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Western Animation / The Sword in the Stone

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"A legend is sung of when England was young,
And Knights were brave and bold.
The good King had died, and no one could decide
Who was rightful heir to the Throne.
It seemed that the land would be torn by war,
Or saved by a miracle alone
And that miracle appeared in London town:
The Sword in the Stone."

Disney's take on Arthurian Legend.

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. At the start of the story, the king Uther Pendragon has died. Soon after, a sword stuck in an anvil atop a large boulder appears in London bearing the words "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise King born of England." However, no one is able to succeed at this task, and the throne lies vacant, awaiting a King.

Cut several years later to the main protagonist, twelve-year-old Arthur, an orphan who was taken in and raised by his foster father, Sir Ector. Usually called Wart by his adoptive family, and training to be a squire, he 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 Wart, a decision that greatly changes the boy's life.

Notably, this film was Walt Disney's penultimate animated film and the last one to be released during his lifetime; he would die three years later during the production of The Jungle Book (1967), which wouldn't see release until ten months after his passing.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Merlin and Wart both find themselves with unwanted attention when they're squirrels. The one who falls for Merlin is portrayed as comical when Merlin resumes human form, angrily retreating to her lair and shaking her fist at Merlin. The one squirrel who falls for Wart is drawn to be extremely cute, and instead of being portrayed as comical, she's portrayed as heartbroken and sympathetic when she learns that Wart is really a human boy.
  • Abusive Parents: Sir Ector considers himself Arthur's foster parent, but he treats him more like a servant, piling on more and more chores and punishing him for things as trivial as Merlin enchanting the dishes and telling "crazy fish stories". To be fair though, this was probably lenient fathering considering the time-period.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Ector keeps referring to Merlin as "Marvin".
  • Action Girl: The girl squirrel for biting the wolf who thought Wart was a nice snack.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Wart can't help but smile at Merlin's beard getting caught in his doorway and then poofing up.
    • At one point, Merlin explains to Wart that when Archimedes stays out all night, "he's always grumpy the next morning." Wart snarks that the owl must stay out every night, eliciting a laugh from Merlin.
    • Archimedes bursts out laughing when Merlin gets a toy plane tangled in his beard so that it crashed into the moat below.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the original book, both Sir Ector and Sir Kay were much more complex and sympathetic. Ector was stern towards Wart and Kay, but not mean, and he truly cared for their welfare and actually wanted Wart to have a tutor to educate him, and was even proud of him well before he pulled out the sword; Ector was also on much better terms with Merlin, to the point that he was as distraught to see him leave as Wart was. Kay could act like a jerk, but he had a justifiable reason, since he suffered from an inferiority complex and Sibling Rivalry with Wart. The movie throws out most of their sympathetic qualities and plays up their flaws in turn — Ector is almost a 180 in personality, becoming a bossy, demanding and judgmental disciplinarian who is against Wart being educated because it would mess up his rigid schedule, while Kay is reduced to a one dimensional bully who hates Wart for no good reason.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: While it's mostly glossed over, the Storybook Opening implies that King Uther was The Good King and that his death resulted in the Dark Ages with his absence. In Arthurian Legend, Uther had Merlin disguise him as a Duke to cuckold him and giving the resulting bastard child (Arthur) to Merlin to hide the indiscretion. As far as we know, this version of Merlin hadn't even met Uther.
  • Adapted Out: The original book had Robin Hood (renamed Robin Wood for the story) as a character Wart and Merlin encounter. The Questing Beast and Sir Grummore are also cut. Wart and Kay's quest to rescue some people from Morgan Le Fay's Castle, the encounter with the Giant Galpas, the Hawks' initiation, and Wart and Merlin going into an ant colony are also removed from the film adaptation.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Unfortunately for Wart, throwing the girl squirrel's tail over her head and pushing her only made him more desireable for her.
  • All Women Are Lustful: The female squirrels immediately pursue Merlin and Wart as mates, while Madam Mim even sort-of attempts to seduce Wart of all people. The only female character in the film who doesn't deliberately attempt to seduce someone is the scullery maid.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Wart and Madam Mim, with her turning into a cat to eat him up while he's a bird, until Merlin intervenes.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Whenever a person is magically transformed into an animal, they keep the color scheme of their clothing (yellow and brown for Wart, blue and gray for Merlin, pink and purple for Madam Mim).
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sir Pellinore speaks in a slight feminine voice and wears pink clothing.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • 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 Anglo-Saxons from taking their land. To be fair, this was all prevalent in "The Once and Future King," which was heavily based on Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, where the first line refers to England.
    • 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 (and even travel) into the future.
    • Without exception, all the knights in the film wear full suits of steel plate armor, which wouldn't become common until the 1300s and 1400s (it took the introduction of the musket to make chainmail completely obsolete).
  • Analogy Backfire: Merlin teaching Wart that swimming like a fish is like flying a helicopter. Wart doesn't know what he means. Merlin, realizing what he said, tells him to forget it.
  • And the Adventure Continues: King Arthur takes the throne and Merlin takes his place as his advisor, leaving a lot yet to be told.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Some of Merlin's furniture, most memorably the tea service.
  • Animorphism: Merlin turns himself and Wart into a fish and squirrel, and later turns Wart into a bird, while Madam Mim turns herself into a cat to try and catch him; during the Wizard's Duel that follows, the two sorcerers change themselves into various animals.
  • Anti-Villain: Ector isn't evil, but he's still more often than not a bossy, condescending jerk to both Wart and Merlin and very strict and demanding, and he's more than willing to quickly add on extra chores to Wart's schedule for even the smallest slights, and giving Wart loads of menial labor to do with only a degrading squire position to look forward to, even if it's something Wart wants, is not portrayed as a good thing. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston also point out in their book The Disney Villain that if Wart had stayed under Ector's thumb for the rest of his life, he would have gradually degenerated into the cynical bully that Ector's son Kay is.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Sir Ector punishes Wart for claiming Merlin turned him into a fish (and being tardy on top of that), even though Ector knows full well that Merlin is a wizard and has seen him cast snow and disappearing spells. There's also Ector accusing Merlin of practicing black magic for doing something as innocuous as making the castle dishes clean themselves. The latter is lampshaded by a baffled Merlin when Ector is grilling him.
    Merlin: "You call sweeping floors and washing dishes an act of evil?"
