Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Sword" Is Disney at His Best

Cleveland Press December 27, 1963

Walt Disney's Christmas gift to the nation is "The Sword in the Stone," the first cartoon feature from the old master in several years, and proof again that he is just about without peer.

The film is based on T. H. White's novel of the same name. It deals fancifully with King Arthur's boyhood. "Sword" and three more novels make up White's modern classic, "The Once and Future King," parts of which also served as the basis for the musical "Camelot."

The story is a perfect one for Disney. As told by White, this is the tale of how young Arthur -- called Wart -- gained knowledge from Merlin the Magician, who took an orphan in the kitchen of a castle and prepared him to become a king.

Wart is introduced to the worlds of land, air and water by being transformed into a squirrel, bird and fish. White's story -- too erudite and spicy for the very young -- is a perfect fairy tale for adults. The Disney crew has turned it beautifully into grand fun for children and everyone else.

"SWORD" is full of rollicking good humor, of fun that's both sly and slapstick. But the film has not failed its source. There is still the bits of philosophy that Merlin, a grand and funny character, imparts to his student -- that knowledge and wisdom are power and that love is a great force.

Among the highlights in "Sword" are the underwater scenes as Wart and Merlin become fish. High in hilarity is the battle of the wizards as Mad Madam Mim and Merlin square off for a magic duel.

Merlin, the bungling, good-natured magician, and Archimedes, the wise and irascible owl, are among the all-time great Disney characters. The voice for Merlin was provided by actor Karl Swenson, Lorenzo Jones of radio for so many years.

ALL ENDS happily as young Wart pulls the sword from the stone, something no one else has been able to do, proving he is the rightful king.

Much of the credit for this entertainment should go to Bill Peet who prepared the script and Wolfgang Rietherman who directed the proper amounts of whimsy, laughs and adventure.

Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman composed six delightful songs for this. "Higitus Figitus -- Merlin's Magic Song" and "That's What Makes the World Go 'Round" are the best of them.