Besides the English setting, Sword in the Stone has another common Disney trope in that it opens with a picture of a book with some narration. This may have had some novelty value the first time they did this, and I understand that they’re trying to create a certain feeling for the story, but setting up the story with straight narration like this is very easy, and having seen it multiple times now it also feels cheap. Was it just obligatory at this point?
At least the opening narration was partly sung and rhymed this time.
Other than that, though, this film’s okay. The animation is similar to 101 Dalmatians with its slightly messy look, as in the image below, but less haphazard-looking than that film. Overall, the look of the film isn’t much to write home about, and for that matter neither is the music.
The plot is loosely based on the first part of T.H. White’s novel Once and Future King. Like the novel, we see Arthur as a boy, before it’s known that he’s the rightful king of England, and most of the story consists of Merlin tutoring him by turning him into a variety of animals and gallivanting about for a while. White tied these escapades into some more or less coherent lessons, but I’m not really sure what Arthur was supposed to be learning here. They’re entertaining to watch, for the most part, but the whole film feels rather episodic, somewhat like Alice in Wonderland, except that with Alice there wasn’t an alleged lesson the protagonist was supposed to be learning.
The film does have some good moments, at least. The owl Archimedes is pretty funny, almost tsundere, and I laughed when he encouraged Arthur to run away after being crowned king. Merlin’s spell to make the kitchen wash itself was the second-most disastrous magical cleaning attempt, after Mickey Mouse’s misadventure in Fantasia.
Overall, it’s still better than Cinderella, but never rises above the level of “good children’s film.”
Next up is the final movie in this series, The Jungle Book. Unfortunately, Netflix lists a “very long wait,” so we may have another long gap on our hands!