  • Arc Villain: Since the film is at-heart a Coming of Age Story, the various antagonists are relegated to being One-Scene Wonders.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The portrayal of the pike in the castle moat as a Super-Persistent Predator straddles the line: northern pikes are famously aggressive and territorial, but they are primarily ambush predators, not pursuit predators. The fish would also be unlikely to survive Arthur's Palate Propping strategy with the arrow without serious injury, let alone snap the arrow by biting hard enough. That said, they get some other stuff right: there's relatively little vegetation in the moat, which tends to correlate to larger pike (smaller pike need more cover to protect them from other pike, whereas larger fish can afford to reduce their cover for a clearer field of vision).
    • 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.
    • Madam Mim calls Wart a sparrow when she first discovers him, despite the fact he looks nothing like one and instead resembles a domestic canary which originates from the Macaronesian Islands, and not the British Isles.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The film recites the age-old myth that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth was flat. In reality, the Ancient Greeks discovered that the world was round thousands of years before, and this knowledge carried into the Middle Ages.
    • As with most works of Arthurian legend, including the book it was based which was openly anachronistic, the setting is reminiscent of the Late Middle Ages. Assuming he was a real person, the mythical King Arthur lived at the turn of the 6th century – the very beginning of the Early Middle Ages. Knights, castles, and jousting wouldn't even exist for hundreds of years. See Anachronism Stew above.
    • Related to the previous point, it is mentioned by Sir Ector that Kay will be "knighted" on Christmas Day so he can compete on the tournament by New Year. But the tradition of knighting as we currently understand it came about during Charlemagne's reign, at least 2 centuries after Arthur's own reign. Back in that time, any nobleman able to afford armor and weapons could call himself a knight. Unless the inference of "knighting" him was that he'd receive his armor and sword as a Christmas present from his father.
  • Asshole Victim: The wolf who lurks around the edges of the film, looking for creatures to devour, is reduced to a Butt-Monkey.
  • Attractive Bent Species: The girl squirrel who falls in love with Wart.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad:
    • Madam Mim certainly believes this, as illustrated in the below quote:
      Madam Mim: I suppose Merlin sees some good in you.
      Wart: I suppose so...
      Madam Mim: Yes, and in my book, that's bad!
    • Even Merlin can't help riffing on this: "You should recover in a few weeks, and be as good... I mean, uh, as bad as ever!"
  • Bag of Holding: One of Merlin's magic spells can pack an entire house in a single baggage. It's a Justified Trope since the bag has normal capacity—it's the items themselves that shrink down in order to fit. Lampshaded by Merlin himself: "Well, just a minute boy, well, how else would you get all this in one suitcase, I'd like to know."
  • Because Destiny Says So: Merlin only decided to be Arthur's teacher because he foresaw that he would. He didn't know it would be Arthur specifically, nor does he give any other reason.
  • Being Human Sucks: Merlin threatens Archimedes to transform him into a human if he doesn't do what he says. Archimedes answers that Merlin won't dare but Merlin re-announces this threat. Archimedes finally complies.
  • Beleaguered Assistant:
    • Wart is this to Kay for much of the movie because he's a page boy. He's not better treated when promoted to squire.
    • Poor Archimedes... assisting the bumbling old wizard can't be easy.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Mim does not like sunshine.
    • Merlin does not like the martial aspect of English nobility.
    • Sir Ector does not like his rigid routines being tampered with. He threatens to throw out Merlin on his keister as soon as he meets him just for proposing the idea of tutoring Wart. He only relents when Merlin displays his magical prowess.
    • 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 given hefty demerits, be doing dishes for the entire castle, and eventually lose your chance to become squire and see it off to someone else.
    • When Wart's self-proclaimed squirrel girlfriend finds her beloved in danger, watch out.
  • Big Friendly Dog: The castle hounds, Tiger and Talbot. When Wart is brought home by Merlin, they run over to him, tackle him and lick his face. Wart himself doesn't seem to mind, laughing happily at their affection until Sir Ector yanks them away.
  • Bowdlerise: Two examples of this happens with the Latin American Spanish dub, one of them related with one of the voice actors:
    • In the scene when Sir Ector found out that Merlin could use magic to manipulate objects during the famous kitchen cleaning part, he cursed Merlin by calling him, in the original release, "Maldito viejo brujo" (You damned old wizard). This was edited in later version with "Malvado viejo brujo" (You evil old wizard). Keep in mind "maldito" (damn) isn't even considered a strong profanity in Spanish, and it's considered at worst as a childish insult there.
    • In a political related one, the European Spanish release of the film during the its original release in the 1960s was forced to change its name to "Merlin el encantador" (Merlin the Enchanter) for some reason, and it also it forced Disney to keep the original credits in English, rather than using the ones from the Latin American version.note  This is because Madam Mim's voice actress, Maruja Sen, was a Spain-born voice actress who moved to Mexico as a result of the Spanish Civil War, and the Francisco Franco's regime refused to gave her a credit in a movie dubbed by her in her own homeland.
  • Black Knight: Sir Bart, the knight at the tournament in black armor, is the first to demand Wart be given a chance to prove he took the sword out, thus subverting the typical take on this trope.
  • Brains and Brawn: Merlin definitely believes this, looking down on Ector and Kay for pursuing a knight's trade he considers meatheaded. Though he's the loudest voice in the movies, Wart ultimately chooses a life that is somewhere in between the two.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • What happens to Wart's cute little squirrel admirer when she discovers that he's not of her kind.
    • Wart himself starts to cry when standing up for Merlin costs him a chance at being Kay's squire. He then cries again when he finally gets the squire position by luck and Merlin sarcastically congratulates him, pointing out he's nothing.
  • Broken Aesop: The film tries to have a "Knowledge is the real power" message delivered by Merlin to Wart both throughout the film and in the ending, but almost nothing in the film supports it because Wart is a Pinball Protagonist who has no control over anything that's going on around him, and his problems are almost always solved by Merlin's magic anyway despite Merlin saying magic can't solve all his problems (even if they do unwittingly tend to cause as many hardships as they solve, Merlin is basically doing the real work for Wart, even if he sincerely is trying to make a point to him) and he doesn't even get his happy ending by using anything he learned from Merlin—in fact, Wart ends up doing the exact opposite of what Merlin wanted by willingly accepting a degrading position as Kay's squire instead of focusing on an education. It was by sheer luck that he ends up going to London and turns out to be the one worthy of pulling out the sword, making him King of England right then and there.
