The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Blu-ray Review
When I was growing up we lived in the country. Not extremely rural, just a few miles outside of a small town – but we were far enough away that having cable was completely out of the question. Unlike the world today, getting to watch anything on television was kind of a treat. That meant that one of the coolest things (to me, anyway) we could get was a VHS tape from someone with whom my father worked. These tapes were just 8 hours of whatever was playing on the Disney channel. We never knew what we were going to get when we got these tapes… but one year we got a tape that had a couple of Disney movies on it, including one of my favorites, THE SWORD IN THE STONE. Having just been released on Blu-ray, I was SO excited to have the opportunity to re-view one of my fondest childhood memories. But how does it hold up? I’m happy to say it’s still a great time for adults and children alike.
Like some other notable Disney animated features from the era, THE SWORD IN THE STONE opens with storybook narration. This sets the stage in such a fun way and gets the kids in your life to ask about books, even several days after they watched the movie. Then we immediately meet Merlin, organizing his hut in the middle of a forest and preparing for a visitor, a young man named Arthur. He knows that great things are in store for this young man – having traveled to the future and seen things no one can comprehend. But what he finds surprises him – a little stick of a boy who has a wonderful heart but very little common sense. And what’s more? He wants to be a squire, and eventually a knight; so why would he want to study with this old wizard?
Merlin immediately calls his magic into play and soon is moving in with Arthur’s family; who incidentally call Arthur “Wart” – they are his caregivers but not his family. He’s never known his real family or had someone who wanted to act as his advisor, a role Merlin immediately fills with the help of his talking owl, Archimedes. The problem is Arthur, er… the Wart… still really wants to be a squire. So even though Merlin spends time changing him into different animals to teach him about the world (some of the best scenes of the film!) he eventually really wants to be accepted by the society in which he lives.
This animated cartoon is rooted in the legend of Arthur, but the vast majority of the story is actually an inventive and original tale of an older man taking a younger under his wing – almost a father/son story. And maybe that’s part of the reason this flick from my childhood has aged for me so much better than the others, but I really enjoyed just about every single second of it. The only weird moments are very near the end when Merlin actually leaves Arthur to fend for himself. Based on the character they’ve established to this point it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but Merlin’s temper IS in line with the legend.
The other thing that really stands out when I watch this movie (and others from that era) is just how timeless these films are. The animation is outdated but it is also INCREDIBLY beautiful at times. The character designs are simple but all the more effective for that. And the voice talents they got for these roles, for the entire production, are second to none. It’s been 50 years since this movie debuted in theaters, but the luster surrounding THE SWORD IN THE STONE is anything but faded. If you’re a fan I highly recommend it. If you’re a Disney fan but haven’t seen it in a while (especially if you have kids) I require that you go out and find this gem. You won’t regret it.
THE SWORD IN THE STONE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.75:1) The video presentation of THE SWORD IN THE STONE is beautiful though it is a little disappointing to see how the film has aged. The transfer to digital HD did not help the process AT ALL, some parts of the movie seem cloudy and almost out of focus. Not at all what we’ve come to expect from Disney Blu-ray, and all the more disappointing for that.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) While not nearly as bad as the video, the audio is also muddied and muffled throughout parts of THE SWORD IN THE STONE. I wish I could say more positive about it. It actually doesn’t sound as good as the DVD transfer from just a few short years ago.
Alternate Opening: Where Wart Meets Merlin (04:02) Another option for the opening of THE SWORD OF THE STONE this is not fully animated but is a really, really interesting look into the animation process at Disney. Just incredible for any fan of animated films, especially Disney pictures.
Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers (08:00) This feature focuses on the process of putting together the music sequences in THE SWORD IN THE STONE. Another feature you will enjoy if you really like to learn about the behind the scenes process.
All About Magic Excerpt (07:19) A Walt Disney feature, like you might have seen on the old MAGICAL WORLD OF DISNEY. A very cool look back for videophiles, probably something to avoid if you’re not a huge fan of THE SWORD IN THE STONE.
A Knight for a Day (07:06) This is a short featuring Goofy. The video quality is actually better than on THE SWORD IN THE STONE, which I found strange, though the audio is of lesser quality.
Brave Little Tailor (09:01) This nine-minute Disney short features Mickey Mouse and is one of the great re-tellings of the Jack and the Beanstalk story. Lots of fun and a nice addition to THE SWORD IN THE STONE as a collectible Blu-ray packaging.
THE SWORD IN THE STONE also includes a digital copy of the film and a copy on DVD.