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The Sword in the Stone Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 47 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted July 27 2013 - 03:52 PM

The Sword in the Stone Blu-ray Review

With the release of Walt Disney’s The Sword in the Stone in 1963, the studio initiated an unfortunate series of uninspired animated titles which, with the occasional exception, seemed to stamp its once unmatched animated features with a new label of mediocrity. It wasn’t until The Little Mermaid in 1989 that the Disney name reclaimed its glorious title as the hallmark in animation, but by then, there was a quarter of a century of damaged reputation to undo. On its own, The Sword in the Stone isn’t a terrible animated feature so much as it’s a forgettable one. With no memorable characters or take-away songs from the music score, the movie (which did acceptable but inauspicious business as Disney’s 1963 Christmas attraction) lacks magic and surprise, something none of its animated classics from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were ever guilty of.


Cover Art


Studio: Disney

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 5.1 DTS

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Rating: G

Run Time: 1 Hr. 19 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy

keep case with slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: ABC

Release Date: 08/06/2013

MSRP: $36.99




The Production Rating: 3/5

The sorcerer Merlin (Karl Swenson) knows that the young, fumbling page Wart (Rickie Sorensen) will one day rule England as King Arthur, but in order to get him ready, he subjects the lad to a series of experiences turning him into various animals in order to teach him valuable life lessons. With Merlin’s wise owl Archimedes (Junius Matthews) as an assistant, Wart makes some progress in his lessons though his foster father Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot) and foster brother Kay (Norman Alden) are none too happy to be losing their assistant as Kay prepares for a jousting tournament in London which will determine the new king since no one has yet been successful at pulling the enchanted sword from the stone which legend says will signify the rightful king of England.

With such magical story material, the Disney animators have done precious little to instill their own brand of enchantment on the proceedings. Merlin’s rather antic household magic is played strictly for laughs (the slapstick inherent in these sequences mirrors what was going on in Disney’s live action comedies of the time). The three experiences where Wart is changed into a fish and a bird (both of which are used to teach him lessons about brain over brawn and contain a fair share of action and excitement) and a squirrel (where he learns the powerful lure of sensual attraction) are animated well but without the real depth of background and vibrant color that distinguished earlier masterpieces. The showdown between Merlin and the evil Mad Madame Mim (Martha Wentworth) perhaps contains the closest thing The Sword in the Stone possesses to Disney’s earlier brilliance in imagination and execution, but even its brain-over-brawn theme is repetitive after the previous animal-transformation sequences. And the Sherman Brothers’ score, their first for a Disney animated feature, contains no memorable tunes. “That’s What Makes the World Go Round,” the ditty used to teach the fish sequence lesson, is the most tuneful of the lot, and “Higitus Figitus” shows them coining their own words long before they arrived at Mary Poppins’ famous magic word. “Mad Madame Mim” gives the evil witch her own expository melody while the title song, the most period appropriate of their efforts, might have been outfitted with additional sets of lyrics to comment on the story throughout the film and add a touch of dignity to the often lowbrow proceedings (the jokes about Bermuda shorts, movies, and television seem awfully cheap and easy).

As Disney did with Peter Pan, an American actor, in this case Rickie Sorensen, has been cast to voice one of the most famous English characters extant, and it seems a dubious choice. He acts the role of the inexperienced, gangly lad Wart/Arthur just fine, but his vocal presence seems anachronistic in a Dark Ages-set story. Karl Swenson plays his absent-minded professor-like Merlin with the proper befuddlement, and Junius Matthews as the starchily efficient owl Archimedes makes a perfect polar opposite companion. Martha Wentworth has loads of fun as the cackling witch Mim while Sebastian Cabot and Norman Alden are just right as the thoughtless foster father and brother who treat Wart with uncommon indignity.



