“Lady and the Tramp” has everything that you’d expect from a Disney classic. Cute characters, comedy, good voice acting, a memorable moment, and a happy ending. But the details are what set this film apart from the others. Long before Steven Spielberg had the idea to shoot “E.T. the Extraterrestrial” from a child’s viewpoint by lowering the height of the cameras, Walt Disney animated “Lady and the Tramp” from a dog’s perspective. The animators created models of the house and took pictures from low angles to help transport us into the dog world. Very little of the humans’ faces are shown to keep the film’s perspective within the canine community. This film is Disney animal animation at its finest, highlighting the natural appearance of different dog breeds while characterizing them through their stereotypes (English bulldog, Chihuahua, and my favorite: Jock the Scottish terrier). The stereotypes extend to the other animals, especially the Siamese cats and the beaver. The zoo creates a perfect setting for a “Bambi sequence,” in which the animators have a chance to show off their skills through realistic animal movement, while the script ties the scene into the plot through Lady’s muzzle. The film is very clever, using the shadows in the pound to make all of the dogs appear to be wearing stripes, and creating harmony in the songs through the barking and howling of the characters. One thing that I love about this story is that it is very honest. The opening scene where Darling receives Lady in a hat box was inspired by a gift exchange between Walt and his wife, and Walt uses his fond memory to remind us of our own sentimental experiences with dogs. I also think that the love story is very pure as it is experienced by two dogs that do not have any ulterior motives. That is why the spaghetti scene has become one of the most iconic love scenes in all of film – their love is completely innocent. I also believe that this film speaks to adults who can relate to a dog becoming less of a priority once a child arrives, and the writers purposefully cue the adults in to what the change is between Jim Dear and Darling before it is made obvious to children. The comic treatment of pregnancy is definitely memorable. The voice acting is fantastic with Barabara Luddy (Kanga, Merryweather, Mother Rabbit in “Robin Hood”) as Lady, Bill Thompson (White Rabbit, Mr. Smee) in five different roles that required five different accents (Cockney, Irish, Scottish, German, and Italian), Verna Felton (Fairy Godmother, Queen of Hearts, Dumbo’s Mother) as Aunt Sarah, and Thurl Ravenscroft (singer in many Disney films) as the alligator. I believe that a lot of the Disney magic from the 50’s through the 70’s comes from the various combinations of these refined voice actors. It is also worth noting that Alan Reed (the voice of Fred Flintstone) voiced a character in this film 5 years prior to the release of “The Flintstones.” While this film doesn’t have a lot of Disney’s most well-known musical hits, the songs are very beautiful. From the opening sequence that places an original song overtop of Silent Night to the magical atmosphere created by Bella Note and the dog back-up singers in He’s A Tramp, I find this to be one of the most underrated Disney soundtracks. When you compare this film to “Oliver and Company,” it is amazing how superior one dog film can be to another. “Lady and the Tramp” is the complete package and should not be looked over when listing the Disney masterpieces.
[Pictured: How could I post any other picture with this review?]