Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Sword in the Stone (1963)

The Sword in the Stone

Growing up, I was never the big kid in the school yard. I was never on sports teams in high school and spent most of my younger years solidly at the “geek” level of the public school hierarchy. As such, The Sword in the Stone was always one of my favourite films since Disney, it seemed, empathized with my position.

The Sword in the Stone, after all, is more than a morality tale. It’s about how to grow up well and be a good person. It’s about recognizing those powers that are greater than you, and those which are not. Merlin, the greatest wizard on the planet, turns young Arthur into three animals to demonstrate these lessons. The second lesson, which he spends as a squirrel scampering about the trees, teaches him that love is a power greater than anyone can control. “[Love], I’d say it’s the greatest force on Earth,” Merlin says at the end of the lesson.

The other two, spent as a fish and a bird, result in the exact same lesson: brains will always triumph over pure muscle. At the conclusion of the bird lesson:

Arthur: You were really great, Merlin. But you could have been killed.
Merlin: It was worth it, lad, if you learned something from it.
Arthur: Knowledge and wisdom are the real power.
Merlin: Right you are, Wart. So stick to your schooling, boy.
Arthur: Oh, don’t worry, I will, sir. I will. I really will.

And while being chased by a giant fish in the first lesson, Merlin asks the boy “But did you get the point?” and Arthur replies “Yes, yes! Brain over brawn!”

To a kid busy editing the student newspaper and running the A/V club, I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw this film.

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One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

They’ll have a dalmatian plantation.

After a brief foray into fairy tales again, Walt jumps right back to another film about dogs. He’s also back to another reliable tradition: adaptation. The subject matter this time is Dodie Smith’s 1954 children’s novel One Hundred and One Dalmatians. (Although, Ms. Smith is likely more remembered for her 1948 novel I Capture the Castle, Dalmatians was loosely based on the author’s personal experiences.) The crux of the story is simple: Cruella de Vil, a London heiress, kidnaps, er dognaps, a litter of dalmatian puppies so she can skin them and use their fur to make a coat. When the puppies’ parents, Pongo and Perdita, finally track down their babies, it’s revealed that Cruella has been stealing puppies all across the city and there are now 99 missing pups in total.

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Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Once upon a dream, Briar Rose meets her prince.

Sleeping Beauty is a unique production in the Disney canon. The first time a single artist was given total control over the look and feel of the entire production, the angular lines, static backgrounds and minimalist dialogue are inspirations from medieval art, and would never be repeated again by the studio, despite their success.

Briar Rose, or Princess Aurora, is barely present through most of the film. Her first line in the film is spoken at the 19 minute mark, and 20 minutes later she speaks her last line. In fact, she’s second only to Dumbo for fewest lines spoken by a title character. Instead, despite the film’s title, the vast majority of the story centres around the three fairies trying to protect the young woman and in so doing undo the curse of a vicious sorceress.

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