|Lady and the Tramp (50th Anniversary Edition)|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 28 February 2006|
In “Lady and the Tramp,” though, Walt Disney worked the story line to its best. The movie is one that children and adults can enjoy on different levels and at different times in their lives. In fact, some experts say that “Lady and the Tramp” is the most adult animated feature Walt Disney ever made. Disney Studios’ best efforts concentrate on timelessness of subject matter and characters.
Opening with the quiet, snow-covered countryside in Chapter 1, “Lady and the Tramp” begins gently, bringing us into the small town and the large home where Lady is delivered as a Christmas present puppy, all with beautiful music spilling from the surround sound system. In Chapter 2, Lady is raised in the lap of luxury and pampered like a child. Her stubborn insistence on sleeping in her owners’ bed rather than her own is something kids and parents all understand on a personal level. Her pitiful howling and stubbornness soon wins her way into their bed. The long trudge up the stairs becomes an elaborate journey. Later, even though full-grown and told that she can only stay the one night, Lady is still sleeping in the bed. Her yard activities, accompanied by the bouncy music, range from the frivolous while she’s running around, burying a bone and getting the newspaper, to the fierce when she chases away a rat.
Lady gets her license in Chapter 3. She’s proud as she can be of it. With a Scottish air befitting his pedigree, terrier Jock gets introduced to the viewer. Lady shows off her license, proudly strutting around to show it off. She and Jock go next door to show her new license to Trusty. The bloodhound had once chased fleeing criminals with his grandpappy Old Reliable, but has since lost his sense of smell. The caterpillar with the black and white-striped skin resonates in the scene. The camaraderie between the three dogs is obvious, and Lady’s place in the family home is assured. Of course, that’s about to change.
Chapter 4 introduces the Tramp at the train station. As the camera pans in on him, the sound of the resting engine chuffs through the surround sound system, moving from the center speaker to the left one as the camera changes position. Tramp is an obvious panhandler, making his choice of restaurants and going around back to have it delivered. The passing dogcatcher’s wagon goes across the left, center, and right speakers, mirroring the movement on the screen. Of course, Tramp discovers that two of his buddies, an English bulldog and a poodle, have been captured. He frees them as the dogcatcher, his voice moved to the right speaker to mark his position, gives chase. In no time, Tramp finds himself in Lady’s neighborhood, which he calls Snob Hill.
Switching back to Chapter 5, Jock and Trusty find Lady down in the dumps. Lady is upset because her owners have changed their attitude about her, giving her less attention and not nearly as amused by her antics as they normally are. For the first time, Lady is referred to as “that dog.” Later, she’s even refused her walk and play, and even gets smacked by Darling for playing with a ball of yarn. Of course, Jock and Trusty know what’s going on. They try to explain that Darling is about to have a baby. At that point, Tramp happens up on the conversation and is genuinely amused. He immediately insinuates himself into the discussion and starts talking about the negative side of having a baby in the house.
Tramp puts on quite a show in Chapter 6 as he paints a dire picture of life with the new baby. Thunder rumbles through the subwoofer. Tramp tells her that when a baby moves in, the dog moves out. Over the next few months, Lady’s life changes tremendously. Soon, Lady is even sleeping in her own bed. The wind howls through the right speaker as the father opens the door to go out. Later, when the baby is born, rain falls, coming from all the speakers and making us feel like we’re in the center of everything.
In Chapter 7, the sounds of the new baby wars with the birds chirping the arrival of spring. Lady’s house has changed dramatically. The first song rolls through the surround sound system, soft and gentle.
Lady sees the baby for the first time in Chapter 8, and for a little while it seems like her life is going to return to normal. Aunt Sarah arrives to take care of the baby, and Lady ends up shoved outside. In short order, Aunt Sarah chases Lady from the baby’s room, thinking the dog has scared the child.
Lady’s life takes an even more miserable turn in Chapter 9 when Aunt Sarah’s Siamese cats put in their appearance. The music has an Asian flavor and rings delicately through the surround sound system. The cats quickly set out trying to eat the household pet bird and fish. Then the cats hear the baby and realize that there is milk to be had. Lady tries to defend her home against the cats, but is quickly blamed for the destruction that occurs. Aunt Sarah takes Lady to the pet store and has a muzzle put on her.
