Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Live-action Edition. The Three Musketeers

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: The Three Musketeers

Year: 1993

Source materials: The 1844 novel Les Trois Mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas père


Budget: $30 million

Box office: $53.9 million

Plot: In 1625, young-but-skilled fencer d’Artagnan sets off for Paris, France in hopes to follow in his murdered father’s footsteps and become a member of the musketeers: the personal guard of the King of France. He is pursued by Gérard and his brothers, accused of blemishing their sister’s honor. Unfortunately, Captain Rochefort of the Cardinal’s Guards has disbanded the musketeers per the orders of Cardinal Richelieu, the King’s Minister, ostensibly to help fight in an impending war with England. Rochefort informs Richelieu that three musketeers refused to relinquish their duties: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.


In Paris, d’Artagnan “rescues” the queen’s handmaidens from their own bodyguards, and after a scolding, takes a liking to one, Constance. In the city d’Artagnan has a series of physical encounters with the Three Musketeers, though he doesn’t know they are musketeers, resulting in a duel with each. At the Ruins, Athos, Porthos and Aramis reveal themselves as musketeers to d’Artagnan’s surprise. Before they can duel, a Captain of the Cardinal’s Guard arrives to arrest the musketeers with five other cardinal’s guards; although d’Artagnan is not under arrest, he allies with the musketeers during the skirmish. The Musketeers kill four guards, while d’Artagnan accidentally hurls the Captain of the Guard down a huge cliff. Impressed but displeased at d’Artagnan’s involvement, the musketeers leave d’Artagnan behind after encouraging him to flee and maintain his innocence. When more of the Cardinal’s Guards arrive, d’Artagnan is captured.


d’Artagnan eavesdrops on a conversation between Richelieu and the mysterious Milady de Winter whereupon he tasks her with delivering a signed treaty to England’s Duke of Buckingham. d’Artagnan is unable to see her face before being caught by Rochefort; Richelieu orders him executed for refusing to give up the musketeers’ location, but he is saved by the musketeers. As they flee, d’Artagnan reveals Richelieu’s plans; they decide to find the spy and get the treaty to prove Richelieu’s guilt.


During a skirmish, the party splits up; d’Artagnan rides ahead to intercept the spy, but passes out from exhaustion. He wakes in a bed stripped of his weapons and clothes as Milady de Winter tries to seduce him. d’Artagnan speaks freely of his plans, not knowing she is the spy, and she seduces him to kiss her. She tries to kill him, but he convinces her to keep him alive. As her party tries to escape by boat to England, they are confronted by the musketeers. Milady attempts to run away but is stopped by Athos, who calls her Sabine; they had been lovers, but he regretfully betrayed her to the authorities when he found out she was branded for execution. The musketeers retrieve the treaty and Sabine is sentenced to beheading for killing her first husband, Lord de Winter; just before she is executed, Athos begs her forgiveness. Moved, she reveals the Cardinal’s plans to assassinate the king at his birthday celebration before throwing herself off a cliff to her death.


Athos, Porthos and Aramis send missives to rally the rest of the musketeers. Richelieu and Rochefort hired a sharpshooter; during the assembly, d’Artagnan makes the sniper’s shot go wide, narrowly missing the king. Richelieu deflects blame to the three musketeers in the crowd for the attempted assassination.


As the three face off with the Cardinal’s guards, men rush to their sides and reveal themselves as musketeers. The two forces battle as Richelieu takes the king and queen hostage, shooting Aramis in the chest before fleeing to the dungeon with Athos and Porthos in pursuit. d’Artagnan duels Rochefort and is disarmed; as Rochefort gloats about having killed d’Artagnan’s father, Constance passes his sword back and d’Artagnan promptly kills Rochefort.


Athos and Porthos arrive just as Richelieu’s boat leaves on an underground river. Although his plans are foiled, Richelieu claims he will be back. The boatman then reveals himself as Aramis, his crucifix having stopped the bullet. Aramis attempts to apprehend the Cardinal, but King Louis stops him to punch Richelieu himself, knocking him into the river.

The musketeers are reinstated by the king, and d’Artagnan is offered anything he wants; he chooses to serve Louis as a musketeer. Outside the musketeer headquarters, Gérard and his brothers arrive and challenge d’Artagnan to a duel; Porthos reminds him that musketeers not only protect King and country, but also each other. Gérard and his brothers are then chased off by the entire musketeer division.


Background: The sword fighting was choreographed by Bob Anderson, Olympic fencer. He had a cinema career that spanned more than 50 years and included films such as Highlander, The Princess Bride, The Mask of Zorro, The Lord of the Rings, and Die Another Day. He was regarded as the premier choreographer of Hollywood sword-fighting, and during his career he coached many actors in swordsmanship, including Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Antonio Banderas, Viggo Mortensen, Adrian Paul, and Johnny Depp. He also appeared as a stunt double for Darth Vader’s lightsaber battles in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

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Filming locations included Charlestown, Cornwall, UK, and Castle Landsee (Burgenland); Burg Liechtenstein, Maria Enzersdorf, Hinterbrühl, Korneuburg (Lower Austria); and Vienna (particularly Hofburg) in Austria. Some sequences were shot in Cornwall, UK. A small woods called Golitha Falls was used in one sequence when the musketeers are being pursued by guards. The small harbor village of Charlestown is home to the galleon that was used in a night-shoot.


