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The Sword in the Stone
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
A minor classic from Disney, this 1973 all-animal, all-animated musical version of the familiar story is more charming than one might expect. Perhaps it's the warm, chummy take on key relationships within the legend--the way Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) gets twitterpated whenever the subject of Maid Marian (Monica Evans) comes up or the way best pal Little John (Phil Harris voicing a variation on his own Baloo from The Jungle Book) admonishes the Sherwood Forest hero, "Aw, Rob, why dontcha just marry the girl?" (Then, of course, there's the canny "casting" of the romantic leads as foxes: Robin the sly one and Marian the, well, foxy one). The rest of the vocal cast is lively and eclectic: Peter Ustinov, Andy Devine, Terry-Thomas, George Lindsey. Roger Miller provides the songs and voice for the minstrel character Allan-A-Dale. The film is ably directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, whose decades of work in Disney's animation division helped create the studio's rich legacy. --Tom Keogh