A yuppie couple, "Jim Dear" and "Darling", who can't emotionally reach the next stage of development instead transfer their would-be love for a human child onto a cocker spaniel puppy. Overcompensating, perhaps to drown out the sound of their own immaturity, they name the dog "Lady" and proceed to pamper it to such a point of opulence that even the animal comes to think of itself as human. So lost in this illusion of equality is the animal that when it is shackled with an ornate collar, it parades around as if showing off a badge of honor.
Conversely, we're introduced to "the Tramp" who lives literally on the other side of the tracks. This vagrant mongrel is the quintessential man-child who values his freedom far above stability or responsibility. He sustains himself using his charisma and con artistry to scam food by way of multiple aliases. His only foil is an aggressive but obtuse dogcatcher.
Sadly, Lady's idyllic existence is shattered when the Jim Dear and Darling find themselves pregnant, and Lady receives her first of many canine wake up calls. With the imminent coming of a rightful human heir, the pretender is for the first time (though hardly the last) referred to as "that dog". As fate would have it, the Tramp stumbles into their uppercrust neighborhood about this time and begins kicking the knowledge to Lady of what her future holds, and it's a bleak picture to say the least.
Though Tramp is admonished and shooed away by Lady's cult of personality, his words ring too true. Immediately following the birth of the family's real child, Lady tries to pitch in and help like so many toadies and house-niggers before her. Yet, she remains an annoyance. A reminder of the folly of youth more than anything else.
The couple, oblivious to the importance of maintaining a constant bond between parent and child in the earliest stages of development, set off for vacation, leaving it in the care of an Aunt Sarah. This new matron of the manor has no love for dogs, and brings along her twin pet Siamese cats. These unmistakably evil cats, "Si" and "Am", with their exaggeratedly slanted eyes, broken English and buck teeth are the biggest affront to racial sensibilities since World War II when Superman "Slapped the Japs" and Bugs Bunny "Nipped the Nips". Following the stereotypical precedent of Asians being sneaky, the cats sing while performing acts of synchronized vandalism for which they frame Lady.
As a final humiliation, she is fitted for a muzzle, which is the final straw to prompt her to run away from home faster than the heroine in a Pat Benatar video.
Life on the street proves too much for such a delicate flower and it isn't long before Lady has to be rescued by the Tramp. Applying his considerably skills of Pimpology, the Tramp immerses Lady in his world (under his protection) and treats her to a romantic night of dinner and adventure reminiscent of the second act of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Lady is quite smitten and begins to view this slumming excursion as her new lifestyle choice. She has yet to learn that one must be in "IN the game but not OF the game."
Lacking the time-honed prowess of the Tramp, Lady is nabbed in the commission of a caper and tossed into the Big House (the pound) amongst its general population of first offenders and career recidivists. In her mind she has truly hit rock bottom, but as it turns out the denizens of this sorry excuse for a holding cell have hearts of gold (despite the ever hanging threat of being sent to the gas chamber). Furthermore, they serve as an amateur fan club for the Tramp. Through song and humorous anecdotes they lay out for Lady just what a Lothario she's fallen for.
Still, there is an undeniable class distinction, and Lady is soon bailed out by her owners and chained to her doghouse in the rain where she nurses her broken heart. True to form, The Tramp waltzes back into her life as though nothing happened, only to be tearfully rejected. It is doubtful that with time and charm he wouldn't have been successful at wooing his way back to her (likely that same day) but the timetable is sped up when the Tramp saves the baby from a wicked, flesh-eating rat. This is mistaken as an attack on the baby by Tramp and leads to the veritable end of his career. In the end, however, when his act of heroism is revealed, he's freed and adopted by the family to be Lady's mate. Essentially, the ultimate gadabout exchanges conventional imprisonment for a life of domestication as a husband and father.
Did it sound like I was describing a small-budget indie flick written by David Mamet and directed by Lars von Trier more so than one the classic Disney animated features? I stick by the facts of my recount. Watch it again, you'll see it's all there.
In all seriousness, there's a reason that Lady and the Tramp is one of Disney's most beloved classics. Besides being a cute story, it is ab-so-lute-ly BEAUTIFUL! The animation combines all the best elements of the painstaking attention to detail of the earlier features, and the movement and pacing of the yet-to-come Wolfgang Reitherman legacy (101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, The Rescuers, etc.).
Now with the new technology of remastering, the new DVD brings the images to life -- in a way -- beyond what they were originally. Personally, one of my favorite things about the movie is that the great Peggy Lee voiced many of the characters and sang all the songs. Even the unforgettable "We Are Siamese If You Please", where she duets with herself.
If you are a fan of animation or a collector of Disney movies, your collection is woefully lacking without Lady and the Tramp. If nothing else, it's interesting to watch just to see how much of it was lifted to cobble together a plot of The Aristocats.
Disc One offers nothing special except the option to watch the movie widescreen or pan & scan.
Disc Two's menu screen is against a background from the film's famous alley scene, and each section moves you forward to a different part, with a motion like one of the rides at Disney World.
1) In the scene where Lady and Tramp meet for the first time, there was a proposed fantasy sequence where Tramp imagines how things would be if dogs and humans traded places. This isn't a traditional ‘deleted' scene, as it was never actually shot. However, it was written, storyboarded and recorded by the voice actors, so it is presented as sort of an animatic. The most fascinating thing about it is that it was on the drawing board some twenty years before a test audience finally shot it down in 1953.
2) Again, this is presented as a slideshow of storyboard panels. Clearly, the studio did not waste a lot on animation that wasn't going to be used. This time it's the scene where the humans discuss the baby's arrival. and the vocal cast is different than what was decided upon in the end.
Music & More
1) "The Siamese Cat Song" takes you through many of the visual and audio avenues explored but not taken for the infamous cats. Truly, the art alternatives were much more viable than the vocal ones.
2) "Bella Note" is a cheesy music video of Steve Tyrell (who??) performing a jazzy version of the song Lady and the Tramp sucked spaghetti to. This kind of thing has become an obligatory part of every Disney DVD release. I honestly don't know why anybody would watch this.
Games & Activities
Here you have a collection of games that can only be meant for kids that have no game system or personal computer.
1) Disney Dog Trivia is a virtual board game that asks you dog related questions based on canine characters from ALL of the Disney movies. Sounds a lot easier than it is.
2) Going To The Dogs is a featurette hosted by the lovable Fred Willard (still milking his turn in Best In Show) that gives kids basic facts about dogs. It's interesting enough and over before it has a chance to get boring.
3) Your Inner Bark is one of those kinds of stupid quizzes you quit halfway through on OkayCupid.com. The goal is to determine which of the dogs from Lady and the Tramp your personality most closely resembles. What the $%^&* does that even mean??!!!
4) Disney Virtual Puppy is a DVD-ROM game . . . which I unfortunately couldn't get to work on any computer I tried. Sorry.
Here's where you get all the meat of the ‘Making Of's. Why they saved it for last I'll never know. It's literally hours of what went into developing the characters, the storyboards and the voices. As well as excerpts from the Disneyland TV Shows and the theatrical trailers. This serves as a great glimpse into animation history. I dare say it's my favorite part of the whole set.
All-in-all, the DVD extras are boiled down mostly to what's relevant and interesting. A welcome change from those that include everything that might come up in a Google search.
The Movie Itself: 8 out of 10
The DVD Features: 7 out of 10