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20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Lady and the Tramp’

Lady and the Tramp was released in 1955 and was Walt Disney’s 15th animated feature. 1955 was already a huge year for the company and for Disney personally with his brand new park, Disneyland, opening that July. Lady and the Tramp opened only a month earlier to disappointing reviews.

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Peter Pan’

The original idea for the film came from two different sources. Firstly, Disney animator Joe Grant was inspired by his own dog, a Springer Spaniel named Lady. However, after drawing some sketches and presenting a storyboard to Walt, this initial vision was set aside. A few years later, a new inspiration came about thanks to a short story called Happy Dan the Whistling Dog by author Ward Greene. Though Joe Grant had left the studio by this point, the final script was a combination of his original idea and Greene’s short story.

Lady and the Tramp marked a first for several things. Though animals were almost always incorporated in films prior, Lady and the Tramp was the first Disney film where dogs played a major part in the story. Dogs would later become a recurring aspect across Disney movies. They appeared in One Hundred and One Dalmatians of course, but also in many other live-action Disney properties such as Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, and The Incredible Journey.

Lady and the Tramp is also notable for its lack of a villain. Though Aunt Sarah and her cats act as the clear antagonists, there is no memorable villain character such as Captain Hook or Maleficent, which is somewhat unusual across Disney animated films. However, Aunt Sarah’s cats do get one of the songs in the film, which has sparked some controversy due the culturally offensive stereotypes portrayed. On the subject of music, like most Disney films of the time, Lady and the Tramp includes a few songs which have gone on to become classics. Most memorable would be “Bella Notte “which is the oft-used romantic theme of the film. This song is sung during the famous spaghetti sequence, which is a scene that has stood the test of time and is the most well-known aspect of Lady and the Tramp.

Also noteworthy is that this was the first animated film, Disney or otherwise, to be released in the CinemaScope format. Up to this point, animated films were only ever released in what was called the Academy ratio or what we think of today as “fullscreen”. However, by the 50s, the industry was changing and other aspect ratios were becoming more and more prominent. To stay ahead, Walt decided to release Lady and the Tramp in the extremely wide format of CinemaScope. Unfortunately, not all theaters were equipped for this so the studio also had to make a print in the traditional Academy ratio to send to some theaters.

I will be honest: Lady and the Tramp is not a personal favorite. However, it can’t be denied that it is a beautiful film with some enjoyable characters. I would recommend giving it a watch if it has been a while; there is indeed a lot to like.

Live-action remake: In 2019, a live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp premiered on Disney+. Check out Sean Nasuti’s review of the film here.

Lady and the Tramp in the theme parks: Since Lady and the Tramp and Disneyland came about in the same year, it is baffling to me that there is nothing in Disneyland to show off Lady and the Tramp. As far as Disney classics go, it is one of the least represented among the parks. However, there are a couple of Italian restaurants in Disneyland Paris and Disney World that are based on Tony’s Restaurant from the film.

Sequel: Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure was released in 2001 by DisneyToon Studios. For more details on this sequel, check out my discussion here.

Lady and the Tramp is currently available to stream on Disney+.

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