Guest Author - Gillian Buchanan
The Walt Disney film version of T H White's book “The Sword in the Stone” was produced by Walt Disney (though he is not mentioned in the film credits) and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman in 1963. It's another of Disney's excellent cartoon creations, though not always consistent and it is odd that the boy Walt has an American accent. After all he will become an English king and is supposed to be the son of one.
Much of T H White's book is not in the film and the Disney film changes The Wart's position at home to something of a pariah, rather like that of Cinderella. In fact, Sir Ector even in T H White's book treated him like a second son. Omissions from the book that I found disappointing included the scenes with Robin Hood, which could have been great fun, and much more could have been made of Sir Pellinore.
Let's go to the film. Merlin's character is superb, and so is Archimedes the owl. The favouritism of Kay over The Wart and Sir Ector's character was something that did not seem at all right to me. What was also not made clear was that some of the adventures with Merlin actually included both children in the book, who were much closer in age than is apparent in the film.
That said, it's still a most enjoyable film. The characterisations are on the whole rather fun and I loved the fish adventure and the squirrel adventure. The battle with Madam Mim is absolutely terrific and the whole family was glued to the TV screen, grandparents and all, when we watched this with the children! The scene with the pulling of the sword from the stone is also well done and there are some entertaining lyrics in between. I loved the way Disney handled the animations for Merlin's magic!
This film has aged well and is an enjoyable introduction to the legends of King Arthur for young children. I took the opportunity, once the film was over, to explain to my nephews that Merlin had taken The Wart as a baby to Sir Ector, who adopted him into his family and who actually was very kind to him. However that part of the story is not mentioned at all in this film and neither is it necessary to know in order to watch it.
T H White actually wrote five books around the Arthurian Legends. This film is based on the first book; nowadays they are available as one volume, known as The Once and Future King. The Sword in the Stone itself, however, is also available as a separate book aimed at children, so it isn't necessary to buy the longer version in The Once and Future King if you want to read or give the book to a child.