Disney is going to the dogs. Actually, man’s best friend has always been a popular part of their animated features, and Pluto may be one of the first that comes to mind, there are two other canines that have been waiting to come to DVD. Lady and the Tramp, the fifteenth full-length feature animated film in the company’s long list, is released just in time to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Lady and the Tramp is a tale that just about everyone knows despite the fact that is one of Disney’s feature films that doesn’t have a ride based around it, nor have the characters been seen in any offshoot television series. Despite its simplicity, this is a classic and heartwarming tale. The story is told, for the most part at least, from the perspective of dogs, and a couple of cats for good measure. We first meet Lady, a cocker spaniel that has been given to Darling (not her real name) as a Christmas present, and the puppy in a box is rumored to have been based on a real event in the life of Walt Disney.
Lady is raised in a very well-to-do family, and things seem to be ideal for her, until she learns that Darling and her husband Jim Dear (actually Jim, Dear) are expecting a baby. The neighborhood dogs Jock, a Scottish terrier, and Trusty, a bloodhound who has lost his sense of smell, try and convince Lady that the baby isn’t anything to worry about. That’s when Lady meets the Tramp, a homeless dog who is simply a free spirit living life on his own terms. He tries to give Lady the other version of the baby coming, speaking from experience of course, and it soon seems that she might be right.
Jim Dear and Darling take a much needed break after the baby is born, and Aunt Sarah comes to watch the infant, bringing with her two Siamese cats, Si and Am. The crafty felines get Lady in a heap of trouble and Aunt Sarah thinks the solution is a muzzle. Lady however runs away from the pet store and soon bumps into Tramp once again and before long, she finds herself in the pound. But, this is a Disney tale, and as we all know, they always have a happy ending.
Lady and the Tramp is something of a rarity in the grand scheme of Disney animation. Although the story is very loosely based on the 1937 book Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog, but it serves as more of an influence rather than being completely adapted from it. This is more of an original tale as opposed to those previously made that were based on stories and fairy tales. Lady and the Tramp also marked Disney’s first use of the newly created CinemaScope widescreen process and also was the first of their animated films to ever use the Buena Vista name.
At the heart of everything, Lady and the Tramp has two themes going for it. First, we see the difference in class, and in this case we have Lady, who is more of the debutant type of female character, a direct opposite of Tramp who more or less comes from the wrong side of the tracks. Despite their obvious differences, the two dogs get along quite well together, and this leads to the second theme of the story, that being a cleverly disguised, and quite simple, love story. And besides, even if you’re someone who has never seen this film before, there is at least one sequence that everyone knows; the spaghetti “kiss.” It’s something that is not only fondly remember by those who have seen Lady and the Tramp, it’s also a scene that has been parodied a time or two in cinema.
Like many of the films that were done before Walt Disney died in 1966, Lady and the Tramp shows the careful attention to detail that Walt always wanted to put into the company’s animation. Lady’s big, floppy ears are one of her most memorable traits, and the animators spared no expense in making sure they are noticeable. The way Jock walks, which is just like a terrier, is perfect, and there’s no chance that anyone could ever forget Si and Am, even though there are seen for only a few minutes in the movie. There are humans in the film as well, but they tend to take the backstage to the animal stars of the series. The turn of the century setting featuring cars and covered wagons as well as gas powered lighting also brings a great deal of life to the movie.
Another process used in Lady and the Tramp that was still in its infancy was the overdubbing process. Peggy Lee, who wrote the songs for the film and provided the voice for Darling, Peg (the impounded female dog who has a crush on Tramp) also did the voices for both Si and Am. The two cats only speak in the lyrical sense of the word, but Peggy Lee recorded one voice, and then recorded again for the other cat. Speaking of voices, also listen for the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft, a distinctive talent that some might recognize as the voice of Tony the Tiger but Disney fans will easily identify as the lead vocalist in the Haunted Mansions “Grim Grinning Ghosts” song and is also featured as one of the busts on the ride.
Lady and the Tramp has a gorgeous transfer to high definition, not any shock considering the care that Disney has put into their past blu-ray releases from the classic animation catalog. The colors are bright and vibrant, the level of detail even for this being an animated film are incredible. Even having seen the film far too many times, taking it all in on blu-ray again ended up being a remarkable experience that truly brings the magic of Disney, and particularly the genius of Walt Disney, to life like never before.
