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The Sword In The Stone (DVD)

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Genre: Children's DVDs - Disney / Theatrical Release: 1963 / Director: Wolfgang Reitherman / Actors: Sebastian Cabot, Rickie Sorensen ... / DVD released 03 June, 2002 at Walt Disney Home Video / Features of the DVD: Animated, Dubbed, Full Screen, PAL

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    6 Reviews
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      21.09.2013 19:10
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      A different twist on a classic tale

      This Walt Disney classic was one released in 1963, but has aged well. I was never into the Disney princess film, and as a child more interested in wizards, knights, and adventure, this was one of my favourites. Based on the book by T.H. White, 'The Sword in the Stone' follows the adventures of the young Arthur, known as Wart, and the wizard Merlin, up to the point where Arthur pulls the sword from the stone, and becomes king of England.

      The film begins in true fairy tale fashion, flicking through the pages of a book which sets the scene; after the death of Uther Pendragon, there was no heir to the throne, and so it was decided that the king would whosoever could pull the sword from its stone. However, as the years passed, no one could manage it, and so the sword was gradually forgotten...
      The scene cuts to a little cottage in a forest, where Merlin, a blue-robed, long-bearded wizard is drawing water from a well. He is preparing for the arrival of a guest, he tells his owl, Archimedes, and proceeds to show Archimedes this guest through a magic smokescreen. We cut again to Wart, a twelve-year-old orphan out hunting with his foster brother, Kay. Wart wants to be a knight, but of course that isn't possible for someone of his station, so he will settle for being a squire. At the moment however, he is the joke of the castle, doing the chores, and acting as Kay's page. In his excitement at the hunt, Wart causes Kay's arrow to go astray, and he runs into the forest, promising to retrieve it. It is in the cause of this quest that he manages to fall through the roof of Merlin's cottage. Merlin declares that he has great plans for Wart, and accompanies him back to the castle. He must be educated, not in the knightly pursuits, but in history and science, despite Archimedes claims that this will only confuse the boy! Merlin's lessons take on the form of transformation into animals, such as fish and squirrels, to give Wart a chance to see how the world really works. However, Wart's guardian Sir Ector, and Kay, are none too pleased at this change in the Wart's education. When news arrives that a tournament is to be held in London to decide who will be king, Wart is desperate to go and be Kay's squire, but Merlin's influence is putting this in jeopardy...

      Even re-watching this when older, it is still a fantastic film. The animation seems fairly dated now, but the hand-drawings only add to its charm, in my opinion. The characters are great, slightly caricatured perhaps, but in a comedically loveable way. Merlin is a wonderfully bsent-minded old wizard, who is nonetheless incredibly wise, Wart is the innocent, but with a bit of spark that shows he has the potential to become the great King Arthur. There aren't really any villains; Madam Mim is of course evil, but only appears for one sequence, where she oozes a cheeky malevolence. The nearest the film gets to an arch-nemeses are Kay and Sir Ector, but they are not nad, merely misguided. My favourite character by far is Archimedes, the 'highly educated owl', who is grumpy, but soft at heart, and steals almost every scene he's in. Despite professing a profound dislike for the Wart, he is secretly rather fond of him, and helps him out on a number of occasions.
      Everyone who has heard of the legend of King Arthur will know how the film ends, but the delight is in getting there. Rather than being a continuous plot, the film is composed of a series of set-pieces; the scene when they become fish, when they become squirrels, when they face Madam Mim, etc. Each of these is a delight in itself, and is often laugh-out-loud funny. My favourite part if when the pair are pursued by amorous squirrels, who do not realise that their chosen mates are in fact humans, and Merlin and Wart's attempts to thwart the females are particularly amusing!
      The songs here aren't quite as memorable as in some Disney films, but are still quite catchy, though I would have preferred a few more of them.
      Overall, a brilliant film. It doesn't have any particular deeper meaning or morals to it, but it is great fun, with brilliant characters, and some incredibly funny parts, that adults will enjoy just as much as their children.
      My DVD is the 45th anniversary edition, and the extras include Merlin's magic game, some animated short films, and song selection.

