Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Disney's "The Sword in the Stone" and Stuff
December 25 of this year will see the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Walt Disney's The Sword in the Stone, adapted from T. H. White's original book. This was the last animated feature premiered in Disney's lifetime, and I have always felt that it has never had the popularity that it deserves. The timing of the movie was, perhaps, unfortunate: President John F. Kennedy (who for many people had embodied the spirit of "Camelot" inspired by Lerner and Loewe's play and film adapted from White's Arthurian material) had been assassinated only a month before, and few people were in the mood for light-hearted fun. It has always had a warm spot in the hearts of many Fantasy fans, however, sometimes even more so than Disney's straight-out fairy tale movies: for many it is their first introduction to the genre and to the "Matter of Britain."
Compared to other Disney properties, The Sword in the Stone has had little marketing or off-shoots. A film whose main theme is education ("Knowledge and wisdom are the true power!") and not adventure, and which is firmly set in a past and a tradition, might not have a great deal of room to play around in. The main break-away character was Madam Mim, who as a witch might live for centuries, and whose wacky and unbalanced nature could really stir the pot. She appeared in a few comics as a not-so-wicked villain, sometimes in cahoots with Uncle Scrooge's nemeses, the Beagle Boys. Merlin has turned up here and there, but never as a main character . In the Kingdom Hearts games, he is the trainer in magical practice. As for the Wart, who turns out to be King Arthur, he is absolutely nowhere on the popular culture map. He might have had better luck being a Disney princess.
But back in 1963 (the year that I was born!) there was plenty of advertising and marketing and hope and tie-ins to be found. Here are a few items I have gathered that were scattered around (mostly on eBay). Before there was any VHS or DVD, this was how you remembered movies and brought them home with you. The world was different then, my children.