  • But Now I Must Go: Merlin blasts away to Bermuda. When Wart asks if Merlin ever comes back, Archimedes only answers, "Who knows? Who knows anything?"
  • Butt-Monkey: The poor wolf in the opening that tries to pick an easy meal out of Wart and Merlin only to be forced to give up on its prey out of pure exhaustion as a result of Merlin's near-fatal absent-mindedness.
  • Call of the Wild Blue Yonder: Wart mentions wishing he could fly, so Merlin turns him into a bird so he can live out his dream.
  • Call-Forward: In the Wart mythos, Wart had a tragic love with Guenivere. Merlin tells Wart about the perils of love after the misadventures with the girl squirrel, and how love can be a greater force than gravity.
  • Canon Foreigner: Madam Mim is mistaken as one of these by those who have only read the collected version of The Once and Future King. Her part was eliminated from that edition, but she is present in the original.
  • Canon Welding: Retroactively, the film was established as canon to the Disney comics universe, with an apparently immortal Madam Mim becoming a recurring character in present-day Duckburg, and Merlin making a couple of appearances.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Mim delights in being evil to the point of trying to kill Arthur for the principle of the thing rather than any other reason.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Whenever Wart stumbles or falls it's accompanied with the same "Whoa... what? WHOA!" This happens seven times during a fairly short movie.
    • Archimedes has "Who? Who? What?" whenever he's woken up.
  • Cats Are Mean: Mim, when she turns herself into a cat and later on, a tigress during her Wizard Duel with Merlin.
  • Children Are Innocent: Part of Merlin's motivation. He wants to teach Wart some valuable lessons an adult in medieval England wouldn't be receptive to.
  • The Chosen One: He doesn't quite know what exactly, but Merlin knows Wart is destined for something.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Merlin's transformations are always blue, Wart's are orange, Mim's are purple.
    "Did I say no purple dragons!"
  • Compressed Adaptation: The film adapts a fairly dense 210-page book into an 80 minute movie with lots of musical numbers eating up its runtime, so naturally much of the book was left out. The moral messages and major subplots like King Pellinore chasing the Questing Beast and Arthur meeting Robin Hood/Wood and Morgan le Fay for the first time got removed entirely, Merlin turns Arthur into only three different animals rather than six, and pretty much all of Sir Ector and Sir Kay's character development was dropped in favor of making them a Disney-typical abusive family. Oddly enough even though Madam Mim was in the film T. H. White's later versions of his book drop her.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Both Merlin and Mim during their duel, though in Merlin's case he does it while sticking to the rules. Chicken Mim tries to eat caterpillar Merlin? Merlin turns into a walrus and squashes her. When Mim gets stuck in a tree as a rhino, Merlin quickly changes into a goat and headbutts her into a chasm. Mim then turns into a dragon and proceeds to smoke Merlin out of his hiding spots as smaller animals.
  • Comically Missing the Point: See Bag of Holding, above: Merlin can't see how else one could pack.
    • Wart asks what a wizard's duel is.
      Archimedes: Oh, it's a battle of wits. The players change themselves to different things in an attempt to destroy one another.
      Wart: D-D-De-Destroy?!
      Archimedes: Just watch. You'll get the idea.
  • Control Freak: Sir Ector's autocratic personality makes him distrustful of anything unusual or out of order in his castle, hence his very tough treatment of Wart and his skepticism and later outright hostility towards Merlin when he believes Merlin practices black magic.
  • Cool Old Guy: Merlin, the time traveling wiseman.
  • Dangerous Backswing: As Sir Ector charges to attack the enchanted dishes, he raises his sword over his head and strikes Kay on the head with the backswing. Fortunately, it simply bonks Kay instead of cutting him.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Sir Bart is a Black Knight, yet is by far one of the most reasonable knights, standing up for Wart and giving him a chance to pull out the sword.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Archimedes is brusque and rude to Arthur because the boy mistook him for a "stuffed owl". Over the course of the movie, however, we see he comes to care for the boy; he saves a transformed Wart from a pike, at the risk of drowning, and happily teaches him to fly. Archimedes also makes a legitimate point when taking over Wart's lessons: the kid was literally taught nothing, so he needs to know the basics first. When Wart reveals he can't read or write, Archimedes guides him through the letters. He also stays with Wart when Merlin blasts himself to Bermuda.
  • Demoted to Extra: King Pellinore who becomes In Name Only as he bears little resemblance to the book and is only a knight.
  • 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).
  • Deus ex Machina: Late in the film, Hobbs, whom Ector had handed the position of squire to after Wart lost his chance for it, abruptly comes down with a nasty illness, forcing Ector to make Wart into Kay's squire after all. One would think it was Merlin's doing at first, but in the following scene, Merlin makes no mystery that he is not happy about Wart becoming a squire.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Heaven didn't consider that no one alive at the time of the miracle would be worthy of pulling out the sword, thus everyone forgot about it, and the ruler-less dark ages ensued.
  • Digital Destruction: The 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray suffers from digital smearing and some out-of-focus shots. Fortunately, some digital retailers, such as Disney+, present the movie without these problems.
  • Disneyfication: In T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone, young Wart's education by the wizard Merlin contains powerful moral lessons that will help the young man face his future role as King Arthur. The Disney version throws away all of the moral messages and replaces them with (admittedly sometimes very good) visual gags.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted. Madam 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.
  • Distinguishing Mark:
    • Merlin's transformations always have his glasses and a blue tinge. Most of them even keep his facial hair to various degrees.
    • Mim's animal transformations always have her messy hair and (for the most part) are predominantly pink (except her dragon form, which is purple due to her Loophole Abuse regarding that form).
  • Diurnal Nocturnal Animal: Archimedes is an owl, one of the most nocturnal animals there is, but is active during the day probably because Merlin is. He is however often shown napping during the day (or at least trying to), and after Merlin mentions that Archimedes is always grumpy after he's stayed up all night, Wart snarks that Archimedes must always be up late since he's always so grumpy. He is probably right, and it would explain his terrible mood since Merlin is keeping him awake during what should be his regular sleep hours.
  • Divine Intervention: After the King died without an heir, Excalibur miraculously appeared. The film openly calls it a miracle, and with the Rays from Heaven it gives off when Arthur touches it, this implies it to be the case.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: The female Squirrels who harass Arthur and Merlin are clearly wanting to mate with them.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Merlin has some odd ideas and odd behavior and they are especially odd to someone like Wart, who's only known kitchen duty.
