The Sword In The Stone
"Who so pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of England." So says the plaque affixed to a mysterious sword that miraculously materializes after the good King passed away, leaving no heir to his throne. Despite the apparent simplicity of the task, the years pass by and still no man is able to accomplish it.
Yet the magician Merlin (voiced by Karl Swenson) is not concerned, for he has seen the future. While sometimes befuddled, the soothsayer is convinced he knows who the next monarch will be, and is busily preparing to be his tutor. When the soon-to-be sovereign finally does drop in--the candidate is a mere boy.
Even though he is young, Arthur-- more commonly known as Wart (voiced by Rickie Sorensen, Robert and Richard Reitherman), aspires to become a squire to a Knight in training named Kay (voiced by Norman Alden). But Merlin knows he has far greater potential than that. Gaining the grudging approval of Wart's guardian, Sir Ector (voiced bySebastian Cabot), Merlin sets out to educate his pupil using some unconventional methods.
These include turning the good-natured child into various animals. As Wart tries on the life of a fish, a squirrel and a bird, the movie's storyline breaks into a series of vignettes. In each case the wizened wizard hopes valuable knowledge will be imparted. Unfortunately, just like the magician himself is oft confused, so are his messages. The power of love gets tangled up in the antics of some flirty tree dwellers, and the importance of education is downplayed by the use of magic to save the day. Even the supremacy of brains over brawn, which is carefully crafted between the scrawny Wart and the buffoon Kay, loses its impact when Wart's forgetfulness proves to be the deciding factor in his fate.
Although The Sword in the Stone contains few content concerns,such as mild name-calling, some medieval fighting portrayed in a comical fashion, and a stealthy wolf (who will only intimidate the youngest of viewers), the film still falls short of Disney's usual proud accomplishments. Other drawbacks include problems with an aging actor which forced the production team to cast more than one voice to play the part of Wart (anyone particular about continuity may find this rather irritating), mediocre animation, and a disjointed plot containing sequences that stand better alone.
One of the best examples of this is the now famous duel between Merlin and the wicked witch Madame Mim (voiced by Martha Wentworth). During the war of the wands, each party is allowed to turn into a creature to combat their rival's choice. This showdown offers the movie's strongest teaching moment: Who so watcheth this film, may he learn that survival of the fittest includes living by your creative wits.