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      17.03.2010 14:22
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      Overall, another timeless classic from Disney

      This is yet another Disney animated feature length classic that I would recommend to anyone and all ages. Disney make some great movies and this is another one that is fantastic and made in the sixties before all teh computer generated movies like Toy Story. In fact a long time before. That's what makes these old animations even better.

      This particular Disney offering is all about the legendary story of how King Arthur actually became King. It charts how Arthur from when he was young ascended to the throne of England. It is a simple and enjoyable tale.

      It all starts with the narrator recounting the history of the Sword in the Stone. The old King died and there was unfortunately nobody to succeed him on the throne. This is all happening as war is about to break out. However, at this time a mysterious sword appears stuck in an anvil and has an inscritpion on it. That inscription reads: 'Who so pulleth out this sword from this anvil is rightful King of England.' But unfortunately try as they might nobody is capable of pulling out the sword and the country is thrown headlong into the dark ages.

      It is at this point we are introduced to the character of Merlin. He is an old eccentric wizard who has made it his mission to turn a clumsy boy by the name of Arthur into a young man worthy of becoming the next King.

      And so Arthur's education begins under the watchful eye of Merlin and his trusted Owl, Archimedes. He and Merlin go on a wondeful journey together which begins with Arthur being turned into a fish and he and Merlin have to survive being eaten by bigger prey in the moat.

      From there he is turned into a squirrel and a bird in turn and has to learn the ways of the world. From there we eventually see Arthur led to the sword and the rest is history as we know.

      It's not the most famous Disney movie ever made but the songs are great in the movie and it's also quite a short animated film. I found it to be a very easy movie to sit down and watch though. This movie will appeal to all ages whether you're a Disney fan or not.

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      27.07.2009 08:39
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      Arthurian legend receives the Disney airbrush

      King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. There are now dozens of takes on Arthurian Legend, from Mallory to Monty Python and from Keira Knightley to Sean Connery. Interpretations range from dark tales of old Gods (Excalibur and Marion Zimmer Bradley's 'Avalon' novels) to the jaunty adventures of wacky knights in anachronistic armour (Camelot and the afore-mentioned Monty Python film). There have been books, films, TV series and computer games (Level 9 computing's text adventure Lancelot being a personal favourite). Many are horrendously free and easy with their source texts, but all are colossal fun. Even if Arthur never existed in any of the forms we tend to see him, it's an excellent mythology.

      But my problem is that whenever I'm trying to engage myself in these adventures (and I was at one time a moderately keen Arthurian enthusiast), two of the main characters take on different shapes in my mind's eye. Noble King Arthur, last seen as a Roman general snogging Keira Knightley, has something decidely sparrow-like about him and Merlin, whether talking guff about 'the Dragon's breath' or being trapped in crystal caves or talking to a John Hurt dragon underneath a castle... well, there's always something a little BLUE about him.

      Yes, my introduction to Athurian legend, and indeed cinema, was Disney's 'The Sword in the Stone'. It was showing on a double bill with a worthy B-movie about disabled children called 'The Pigeon That Worked A Miracle'. I mostly remember getting really annoyed at the number of adverts before the film, crying at the trailers because I kept thinking each one was the actual film. It's something of a surprise that my parents ever considered taking me back into a cinema, to be honest.

      First released in 1963, The Sword in the Stone sees young Wart living a bit of a Cinderella-style existence under his fairly kindly father Sir Ector and his loutish brother Kay. Wart is a floppy-haired little blonde moppet, and after a few vague misadventures, he's taken under the wing of the wise wizard Merlin.

      Merlin is there to educate Wart for some reason, and all of his lessons seem to involve turning Wart into animals so he can almost get eaten. The point of all this is, to be blunt, never made entirely clear, but it makes for lots of wacky animal adventures that succeed in disguising the fact that Disney can't really draw people.

      Thrill as Wart evades pike in the river as an orange fish, breaks hearts as an orange squirrel and flits about amusingly as a little orange bird. It's undemanding stuff, to be honest, but quite a lot of fun, mostly due to the interaction between Merlin and his talking owl Archimedes (well there had to be a talking animal sidekick somewhere, it's Disney).

