Lady and the Tramp is the greatest canine romance ever put to film. So it’s hard to believe people didn’t appreciate it upon its release. Everyone loves dogs after all. Well fortunately Lady and the Tramp is now seen as the animated Disney classic that it always ways. Lady and the Tramp was probably the closest thing to an original idea Walt Disney made at the time. Lady was actually based on the dog of one of Disney’s story artists. Disney loved the idea, but thought it was too light. Enter the Tramp. A character inspired by a short story from Cosmopolitan titled “Happy Dan, the Cynical Dog.”
The rest of the movie drew heavily from personal experiences with man’s best friend. After many human focused adventures like Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp became the first animal focused Disney animated movie since Bambi. As well as the fifthteenth made by the studio. Being something of a passion project, Lady and the Tramp had many firsts. It was the first movie disturbed by the entirely Disney owned company Buena Vista and it was the first animated movie filmed in widescreen CinemaScope…
Lady and the Tramp was a dog centered Disney movie that I couldn’t help but love when I was younger. I didn’t watch it as frequently on VHS, but it was still a staple (despite my never officially having a dog). Lady and the Tramp is a classic love story about two individuals from different social classes. Only this time done entirely from the perspective of a dog. That means everything is drawn from a low angle with most human characters having partially obscured faces. On Christmas day in 1909, Jim Dear and Darling receive the very adorable puppy Lady as a present. After a sequence I’m sure most dog owners can relate to, Lady grows up.
Lady is a lovely purebred Cocker Spaniel who lives in a high end upper-middle class neighborhood. Like most dogs, Lady is full of energy and loves attention. Her friends are the Scottish accented Scottish Terrier Jock and older Bloodhood who lost his sense of smell Trusty. We spend a lot of time on the average everyday experiences of a dog. Including receiving their first collar & license and the more life changing addition of a baby to the family. That’s where Tramp comes in. Tramp is a stray part Schnauzer part Terrier mutt from the wrong side of the tracks. Known by his reputation of always evading dog catchers. After freeing his friends Peg and Bull, Tramp winds up in the rich neighborhood where he meets Lady. His cynical attitude towards being a pet clashes with her naive optimism. They couldn’t be more different, but he does have a heart of gold.
After the baby is born, Jim Dear and Darling leave him to be looked after by Aunt Sarah. I know she’s supposed to mean well, but I can’t help but to hate the way she treats Lady. Even worse is her evil Siamese cats. Chinese stereotypes that annoyingly blame their mess on Lady. She’s then taken to get a muzzle, but Lady escapes into the big bad world. Where the Tramp rescues her from a pack of vicious dogs. After a whistling beaver gets the muzzle off, Tramp shows Lady the exciting life of a stray dog. Then they share a romantic date at an Italian restaurant. Not only is this the most iconic scene in the animated film, it’s also one of the most iconic scenes in film period. Hard to believe Disney almost cut it. There’s just something about seeing two dogs accidentally kiss while sharing a plate of spaghetti & meatballs. Something many couples have tried to replicate.
They fall in love, but Lady unfortunately winds up in the dog house. It’s a surprisingly depressing sequence that doesn’t stray away from what living in a pound is like. Lady also discovers the Tramps trampy past. She stops speaking to him, but there’s an even greater problem that needs to be dealt with. A monsterous rat that goes after the baby. Tramp shows his true colors, but is still sent away. Trusty uses his nose to sacrifice himself, but there’s no way the movie would kill him off. Just like the beginning, Lady and the Tramp enjoy Christmas day with Jock, Trusty, and their puppies. Three that look like Lady and a scampy one that looks like Tramp.
Lady and the Tramp is only enhanced by its widescreen format. Something that was a bit of a learning curve for the animators, but they pulled it off. Giving them more sweeping backgrounds and characters to fill the screen. Just like with Bambi, real dogs were used as reference. They certainly captured all the mannerisms that we know and love. Music wise, “He’s a Tramp” has always been a sultry favorite. While obviously cringy, “We are Siamese” is still pretty catchy. But “Bella Notte” is a romantic serenade from the heart. Lady and the Tramp is just as loveable as its titualar canine couple.