  • Elephants Are Scared of Mice: During the Wizard's Duel, Merlin turns himself into a mouse to scare Mim-the-Elephant. She deals with this by coming back a moment later as a tiger, and then a snake.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Arthur is called "Wart", mostly by his caretaker/guardian Ector and his son Kay. He doesn't seem to mind it that much, though, and Merlin and Archimides call him that as well (despite the fact that he gave them his real name before saying "But everyone calls me Wart"). Ector only says his real name after he pulls out the sword.
  • Epic Fail: Kay loses a jousting match to an immobile dummy.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Archimedes may be grumpy and ill-tempered, but even he thought that Merlin's words went too far when calling Arthur out for not pushing himself for more better things.
  • Evil Counterpart: Madam Mim is this to Merlin; evil magic user.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Madam Mim sings a Villain Song about herself complete with dancing and shapeshifting. Merlin is far more restrained.
  • Evil Is Petty: When Mim finds out that Arthur was Merlin's ward, Mim turns into a cat to try and eat him because Merlin might see some good in him.
  • Evil Redhead: Ector and Kay aren't really evil, but they act as antagonistic to Wart as any stern dad and jerky older brother can be expected to be.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: The sword is never said to be Excaliburnote : it's just always called the Sword In The Stone.
  • Exact Words: "No mineral or vegetable, only animals," and "No make-believe things, like, oh, pink dragons and stuff." So saith Madam Mim, who turns into a purple dragon instead of a pink one. This is a blatant violation of the spirit of the rules, but by this point Mim doesn't care. Then Merlin one-ups her by turning into a germ, which also strictly abides by the stated rules (Mim tries to call him out on violating the "no disappearing" clause, but as he points out, germs are only very, very small, not strictly invisible).
  • Fair for Its Day: Discussed In-Universe; Merlin scolding Arthur for wanting to be a squire instead of pursuing an education is meant to represent a modern-day viewer complaining about this scenario... however, Merlin greatly ignores the context of the time period the story's set in, where there were not a lot of options for impoverished orphans like Arthur. As far as Arthur is concerned, he's just lucky to be a squire at all.
  • Fair-Play Villain: Played with. When Mim has Arthur trapped, she offers to give him a sporting chance... not much of one. But when she goes up against Merlin, no holds are barred.
  • Familiar: Merlin's owl, Archimedes.
  • Fantastically Indifferent: When Merlin conjures a blizzard in the castle, Kay acts as though he's seen it already.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Madam Mim is cheerful, amiable, and pretty friendly when Wart 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.
  • Feathered Fiend: A hawk tries to eat Wart when he's a bird.
  • For the Evulz: Madam Mim commits evil because she herself is evil. There is no Evil Plan.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone remotely familiar with the Once and Future King books or Arthurian Legend they're based on knows that Wart is going to be the one to pull the sword out of the stone in the ending. As a result, Disney doesn't even treat it as a spoiler—the cover art for home video releases of the movie outright show him pulling out the sword.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Possibly an unintentional example; when Merlin overdoes his cleaning spell and it messes up the castle, the angered Ector 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.
    • Recalling that an illicit love affair is what ultimately brings down Camelot, hearing the precognitive/time travelling Merlin reflect upon how love is a force greater than even gravity is both sad and mildly chilling.
  • 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!
  • Giftedly Bad: Kay would certainly have to be to lose a joust with a practice dummy and injure himself in the process.
  • 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."
  • Gratuitous Latin: Like in a lot of Western Fantasy, much of Merlin's spells are cast using Latin words associated with the spell in question or at least ''latin sounding'' words. If Merlin can't remember the words, he would ask Archimedes.
  • Great Accomplishment, Weak Credibility: Sir Hector and the rest of the knights who attended London's tournament initially find the idea of a scrawny kid like Wart lifting the legendary sword Excalibur next to impossible. It's only at the request of Sir Pellinore and Sir Bart that Wart is given the chance to prove he's the rightful heir to the throne of Britain.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Wart is naïve and innocent, but has a good heart that allows him to pull the sword from the stone.
  • Happily Ever Before: The movie ends at the start of Wart's reign, with many years of chivalry and majesty yet to come. The tragic end of that story is barely even hinted at.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: The squirrel girl’s story can be seen as this. Though Merlin claims that her infatuation with Wart is largely instinctual, she’s anthropomorphized enough to come across more like a naïve school girl falling head-over-heels for the first boy to catch her fancy. Given how it all ends, it basically says that you shouldn’t get too emotionally attached to your first crush when you barely even know them, since things might not be as they seem, and you’ll be in for a lot of heartbreak.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Merlin, upon returning from a holiday in twentieth-century Bermuda.
    "And believe me boy, you can have it! One big modern mess! Alakazam!" (changes back into his regular outfit)
  • 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: Wart undergoes a minor one after losing his chance to become Kay's squire.
  • Hidden Depths: Archimedes actually makes more progress with Arthur's education when he insists on taking over from Merlin. He finds out that the reason why Wart is confused with the concepts Merlin is describing is that he doesn't know how to read or write. Archimedes then drills Wart with the basic alphabet and corrects him when he writes "G" backward. It's implied he kept up the education after Merlin blew himself to Bermuda.
  • Hopeless Suitor: The two amorous squirrels who fall for Wart and Merlin. Whereas the old lady squirrel who chases after Merlin is Played for Laughs, Wart's girl squirrel companion is done so as well until the end.
  • Human Traffic Jam: The line of Merlin's belongings going into the bag during the "Higitus Figitus" sequence suffer this when the sugar bowl takes offense at the tea pot knocking off its lid.
  • Humiliation Conga: When Ector and Kay try to interfere with the magically-animated cleaning implements, an assembly line of slapstick ensues.
  • Hypocrite: Merlin tells Wart that magic cannot be used to solve all his problems, even though he uses his magic to do just that.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Merlin finds Wart's plight of being harassed by a lovestruck female squirrel hilarious...until a much older and fatter squirrel falls in love with him.
      Wart: Merlin, I'm tired of being a squirrel. It's nothing but trouble.
      Merlin: Oh, you got trouble!? Look at my- uh, look back there!
