on September 24, 2018 in Belfast Northern Ireland, but currently, the production is still in development.[34][35][36] The film will be released on Disney+.[37]

See also


  1. Thomas, Bob (November 1, 1963). "Walt Disney Eyes New Movie Cartoon". Sarasota Journal. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  2. "Box Office Information for The Sword in the Stone". The Numbers. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  3. Kit, Borys (January 19, 2018). "Disney's 'Sword in the Stone' Live-Action Remake Finds Director (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  4. Ness, Mari (August 6, 2015). "In Need of a Villain: Disney's The Sword in the Stone". Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  5. "The Sword in the Stone is Released". Disney D23. Archived from the original on February 15, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  6. Hill, Jim (December 31, 1999). "The "Chanticleer" Saga -- Part 2". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  7. Hill, Jim (December 31, 1999). "The "Chanticleer" Saga -- Part 3". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  8. 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.
  9. Barrier, Michael (2008). The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. University of California Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0520256194.
  10. Beck, Jerry (October 28, 2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-1556525919. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  11. Canemaker, John (October 21, 1999). Paper Dreams: The Art And Artists Of Disney Storyboards. Disney Editions. p. 184. ISBN 978-0786863075.
  12. 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.
  13. Peet, Bill (1989). Bill Peet: An Autobiography. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 168–71. ISBN 978-0395689820.
  14. Korkis, Jim (November 8, 2017). "Floyd Norman Remembers The Sword in the Stone: Part Two". Mouseplanet.
  15. Thomas, Bob (December 28, 1963). "Changing Voices a Problem". Evening Independent. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  16. Hischak, Thomas (September 21, 2011). Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary. McFarland & Company. p. 176. ISBN 978-0786462711. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  17. "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.
  18. "The Sword in the Stone (Re-issue)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  19. Sinyard, Neil (1988). The Best of Disney. Portland House. pp. 102–105. ISBN 0-517-65346-X.
  20. "The Sword in the Review". Variety. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  21. Crowther, Bosley (December 26, 1963). "Screen: Eight New Movies Arrive for the Holidays". The New York Times. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  22. "The Sword in the Stone (1963)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 1, 2009.
  23. Nell Minow. "The Sword in the Stone - Movie Review". Common Sense Media. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  24. "The 36th academy awards (1964)". Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  25. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  26. " 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". June 17, 2008. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  27. " 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". August 6, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  28. First is in S 65051, according to the Inducks
  29. "Samson Hex - I.N.D.U.C.K.S."
  30. Square (November 15, 2002). Kingdom Hearts. PlayStation 2. Square Electronic Arts.
  31. Square (December 22, 2005). Kingdom Hearts II. PlayStation 2. Square Electronic Arts.
  32. 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.
  33. Kit, Borys (January 19, 2018). "Disney's 'Sword in the Stone' Live-Action Remake Finds Director (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  34. Karlston, Marmaduke (April 7, 2018). "Disney's Live-Action 'Sword and the Stone' to Begin Filming in September". FilmExodus. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  36. Christopher Marc (September 17, 2018). "Disney's Live-Action 'Sword In The Stone' Movie Adds 'Bumblebee/28 Weeks Later' Cinematographer". Retrieved October 3, 2018.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.