Changes from the Source Material: Well the names are correct…

  • d’Artagnan’s father was not killed by Rochefort. In fact his father is alive in the novel.
  • Rochefort was never a Musketeer and was not involved in Henri IV’s assassination
  • Richelieu was not a villian who tried to have the king assassinated. In the novel he wants to discredit the queen because he believes she is having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham. The first half of the novel is the Musketeers trying to protect her reputation.
  • Louis XII and Queen Anne are both 24 in 1625
  • Constance is married to d’Artagnan’s landlord and they have an affair.
  • Milady is beheaded at the end of the novel, after arranging the murder of Buckingham and murdering Constance
  • Buckingham and Richelieu are anything but allies.
  • d’Artagnan doesn’t kill Rochefort. In fact they become friends

Music: Bryan Adams co-wrote “All for Love” with Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Michael Kamen for the movie’s end credits, performing it with Rod Stewart and Sting. Kamen also composed the movie’s score, conducting the Greater Los Angeles All Star Orchestra.

Cast: Kiefer Sutherland returns as Athos and Michael Wincott returns as Rochefort

Charlie Sheen 1 as Aramis. He has appeared in Red Dawn, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Platoon, Wall Street, Young Guns, Men At Work, Eight Men Out, Major League, Hot Shots!, and Being John Malkovich. On television, he appeared in Spin City, Two and a Half Men, and Anger Management. Chris O’Donnell as D’Artagnan. He is known for playing Charlie Simms in Scent of a Woman, Chris Reece in School Ties, Jack Foley in Circle of Friends, Dick Grayson/Robin in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, Jason Brown in Cookie’s Fortune, Peter Garrett in Vertical Limit, and Wardell Pomeroy in Kinsey. He currently stars as special Agent G. Callen on NCIS: Los Angeles.

Oliver Platt as Porthos. His film debut was in Married to the Mob. Afterwards, he appeared in Working Girl, Flatliners, Beethoven, A Time to Kill, Executive Decision, Bulworth, The Impostors, Lake Placid, The Ice Harvest, Casanova, Year One, X-Men: First Class, The Oranges, and Chinese Zodiac. He provided the voice of Wiser the Owl in the animated film Dorothy of Oz. He also appeared in The 9th Life of Louis Drax. Tim Curry as Cardinal Richelieu. He is best known for his portrayal of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show reprising the role he had originated in the 1973 London, and the 1974 Los Angeles, stage productions of The Rocky Horror Show. His other stage work include the original West End production of Hair, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus, the Pirate King in the 1982 West End production of The Pirates of Penzance, Alan Swann in the Broadway production of My Favourite Year, and King Arthur in Broadway and West End productions of Spamalot. His film and television roles include Rooster Hannigan in Annie, Darkness in Legend, Wadsworth in Clue, Pennywise in It, Mr. Hector in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island. His roles in animation include Captain Hook on Peter Pan & the Pirates, Hexxus in FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Sir Nigel Thornberry on The Wild Thornberrys, and Palpatine on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Rebecca De Mornay as Milady de Winter. Her breakthrough film role came in 1983, when she starred as Lana in Risky Business. She is also known for her roles in Runaway Train, The Trip to Bountiful, Backdraft, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Never Talk to Strangers, Identity, Lords of Dogtown, Wedding Crashers, and Mother’s Day. On television, she starred as Wendy Torrance in the miniseries adaptation of The Shining and as Dorothy Walker on Jessica Jones. Gabrielle Anwar as Queen Anne. She is known for her roles as Sam Black in the second series of Press Gang, Margaret Tudor on The Tudors, Fiona Glenanne on Burn Notice, Lady Tremaine in the seventh season of Once Upon a Time, and the films Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, Scent of a Woman, Body Snatchers, For Love or Money, and Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead.

Paul McGann as Girard and Jussac. He came to prominence for portraying Percy Toplis in The Monocled Mutineer. He later starred in Withnail and I, and as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television film. He appeared in Empire of the Sun, Queen of the Damned, Alien 3, and Luther Julie Delpy as Constance. She acted in more than 30 films, including Europa Europa, Voyager, Three Colors: White, the Before trilogy, 2 An American Werewolf in Paris, and 2 Days in Paris.

Critical Reception:

  • Leonard Maltin christened this version Young Swords, as it reunited Sheen and Sutherland, both of Young Guns fame.
  • Janet Maslin of The New York Times described the movie as “Conceived frankly as a product, complete with hit-to-be theme song over the closing credits, this adventure film cares less about storytelling than about keeping the Musketeers’ feathered hats on straight whenever they go galloping.”


My take: Okay, so it’s The Three Musketeers in name only, but it’s fun.

Available on Disney +?: Yes

Next WeekOperation Dumbo Drop