#18 The Sword in the Stone

#18 The Sword in the Stone

Animated Groundhog’s Day?

This week I cover The Sword in the Stone, based on the medieval British legend of King Arthur. The movie centers around young Arthur as he is tutored by Merlin. This is definitely a more obscure Disney film, I’d say. I think more people are familiar with the Arthurian legend of the sword and stone and Merlin and all that fun stuff, but I rarely hear people talk about the movie itself. I could be wrong though. This was actually one I watched quite often growing up – it was never one of my favorites but my mom really liked it. The Sword in the Stone was the last animated Disney film to be produced by Walt as he passed away three years after it was released.

The film rights to the movie, which is based on a novel of the same name by T. H. White, were actually purchased in 1939, but, like many projects, development was halted due to the studio working on war movies during WW2. Obviously, over the course of the next twenty years, Disney would keep The Sword in the Stone in development while they released their other films. After Dalmatians came out, Walt’s brother, Roy, actually tried to convince him to end the feature animation department and just re-release the movies they had already made every few years. Crazy right? We could have had no Disney movies after Dalmatians! That would have meant no renaissance, no…hmmm…what else would I miss? 2009 on has been pretty good…..Anyway, of course, Walt said “haha no”. And, after the success of the Broadway musical Camelot, he approved Sword to officially enter into production. Camelot, if you’re unaware, is a musical based on the same book, telling the Arthur legend through song.

This was the first animated Disney film that the legendary Sherman Brothers (the dudes you can thank for “It’s a Small World”) would write music for. They’d go on to write for Mary Poppins, as well as Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (but it’s not time for them yet!). A new animation technique called the “touch-up” was developed while Sword was being made. Reviewers had a generally warm, though far from enthusiastic, reception to the film. The consensus seemed to be that it was fun, humorous, and with great characters, but the plot and story line were lacking.

The Sword in the Stone lives on in Disney parks most notably in the form of the actual sword in the stone! In both Disneyland and Disney World it is located by the carousel, which is fitting in the former as the ride is dubbed King Arthur’s Carousel. Merlin hosts a live performance where he invites kids to attempt to pull the sword out of the stone. Now, this is actually a show I’ve never seen performed in the six times I’ve been to Disney World/Land, so I always wondered if it was still a thing but according to my research it is. If you’ve seen it done, lmk in the comments! Merlin used to be a character available to meet in the Disney parks (though doesn’t seem to be anymore). The characters have also appeared in various shows, comics, and video games. A live action remake is in development (because of course it is) with a planned release for Disney+.

I haven’t seen this movie in easily decades (wow that make me feel old to say) and don’t remember much about it, so I’m excited to rewatch and see what it’s about! Let’s watch this magical tale!

My thoughts on The Sword in the Stone

  • The director of this movie is named Wolfgang that’s hardcore
  • Singing prologue oh boyyyy
