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Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/27/2018
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/5/2018
It's impossible to review a movie without bringing all of your biases and baggage with you. After all, you can't know what you like unless you've experienced several things. It's also challenging to view a movie through anything other than the modern lens of the present. However, with some movies, it's imperative to step back in time and place yourself into the mindset of the period in which the film was released. As movies have evolved over the last century-plus, different innovations and fads have come and gone, and just because something doesn't seem noteworthy today, doesn't mean that it wasn't upon its initial release. This was my point of view while watching Lady and the Tramp.
As our story opens, "Jim Dear" (voiced by Lee Millar) gives his wife "Darling" (voiced by Peggy Lee) a puppy for Christmas, which she names Lady (voiced by Barbara Luddy). Lady soon grows into a happy dog, and she likes to spend her days outside talking to her friends, Jock (voiced by Bill Thompson) and Trusty (voiced by Bill Baucom). One day, a stray dog named Tramp (voiced by Larry Roberts) wanders into Lady's yard, but she instantly rebuffs this hooligan from the wrong side of the tracks. Not long after that, "Darling" has a baby and Lady suddenly finds herself being ignored. Tramp returns and convinces Lady that she's better off joining him for a life on the streets.
Lady and the Tramp falls squarely into the grouping of Walt Disney's later animated films. Many of the early works from Disney and his studio had come from classic fairy tales or novels and contained intricate stories. By contrast, despite the fact that the animation was cutting edge for its time, the roughness and new approaches to the medium are obvious today. By contrast, Lady and the Tramp is a technical marvel. The animation is very bold and detailed. The use of multi-plane animation works well here and each character has a very strong design. The use of colors is impressive and it's painstakingly clear that a lot of work went into the drawings. (Development for this 1955 release began in 1939.)
The movie may look great (even more on that in a moment), but the story leaves a lot to be desired. When I got this new edition to review, I kept telling myself that I'd seen the movie before, but other than the iconic spaghetti scene, I couldn't remember anything about the film. That's because there's not much going on here. Lady is a spoiled rich dog. Tramp is a poor, care-free dog. They meet and have an unlikely romance. And that's about it. There are supporting characters and some side-adventures, but this the rare film that a 3-year old could probably do a good job summarizing. With this bare-bones story, we get a batch of unlikable characters. Sure, you may remember Lady as being cute, but she's definitely spoiled and whiney. Tramp is a jerk and a chauvinist. (The way he constantly calls Lady "Pidge" would certainly land him in hot water today.) Trusty's schtick is annoying and Jock is a one-note character. Added to this mix, are a group of street characters which Lady meets for must a moment. The strangest thing about Lady and the Tramp are the songs. The movie isn't remembered as being a musical, as it really isn't, but there are a few songs here, and none of them are memorable, save for the wildly racist "We Are Siamese".
While watching Lady and the Tramp, all that I could think was that this was a movie where the intention was to mesmerize the viewers with the animation, with the hopes that they would find the characters charming enough to get by. Again, the animation still holds up today, but the simplicity of the story really shows through. Only young children will buy into what's going on, but hopefully they won't pay too much heed to the stereotypical characters and the overly masculine tone. Lady and the Tramp certainly shows off the craft of Disney's animation, but it should be placed on a tier below the true classics.
Lady and the Tramp takes place sometime between 1890 and 1930 on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, mostly notable reds and greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail looks great and there are no overt pencil marks. The depth also works well. Kudos to Disney for the great job cleaning up and restoring the film. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The music (though annoying ) sounds fine and never overpowers the characters. The stereo and surround sound effects are scant here, and the sound doesn't offer much depth.
The Lady and the Tramp Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. In addition to simply watching the movie as originally presented, one can choose to watch it with "Sing-Along Mode" subtitles or in the "Inside Walt's Story Meetings" mode, which offers pop-up photos and narrated notes from the planning sessions for the film. "Walt & His Dogs" (8 minutes) uses audio from an interview with Walt Disney, in which he discusses his love for canines, while a real cocker spaniel tours a Disney museum. "Stories from Walt's Office" (6 minutes) takes us inside Walt Disney's office, which has been restored to how it looked during his days there. "How to Make a Meatball and Other Fun Facts about Lady and the Tramp" (9 minutes) is a mini cooking lesson. "Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad" (8 minutes) has Disney's daughter sharing some anecdotes about her father, some of which deal with their living quarters. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which are shown in storyboard form. The final extra is the presentation of "I'm Free as the Breeze" (90 seconds) , a song which was written for the film, but was not recorded until now.
Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long