Although Lady and the Tramp has been released previously on blu-ray as a part of their Diamond Edition collection, most fans know the way that Disney operates with classics hitting high definition. The film is released for retail for a “limited time” before it “goes back into the vault” which simply means that Disney waits until another anniversary however now they have begun their Signature Edition line of blu-ray titles. This release does include a few new features although not too many. Walt & His Dogs features some archival audio with Walt discussing the dogs in his life over the years and this is combined with a look at pictures from the The Walt Disney Family Museum. Stories from Walt’s Office takes us to the studio lot where they have painstakingly recreated Walt’s office, just as it was when he was still alive, and we’re also treated to hearing some of the tales that go along with it. How to Make a Meatball and Other Fun Facts About Lady and The Tramp features teen chef Amber Kelley and Alexys Gabrielle giving a short cooking lesson as well as some trivia about Lady and the Tramp you may or may not know.
Disney has made it a habit of including extra material which has been found on previous releases, something that honestly not every studio has done over the years especially as they have transitioned over to blu-ray. If you love the music the disc does include a sing-a-long mode which allows you to jump to any of the films famous tracks. In her “jail house blues” song, Peg wishes that Tramp was double, and if that’s what you’re hoping for, your dreams will come true. Lady and the Tramp makes is blu-ray debut as a two-disc set with the blu-ray and DVD included although some might want to go the extra mile and triple their enjoyment with yet another edition which has a digital copy included. The disc includes a few new features but for the most part the blu-ray has the extra features from the classic DVD release. Diane Disney Miller provides a short but very heartfelt optional introduction to the movie which really gives even more heart to the movie. There is also a commentary track of sorts which features a collective of actors recreating the meetings that Walt and the staff of Lady and the Tramp had during the production of the movie. I’d really love to have more of this type of feature included on other Disney releases and hopefully there are more things like this sitting in the archives. The blu-ray also carries over the Second Screen option which was found on the original release. Some may recall several years ago there was a big push to release some films with the option to use an iPad or tablet to view additional content which ran alongside the movie. It was a good idea but one which never really seemed to catch on with consumers as much as anticipated.
There are three new deleted scenes which have made their way to this release. One of them, Waiting for Baby, would have made a great addition to the film and it’s too bad that it ended up not being included with the final version. Miller is featured once again in another short piece, Remembering Dad, which includes some great, archive film of Walt and his family, photos, and some fantastic video of Walt’s apartment in Disneyland. If you’re unaware of where this is located, just look about the firehouse on Main Street and also take note that at night there’s always a light on, a symbol that the spirit of Disney still lights the way and burns bright. Finally, for new material exclusive to the blu-ray, there’s another song that wasn’t included in the movie found here which would have been Tramp’s, until it was decided that he wasn’t the type of dog who would sing.
For those who have been doing digital, the blu-ray does include a code just as all of their releases have over the years which provides you with a digital copy which can be watched of Disney’s Movies Anywhere platform or Vudu. According to the press release there are classic bonus features found on the DVD which will be made available to view digitally. The previous blu-ray release also included a digital copy but it was prior to studios actually including bonus material to be viewed and while Disney Movie Rewards did accept my code, it also informed me I already owned the movie. However I’m going to assume that what might happen will be similar to when The Lion King was reissued on blu-ray. It was another film I owned a digital copy of from the earlier release but when the new edition came out I suddenly found that I had two different entries on Vudu for the film. The first was my original blu-ray, the second was the new Signature Edition complete with all available bonus features and in fact, I hadn’t even purchased it. I do wish however that Disney would allow some of their blu-ray released which added digital codes later to populate in our catalogs instead of putting us in a position to buy the movies again.
It may be a simple tale, but that’s part of the beauty of Lady and the Tramp. After over 60 years since it was released I believe that Walt would be quite proud to see that this, as well as the other theatrical features he was behind, have held up so well and have entertained generations. These puppies are just begging to wag their way into your blu-ray collection, and Lady and the Tramp is a must have for not only the Disney fan, but those that love a story that can be watched over and over which will still pull you along from start to finish on your proverbial leash.
Mike is the resident reviewer for Couponing to Disney and his own site Underland Online. He has a toddler daughter and is obsessed with Haunted Mansion and all things Disney. You can read Mike’s complete bio here.