  • At least Sleeping Beauty had Tchaikovsky
  • Too much vibratro dude calm down
  • The swooorrrd in the stoooonnnneeee
  • What does pulling as sword have to do with leading a kingdom
  • England was still without a king?!! Who’s in charge then?
  • How was it forgotten? How were people not clambering to pull it constantly?
  • God let’s remake this one with a girl pulling the sword out
  • “They said no man could pull the sword from the stone, and no man did…” Girl pulls sword from stone like butter
  • Doesn’t Merlin have magic for these mundane tasks
  • So, Merlin knows what plumbing and electricity are, I’m guessing because he’s an all powerful wizard. Can he travel through time? Cuz that must suck if he knows the conveniences that will happen in the future but can’t get to them
  • Hahaha I like that play on the cuckoo clock with the owl popping out saying “who”
  • Merlin seems v confidant why is this owl so salty
  • Lmao at Merlin roasting lil Arthur “the kid is skinny, scrawny, thin small, did I mention scrawny? aint got no muscles. Can’t even lift bro. just a scrawny little fellow”
  • Archimedes go back in the clock with your shady ass
  • The ginger just told Arthur to be quiet when he didn’t say anything, it’s like a reverse Cady to Regina
  • Oh god deer hunting, Bambi flashbacks
  • Good! I’m glad the deer got away!
  • Disney movie: needs a chase scene; Animators: bring in the wolves
  • Ha freaking ha suck it Archimedes Arthur is here
  • Why would Arthur tell Merlin that people call him Wart that’s not a nickname you want going around kiddo
  • Merlin v chill about the hole in his roof
  • Archimedes mad that he got proven wrong
  • “THE Wart” the the makes it so much worse geez merlin
  • Arthur’s face at Merlin telling him he’s a wizard, like yes thank you finally a Disney character who has a realistic reaction
  • Merlin got an iPhone XR back there?
  • That’s cool that he can time travel I’m happy for him
  • So, Merlin says he can’t see everything: he can see someone is coming for tea…but not who? I feel like that’s too vague to be helpful
  • Merlin seems very cool I like him and he’s nice to Arthur who I feel like doesn’t have a lot of people who are nice to him
  • “You can’t grow up without a decent education” word merlin word
  • Merlin’s magical house is fun!
  • “Books are always first” YAS Merlin
  • I know that in the Harry Potter universe Merlin is a slytherin but here in the Disney universe, Merlin is all about education, books, general quirkiness, he’s a Ravenclaw for sure #WeGotHim
  • Merlin: “Where was I?” Arthur: “Uh…hockity pockity??” Merlin: “Ah, yes” *picks up right where he left off*
  • Hot take: this song is a jam and better than bibbidi bobbidy boo
  • Where’s the trap mix of hoppity pockity flugity woogity whatever tf
  • So Merlin and Mary Poppins have the same bag?
  • This wolf is adamant about getting Arthur
  • “Knowledge, wisdom, that’s the real power” Merlin is the smartest Disney character so far (maybe ever?) I love him
  • I rarely hear about this movie, but it’s magical and quirky and cute, why is it so underrated
  • Did Arthur just get punished for being lost in the woods? WE know he wasn’t lost but his foster dad thought he was? and the other guy let me wander off, did HE get demerits?
  • “Archimedes the highly educated owl” Archimedes the highly salty owl more like it
  • A “wizard blizzard” Merlin got jokes
  • This guy eating and totally uninterested in the sudden indoor snow HA he really said “so what”

