Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Extras: ’All About Magic’ Featurette, ’Music Magic’ Featurette, ’Brave Little Tailor’ Cartoon, ’A Knight for a Day’ Cartoon, Production Photos, Film Facts, Sing-Alongs
Focusing on young Arthur’s (Rickie Sorensen) formative years under the tutelage of Merlin (Karl Swenson) the wizard, the film is somewhat rambling in nature and omits most of the well-known King Arthur mythology. Without these familiar touchstones to guide the viewer, the task falls to the writers to provide an engaging story that makes the legend their own. Unfortunately, this is not the case and the film suffers greatly from this lack of direction. That’s not to say that "The Sword in the Stone" is without its charms. The adversarial relationship between Merlin and the haggard old witch, Mim (Martha Wentworth), is quite funny and the animation frequently inspired. But, much like "The Black Cauldron," the film has all the trappings of an enjoyable, medieval adventure but instead fails to connect with audiences.
Audio is offered in a brand new <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 English mix as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mixes. Unfortunately, the audio hasn’t held up as well as the video. The 5.1 remix is really just a standard stereo soundtrack with some of the musical score added into the surround channels. Dynamic range is rather limited and the quality of the track is marred by hiss and the occasional sound drop-out. It isn’t bad audio by any means and is about what one would expect to hear for a film of this vintage but the advertised "remastered in 5.1" line leads one to assume that a little more in the way of restoration had been done. The foreign language tracks are mono mixes split between the two front speakers and are rather flat and lifeless.
First up are number of very entertaining featurettes. "All About Magic" originally aired on television in 1957 and is hosted by Uncle Walt himself. The black and white program lasts for forty minutes and offers a nice overview of the use of magic and illusion in Disney animated productions. Snippets from many Disney favorites are used as examples and the show is a lot of fun.
The next featurette is entitled "Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers" and showcases the brothers’ work on "The Sword in the Stone." The best parts of the program are the two musical numbers performed by the brothers that never made it into the completed film.
The DVD also features some brief film facts and production photos as well as kiddie sing-alongs for the musical numbers "Higitus Figitus" and "That’s What Makes the World Go Round."
Since more than a few of you are more interested in the included shorts than the main feature itself, here’s a brief overview of each. "Brave Little Tailor" is a presentation from 1938 and surely ranks up there as one of the best-loved classics of animation. The story of a boastful Mickey Mouse who must make the most of his fine tailoring skills to defeat a giant and win the hand of the princess is a real fan favorite. The quality of the short, however, is only so-so. Colors are pretty decent and the image detailed but the source materials look to be in rough shape with many blemishes and even a strange effect in which the backgrounds almost seem to be melting in an upward direction. Audio is pretty poor as well with lots of distortion and hiss. I suppose we should just be thankful that these old classics survive at all and not nit-pick too much over their relative quality. Just be glad to have it on DVD — and uncut to boot.
The second short stars Goofy in 1946’s "A Knight for a Day." While not in the same league as "Tailor," this cartoon is in noticeably better shape. Brave squire Cedric is suddenly thrust into his master Sir Loinsteak’s place in a joust against the feared Sir Cumference and, once again, the hand of a princess is at stake. Featuring the period humor and wordplay common to 1940’s entertainment, "Knight" offers up a bit of retro fun. The image here is in decent shape although there are still a fair number of blemishes. Audio is improved as well with a balanced, non-distorted, sound.