    • Also, during the Wizard Duel, after Merlin changes into a walrus to squash Mim, the latter changes into a elephant and calls the former a "big blimp!"
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Wart would much rather be a squire than play apprentice to an eccentric old man (even if said old man is proven to be a wizard); later, he finds being King to be extremely overwhelming. Fortunately, Merlin convinces him that he'll be a great ruler.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Madam Mim's beautiful form is mundanely impossible because she used magic to achieve it.
  • Insult Backfire: Madam Mim's "Thank you, my boy, but that's nothing" response when she says that she takes delight in the gruesome and grim and Wart comments "That's terrible."
  • Interspecies Romance: An unintentional example with Merlin and Wart as squirrels. They attract the affections of two female squirrels, both who aren't too pleased to know that they were crushing on humans.
  • Ironic Echo: when we first see Mim, she's heard Wart coughing and gleefully speculates that someone may be deathly ill. She's considerably less thrilled when the ill one is her, thanks to Merlin.
  • It Only Works Once: Averted. Kay makes the argument that anyone can pull the sword out once it's been pulled. While perfectly logical, the miracle is still in effect (as other knights can attest).
  • It Will Never Catch On: When Merlin predicts the invention of manned flight.
    Archimedes: If man were meant to fly, he would've been born with wings!
  • Jerkass:
    • Kay comes off as a Jerk Jock older brother.
    • Ector, occasionally. As shown when he gives Wart more chores for defending Merlin.
    • The frog in the moat, who kicks Fish!Wart around and does so again when they hide in the same hole to escape from a pike.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Kay is a dismissive jerk to Wart, but he does have a point about testing the sword ("Anyone can pull it once it's been pulled."). Fortunately, Kay is Instantly Proven Wrong - once re-inserted, the sword is as immovable as ever, until Wart tries again.
  • Jerk Jock: Kay is one appropriate to the time period, with jousting and other tournament sports. The idea that Wart wants to be one as well hits Merlin's Berserk Button.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Kay is implied to have at least a few gold flecks. At the end when his father demands he bow to Wart, Kay does so first with a sullen scowl... then after looking at him, does so sincerely.
    • Ector, who is rather quick to apologize to Wart 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 and have a horrible opinion about humans, but he genuinely cares about Wart and sticks with him even when Merlin blasts himself off to Bermuda. He takes up teaching Wart to read and write and jumps in to teach him how to fly when he's turned into a bird actively encouraging him. And despite his protestations he clearly risks his own life to save Wart from being eaten by the pike and later by the hawk.
  • Jump Scare: Wart peeks around the log to see if the pike is gone, sighs in relief, looks the other way...
    • Less scary example, Wart in squirrel form hides in a tree from an angry woodpecker and the girl squirrel. He peeks out to find she's nowhere to be found. Guess who pops up from inside the same tree next to him?
  • Kid Has a Point: When being called out by Merlin for choosing war games over education, Arthur was right when he says that being Kay's squire is the only thing he has left because for an orphan like him in the era he's in right now, he doesn't know how to move forward in life and he's lucky to have something than nothing.
  • Late to the Punchline: Merlin after Wart's admittedly rather brilliant joke about Archimedes "staying out late every night".
  • Latin Is Magic: Merlin's spells are always in Latin, some of it real, much of it made up like "Higgitus Figgitus". When he asks Archimedes for a specific spell, he refers to it as "that Latin business."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After making light of Arthur's being harassed by a girl squirrel, Merlin finds himself in the same situation.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Merlin talks to Wart about his future legacy:
    Merlin: Why, they might even make a motion picture about you.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • 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" and "no disappearing" (which Mim herself broke at the start of the duel anyway) 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 Wart and Merlin respectively and try to earn their mates' affection. Then it gets Deconstructed when Wart and Merlin return to their human forms.
  • Love Hurts: One of the most heartbreaking examples. The girl squirrel really loved Wart and immediately starts sobbing in confusion and grief when he reveals himself to be human.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Merlin's cottage is filled with devices of strange purpose and function.
  • Magic Versus Science: Defied. Merlin is a wizard, alright, but he is quite knowledgeable about science; special mention goes to him using his knowledge of germs and disease to infect Madam Mim (which weren't widely accepted to be the cause of disease until the 1850s!). He even outright tells Wart that magic can't solve everything. In the end, it seems that a combination of the two can give one an advantage in life.
  • May–December Romance: Subverted. The poor girl squirrel who is at best a teenager in squirrel years has no idea that the squirrel she has fallen for is actually a prepubescent human boy.
  • Messy Male, Fancy Female: Wart and Merlin as squirrels have scruffier, much more messy looking fur on their tails and cheeks, whereas the female squirrels that pine for them have cleaner, much smoother fur.
  • Misery Builds Character: Ector is tough on Wart for this reason, especially since as Wart points out to Merlin, he has no parents, no lineage, and no legacy. The medieval world is tough on boys with no social status.
  • Modest Royalty: It's implied Merlin wants to teach Wart to be this sort of king.
  • Monster in the Moat: The moat of Sir Ector's castle is inhabited by an enormous and very aggressive pike. Merlin, having transformed himself and Arthur into small fish to explore the moat, initially uses it to teach Arthur a lesson on out-thinking his opponents, but when the pike doesn't take the hint, Arthur ends up having to be plucked out of the water entirely by Archimedes the owl. It's a downplayed example, though, since the pike is only dangerous to Arthur in his fish form.
  • Mood Whiplash: Two for the price of one. The sequence of sudden mood changes at the end of the scene with the squirrels runs thus:
    • The girl squirrel is cheerful and amorous until Wart becomes human again and breaks her heart.
    • Then comes the hilarity of Ector and Kay trying to fight off the "possessed" kitchen.
  • Morphic Resonance: Whenever a person is magically transformed into an animal their face will remain the same. The Wizard's Duel is considered one of the best examples of this sort of thing ever in animation - no matter what shape they take, Mim always has her crazy eyes and mop of hair, and Merlin always has his mustache/beard and glasses. Everyone also keeps the color scheme of their clothing, resulting in many instances of Amazing Technicolor Wildlife.
  • Muggle in Mage Custody: In spite of being The Chosen One, Wart/King Arthur has no magical powers of his own, and he is tutored by the magician Merlin.
  • Mundane Utility: Merlin uses his magical abilities to have the household chores do themselves so Wart can go out adventuring with him.