Ector: There is a powerful wizard in here doing magic and making it SNOW INSIDE


  • I’m glad that the guy isn’t trying to like burn Merlin at the stake or something
  • Why does Merlin keep calling poor Arthur “the wart” ? Like you’re supposed to be his hype man
  • Merlin just pulled a Cheshire Cat
  • Merlin is cooky. And he messes with people.
  • I like him
  • Geez the tower has a chunk missing how is it still standing
  • I just remembered I watched the entire BBC series Merlin
  • Don’t remember much of it except Giles from Buffy was the king and Katie McGrath’s eyeshadow ALWAYS matched her outfits perfectly
  • And there was a talking dragon…I’d like to see a talking dragon in this movie
  • So, who IS this guy that’s Arthur’s foster dad? He has a big estate…is he a lord? I don’t know enough about British class history
  • Now they have a tournament? They gave up on the sword? 
  • So, if the sword was forgotten long ago why are they just NOW starting a process of finding royalty
  • Hey Alexa, play London Calling
  • Kay is totally the type to stand in a map
  • Hopefully someone gets that joke
  • Aww Arthur is so diligent. But is Merlin saying he’s the ONLY person in all of England with heart and soul?
  • “Can you imagine yourself as a fish” “That’s easy, I’ve done that lots of times” you have???
  • Merlin about Archimedes: when he’s out all night, he’s grumpy the next morning. Arthur: he must stay out every night. ZING get em Arty
  • He really should have turned him in the water
  • How do Merlin’s glasses work underwater?
  • What does being a fish have to do with his lessons
  • Oh, i guess i’m going to learn through ~song~
  • I like the lyrics to this song “it’s up to you how far you go if you don’t try you’ll never know” 
  • It’s a bit boring of a scene but good message
  • How deep is this water?
  • WhAt is that?? A barra-freaking-cuda?!
  • In an English river??!!!
  • Ah…brains over brawn is the lesson
  • Okay we gotta bring this movie BACK
  • Hmm..this brain over brawn lesson is uh not working out in practice though
  • Archimedes to the rescue! Make yourself useful
  • And…he just got himself in danger
  • Okay he got Arthur out, good job I guess
  • Hey Merlin now would be a GREAT time to turn yourself and Arthur back into humans
  • “What is a monster like that doing in a moat?” I DON’T KNOW THAT’S WHAT I SAID!
  • Uh, Arthur’s voice just changed from the last scene to this one and it sounds like he’s aged like 20 years wtf did they change actors? Did the actor hit puberty in the middle of filming?
  • Author’s Note: There were actually THREE different Arthur’s! And since there is a clearly noticeable difference, I don’t understand the point in changing the actor/voice? Like it probably would have been less noticeable if they just stuck with the first kid even when his voice changed? Or at least have the new kid re-record any later scenes that were recorded and make it seem like Arthur’s voice was changing with time/age? This director was lazy man
  • No one:
  • Absolutely no one:
  • Merlin: ya wanna be a squirrel???
  • A tiny creature with enormous problems…really? Squirrels? What problems do squirrels have
  • I always thought if I was an animal I’d be a squirrel 
  • Magic cleaning, now this is what I’d love to be able to do
  • And it’s set to fun jazzy music
  • I feel like this cleaning shortcut is the opposite of what Merlin should be teaching though…responsibility is important too
  • This lady squirrel is a stalker and stage 5 clinger
  • Damn girl don’t be so thirsty
  • Lamborghini mercy, your squirrel she so thirsty
  • He’s not interested lady!!
  • “I’m afraid you’re stuck” what Merlin! That’s not a good lesson!
  • Is this song saying, if someone falls in love with you, you just gotta accept it ? Arthur is clearly uncomfortable.
  • Merlin I was really liking you but I really don’t get the lesson for this one
  • Like really what does Merlin want him to do?…hookup with the squirrel? I’m honestly lost for this sequence
  • Especially because before Merlin was like “you look like a fish but you’re not a fish, you don’t have the instinct” and now Arthur says “i’m not a squirrel” and merlin basically replies “yeah but you look like one so act like one”
  • “There are no rules” um….stalking is definitely a NO
  • I think Merlin is trying to say that love is confusing and doesn’t make sense and you can’t control it which okay maybe for squirrels but why teach that to Arthur as a lesson because yes you can control who you spend time with and you can stop yourself from clinging onto someone?
  • Also is this movie just Arthur turning into animals? Could the animation team not think of anything else?
  • What does this have to do with the legend of the sword?
  • Is the book like this?
  • Author’s Note: The book IS like this. According to Wikipedia he gets turned into a “fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger”. So, let’s just be glad they kept it to three animals
  • Yeah, how do YOU like being stalked Merlin? Not much?
  • This wolf is still around? Why? He aint got no family? No job? No hobbies? deadbeat
  • Lady squirrel took him down wow
  • Okay Merlin yelling at a squirrel and trying to reason with it as a human is pretty funny
  • I don’t feel sorry for you lady squirrel you shouldn’t have gotten attached so fast
  • Ector and Kay have one brain cell between them
  • Black magic?? The spell is cleaning your house dude
  • “You call washing dishes and sweeping floors a work of evil?” thank you Merlin!
  • Whose this lady think she is yelling at Merlin? Archimedes make yourself useful and start clawing eyes out
  • “Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s wrong” okay, again, this movie coming through with the Good Quotes, you go Arthur!
  • Aww poor Arthur
  • But I’m glad he stood up for himself and Merlin
  • So, if he doesn’t have to worry about the squire thing, can’t he focus on Merlin’s lessons now?
  • “I shouldn’t have popped off” no you should have
  • “An education what good will that do?” “Get it first and who knows” well if that aint the modern experience
  • Merlin said get wrecked flat Earthers!!! 
  • Archimedes and Merlin seem to hate each other why do they hang out?
  • Is Archimedes really surprised Arthur can’t read? As much as Merlin likes to talk about education, he hasn’t taught him math or science or literature, just what it’s like to be a fish and a squirrel!!