Video Rating: 3.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The film is being presented in a 1.75:1 transfer at 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is not always consistent throughout; occasionally in long shots the sharpness becomes momentarily soft and there also seems to be some motion blur which may or may not be related to Disney's digital tampering which is part of their customary treatment of their animated features on Blu-ray. Color is nicely under control and is rich enough without any fear of blooming (though some orange/salmon backgrounds come close). There is a slight bit of banding to be seen, but it’s never overpowering, and the line structures of the animation show no evidence of aliasing but do display a lack of fine detail due to the digital manipulations of the transfer. The film has been divided into 17 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is quite definitely frontcentric with very little going on in the rear channels. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and resides in the center channel. The music and sound effects never obfuscate the dialogue but are mixed skillfully to complement the animation. There is very little bass in this sound mix.



Special Features Rating: 2.5/5

Alternative Opening (4:02, HD): a different opening for the film is presented in slightly animated pencil drawings

Music and Magic: The Sherman Brothers (8:00, SD): Robert and Richard Sherman talk briefly about the songs in the score and play bits of two songs written for the movie but which were later dropped.

All About Magic (7:19, SD): an introductory excerpt to Walt Disney Presents as Walt Disney wanders around a magical storeroom on the studio lot.

A Knight for a Day (7:06, SD): the 1945 Goofy cartoon

The Brave Little Tailor (9:01, SD): 1938 Oscar-nominated Mickey Mouse cartoon

Sing Along With the Movie: places the subtitled lyrics to the songs on the screen whenever a tune in the movie begins.

DVD/Digital copy: disc plus a code pamphlet for the digital copy

Promo Trailers (HD): Super Buddies, The Little Mermaid, Planes, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh



Overall Rating: 3/5

The Sword in the Stone is a perfectly pleasant but unremarkable animated effort from the Walt Disney Studios. The Blu-ray offers a picture which will please some but definitely annoy purists of Disney animation and with sound that's quite above average. The disc also ports over the unremarkable extras from the previous DVD release, but this is definitely at best a second tier Disney animation effort.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 47 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted July 27 2013 - 05:45 PM

Sword in the Stone isn't my favorite Disney movie-far from it, actually-but it's fine in a "put your brain on hold" kind of way.  No one is going to be offended by it; this is my least played Disney soundtrack--and I have all of them.  It's nice to see everything from the previous DVD coming over (thankfully).  My guess and hope is that another $5 or so gets knocked off the price at Amazon prior to release. 



#3 of 47 OFFLINE   JoeDoakes

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Posted July 29 2013 - 07:36 AM

Boy, did you ever hear of The Jungle Book?  And as for music, although there were some highlights in the trio beginning in the late 1980s (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King) as well as a some stinkers ("Can you Feel the Love"), since that time music has been an afterthought to Disney as well as Pixar.  The Sword in the Stone isn't as good as most of Disney's 1950s output, but it is better than 97% of the animated features following it.



#4 of 47 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted July 29 2013 - 05:18 PM

Can You Feel the Love Tonight is a stinker of a song?  It won both the Golden Globe and Emmy and almost everyone knows this song. 

 

Pixar isn't known for their movie music, so I don't see how that's really relevant.

 

Can you please clarify what The Jungle Book has to do with this?



#5 of 47 OFFLINE   Mark Walker

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Posted July 29 2013 - 09:51 PM

I will claim that I love this film for its parts but not the whole.  I like the wizards' duel, and the scenes where Arthur is a fish and squirrel.  True, I can skip the rest and it also probably has the worst final line of any movie: Merlin describing what TV is to Arthur.

 

Thanks for the review! 


Paramount, please release DRAGONSLAYER on Blu-ray

Dragonslayer_1981HTF_zps4e370848.jpg

 

 

Vermithrax Pejorative deserves to be seen in high-def.


#6 of 47 OFFLINE   JoeDoakes

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Posted July 30 2013 - 03:51 AM

Can you please clarify what The Jungle Book has to do with this?