  • Musical Chores: The Mundane Utility example uses music.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Wart has this look when he realizes he has broken the little female squirrel's heart by turning back to his human form.
    • Sir Ector has his moment when he realizes that Wart is the new King of England.
  • Never Learned to Read: When Archimedes instructs Wart (AKA Arthur Pendragon) to read a large stack of books, Wart reveals he'd never learned how to read or write, prompting Archimedes to start teaching him how to do so.
  • Never Say "Die": In the Wizard's Duel, Merlin and Mim are trying to 'destroy' each other.
    • And before that, Mim says she is going to 'destroy' Wart when she finds out he's on the side of good.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Mim transforms into one during the Wizard's duel as her first form.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The 1983 trailer for the movie makes the movie seem like Merlin and Wart are actively seeking The Sword in the Stone and that Madam Mim is driving the conflict. The sword doesn't even come into the plot until just near the end, and the bulk of the film is just Merlin and Wart partaking in episodic adventures. Madam Mim technically is the villain of the film (Ector and Kay are the main source of the film's conflict for marginalizing Wart, but calling them villains is a big stretch, since they're both jerks at worst) but she's a side character that Wart unwittingly encounters late in the picture—she is not the film's main source of conflict.
  • Niceness Denial: Archimedes puts himself in danger to save Wart (in fish form) from a giant pike. Merlin ribs him about his heroism, but Archimedes claims that he thought Wart was just a normal fish that he wanted to eat. Neither Merlin nor Wart buys this for a second.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Wart was voiced by two of the director's three young sons (the third voiced Mowgli and Christopher Robin) and a third, unrelated child actor. Not one of them had even the slightest trace of the British accent you'd expect from King Arthurnote .
  • Not So Omniscient After All: While Merlin is very smart and seems to have some precognitive ability in a broad sense, he tends to get details wrong and can get distracted by his own rambling. Even when he claims to be know everything, Archimedes has to bring attention to it before Merlin retracts the statement. And even when he's been to the future and knows he will mentor someone of importance, it never dawns on him who Wart is.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The pike. Where'd it come from?
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The wolf when it realizes that Wart and Merlin have gone in the other direction, and it's too tired to follow.
    • The girl squirrel on seeing Wart about to fall from a tree branch, with the wolf waiting on the ground.
    • Archimedes when Wart gets trapped with Madam Mim.
    • Both Mim and Merlin take turns inflicting this reaction onto one another in their shapeshifting.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: The eponymous Sword in the Stone can only be drawn by the One True King of England (Guess whom the page image is?). Luckily for Wart, he's the only one who can ever draw it, even when re-inserted into the stone.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Merlin transforms Wart in various animals usually, he encourages the latter to not wait for rescue and refuses to use magic except at the last minute. When Mim catches Wart in her house and prepares to "destroy" him, however? Merlin comes booming in a magic swirl and saves him, berating Mim angrily.
  • Opposed Mentors: Archimedes and Merlin often clash in their styles of education getting into heated arguments. Archimedes insists that education must start with the basics (such as teaching Wart how to read and write first) while Merlin wants to jump straight into knowledge he's gained from looking at the future (which as Archimedes rightly states might get Wart labeled as a lunatic — just like Merlin).
  • Owls Ask "Who?": Happens when we're first introduced to Merlin's owl, Archimedes. When Merlin checks his watch and concludes that someone [Wart] will be arriving in half and hour, Archimedes pops out of his birdhouse and says, "Who? Who? I'd like to know who?"
  • Palate Propping: Used by fish-Wart against a pike with an arrow.
  • Papa Wolf: Merlin when Mim nearly "destroys" Wart.
  • Parental Favoritism: Ector's partiality to Kay is somewhat justified by the fact that Wart/Arthur is only his foster child. While he could stand to be nicer to Wart, he's not really mean either... just strict and demanding, which seems to be his personality in general, specially since he takes knightly endeavours as Serious Business. In fact, at the start of the film, he's berating Kay for letting Wart go off into the woods by himself. Kay may be the favorite, but Wart at least isn't The Un-Favourite.
  • Pet's Homage Name: Merlin's familiar is an owl named Archimedes, for the ancient Greek mathematician.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Wart spends most of the movie getting turned into various animals and getting dragged into adventures by Merlin. He only even finds the titular sword by sheer chance. It's even Archimedes who points out the sword to him!
  • Pike Peril: During his transformation into a fish, Wart is pursued by a pike with slasher-movie-villain levels of Offscreen Teleportation, and has to be rescued by Archimedes (who claims he only did it because he wanted to eat Wart).
  • The Plan: For the A-plot, Merlin wants to save Wart from a squire's life and make him into something greater. For the B-plot, Ector tries to train Kay to be a jouster so that he could be crowned king. Both plans share an apex, as Arthur unwittingly pulls out Excalibur and is crowned king trying to find a sword for Kay to use in the competition.
  • Polka-Dot Disease: When Madam Mim and Merlin are shapeshifting in a duel, Merlin wins by turning into a germ and infecting her with an illness of which red spots are a symptom (the others being fever, green skin and sneezing fits). The disease is called "malignalitaloptereosis".
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Archimedes, the talking owl.
  • The Power of Love: Discussed by Merlin and Wart following the incident with the squirrels.
    Merlin: Ah, you see, lad... that love business is a powerful thing.
    Wart: Greater than gravity?
    Merlin: Well, yes, boy, in its way, I'd, uh- Yes, I'd say it's the greatest force on Earth.
  • Prefers the True Form: Played straight in Mad Madam Mim's case because the uglier she becomes in her regular form, the better it is. This is demonstrated in her Villain Song, during which she turns her face into a pig's and tears her maiden form apart, which is only "skin-deep". Both Merlin and Archimedes are aware of her behavior and the former tells her that, after healing from her post-battle fever, she will hopefully become uglier than ever before (the reason being she takes these remarks as a compliment).
  • Prequel: To Arthurian Legend. (Unofficially, of course.)
  • Private Tutor: Merlin acts as a tutor to Wart.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    • "And, if you don't mind, I happen to be! A! Bird!
  • Rags to Royalty: Wart goes from being a marginalized orphan to Arthur, King of England, overnight.
  • Random Events Plot: The film sets things up with the Sword in the Stone waiting for someone to pull it out...and then Wart encounters Merlin and the film becomes an episodic series of vignettes where Merlin and Wart both go off exploring. The Sword doesn't factor into the film's plot again until just near the ending.