He’s Arthur, 12, and he never learned how to freaking read

  • I can’t believe I’m defending Archimedes but at least he’s teaching Arthur the alphabet and how to write
  • Much better than Being Stalked By A Squirrel 101
  • Oh, here we go again
  • This movie shouldn’t be called The Sword In the Stone it should be called Boy As Various Animals
  • Less than 22 minutes left and we’ve had basically no swords in stones
  • Has a title EVER had so little to do with a film?
  • And now another dangerous animal
  • It’s the same scene, same formula
  • It’s like Groundhog’s Day with the same thing happening over and over and over except without Bill Murray or the charming script or the humor or the holiday or anything else that makes Groundhog’s Day great
  • Can Merlin use all his powerful magic to give you a consistent voice?
  • Okay Madame Mim, let’s shake things up, liven this movie up
  • These two powerful magical beings live so closely together….yet neither are known of?
  • Her sudden growth and sudden shrinkage, Alice wishes she could
  • “I can make myself uglier” “that would be some trick” WOW Arthur you are a guest
  • So is this…Morgana?
  • I like that Arthur gives props to Merlin but also….you probably shouldn’t have told the magical crazy lady that someone else is more powerful than her….
  • “I’m afraid I’ll have to destroy you” you’ll have to what now
  • This took a turn but I’m digging something new
  • Get her Merlin
  • Wizard’s duel? That sounds fun!
  • Harry Potter where you at?
  • I bet Merlin will do something more useful than expeliarumus
  • The rules are no vegetables?? Why would you turn into a vegetable?
  • You gonna attack someone as a potato?
  • It’s the ten duel commandments
  • Merlin WHY would you turn into a rabbit to fight an alligator?
  • A caterpillar?? Dude! You’re embarrassing me I’m about to put money on Mim
  • What about a bear? A wolf? A whale??
  • Are you in it to win it?!
  • Remember when that was a gameshow?
  • Wait no that was “minute” to win it
  • Did the author of this book not know of any other uses of magic besides cleaning and turning into animals?
  • I know Mim is the villain but Merlin is playing this game all wrong, all of his animals are weak and small, why?? This doesn’t make sense Merlin is smart
  • Why even bring a dragon into this? You can’t beat maleficent
  • Maleficent is Chanel, Mim is Walmart, and that’s the TEA
  • However, I did get my talking dragon so thanks Mim!
  • “I’ll peck her eyes out” Arty ready to throw hands
  • He turned into a germ…..wow, that’s genius
  • Author’s Note: When I did this watch and took these notes in early December 2019, there was no Coronavirus joke to make because it wasn’t a known problem yet…what sweet simpler times.
  • Merlin wrecked flat earthers and anti-vaxxers within 20 minutes
  • As much as I would have liked to see Merlin duel smarter, I do like that the lesson was you don’t need brute strength or to be big to win, you just need to be smart
  • What are these 2 bozos doing
  • So, Kay got knighted? Who made that poor decision
  • Arthur’s going to have a tough time with him as a knight
  • Why is Merlin suddenly so mad at him???!!! He KNEW Arthur wanted to be a squire and felt bad that he lost that dream before. Even as he encouraged Arthur to get an education, he was still understanding of his goal
  • This seems very ooc, Merlin hasn’t been petty or angry at any point in the movie. Even when Ector was being rude to him, he just shrugged it off
  • Merlin just YEETS himself to BERMUDA! Goals
  • So he doesn’t know Arthur is going to be king?
  • Why can’t Arthur study under Merlin AND be a squire? Like what does Merlin think this kid is going to ACTUALLY do with his life in medieval times? Can’t he be an educated squire?
  • On the brightside, Archimedes is being nice now
  • Arthur forgot Kay’s SWORD?! Isn’t that super important?
  • He doesn’t think it’s weird that the sword is IN the stone??
  • lmao Arthur’s just like “hmm oh this sword in this stone, perfect just what I need, nothing strange about this, I see swords in stones all the time”
  • LOVE that aesthetic spotlight that magically appears
  • I thought the sword was forgotten but it looks like it’s kept in a specific, well-kept place
  • How can Arthur prove he pulled it out?
  • Oh they’re going to put it back and pull again
  • Hahaha these jerks can’t do it
  • Ooh the spotlight comes back
  • So they’re really going to let this 12 year old rule them all?!
  • I mean, doesn’t sound wise, but go off i guess
  • Yeah, England, that’s why you’re gonna lose the war in a few hundred years when Jonathan Groff is king!
  • Yeah Kay bow down
  • “I don’t know anything about running a country” the issue with this process
  • Does Arthur not have guards?
  • Are there just…crowds chanting outside his home 24/7?? Why? haha
  • Merlin serving LOOKS: stripe shirt, palm tree plants, red chucks, STYLE
  • Whooo boy if merlin thinks the 20th century is a “modern mess”
  • So, Merlin KNEW? Then why’d he get so angry before?
  • He’s not even gonna give a “I had to leave you so you could figure it out on your own” type excuse?
  • “round table” “would you rather have a square one” haha
  • “they may even make a motion picture about you” okay movie, don’t go cheesey meta
  • Your reign will be legendary, they’ll even make a movie about you….but it won’t be about your reign at all, just that time you turned into a bunch of animals

This movie was pretty cute, if a bit silly. I think as a kid I liked it more because I didn’t realize how repetitive it was. But, Merlin was definitely an entertaining character and I loved how important education was to him. I enjoyed his lessons and songs – except the squirrel one, that still confuses me. So often in cartoons the focus is on the more physically heroic deeds, so it was really nice to see them put importance on being smart, thinking things through, knowing facts, and understanding that brute strength can only get you so far if you don’t know how to make smart decisions. Arthur was also an easy protagonist to root for – he was such a good kid who was open to learning but also wanted to work hard for his goal of being a squire. He stood up for himself and others, and I think he’ll be a good king. I’m also glad Archimedes lightened up by the end; I was ready to throw hands with that owl. I think the only thing that kind of bothered me was the lack of the titular sword in the stone, but I understand that the issue lies more with the book. What are your thoughts on The Sword in the Stone? Was this a new watch for you or are you a Sword super fan?

And, the animals just keep on coming: next week I cover The Jungle Book.

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