The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] Wolfgang Reitherman

The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] Wolfgang Reitherman
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The legend of King Arthur (a largely debated, legendary Romano-British leader said to have led a battle against invading Anglo-Saxons in the fifth or sixth century) is gleaned from a variety of texts and myths often romanticized with an exaggerative narrative that acts as a pedagogy or metaphor. Most, like the one presented in Disney's decidedly magical variation, The Sword in the Stone, are culturally ubiquitous, having the sort of basic morality-shaping tenets of biblical texts or Greek mythological parables. Seeing as this above-average Disney effort was released in December of 1963, to a populous grieving the assassination of John F. Kennedy, adapting to progressive changes associated with Civil Rights and grappling with the political arguments, and human loss, associated with the Vietnam War, the topic of knights and battle was of particular relevance. The story, which finds young Wart working as a child slave while secretly under the apprenticeship of Merlin in a kingdom without a King, revolves around the idea that someone destined for greatness will pull Excalibur from the titular stone, claiming the throne and the role of King of England. Though the peripheral narrative features an abundance of brutes — soldiers in full armour preoccupied with physical strength — trying to extract the sword via sheer force, this story is about the importance of cognizance. Wart (a skinny kid unable to read or write) thrives under the tutelage of Merlin and his educated owl, Archimedes, learning about evasion, the power of love and the slippery slopes of trust amidst exercises that find him transmogrified into a bird, squirrel and fish. The usual catchy songs and playful banter between mismatched characters — Archimedes has a type-A personality and is aghast by Wart's simplicity and clumsiness — keep everything entertaining for the intended tot audience, but what's interesting is the preoccupation with all things cerebral. War, though not an active presence in the film, is perceived as a result of simplistic thinking and a preoccupation with musculature. The lessons here, while commonplace in a modern context, are atypical in their deviation from standard male thinking. Outsmarting enemies — reiterated in the weirdly Sisyphean presentation of life, in all its animal forms, as circular, in a predator and prey capacity — and leaving them to harm themselves through blind perseverance is the essential trajectory. It's true that the only female character presented is a crazed, shape-shifting witch keen on bringing evil to the kingdom, trying to eat Wart while he's in bird form. However, given the political context and political messages flooding the airwaves from Kennedy and Martin Luther King, this seemingly incidental Disney film demonstrated the sort of forward thinking that drove the nation at that time. Though still wedged in the world of stereotypes and antiquated perceptions of gender normalcy, The Sword and the Stone proved a step in the right direction for a brand known for traditionalist, exclusionary thinking. The supplements included with this 50th anniversary Blu-Ray are minimal, having an alternate sketch opening, a vignette on magic with Disney himself and a couple of cartoons about the King Arthur myth, such as the one where Goofy plays the reluctant, unlikely hero. None of them add any dimension or context, but at least they're there. (Buena Vista)