  • Rays from Heaven: Whenever Wart grabs the sword embedded in the stone.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Sir Bart the Black Knight and Sir Pellinore, who protest at multiple people trying to pull the sword out together, and insist that Wart 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).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Merlin gives one to Wart when he's given the position of Kay's squire in the climax, sarcastically congratulating him and clearly bitter that Wart is basically throwing away his chance for an education for a dead-end career. Arthur calls Merlin out for not putting himself in Arthur's place for one second and tells him that he should be glad that he is something than nothing. A quick shot of Archimedes shows that even he thought Merlin's words crossed the line during the heated argument.
    Wart: Merlin, look! I'm a squire!
    Archimedes: Oh, very nice boy...
    Merlin: Yes, indeed. A fine monkey suit for polishing boots.
    Wart: It''s what all squires wear."
    Merlin: And I thought you were going to amount to something! I thought you had a few brains! (angrily kicks books aside) Great future! Ha! A stooge for that big lunk, Kay. Congratulations, boy!
    Arthur: (tearfully bitter) What do you want me to be? I'm nobody! You... you don't know a thing about what's going on today! I-I'm lucky to be Kay's squire!
  • Recycled Animation:
    • 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 Wart 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.
    • The animation of Ector accidentally whacking Kay with his sword was recycled from 101 Dalmatians where Horace hits Jasper with a club.
    • The scene of Wart being mobbed by the dogs was in turn reused by Disney in The Jungle Book as Mowgli getting mobbed by the wolves.
  • Rescue Romance: Averted. The girl squirrel saves Wart from the wolf and happily cuddles with him, but it's clear that no matter how grateful he might be, he's not falling in love with her anytime soon.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Merlin wears both in a midnight blue.
  • Running Gag:
    • Remember the very muscular, intimidating wolf from the opening scene? He reappears as a mangy, flea-bitten mongrel who is constantly having boulders dropped on him, getting the wind knocked out of him after chasing the main protagonists, chomping down on a tree branch, and getting stuck through a pair of branches, all as he tries to stalk Wart to eat.
    • Merlin's beard getting caught on various objects.
    • The sugar bowl getting into various mishaps.
  • Savage Wolves: The scrawny wolf that stalks Wart. See the first Running Gag example above.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The elderly female squirrel, despite not being anthropomorphic, screams like a human woman among seeing Merlin change back into his human form.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Merlin breaks the "no make-believe things" rule when he turns into a fictitious disease to ultimately defeat Mim. In his defense, this was after Mim blatantly cheated by turning into a dragon.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: Archimedes openly accuses the Obviously Evil Madam Mim of "only wanting rules so she can break 'em!" In her Duel to the Death with Merlin, she first breaks her own rule against disappearing so she can reposition herself behind Merlin and blindside him (he evades by turning into a turtle and hiding in his hat), then breaks her rule against "make-believe things like pink dragons and stuff" by turning into a purple dragon. Then Merlin does her one better: instead of disappearing, he transforms himself into a pathogen—not "invisible", just too small to see—and makes her too sick to continue the duel.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Defied when Merlin is given the room at the top of the crumbling, shambling west tower by Sir Ector, who is none too keen on having a wizard within his walls and obviously uses the west tower as a ploy to get Merlin to pack up and leave of his own volition when his abysmal living quarters prove too much for him to stand, which he gets his first taste of that same night as a torrential thunderstorm moves in, filling the room with water from the hole-filled roof. But this only further strengthens Merlin's determination to stay, as a way to spite Sir Ector.
    Merlin: 'Best room in the house', ugh! Guest room, unwelcomed guest room! Well, if he thinks he can get rid of me, I've got news for that old walrus, I'm sticking it out!
    • Though he does blast himself away to Bermuda after an argument with Wart, albeit accidentally.
    • Also played straight when Merlin "had enough" being a squirrel.
  • Sequential Symptom Syndrome: When Merlin describes the symptoms of malignalitaloptereosis to Mim.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Nothing that happens in the film seems particularly relevant to Arthur actually drawing the Sword from the Stone. Merlin's lessons are obviously going to have a big effect on the kind of King that Arthur is going to become, but the film stops at that point.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: It's even the trope's image. The nature of the Wizard Duel is the pair of them taking different forms for combat.
  • Shipper on Deck: Merlin to Wart and the red girl squirrel, but because he finds it amusing more than heartwarming.
  • Silent Snarker: Merlin's sugar bowl has quite a personality when not delivering sugar to tea cups.
  • Sneeze of Doom: When Mim, sick with malignalitaloptereosis, emits fire from sneezing that forces Wart and Archimedes to duck and cover.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the book, Mim actually died from having caught all the germs that Merlin turned into all at the same time; in the film she's just incapacitated and has to stay in bed for a few weeks.
  • Spinning Out of Here: Merlin spins as he arrives at places.
  • Spit Take: Sir Ector does this when Sir Pellinore tells him that the winner of the New Year's events wins the throne of England.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The female squirrels that pursue Wart and Merlin.
  • Stalking Is Funny if It Is Female After Male: Squirrel Merlin thinks this when it's squirrel Wart being chased, but after he gets a female squirrel pursuing him, he no longer thinks it's funny.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Unfortunately for the girl squirrel, just because she saved Wart's life, doesn't mean a Rescue Romance where he falls in love with her will happen, especially since he is a prepubescent child and she's at best a young adult from a species that ages faster. The Power of Love doesn't work when it's obvious Wart has no intention of being a squirrel forever after being around her the entire time.
  • Stern Teacher: Despite his initial animosity towards Wart, Archimedes warms up greatly to him; risking his own skin twice to save him, first from the pike and then from the hawk. He may easily lose his temper but he's shown to be far more nurturing (and effective) as a teacher than Merlin, as shown when he teaches Wart how to write and later how to fly. It's notable that when Wart is made squire Archimedes appears honestly happy for Wart (even though it's clearly not what they intended for him as they see knights as boorish buffoons) in obvious contrast to Merlin who immediately loses his temper and blasts out of the place abandoning Wart.
  • Stock Audio Clip:
    • Whenever Wart stumbles or falls it's accompanied with the same "Wha...wait! Whoa!"
    • The gibbering noise the wolf makes whenever he falls down a hill.
