DVD Review: Lady and the Tramp (Diamond Edition Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD)
Release Date: February 7, 2012
· Clyde Geronimi
· Wilfred Jackson
· Hamilton Luske
· Larry Roberts
· Barbara Luddy
· Bill Thompson
· Bill Baucon
· Stan Freberg
· Verna Felton
· Peggy Lee
· IMDb: Lady and the Tramp
by Chris Delloiacono
Published: February 6, 2012
Most of modern children’s films hold no appeal for me. Too many are lifeless, by-the-numbers, and lack any real passion. Walt Disney’s greatest success as a filmmaker was the absolute passion he brought to his work. Whether it’s “Cinderella”, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Bambi”, or “Lady and the Tramp” it’s so easy to be engulfed in the world that Walt and his talented storytellers dreamed up. Perhaps some of my sentiment for these films is that they were already classics when I was born thus they’ve always existed in rose-colored perfection. I haven’t seen “Lady and the Tramp” in so long that the film only existed as vague memories and those indelible moments that are played in compilations constantly. Thankfully this wasn’t a rose-colored classic because it’s as great today as the day it was released.
“Lady and the Tramp” is so simple on initial thought. It’s a pampered cocker spaniel, Lady, falling for the street urchin, Tramp, that’s literally from the wrong-side-of-the tracks. There are also deeper themes at work in the film, which is something that Walt excelled at. Strong family bonds and deep friendships seem to be common explorations of Walt’s work. There’s also a heavy emphasis on the disarray caused in a house by the arrival of a new baby. Such as it is Lady is nearly forgotten by her “owners” when their first child is born. I’m an only child, but many older siblings must be able to put themselves into Lady’s paw prints and feel her sorrow.
The voice work of Larry Roberts, Barbara Luddy, Bill Thompson, Bill Baucon, Stan Freberg, Verna Felton, and Peggy Lee helps bring the characters to life. There are many voices that might be considered racially insensitive today, especially Ms. Lee’s work for the Siamese cats Si and Am. Early Disney productions can often be brought to bear for their use of stereotypes, but that’s an issue with many older films. As insensitive as the voices may be, the “We Are Siamese” sequence is brilliant on so many levels. The lyrics are beautifully thought out, these characters crackle with life, and the sequence tells a story that advances the main plot.
The one other negative I would offer concerns the portrayal of Lady’s owners. What kind of elitists go on vacation soon after their first child is born? Their self interested uncaring nature is amplified by how wretchedly they treat their dog following the birth and before their vacation. I guess they make up for it in the end, but these aren’t the best role models for the youth of America.
The stars are clearly the genius animators of the production. The hours of study necessary to render lifelike characteristics to the animals and mix in a counterpoint of “humanity” is magnificent. Directors Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske clearly placed the correct individuals on the sequences for which they could excel. Could many people argue that the spaghetti scene or the chase between Lady and Si and Am are not brilliant achievements in animation? I would be willing to say these moments have been seldom surpassed in ensuing six decades!
I am thrilled there’s not a song every five minutes. There are so many classic Disney songs, but for all of the brilliant tunes there are times when movies are dragged down by the weaker song work. With just a few numbers: “We are Siamese”, “He’s a Tramp”, and “Bella Notte” there’s a storytelling sense and an elite song writing at work in each sequence. When those songs kick in you are glued to the screen because these are THE key moments of the film.
I’ve reviewed a number of Disney Studios home video releases lately and the level of work they put into each collection is awe inspiring. Granted, I did not purchase the previous DVD edition of the film, so the vast array of extras is brimming with much material that other’s have already been exposed. Still, these extras hold my interest more than most discs with bored actors or uninspired directors talking about their storytelling decisions or reasons they are “so excited” by the opportunity to be paid for the film. Perhaps I’m lumping too many films together, but so often the extras are afterthoughts that lack the passion I’ve mentioned before.
The “classic” extras include a nearly-one-hour making-of piece that details the lengthy gestation that spanned more than a decade. What sets apart the Disney productions is the ample access to archive material that so many other studios destroyed. Other features include a near-complete storyboard sequence illustrating an earlier version of the film. There are deleted scenes (also in storyboard), as well as a deleted song. The behind the scenes interviews and reenactments that were originally shown on Walt’s television show in the ‘50s and ‘60s are my favorite extra. While a bit cheesy, these pieces offer an eye into Walt’s vision for family entertainment and a look back at the early days of television.
As for the new pieces for this edition, the shining star is “Second Screen” which offers companion viewing of the film on your television and a feast of extras on your laptop or iPad that run concurrently. Unfortunately, deadlines precluded me from actually seeing this material prior to the review’s publication. I’ve encountered this cacophony on prior releases like “Bambi” and “Tron: Legacy” and it’s worth viewing, especially if it’s from a film you adore. There’s also recollection from Walt’s daughter Diane that mainly centers on his apartment above the firehouse at Disneyland. It’s a beautiful, sentimental piece that casts the gent in such a fine light.
Once again Disney has recollected the memory of Walt Disney’s life’s work with a fabulous Blu-ray edition. For video fans the conversion to Blu-ray is a brilliant success with fabulous picture and sound that should appease most anyone. I only wish they’d make the Second Screen application available in a more timely fashion so I could review that aspect of the set as well.