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Lady and the Tramp

“Butch-a he say he wants-a two spaghetti speciale, heavy on the meats-a ball” -Tony

One month before the opening of Disneyland in July 1955, Walt Disney’s 15th animated feature was released: Lady and the Tramp.  The story first came into being when Disney artist and writer Joe Grant approached Walt with an idea inspired by the frolics of his pet Spaniel named Lady.  Walt liked the sketches that Grant had shown him, and gave him the go-ahead to start developing the idea further.  Through the 1930’s and into the 1940’s, Grant and some other artists at the studio worked on a number of ideas for the story, however, Walt was displeased by all of them, as there wasn’t enough action to be drawn from the stories he had been shown.  Also in the 1940’s, Walt read a story called ‘Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog’, which encouraged him to continue developing the original story by having the main character, Lady, fall in love with another dog.  By 1943, a treatment had been completed for the film, but unfortunately production had to stop, as at that time the studio was working on their WWII propaganda cartoons.

At the beginning of the film, the camera passes over a small turn-of-the-century town in America at Christmas.  We are then introduced to ‘Jim Dear’ and ‘Darling’, who are exchanging presents.  ‘Darling’ is given a pink hat box wrapped in a ribbon by ‘Jim Dear’, and inside she finds a Spaniel puppy; our heroine, Lady (voiced by Barbara Luddy, who has also played many other Disney characters).  Apparently, this scene was inspired by a present that Walt gave to his wife Lily, a Chow puppy in a hat box.  We are shown some of the challenges that Lady faces as a puppy, such as climbing the stairs and getting through doors.  When she is allowed to sleep on her owners’ bed for one night, there is a dissolve to adult Lady, sleeping on the same spot on the bed years later, because now she is fully grown.

We are then introduced to Lady’s neighbours, Jock and TrustyJock is a Scottish terrier who is chipper and quick-witted.  His friend Trusty is a Bloodhound, a slow thinking old-timer; the complete opposite of Jock.  We are also introduced to Tramp, a stray dog who is very street-wise and likes to live life in the now.

After Lady notices a negative change in the way her owners are treating her, she discusses the problem with Jock and Trusty.  They put two and two together, and realise that Darling is expecting a baby.  Tramp overhears the conversation and begins to tell Lady how life will change once the baby arrives:

“When the baby moves in, the dog moves out”

When the baby arrives, Lady does not get kicked out, however when Jim Dear and Darling take a trip together and leave Aunt Sarah in charge, things take a turn for the worse for Lady.  She clashes with Aunt Sarah’s two Siamese cats, Si and AmAunt Sarah decides that Lady is not safe to be around the baby, and takes her to the pet shop to be fitted with a muzzle.  Lady manages to run away, but is chased by some stray dogs, which Tramp manages to save her from.  He takes her to the zoo and tricks a beaver into removing her muzzle, so that she is now free, just like him.

Cue famous meatball scene…

Tramp takes Lady for an Italian candlelit dinner at Tony’s Restaurant.  The comedic characters of Tony and Joe, two Italian chefs, lighten the tone of the film, even though they aren’t on screen for too long.  It is Tony who sings the song ‘Bella Notte’ as the two dogs eat their spaghetti and meatballs.  The next day, Tramp stirs up a coop of chickens, but unfortunately, Lady is caught for his crime, and taken to the dog pound.  Here, she meets a handful of weird and wonderful characters, including Peg (voiced by singer Peggy Lee), who tells Lady through the song ‘He’s a Tramp’ about Tramp’s reputation with the ladies.  When Lady is finally taken home from the pound, Aunt Sarah ties her up to the dog house in the garden, where she is visited by Tramp.  She confronts him about his exploits and gets angry at him for leaving her to be taken to the pound, at which point Tramp leaves.