      Perhaps realising that all this fun is a little light on the drama stakes, Disney throw in a set-piece in the form of a wizard's duel between Merlin and Madame Mim, a nutcase who lives in the woods and eats small boys. Shifting shapes frantically, this display of magical one-upmanship is won in a fantastically sneaky way by Merlin. It demonstrates a cunning kind of lateral thinking that really inspired my own mischevious scampish ways.

      The film's message is broadly that brains are better than brawn and that cunning and intelligence will solve your problems much more effectively than brute strength and physical violence. To a somewhat short four year old, this was fantastic news.

      Merlin is also a fantastic character. He's somewhat displaced in time, and occasionally jumbles up cultural references. His colourful language is a joy - his cry of 'Blow me to Bermuda' sounds really rude to kids but isn't really. In the best tradition of cartoons, Merlin is supposedly a 'wacky' character, but as is so often the case this does fall a little flat. He comes across more as a kindly but stern grandfather. He might be happy to join in childish games with his young charge but he's not to be trifled with and gets quite scary when the cook crosses him. All I can really remember about my original trip to see the film was something about fish and the cook screaming that she'd better not ever see him in her kitchen again and Merlin scowling coldly, 'Madame, you won't' as though she was something he'd scraped off his shoe.

      But it's not all great, to be honest. The animation has slipped several notches from what we'd call Classic Disney (ie, Snow White and Fantasia) and there's a sense that it's a bit of a pale retread of past glories. This is made most obvious when Ector and Kay find a kitchen of plates washing themselves. It's not a patch on the mops of doom from Fantasia OR the various domestic scenes of Snow White or Mary Poppins. There's very little drama aside from the wizard's duel and very little suspense as we know right from the start who Wart is going to become.

      Perhaps, and this is an odd one for a Disney film, part of the problem is sticking too closely to the book. Plotwise, The Sword in the Stone is remarkably faithful to T.H. White's novel of the same name. And the magic of that novel is in the character quirks which are inevitably dumbed down. Madame Mim can't possibly be the horrific child-eating figure from White's source text (in the book she sings about using Kay's 'soft skin for crackling'). The bawdy songs must be cut out, and you can't possibly have Wart and Kay fighting naked in their bedroom.

      So once you've stripped away the dodgier content, you're left with some fairly uninvolving adventures with animals that will only get the youngest of pulses racing. A dose of Disney 'magic' and a few more fights and things would have added a great deal of interest.

      The songs are rubbish too, but then I was never impressed by Disney songs.

      Overall then, The Sword in the Stone is a Disney cartoon that entertains in spite of its very obvious shortcomings. It's unexciting, but quite charming. It's badly-drawn but well characterised. And it has a talking owl.

      So if you get fed up of the latest CGI family film or it's raining over the summer holidays (as seems fairly likely thus far) and the kids are bored, you could do far worse than stick on this film.

      And maybe one day I'll let you know the truth behind the pigeon that worked a miracle.

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        20.07.2009 23:03
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        A classic Disney feature animation from 1963

        Sword in the Stone is a 1963 Disney feature animation, and tells the tale of the legendary King Arthur and how Disney feels he became King, relating it to a mysterious sword that is stuck in stone. All heroes and knights have tried to pull the sword from the stone, as legend decrees that whosoever does so successfully will be crowned the next King of the land.

        Naturally, no one has succeeded, but the wizard Merlin, a very jovial chap (takes tongue from cheek...), sees something great in the boy Arthur, and persuades Sir Ector to take him in as a squire to the knight's son, Kay. A big, brutish fellow, Ector believes Kay will be something important one day as opposed to a great big dumb brute. Yeah, dream on, Ector.

        And yet, the film hardly features the sword, or Ector, very much, choosing instead to focus on Arthur's antics with Merlin. The sword business is almost a byline, and is only really brought up when Merlin forgets Arthur has been sent to Ector for a reason.

        Such fun and frolics with Merlin and Arthur often involve the wizard's main skill - turning himself and others into animals. We get scene after scene as they are first birds, then squirrels, and other such wildlife, with Merlin's pet owl, Archimedes (a very learned owl, don't you know) for company, constantly the voice of reason in their ears, often to funny consequences.

