The movie is set in medieval times (circa A.D. 558), "the age of inconvenience - no plumbing, no electricity, no nothing!" like remark Merlin, the powerful and funny wizard character from movie. After the English king dies leaving no heir, in the churchyard of a cathedral in London, a sword appears imbedded in a stone inscribed, "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is right wise king born of England." Although many try, no one can budge the sword from the stone. Merlin the Magician begins to teach a boy ("the scrawny little fellow about 12") named Arthur ("My name's Arthur, but everyone calls me Wart") who lives in the Sir Ector's castel ("here's to the banner of the Castle of the Forest Suavage") where he's an apprentice squire to burly, oafish Sir Kay when he's not washing stacks of pots and pans in the scullery. By being changed by Merlin into various animals ("Can you imagine yourself as a fish? Oh, that's easy. I've done that lots of times. Oh. Well, good. Then I think that my magic can do the rest. Now, have you ever considered being a squirrel? Well, no, I don't suppose."), Wart learns the basic truths of life, but he also runs into Madam Mim, who tries to change him. Merlin and Mim have a Wizards' Duel ("Now, rule one, no mineral or vegetable. Only animal. Rule two, no make-believe things like, pink dragons and stuff. Now, rule three, no disappearing. Rule four, no cheating."), during which each change into various creatures, with Merlin using his wits to win. On New Year's Day, a great tournament is held in London to pick a new king. Wart, attending as Kay's squire, forgets Kay's sword, and runs back to the inn to get it, but the inn is locked. Wart, seeing the sword in the stone, innocently, and easily, pulls it out. When the knights marvel at the wondrous sword and question where he got it, Wart has to prove himself all over again he pulls the sword from the stone. Wart is proclaimed king by the marveling warriors ("Hail King Arthur! Long live the King!"). Wart as King Arthur is apprehensive of his ability to govern, but Merlin returns to reassure him.
The first Disney animated feature with songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
Character designer Bill Peet gave Merlin Walt Disney's nose.
Directing animators: Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston, John, Lounsberg
Character animation: Hal King, Eric Larsen, Eric Cleworth, John Sibley, Cliff Nordberg, Hal Ambro, Dick Lucas
Effect animation: Dan MacManus, Jack Boyd, Jack Buckley
Character Design: Milt Kahl, Bill Peet
With the talents of Sebastian Cabot, Karl Swenson, Rikie Sorense, Junius Mattheuws, Ginny Tyler, Martha Wentworth, Norman Alden, Alan Napier, Richard Reitherman, Robert Reitherman.
Layout: Dan Griffith, Basil Davidovich, Vance Gerry, Sylvia Cobb, Dale Barnhart, Homer Jonas
Background: Walt Peregoy, Bill Layne, Al Dempster, Anthony Rizzo, Ralph Hulett, Fil Mottola
Production supervisor: Ken Peterson
Sound supervisor: Robert O. Cook
Film editor: Donald Halliday
Music editor: Evelyn Kennedy
Music: George Bruns
Orchestration: Franklyn Marks
Songs: Richard M. Sherman, Robert M. Sherman
Art Director: Ken Anderson
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Rickie Sorensen as Wart, Karl Swenson as Merlin, Junius Matthews as Archimedes, Sebastian Cabot as Sir Ector, Norman Alden as Sir Kay, Martha Wentworth as Madam Mim (Old Lady Squirrel), Alan Napier as Sir Pelinore, Ginny Tyler as Little Girl Squirrel, Barbara Jo Allen as Scullery Maid, James MacDonald as The Wolf, Thurl Ravenscroft as Black Bart.
Merlin: Boy, you'll become a great legend. They'll be writing books about you for centuries to come. Why, they might even make a motion picture about you.
Arthur (Wart): Motion picture?
Merlin: Well, that's something like television without commercials.
Merlin: A dark age indeed! Age of inconvenience. No plumbing, no electricity, no nothing!
Merlin: Science, indeed. One dummy trying to knock off another dummy with a bit of a stick.
Merlin: Now, well don't you get any foolish ideas that magic will solve all your problems. Because it won't!
Arthur (Wart): But, sir, I don't have any problems.
Merlin: Oh, bah, everybody's got problems. The world is full of problems. Everybody butting their heads against a brick wall. All muscle and no mentality. Do you want to be all muscle and no brain?
Arthur (Wart): I don't have any muscle.
Merlin: You don't? Well, how do you move about? Arthur (Wart): Oh, I suppose, I do have a little.
Merlin: Aha. There, you see. Well, that's enough. Now, develop your brain. Knowledge, wisdom. There's the real power. Higher learning. That's the thing. So, first thing tomorrow morning, we'll start a full schedule. Eight hours a day. We'll have six hours for schoolroom and two for study period.
Merlin: Oh, big news, eh? They can't wait for the London Times. First edition won't be out for at least 1,200 years. Archimedes, would you mind sailing down there.
Archimedes: Not interested!
Merlin: Oh, come now. You're as wet as you can get.
Merlin: Archimedes! I'll turn you into a human.
Archimedes: You wouldn't dare!
Merlin: I will. So help me. Archimedes: Well, all right.
Merlin: It works every time. Just like magic.
Arthur (Wart): You mean you can turn yourself into a fish? Merlin: After all, I happen to be a wizard. Arthur (Wart): Could you turn me into a fish? Merlin: Well, do you have any imagination? Can you imagine yourself as a fish? Arthur (Wart): Oh, that's easy. I've done that lots of times. Merlin: Well, good. Then I think that my magic can do the rest.
Arthur (Wart): Oh, Merlin, you're back from Bermuda? Merlin: Yes, back from Bermuda and the 20th century. And believe me, you can have it. One big modern mess! Alakazam! Arthur (Wart): I'm in an awful pickle. I'm king. Merlin: Ooh, he pulled the sword from the stone. Of course! King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Arthur (Wart): Round table? Merlin: Would you rather have a square one? Arthur (Wart): Oh, no. Round'll be fine.