    • The sound made when Crocodile Mim snaps her jaws shut is the exact same one heard whenever Maleficent slammed her staff on the ground or when her dragon form snapped its jaws.
  • Stumbling in the New Form: When Wart first turns into a fish, Merlin has to teach him how to swim.
  • Succession Crisis: England has been kingless for over twelve years.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Merlin believes that, Because Destiny Says So, that he will convince Wart to give up a career of knighthood and stimulate his mind. He goes into complex concepts like locomotion and gravity. Wart is too polite to bring it outright, but he doesn't quite understand them, something that Archimedes chides Merlin for ignoring and what the owl finds out when he asks Wart to read a pile of Merlin's books. Why? Because he was never given a basic education! Wart's an orphan that Ector took in as a foster son, and training to be a squire. Therefore, he doesn't know how to read or write; as Archimedes points out, you can't teach someone the world is round when they don't even know their basic letters. It's implied that Archimedes teaching Wart the basics helps him get up to speed when he is crowned king.
  • Take That!: Some see the character of Madam Mim (who hates sunshine) as one to critics who disliked the light tone of Disney's films.
  • Talking Animal: Archimedes most notably. When Merlin and Wart are transformed into animals they seem to keep their ability to talk as well. Interestingly, the girl squirrel, for all her incoherent chatter, says one line of understandable human dialogue, "Oh no!" when her beloved Wart is in danger of falling to his death.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: In frustration at Wart throwing away his education to become a squire (which is the only thing he has left in Arthur's words), Merlin teleports to twentieth century Bemuda to blow off steam. He returns at the end of the film unimpressed by the sights ("One big modern mess!") and is left amused by the turn of events since his leave.
  • Ten Paces and Turn: During the Wizard Duel. Madam Mim proceeds to break this protocol like she does nearly every other rule she made for the duel such as "no disappearing" and "no cheating".
  • The Talk: The scene with the squirrel very nearly has Merlin discussing the birds and the bees with Wart.
  • Thriving Ghost Town: Sir Ector's castle is implied to have a fairly large residence, at least enough to fill up the kitchen with mountains of dishes, but we only ever see a handful of people living in it, and that includes Ector, Kay and Wart.
  • 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, Madam 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 Ector exclaims "It's the Sword in the Stone" when he reads the first few words of the titular blade's inscription and realizes what it is.
  • Tsundere: Archimedes has shades of this. He's insulting and bad-tempered, but seems to genuinely have affection for Wart, so much so that he risks his life to save him from the pike when Wart is transformed into a small fish.
    Wart: That big fish almost swallowed me, and Archimedes... he saved me!
    Archimedes: I did nothing of the sort! I intended to eat him! Young perch is my favorite dish, you know that!
  • Transformation Discretion Shot: Transformations in the film commonly occur on camera via a variety of effects. However, during the Shapeshifter Showdown between Merlin and Madam Mim, several offscreen transformations occur in quick succession: in one case, Merlin gets the better of Mim's elephant form by becoming a mouse and chasing her off-camera... only to suddenly do an about-face as Mim chases him back as a tiger. Soon after, Merlin tries to take a bite out of Mim's tail, only to find that Mim has changed in a cut and the tail now belongs to a snake. Finally, Mim seemingly defeats Merlin by becoming a dragon and seizing his mouse form in her talons... but when she opens her claws, he appears to have vanished. He's actually become a germ and infected Mim with a rare disease, thereby winning the match.
  • Transforming Conforming: The whole point of a Wizards Duel. Each wizard or witch chooses a form to transform into, and their opponent tries to choose a form to exploit the other's weaknesses. e.g., Merlin becomes a rabbit for speed, Mad Madam Mim becomes a fox, a known predator of rabbits. Mim breaks her own rules about transforming into fantastical creatures through Loophole Abuse, becoming a large, fire-breathing dragon. Merlin counters by becoming a germ, meaning, ironically, that catching him was exactly the last thing she wanted.
  • Troll: In the fish scene, the frog in the castle moat continuously bothers Arthur almost exclusively for its own amusement.
  • The Unintelligible: The girl squirrel. She only squeaks and chitters emotionally. However, she mutters an "Oh no!" when she sees Wart about to fall from a breaking branch.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In response to Merlin causing a blizzard to appear in the castle, all Kay has to say is an annoyed "So what?"
  • 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.
  • Verbal Tic: Archimedes' "Who? What, what?"
  • Villainous Breakdown: Madam Mim when Merlin infects her with a germ, but unable to do anything but cough and lie down.
  • Villain Song: "The Magnificent, Marvelous, Mad Madam Mim."
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: The girl squirrel is a somewhat mild example.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: As magic users, Merlin and Mim can turn into things like animals...and germs.
  • Warm-Hearted Walrus: It is the good Merlin, not the evil Madam Mim, who turns into a walrus during the wizard duel. Merlin himself refers to Sir Ector as a walrus, he's later shown to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Weredragon: The wizard's duel culminates in Madam Mim breaking one of her own rules and turning into a dragon.
  • Wicked Witch: Madam Mim lives in a cottage in the woods brewing up trouble. When she hears coughing, she hopes that it's a serious illness.
  • Wizard Beard: Usually a problem, as it gets caught on things rather frequently.
  • Wizard Classic: Merlin, though he puts more stock in science than most of the Robe and Wizard Hat set.
  • Wizard Duel: Merlin vs Madam Mim.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The Wizard Duel, which involves shapeshifting into different animals on the fly to gain an advantage. Mim starts as an alligator, Merlin goes turtle and then rabbit to escape her, Mim goes fox to follow Merlin into a hollow log, Merlin escapes as a caterpillar, Mim becomes a chicken to catch him and sends him flying into the air, and Merlin turns into a walrus, landing on and squashing her. She then grows into an elephant and grabs him with her trunk, he turns into a mouse to frighten her, and she becomes a tiger and then a rattlesnake to catch him, only for Merlin to trick her into a hole and going crab to try and pinch her. She becomes a rhino, lets him grab her horn, and tries to crush him against a tree, but he escapes at the last minute, letting her trap herself through the tree at the top of a cliff. He then turns into a goat to knock her off the cliff, prompting Mim to finally lose her temper, break her own rule and become a dragon, with Merlin turning into a mouse again to escape. Finally, when she catches him, he wins the duel by becoming a germ that makes her horribly sick and unable to continue.


The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone opens with a book explaining the setting.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / StorybookOpening

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