Disney meetsKing Arthur.Loosely adapted from the novel of the same name by T. H. White, which became part one of The Once and Future King.This film version was made in 1963, as the 18th entry in the Disney Animated Canon. It was Walt Disney's penultimate animated film and the last one released while he was still alive. At the start of the story, the king Uther Pendragon has died. Soon after, a sword stuck in an anvil appears in London with a message that says that the person who can remove the sword is the legitimate successor to the throne. However, no one is able to succeed at this task.Cut several years later to the main protagonist, twelve-year-old Arthur, also called Wart. He is an orphan who was taken in and raised by Sir Ector. Arthur, who is training to be a squire, is under the apprenticeship of Sir Kay, his older foster brother. One day, while accompanying Kay on a hunting trip, Wart inadvertently distracts the knight, causing the aim of his arrow to go off target, missing the deer and losing the ammo. The younger boy goes into the forest to retrieve it. While doing so, he accidentally crashes into the house of the magician Merlin. Upon meeting, the wizard declares that he will tutor Arthur, a decision that greatly changes the boy's life.The film is a well-loved part of Disney canon, and the character of Madame Mim has a very large fanbase in several countries. In the Netherlands, she appears almost weekly in mainstream Disney comics.
Arthur is called "Wart", mostly by his caretaker/guardian Ector and his son Kay.
Ector also keeps referring to Merlin as "Marvin".
Action Girl: The girl squirrel for biting the wolf who thought Wart was a nice snack.
Affably Evil: Madame Mim is cheerful, amiable, and pretty friendly when Arthur blunders into her house, and while he can tell she's unpleasant, he doesn't even realize she's dangerous until she tells him she has to kill him which she says with about as much fanfare as someone saying it's suddenly started raining.
All Women Are Lustful: The female squirrels immediately pursue Merlin and Wart as mates, while Madame Mim even sort-of attempts to seduce Arthur of all people. The only female character in the film who doesn't deliberately attempt to seduce someone is the scullery maid.
While it's far from the only adaptation to do so, this sets King Arthur in medieval England, about a thousand years after King Arthur is supposed to have lived. It's particularly glaring when "England" is mentioned as the setting—England only came into existence because Arthur and other Welsh kings failed to stop the English from taking their land.
There's also Merlin's comment about helicopters (see Analogy Backfire), which shouldn't exist yet. However, this case is in-universe, because Merlin can see into the future.
Analogy Backfire: Merlin teaching Arthur that swimming like a fish is like flying a helicopter. Arthur doesn't know what he means. Merlin, realizing what he said, told him to forget it.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Sir Ector punishes Wart for claiming Merlin turned him into a fish, even though Ector knows full well that Merlin is a wizard and has seen him cast snow and disappearing spells.
Artistic License - Biology: While it is true the female squirrel chooses a mate, the mate is chosen among a group who wish to court her, and she is the one to be chased. Furthermore, squirrels do not have one mate for life; the male leaves before the birth of the babies. Then again, we wouldn't have this adorable scene if it followed that to a T.
Merlin does not like the martial aspect of English nobility.
Likewise, try pissing off Ector by coming up with (in his view) extremely far-fetched excuses for ducking out on your kitchen duties, or trying to defend Merlin's behavior, and you'll send him flying off the handle so far that you'll be doing dishes for the entire castle.
Big Bad: The Marvelous Mad Madame Mim is an aversion; she has only one scene and is not involved with the other scenes.
Department of Redundancy Department: One Wizards' Duel rule is that there is no disobeying the rules. The next rule is that there's no cheating. It's a justified case as Merlin was asking for clarification on the idea of rules: "Rule three: No Disappearing [teleportation/intangibility]" "Rule four: No Cheating!" If Mim was throwing out rules, he wanted to make sure she obeyed them as Archimedes himself warned she was only creating rules so that she could break them (which she did).
Digital Destruction: The 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray suffers from digital smearing and some out-of-focus shots.
Disney Villain Death: Subverted. Madame Mim plummets screaming off a cliff and into a bog to her apparent doom, trapped inside a tree with seemingly no hope of escape, to similar effect as the Evil Queen falling off the cliff in Snow White, but instead she pops up moments later having turned herself into a purple dragon.
Eccentric Mentor: Merlin has some odd ideas and odd behavior and they are especially odd to someone like Wart, whose only known kitchen duty.
Possibly an unintentional example; when Merlin overdoes his cleaning spell and it messes up the castle, the angered Sir Extor and servant woman call him an "old goat". Later towards the climax of Merlin and Mim's wizard's duel, an old goat is exactly what Merlin turns himself into.
The opening of the film shows a wolf, hawk and squirrel in the forest.
The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: ...and Merlin knows about indoor plumbing, Bermuda and Helicopters. It's played with in that the creators seem to be going with T.H. White's concept of Merlin living through time backwards. Merlin himself reveals that he's seen "centuries into the future" and that he's even been there. What's the best way to portray that in a children's film, apparently? Have him spout wacky anachronisms!
Given Name Reveal: Subverted; in the novel Wart's name isn't revealed until the very end of the first book, after he's been crowned king. Here he introduces himself as "Arthur, but everyone calls me the Wart."
Heroes Want Redheads: Inverted with Wart's encounter with the female squirrel who, according to Merlin, is a redhead. In Great Britain, a red squirrel is considered native wildlife and a gray squirrel is considered vermin.
Heroic BSOD: Arthur undergoes a minor one after losing his chance to become Kay's squire.
