I admitted my nostalgia for Disney's 'Robin Hood.' The childhood memories of watching it over and over are just too strong for me to objectively point out whatever flaws it may have. I just love it because I do. 'Sword in the Stone' is another one of those nostalgically-protected memories.
If 'Robin Hood' was my favorite Disney movie growing up, 'Sword in the Stone' ran a close second. Why? Well, because of the Wizard's Duel of course. I remember watching that scene again and again. Rewinding it back to the beginning as Merlin (voiced by Karl Swenson) and Madam Mim (voiced by Martha Wentworth) counted off paces as the duel commenced. I remember being enthralled watching both of them change from one animal to the next, trying to outwit each other. I remember as a youngster being genuinely afraid of purple dragons. What a wonderfully thought out and animated sequence that is. One of Disney's best.
'The Sword in the Stone' starts from humble beginnings. Wart (voiced by Rickie Sorensen), aka Arthur, happens to be a young hapless squire at a dilapidated old castle. Merlin is sure that he'll meet a young boy soon. He needs to teach the young man about life, give him book smarts, and hopefully set him on the path to his royal destiny.
The playful spirit of the film is what makes it such a classic. I'm actually surprised that 'Sword in the Stone' wasn't considered worthy enough to get a Diamond Edition release. Instead it simply gets a 50th Anniversary release.
Perhaps the thing that resonates most with me while watching this film is that I still find myself wondering what it would be like to be a fish, bird, or even a squirrel. I remember as a kid sitting in front of the television, completely wrapped up in the idea of turning into an animal for a few hours. That's a feeling that's never really gone away, so when I revisit the movie from time to time I find myself wondering the same things. It's one of the many reasons 'Sword in the Stone' ages well. Its simple subject matter and the way it goes about portraying it, is something that can be understood by kids no matter what generation they're living in.
Like many other Disney adaptions, there are simple lessons to be learned. It's an easy way to teach kids about general kindness, following one's dreams, and thinking what life is like in someone else's shoes. But, most of all, that wizard duel is far too much fun!
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This 50th Anniversary Edition comes on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc. It also includes a DVD and Digital Copy to go along with it. The discs come in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with an embossed Disney slipcover to go with them. A code for Disney's Movie Rewards program is located inside.
Ugh! What a gut punch. The rumblings on the internet are true. 'The Sword in the Stone' is probably one of Disney's worst animated transfers they've ever produced. Usually in the pull position as far as restoration quality is concerned, Disney has laid an egg here. It's sad to say, but it's got to be said.
The 1080p high-def restoration of 'The Sword in the Stone' has left the classic movie looking more like a Disney Saturday morning cartoon. It's been scrubbed and washed clean of the grittiness that made 'Robin Hood' look authentic. Most of the movie's strong character has been done away with. In its place are big, fat black lines and artificially solid color fills. Digital sharpening at its absolute worst. Honestly, it looks like an extended episode of 'Duck Tales.' There's also a strange ghosting effect happening with the line art that is extremely distracting.
It's an overall soft, gauzy presentation. There simply appears to be little to no discernible characteristics left that would indicate that this film is 50 years old. It's one thing to preserve an old film and clean it up for restoration. It's a completely different and unfortunate thing to give it an unnecessary overhaul that leaves it looking cheap instead of genuine.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track gives us something to praise, thankfully. It isn't the most amazing high-def mix Disney has put together for an animated film, but it'll do. Dialogue is always clear through the front and center speakers. The movie's lovingly memorable songs are given ample room to please. Rear channels are a little quiet. Although, when Wart opens his palace doors trying to escape and he's blown back in by chants of "Long live King Arthur!" the rear channels pipe up with some nice surround sound activity.
Directionality works really well during the duel and the various animal scenes. Wart's scream while he's a fish swimming away from a hungry pike, travels from one side of the soundstage to the other without any problem. Hissing and crackling aren't heard at all. It's a great sounding soundtrack.
It's pretty sad that a movie as great as 'The Sword in the Stone' has received such an upsetting high-def "restoration." Apparently, not all of Disney's restorations can be borderline demo quality. I still love the film. And I get the feeling that many Disney collectors will pick this up anyway. In that case I'm marking this as a good flick on a bad disc. The video presentation is just too disappointing.