        As a result, because it's not really so much of a serious film, the action, characters and entertainment are engrossing, particularly for the kids. My son loved it, and he's 5. If anything, the bits with Sir Ector and Kay and the sword, etc, couldn't really hold his attention as well as the funny bits while they're animals, and this, perhaps, is a big thumbs up for the Disney crew that put these ideas into action 45 years ago or so.

        The animation itself is quite good, with the Disney style very typical of the era it was filmed in. I believe it has recently been remastered, and this would naturally make the viewing experience somewhat enhanced, although I, for one, am happy to have Disney's work as it was originally done.

        There is not really a lot to fault with this one. Sure, you don't quite get the special effects and clever attention to detail that you may get from Pixar's involvement with Disney in recent years, but you get the innocent and simple magic that made the company so hugely successful in comparison to other animation studios. They have always been one step ahead of the game, and this is pretty much where they are likely to be for a while. Their animations are timeless, and Sword in the Stone has all the magic of a 1940s cartoon such as 'Pinocchio', just as much as a 2000s one such as their latest offering, 'Up'.

        One to recommend for its sheer fun and great characters.

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          09.03.2009 15:48
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          Essential lesson in life from the wizard Merlin

          This is a superb Disney film from 1963 that hasn't aged badly at all despite all the Computer animation in recent years.

          I enjoy this one just as much as recent ones, and along with Robin Hood, I just wish Disney had made more of these....

          Basically, Disney took some of the great ideas and characters from TH White's book 'The Once and Future King', and made them v. accessible and lively here, in this short but sweet feature, based BEFORE King Arthur pulls the legendary sword from the stone.

          Merlin and his owl Archemides are real lovable characters, and the script is entertaining for adults and children. Vintage Disney.


          I hadn't realised just much actual wisdom is buried in Merlin's lines, but that's also thanks to the famous, mature book this is based on.


          I don't know how much 'learn by experience' wisdom that Merlin teaches us here, I actually took in as a kid, but I can see the intention was really to make a memorable and entertaining 'lesson' in life. The actual book (which I've read) is actually a pacifist exploration, if I remember right.


          The use of animal characterisation is first-rate, and the evil characters are not really evil, and just genuinely humourous and silly.


          Essential.

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          16.11.2008 16:11
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          Its a great film for adults and kids

          Having found out that Zavvi were doing buy one get one free on Disney DVDs I decided that I would buy this and also Robin Hood.

          They are my favourite childhood disney films and also I got a student discount of 10% and had a voucher for £6 so only ended up paying about £8 for 2 dvds which I thought was good.

          The Sword in the Stone is based on a book and has a lot of great characters. My favourite is Merlin as he is hilarious and he still makes me laugh all these years on.
          Basically it is a fairytale where Arthur is treated badly by his adopted family. They make him do all the housework and his main aim in life is to be a squire for his big brother.

          Then he stumbles across Merlin who wants him to learn lessons and so they go on many adventures that all have the same message: Use your brain not your brawn and you will go far.

          One of my favourite moments is when Merlin manages to get his whole house into one small suitcase, singing a song as he goes.

          I think you all know the ending but I wont say just in case. The story has some serious and some hilarious moments but its great for kids to learn a lesson whilst not really realising it. Also the voices are great and the DVD is a lot better quality than the original video that I had when I was younger.

          Its not as well known as things like Aladdin and the Lion King but in my opinion it has some lovely music and songs to sing along to.

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        • Product Details

          As far as Disney is concerned, The Sword in the Stone was a portent of things to come, with slapstick upstaging storytelling, and cultural in-jokes substituting for wonder. Based on TH White's beloved novel The Once and Future King, this Disney version chronicles King Arthur's boyish adventures. There's much to enjoy here as coach Merlin the magician shows the young Arthur, nicknamed Wart, the skills that will help him become the future ruler of the Britons. The transformation sequences, where the boy is turned into a fish, a bird and a squirrel are vintage Disney. The oft-repeated scene of Merlin battling it out with mean old Madame Mim still is worth a few chuckles, but it underlines the problem with most of the film--most of its scenes are only played for laughs. References by Merlin to television and other items of modern life also mar the generally innocuous landscape. Younger children will like it, while older kids will find it slower compared with recent Disney films. --Keith Simanton, Amazon.com