The Arthurian legend comes to life in movie #18 in the Disney Animated Marathon!
Story By: Bill Peet
Directed By: Wolfgang Reitherman
At this point in the Disney animated marathon it’s odd to see a name in the director’s slot that isn’t Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi or Wilfred Jackson. Those three made their indelible mark on the world of Disney animation and the world at large with their work. The Sword In The Stone is the first title in a long time from Disney to not have one of those three in the director’s chair. This is also the second time for Wolfgang Reitherman in that same chair, but this is the first time he is on his own. This becomes very evident from the moment we fade into the world of Merlin, Wart and Archimedes.
The style employed by Disney previous to The Sword In The Stone was one of whimsy, and technically speaking the animation consisted of fine lines and a certain air of refinement. With the switch to Reitherman it is clear that a change is in the air and it plays out on screen. The story is more strong than whimsical, and the animation has a more unfinished feel to it. Now, before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m not saying the animation looks rushed, it’s simply a different style. When I say unfinished I am speaking to the way it looks as if the pencil trailed off of Wart’s hair, leaving the impression of blackness on the tips that comes with an unfinished style. The change in style is a tad jolting at first, but as the movie rolls along the style is easier and easier to accept, it’s still the world of Disney after all, only presented a bit differently.
Mr. Reitherman has crafted a fun and interesting world in The Sword In The Stone, but sadly he has brought forth of world that is inconsequential. Essentially The Sword In The Stone is a series of set pieces acting as life lessons, and while they are all effective in their own way the film never feels like a whole project nor does it ever feel like what you are watching matters. I found Merlin and his antics with magic, especially Archimedes, a lot of fun, but that’s as deep as the film allowed me to pontificate. I never found any real meat in the story and when the end does come I had the much maligned, “that’s all,” expression on my face.
As a turning point in the direction of Disney animation The Sword In The Stone is a very important film. As a film going experience The Sword In The Stone is a bit of frilly fun, it’s a lot like Chinese food in that regard. While I was watching The Sword In The Stone I had a good time, but I always wanted more and when it was over I was left without a contented feeling in my belly. I’m happy to have seen The Sword In The Stone and I look forward to where Disney’s animation studio will go from here, but those are the only thoughts I can muster on the film’s lasting power, and that’s not saying much.