Fleeing the muzzle and Aunt Sarah in Chapter 10, Lady barely escapes with her life through churning wagon wheels that spin through the surround sound system from all directions. Charging through an alley, she winds up tangled in a bunch of tin cans, which clatter through the surround sound system and draws the attention of a pack of wild dogs. Tramp comes to her rescue and fights them off. The noise of the fight hammers through the surround sound system. Tramp takes Lady to the zoo to have the muzzle taken off. Lady holds up for a moment because the sign says that no dogs are allowed. Tramp quickly plays up to the first passing pedestrian to create a distraction that allows both of them to slip into the zoo. In a series of swift encounters, Tramp takes Lady through the zoo.
In Chapter 11, Tramp scams a beaver to remove Lady’s muzzle by tricking the beaver with a line of quick patter. The beaver’s tail smack slams the subwoofer. Lady quickly picks up on the con job. The music and action of the beaver falling down the hill explodes through the surround sound system.
Lady and Tramp discuss the benefits of having a family vs. having several families in Chapter 12. He shows her a series of households, from German to Irish to Italian, all with their own menus. Tramp quickly scores them a dinner, which turns into the famous spaghetti scene that ends in a kiss. Tramp introduces Lady to Tony and Joe, who quickly provides a feast for the two dogs.
In Chapter 13, Tony and Joe serenade the two dogs. The music rolls through the surround sound system. Stars shine in Lady’s eyes as she looks up through lines of laundry hanging over the alley. The music continues as Tramp takes Lady through the park and they fall in love.
Chapter 14 finds Lady and the Tramp still together. He offers to show her what a dog’s life can really be without an owner. Tramp talks about living outside the fences and off the leash. Lady is drawn back by a sense of responsibility to watch over the baby. The wagon passing by later in the chapter again moves through the surround sound system, mirroring the action. Tramp entices her into chasing chickens. In seconds, the cacophony of disturbed chickens explodes through the surround sound system. Unfortunately, Lady ends up in the dogcatcher’s clutches.
The rest of the movie plays out predictably, as it should, with visual and auditory touches that Walt Disney studios filled with magic. From the howling confines of the dog pound, where the dogs wear stripes made by the shadows of iron bars, to the final scenes where the Siamese cats get their comeuppance, “Lady and the Tramp” is an absolute delight to watch, whether for the first time or for the hundred and first. The themes of loyalty and love shine.
The bonus DVD with the 50th Anniversary Edition is packed with extras. The interactive menu featuring the extras is awesome, clear and beautiful, with a three-dimensional quality that stands out immediately. First up is a 12-plus-minute section of two deleted scenes and a storyboard treatment. The sketched sequence of events, particularly the twisted vision of dogs owning humans, is great. Older siblings can understand the dread Lady has in the unrealized sequence of the baby’s arrival. Children who weren’t looking forward to a new baby in the world and had fears about how their lives would change will totally get the anxiety she shows. The actual film of the studio people working on the animated feature (in color yet!) shows a lot of forethought on Disney’s part. He was already creating extra value for DVDs long before the home movie market had taken off.
Song features are always big hits with a Disney DVD. The two included in the extras, as well as the preface material, show the development of the production from concept to finished performance. It also gives some insight into how things were done before digital audio came along. The overdubbing Peggy Lee did was even a new technique then. Steve Tyrell’s performance of “Bella Notte,” mixed with clips from the movie, is bluesy and moving, and the surround sound really moves the song through the home theater.
The games on the second disc, ranging from simple to involved, include single and multi-player versions centering on trivia from the movie. These will keep kids busy for some time.
Where Disney really shines with this edition, though, is in the “Backstage Disney” section. The documentaries include “Lady’s Pedigree: The Making of ‘Lady and the Tramp’,” “Finding Lady: The Art of the Storyboard,” “Original 1943 Storyboards,” excerpts from “Disneyland” TV shows, theatrical trailers and “Lady and the Tramp” galleries.
“Lady’s Pedigree” breaks down into seven different sections that deal with how the story was generated, the music, the animation, voices and the look of the film, nearly an hour of great material. One of the best pieces shows the development of “Lady and the Tramp”, the genesis – in storyboard pictures – from Lady’s struggle with the new baby to the final version that included the Tramp. Bringing the film to fruition took over 10 years, slowed for a time even by World War II.
“Lady and the Tramp” is an excellent film for family nights or for the family trip. With its endearing characters and rich, simple emotion, the movie entertains again and again. The color and the sound improvements make it worth picking up again to replace the original release, but it’s the added value packaging that really makes the purchase worthwhile. Fans who have always wanted to know more about how the movie came to be will get a treasure trove of background materials.