"The Sword in the Stone" DVD Review
June 17, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Although not one of Disneyís more popular films, The Sword in the Stone was an entertaining film in its own right. The film, coming from a single director by the name of Wolfgang Reiterman debuted in theaters in 1963 and while not an immediate success, eventually found a proper home on the home video format. While I never owned this title as a kid, I do remember renting it from the local library on more than one occasion and remember always enjoying the film for what it was, even though I didnít laugh or become as caught up in the story as I did with other Disney titles.
The Sword in the Stone revolves around a medieval timeline with young Arthur, also known as Wart, being taught by a wise wizard named Merlin. Legend had it that a nearby sword that was locked in stone could only be pulled out by someone with honor, decency and inner strength and whoever pulled the sword from its prison would be able to claim the throne of England. Despite numerous attempts by traveling warriors, the sword remained in its place until young Arthur decided to try his hand at it and he, and everyone around him, was surprised at the result.
Despite the film being one of Disneyís lesser known titles, the animated feature manages to entertain throughout. The relatively laid back story is accompanied by a mixture of humorous sidekicks and songs, but while watching the film I realized there was something missing from the production that made it feel like a true Disney outing. Perhaps it was the single director taking on the task of the film all by himself, but there were no real break-up in-between acts; it felt like one solid story that went straight from point A to point B with little diversion or sidestep. Normally that would be a good thing in a film, especially one of only seventy nine minutes, but it just felt off and the general consensus around the web seems to be that Iím not alone in this feelingÖthe film simply lacks a bit of the old Disney magic.
That was a common trend with many of these 1960 and 1970s Disney Animated features, many of which arenít fresh in anyoneís minds for a good reason: they often arenít worth remembering. While theyíre entertaining in their own right, thereís simply not enough story behind them to really enthrall the viewer with not only its story but its visuals as well. The muted color pallet for The Sword in the Stone also came into play, as the subdued visuals made for a more relaxed and carefree attitude about the whole picture.
Iím sure Iím overanalyzing this now forty-five year old piece of animation and no matter how many things I find about it to pick apart, the fact remains that it is still a very solid animated effort in its own right. It isnít a Disney Classic in the same vein as some of Disneyís earlier works, but itís still very much worth checking out if youíre a fan of the company in general. It wonít astound you with originality or bowl you over in the animation department, but itís a cute little film that effortlessly entertains the viewer.
I find it odd I donít have much to talk about for this film; usually Iím able to drag out specific points from the film in my Disney reviews, but there just isnít much on this film to really pinpoint. Itís a very by-the-numbers film in every sense of the phrase, as it doesnít break from the usual formula at all and includes the usual number of songs and humorous jokes along the way. Itís certainly an entertaining film, but itís just not all that memorable, even after just watching it.
Still, if youíre a fan of the Disney works this one comes Recommended. Itís not an example of their best, but itís still a decent film and worth checking out.
For those of you who are fans of The Sword in the Stone, youíre about to be sorely disappointed by this DVD release. Despite the Disney Gold Classic Collection edition from 2001 being long since out of print, this release seems to be a direct clone of it. I donít have the original to compare it to, but all of the extras are identical to the old release, sans a new ďMerlinís Magical AcademyĒ game that is about as fun as replacing the toilet paper roll. Packaging for the release is a lot fancier than the original release, however, as this 45th Anniversary Edition boasts a reflective foil and embossed slipcover and a variety of inserts including a chapter listing, Blu-ray advertisement and Disney Movie Rewards code.
Audio and video for this release are, Iím going to assume, the same as the previous edition. Itís a very nice transfer, but there is a lot of color flickering in the backgrounds during a few of the sequences. Other than that the 1.33:1 video transfer is about as clean and clear as can be, The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix is rather subdued, focusing the dialogue on main tracks and using the surrounds only for the occasional sound effect here and there. Nothing amazing and not much to write home aboutÖsimilar to the film; I guess Disney just didnít want to put a whole lot of effort into this one. Despite the subdued color pallet, quite a few of the sequences are still impressive to look at, although youíll still see richer colors on the packaging than you will in the film.
Moving onto the extras we have a mixture of goodies to check out, all of which have been ported from the 2001 release (aside from the aforementioned new game, of course, which is really a waste of time). ďMusic Magic: The Sherman BrothersĒ (8:00) is a short extra discussing their body of works. We then move into Backstage Disney (why the ďMusic MagicĒ bit isnít under this heading, I donít know) where we get an "All About Magic" (Excerpt) (7:20), the "The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook" and "Film Facts.Ē Nothing amazing in any of those, although the ďAll About MagicĒ is fun to watch purely for the retro footage.
Finally there is a set of Bonus Shorts, with Mickey Mouse in ďThe Brave Little TailorĒ (9:01) and Goofy in ďA Knight for a Day (7:06), both of which are quite the enjoyable piece of animation to watch. Iím beginning to wish I picked up the DVD collections of these old shorts, as they really are quite the treat to watch.
That does it for this release; if you own the Gold Classic Collection release already, thereís no reason to even bat an eyelash at this one when it hits store shelves. Recommended if you donít already own a previous edition, Skip It if you do.
The Sword in the Stone is now available on DVD.