 Lady then sees a rat entering the house and fears for the baby, she barks hysterically, and Tramp comes back to help.  Tramp enters the house and goes into the nursery to confront the rat, beginning a battle which ends badly for the rat.  Aunt Sarah hears all the noise, and sees Tramp standing next to the crib which had fallen over as a result of the fight; she then calls the dog pound to come and pick Tramp up from the house.  Jim Dear and Darling are returning from their trip as Tramp is being taken away by the dog catcher, and they rush into the house.  Jock and Trusty realize what has happened after overhearing everything, and run after the dog catcher’s wagon to try and help Tramp.  Although they manage to stop the wagon, it tips over, falling on Trusty; it is at this point that Jock and the audience believe him to be dead.

Writing this review was quite difficult.  If it was a bad film there would be plenty to talk about, but it isn’t a bad film.  In fact, since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it was the highest grossing Disney cartoon of that time.  The story was actually the first since Dumbo to be penned by the studio, and was the first feature-length cartoon to be produced in Cinemascope.  As, at the time, many cinemas were not equipped to show Cinemascope films, Walt had to film two versions of the movie, one regular version, and one widescreen version.  The regular version would often cut characters out of a scene, and provide a limited view of the environments, whereas the widescreen version shows the film in all its beauty.  The fact that it was shown in Cinemascope had to be a major draw for audiences in the 1950’s.  The backgrounds were particularly enhanced by this feature, as you could become more drawn in to the environments and the time period in which the film takes place.  The backgrounds are very intricate, particularly the houses, which ooze 1900’s charm and elegance.  This could have something to do with the fact that the artist, Claude Coats, was trained in architecture.  Originally, Mary Blair had done many concept paintings for this movie; however she left the studio whilst the film was still in production, which is when Coats was put in charge.  It is hard to imagine how different the film may have looked if she had continued with the project, as her style was very unique and distinctive.

The town where the story takes place is very much inspired by Walt Disney’s boyhood home of Marceline, Missouri, and in turn, also bears resemblance to Main Street U.S.A in the Disney parks.  It took 150 artists to draw 2 million drawings, resulting in 110,000 Technicolor frames of film, to complete this movie.  That’s a lot of drawings!  This would explain why the movement of the dogs is so fluid.  Anyone who has ever owned a dog or spent time with a dog can see, when watching Lady and the Tramp, how much observation and research of the canine-kind has gone in to making the film.  Stretches, scratches, licks and jumps all seem to be perfectly drawn by the artists to give the genuine feeling that these dogs are real.  So as to give the audience a feel for what life is like for a dog, it was decided that you would see humans as minimally as possible.  Sort of like the ‘feet’ in Tom and Jerry, you never see the face, you only hear the voice.  Although you do see a few humans throughout the film, it only happens when needed to, to move the story along.  The rest of the time it is solely feet, hands and legs.

Jazz singer Peggy Lee co-wrote most of the songs in the film, as well as voicing 4 characters, Darling, Peg, Si and Am.  The character of Peg was named after her, and also had the same walk as her.  Possibly the most famous scene in the entire movie, the spaghetti and meatballs scene, was almost not included in the story at all.  Walt didn’t like it, but was eventually swayed after seeing a full animation test of it.  You made a good choice, Walt!

I am reviewing this movie from the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray.  It has to be said, that this is another Disney classic which seems to have been given a new lease of life thanks to the wonder of HD.  The backgrounds especially are crystal clear, and the characters seem more lifelike than ever.  As has come to be expected from Diamond Editions of this kind, there are a ton of special features.  All of the features from the original DVD release are present, including of a ‘Making Of’ featurette, a puppypedia, a music video, deleted scenes, and storyboard versions of the film.  The Blu-Ray features consist of more deleted scenes, and a very nice interview with Diane Disney Miller called ‘Remembering Dad’.  She talks about Walt’s apartment in Disneyland, and also about the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.  This is a really nice feature, probably the best on the Blu-Ray, particularly for any Walt fans!

If you have never seen Lady and the Tramp, there is no better time to do so.  It looks beautiful; it has a simple, romantic storyline, with plenty of laughs along the way, as well as many memorable songs and characters.

I give this movie 5 Tinks.

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