The Jungle Book was released in 1967.  IMO it is one of Disney's best ever, and the music is awesome.  I probably reacted too strongly to the review of this and Robin Hood.  I appreciate Matt's work.  I just think his thesis is way overstated.  Although, in general, the Disney animated films of the 1960s to early 1970s did not match Disney's 1950s output, I think they were quite good, especially if you compare them to Disney's mid-1970s to late 1980s period, or nonPixar animated films of the last 20 years.



#7 of 47 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted July 30 2013 - 06:51 AM

Ah, understood.  Everyone likes different things...that's one of the great things about reviews and opinions.

 

There's a whole "section" of Disney animation which is subpar or not looked at/remembered fondly.  Sword in the Stone, Black Cauldron, etc.  I'm still waiting for the latter on BD.



#8 of 47 OFFLINE   Mark Walker

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Posted July 30 2013 - 08:43 AM

I love The Jungle Book, but even it has a moment where they re-use animation of KAA when he bunches up, turns his head, and then slithers away.  I also suspect the wolf pups at the start of the film have a few 101 Dalmatians lifts. I never noticed it as a child, but as an adult I look at it, and think,"Hmmm time/budget shortcut."

 

(Moments later, after Googling) Oh, wow.  It's worse than I thought.

 

I still love the film, but these shortcuts are sad.


Edited by Mark Walker, July 30 2013 - 09:29 AM.

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Paramount, please release DRAGONSLAYER on Blu-ray

Dragonslayer_1981HTF_zps4e370848.jpg

 

 

Vermithrax Pejorative deserves to be seen in high-def.


#9 of 47 OFFLINE   theonemacduff

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Posted July 30 2013 - 09:10 AM

Interesting, but are they all direct lifts? The dance routines from JB vs RH look as though the animators copied, rather than simply re-purposing the same cells, as they do in using Baghera's and the extras monkeys' movements in JB. It is kind of sad, especially when you consider that copying the same dance routine doesn't really take the animators any less time than thinking up their own routines; everything still has to be drawn; and that kind of traditional cell animation is still time intensive. To my mind, what it suggests is a lack of pre-production time, meaning that they rushed into production rather than waiting until they had the scenes and routines properly honed.



#10 of 47 OFFLINE   Mark Walker

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Posted July 30 2013 - 11:56 AM

In Beauty and The Beast, the directors openly state on the commentary track that they used animation from Sleeping Beauty for the final ballroom dance scene at the end of Beauty and The Beast because they had run out of time to do it from scratch.  It does take them less time to retrace previous animation than to come up with new movements and make sure all the body/animal parts are always in correct proportion, perspective and position.

 

 

Interesting, but are they all direct lifts? The dance routines from JB vs RH look as though the animators copied, rather than simply re-purposing the same cells, as they do in using Baghera's and the extras monkeys' movements in JB. It is kind of sad, especially when you consider that copying the same dance routine doesn't really take the animators any less time than thinking up their own routines; everything still has to be drawn; and that kind of traditional cell animation is still time intensive. To my mind, what it suggests is a lack of pre-production time, meaning that they rushed into production rather than waiting until they had the scenes and routines properly honed.


Paramount, please release DRAGONSLAYER on Blu-ray

Dragonslayer_1981HTF_zps4e370848.jpg

 

 

Vermithrax Pejorative deserves to be seen in high-def.


#11 of 47 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted July 30 2013 - 07:09 PM

The screencaps on Blu-Ray.com (forums) and CriterionForum.org point to this releasing having extremely high levels of DVNR. Not the regular dustbusting, but looking more like Predator and Gulliver's Travels. By comparison, the latter also posted a review of Robin Hood with absolutely none of the same artifacting and looking more like Snow White. Anyone care to comment on this?


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#12 of 47 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted July 31 2013 - 04:09 AM

Disney has routinely applied DNR to most of its animated Blu-rays for years to give them a slick, polished look. I didn't notice it any heavier on The Sword in the Stone than on any of its other releases.


