This week’s Uku-Tuesday is brought to you by the godfather of modern fantasy – Peter S. Beagle! Peter is the author of The Last Unicorn, which happens to be my favorite book of all time, and also a delightfully weird animated feature film from the 1980s.
In the novel, Prince Lir asks the Lady Amalthea what he can do to help her when she is troubled by nightmares. She asks him to sing to her, and this is the song that he sings. It’s a bit dark for the occasion, but it makes her laugh nonetheless. In the audiobook version of the novel, Peter sings the song to this tune, and I transcribed it with my brain-powers onto the uke.
This Disney Odyssey is brought to you by our friends and guests, Sarah and Andy! Sarah was in that futuristic Much Ado About Nothing we just did, playing the role of Hero, and her boyfriend Andy happened to go to the same school as the Fella! Smaaaaall world. Sarah told us that Sword in the Stone is one of her favorite Disney flicks of all time, so we invited them over for a medieval-ish dinner (pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and green beans with a lemon poppyseed cake for dessert) and a chat while we watched the movie together.
It had been a while since all of us had seen this one – all of us but Andy, who had never seen it before this night! We were excited to get to share it with him, and had a lot of good laughs about Merlin’s crotchety nature, Archimedes’ cranky hooting, and the merits of transfiguring the future king of England into various animals in order to attempt to teach him basic physics and natural phenomena.
The Film: The Sword in the Stone (1963)
The Sword in the Stone was the final Disney animated film released before Walt’s death during the production of The Jungle Book in 1966.
The film features music by the Sherman brothers (Richard M. and Robert B.), who later did Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, etc. Their musical handiwork can be found throughout Disney films over the next several decades, and to this day can be heard in Disney parks, especially on Main Street.
Based on the novel of the same name which was published in 1938. Later, it was republished as the first novel of the T.H. White tetralogy The Once and Future King. Walt purchased the rights in 1939 and storyboards were produced in 1949. Sword in the Stone was in pre-production for several years along with another project called Chanticleer but Walt and some of the other team did not like the Chanticleer project – it wouldn’t work, they said, to make a personality out of a chicken. After Walt saw Camelot on Broadway in 1960, that was the final straw: Sword in the Stone would move forward and Chanticleer would be shut down.
Bizarrely, Arthur is voiced by three different actors: Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, and Robert Reitherman. All three use an American accent, contrasting the surrounding British voices and setting.
It was the sixth highest grossing film of 1963.
It was nominated for Best Score – Adaptation or Treatment at the Oscars in 1963.
Walt himself unknowingly served as the model for Merlin. Character designer Bill Peet gave Merlin Walt’s nose, and his playful, intelligent, cantankerous nature.
This is the last film Bill Peet served on as writer. Bill wrote a treatment for The Jungle Book, but Walt threw it away when the two had a falling out and Bill left the company.
Director Wolfgang Reitherman would direct every Disney feature from now into the 1980’s.