Hopeless Suitor: The two amorous squirrels who fall for Arthur and Merlin. Whereas the old lady squirrel who chases after Merlin is Played for Laughs, Arthur's girl squirrel companion is done so as well until the end where it... isn't.
Human Traffic Jam: The line of Merlin's belongings going into the bag during the "Higitus Figitus" sequence.
Humiliation Conga: When Ector and Kay try to interfere with the magically-animated cleaning implements, an assembly line of slapstick ensues.
Kay is implied to have at least a few gold flecks. At the end when his father demands he bow to Arthur, Kay does so sullenly at first... then after looking at him, does so sincerely.
Ector, who is rather quick to apologize to Arthur for the way he's treated him. He also shows worry and remorse at the beginning of the movie, when he is worried that Wart is dead.
Archimedes may be a cynic, but he genuinely cares about Wart and sticks with him even when Merlin blasts himself off to modern-day Bermuda over Wart being chosen as Kay's squire due to circumstances beyond Sir Ector's control.
Jump Scare: Arthur peeks around the log to see if the pike is gone, sighs in relief, looks the other way...
Kissgusting: Wart and Merlin wipe their faces after their respective squirrel mates kiss them.
Late to the Punchline: Merlin after Wart's admittedly rather brilliant joke about Archimedes "staying out late every night".
No make-believe creatures like pink dragons, so Mim turns into a purple dragon, it's still make believe, but she doesn't care. (Unless, dragons do exist in this world, just not pink ones; note that Wart mentions slaying dragons as an activity one would perform as a knight.)
Merlin one-ups her on this magnificently - while there's a rule that says "no turning into plants or minerals" he turns himself into a germ - which is neither - to infect her and win the duel.
Love at First Sight: Both the young squirrel and old squirrel go through this upon meeting Arthur and Merlin respectively and try to earn their mates' affection.
Love Hurts: One of the most heartbreaking examples. The girl squirrel really loved Arthur and immediately starts sobbing in confusion and grief when he reveals himself to be human.
Wart has this look when he realizes he has broken the little female squirrel's heart by turning back to his human form. This scene was such a Tear Jerker for some fans that some have attempted Fix Fic where Arthur asks Merlin to turn her into a human. This spawned a good handful of art that is dangerously adorable.
Sir Ector has his moment when he realizes that Wart is the new King of England
Never Say "Die": In the Wizard's Duel, Merlin and Mim are trying to 'destroy' each other.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Wart is a strange case. By the sound of his voice changing radically throughout the movie, it would seem as though time is passing and he is growing older, but he doesn't seem to physically change at all, making it seem as though they couldn't keep a steady voice actor (indeed, Wart is voiced by three different voice actors: Rickie Sorenson, Richard Reitherman and Robert Reitherman).
Parental Favoritism: Ector's partiality to Kay is somewhat justified by the fact that Arthur/Wart is only his foster child. While he could stand to be nicer to Arthur, he's not really mean either... more just strict and demanding, which seems to be his personality in general. In fact, at the start of the film, he's berating Kay for letting Arthur go off into the woods by himself. Kay may be the favorite, but Wart at least isn't The Unfavourite.
Society also played a role in this. To be a knight in that period, you must be of noble birth. Kay is, Arthur isn't, so Kay gets all the combat training and respect. Playing second fiddle to him as a squire is the best Arthur could hope for by law.
Pet's Homage Name: Merlin's Familiar is an owl named Archimedes, for the ancient Greek mathematician.
The bearded knight and Sir Pellenore, who protest at multiple people trying to pull the sword out together, and insist that Arthur be given a chance to pull out the sword (again).
Merlin himself, who teaches Wart all sorts of valuable lessons that would normally be closed to Wart (although Merlin does have irrational moments, they're few and far between, hence he's still this trope).
Stock Footage: Disney was suffering financially while this film was being made, so there's a substantial amount of recycled animation. For instance, Kay trips in the exact same way when chasing Arthur at the climax that he does when chasing him into the woods at the film's beginning. Merlin's "pack all the house in the bag" spell is recycled for his "clean the dishes" spell, and Kay's eating a chicken leg during Merlin's arrival is repeated thrice in the same scene.
Take That: Some see the character of Madame Mim (who hates sunshine) as one to critics who disliked the light tone of Disney's films.
Talking Animal: Archimedes. People who are transformed into animals keep their ability to talk. Interestingly, the girl squirrel, for all her incoherent chatter, says one line of understandable human dialogue, "Oh no!" when her beloved Arthur is in danger of falling to his death.
Ten Paces And Turn: During the Wizard Duel. Madame Mim proceeds to break this protocol like every other rule she made for the duel such as "no teleporting" and "no cheating".
Through a Face Full of Fur: Or rather through a face full of scales/skin in her case as a dragon and then in her normal form, Madame Mim. One of the side effects she has is changing into various colors (including red from hot flashes and blue from chills) before stopping at green and breaking out in red spots, thanks to Merlin infecting her as a germ.
Title Drop: The last line of the opening song, and Sir Ector exclaims "It's the Sword in the Stone" when he reads the first few words of the titular blade's inscription and realises what it is.
Tsundere: Archimedes has shades of this. He's insulting and bad-tempered, but seems to genuinely have affection for Arthur, so much so that he risks his life to save him from the pike when Arthur is transformed into a small fish.
The Unintelligible: The girl squirrel. She only squeaks and chitters emotionally. However, she mutters an "Oh no!" when she sees Arthur about to fall from a breaking branch.
Vain Sorceress: Mim defies this trope. She says she could be beautiful if she wanted to be, and in fact, does change herself into such a form as it it were a parlor trick. Then she admits that such a form is only skin deep and she's happy being ugly.