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#13 of 47 OFFLINE   Chuck Pennington

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Posted August 02 2013 - 11:54 AM

I have to respectfully disagree with Matt Hough on the video quality of THE SWORD IN THE STONE on Blu-ray. I have a 1080p unmatted transfer from another source (NOT a standard definition DVD) and it is clear that the level of DVNR used on the 2013 Blu-ray is unprecedented. It is incredibly noticeable all of the time during motion, but I made some screen captures to drive the point home.

 

I'm not going to debate the 1.33:1 unmatted vs 1.75:1 matted issue. It is the loss of and smudging of the animation lines that disturb me. Yes, there was a LOT of cel dust and dirt visible during many scenes and that is now gone, but what remains is far worse IMHO.

 

SWORDINTHESTONEHD00003A.jpg

SWORDINTHESTONEHD00003B.jpg


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#14 of 47 OFFLINE   Chuck Pennington

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Posted August 02 2013 - 11:58 AM

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#15 of 47 OFFLINE   Chuck Pennington

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Posted August 02 2013 - 12:18 PM

Here are some partial screen comparisons. I had to upscale my unmatted HD transfer so that the image would be the same size, so keep that in mind when reviewing these. The left side is an older unmatted HD master and the right is the new matted Blu-ray release. Notice how smudged the lines are and how the overall detail is smudged and blurred when compared to the image on the left?

 

You may want to click on the images to see them in higher resolution as they are downscaled when I post them here.

 

SWORDSTONEBEFOREAFTER2.jpg

SWORDSTONEBEFOREAFTER3.jpg

SWORDSTONEBEFOREAFTER1.jpg


Edited by Chuck Pennington, August 02 2013 - 12:24 PM.


#16 of 47 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted August 02 2013 - 12:22 PM

To be fair, I did mention the motion blur I expereinced in the review. I didn't chalk it up to DNR, but I did mention its presence which I had never experienced before with a Disney animated release.



#17 of 47 OFFLINE   Mark-P

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Posted August 02 2013 - 12:39 PM

Motion blur is something that doesn't exist in traditional animation as the painted cels are just a series of still photographs. While they have found a way to mimic motion blur in the CGI world, it wouldn't exist here. There is something weird about the screencaps of SITS that makes the lines look smudged. Perhaps Disney tried to save money by hiring a different company to do the cleanup? I hope it looks better in motion.



#18 of 47 OFFLINE   Cassy_w

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Posted August 02 2013 - 01:05 PM

That is all rather obvious. DNR DNR DNR. This is beyond sloppy for Disney. Frankly, I don't understand how it could pass QC. It's just bad. Real bad. Will kids care? No. 

 

But that is not what it is supposed to look like. Have the people who mastered The Longest Day switched to Disney?


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Death to PG-13! And now death to DVNR too!!

#19 of 47 OFFLINE   MatthewA

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Posted August 02 2013 - 01:09 PM

This is disgraceful. No Hollywood studio should be trying to pass this DNR-laden mess off to the public in 2013.


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Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#20 of 47 OFFLINE   Mark Walker

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Posted August 02 2013 - 07:04 PM

Makes fearful for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  As horrible as this is, the process is going to be more problematic for these titles, since anything starting with 101 Dalmatians will not have been cleaned up by the Ink and Paint folks, so all the original animators' rougher animation marks, which I love, are there and will get obliterated by this  type of DNR process.

 

That chalkboard just shows how the original animator's intentions to have a chalk like appearance are decimated here.  Ugh.

 

hmmmm.  Never thought I would have to start looking at Blu-ray reviews of Disney animated titles to check for PQ issues.

 

:(


Edited by Mark Walker, August 02 2013 - 07:23 PM.

Paramount, please release DRAGONSLAYER on Blu-ray

Dragonslayer_1981HTF_zps4e370848.jpg

 

 

Vermithrax Pejorative deserves to be seen in high-def.






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