Lady and the Tramp appears in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed version was viewed for this article. In a word, the transfer of Tramp looked flawless.
Sharpness was exceedingly crisp and well-defined. Virtually no example softness crept into this tight, concise presentation. I saw no instances of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement looked absent. Despite the film’s age, not a sign of source flaws could be found. This was an immaculate presentation.
Colors looked deep and rich throughout the film, with no signs of bleeding or smearing. The movie went with gentle, nostalgic tones, and the always came across as full and warm. Black levels were appropriately dark and dynamic, and shadow detail looked clear and easily visible. Low-light shots showed just the right balance of light and dark. Disney usually does right by its animated classics on DVD, but Lady stood out as arguably their best transfer of an older film to date.
Much has been made about the existence of a reframed 1.33:1 version of Lady created at the same time as the 2.55:1 edition. This appeared on laserdisc back in the Nineties and apparently was a better representation of the filmmakers’ intentions than a standard pan and scan chop job.
Does this DVD’s 1.33:1 version offer that 1955 “Academy ratio” cut? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I’ve never seen the reframed edition so I wouldn’t know where to compare the two. With such a gorgeous widescreen version, though, I’m not sure why anyone would bother with the cropped one.
When I looked at the audio of Lady and the Tramp, I found two soundtracks. In addition to the film’s original mix – here presented in Dolby Digital 3.0 - we got a new “enhanced home theater” Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The “B+” seen above refers to the original 3.0 audio, which I found to be superior. Its soundfield offered very nice stereo imaging for the music. Effects also spread gently to the sides, but music dominated that version. This was perfectly appropriate for the material and still made the soundscape ambitious for its era since the vast majority of tracks were mono in the Fifties.
Audio quality was surprisingly good. Speech came across as pretty warm and natural, and I noticed to intelligibility problems or edginess. Music was fairly lush and distinctive, while effects showed good definition and bite. The track still showed its 50-year-old roots, but it seemed very satisfying nonetheless.
Although the 5.1 mix opened up the soundfield, it often did so in an awkward manner. The best parts of that soundscape came from the use of effects, as those broadened decently to the sides and rears. Indeed, the back speakers even presented some unique elements at times.
Unfortunately, music was less satisfactory. The 5.1 mix spread the score and songs across all five speakers, and that made the music lack good definition. It all mushed together in a lackluster way.
The 5.1 mix also didn’t sound as good as the 3.0 version, largely because speech demonstrated a notable coat of reverb. Lines came across as more hollow and wooden in the 5.1 edition, though they remained clean and intelligible. The same applied to music and effects, though not to the same degree; those remained reasonably natural. Bass response was better for the 5.1 track, I’ll admit, as it offered nice depth at times. Still, the lack of clean definition and the echo to much of the mix left it with a “C+”. Stick with the superior 3.0 track.
How did the picture and audio of this DVD compare to those of the original 1999 DVD? Both offered improvements. The audio seemed tighter and cleaner, while the picture was smoother and better defined. Note that I wasn’t able to directly compare the two, so I had to rely on my old notes. I really liked the original DVD but I’m sure I’d think less highly of its non-enhanced image today. I’m positive that the new DVD offers distinctly superior visuals. Heck, it’s pretty much perfect – it’d have to be better, wouldn’t it?
DVD One opens with some ads. We get previews for The Little Mermaid, The Shaggy Dog, Chicken Little, Brother Bear 2 and Air Buddies. These appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Lady and the Tramp II, Dumbo and Walt Disney World.
All the real extras show up on DVD Two. In the Deleted Scenes area, we get two segments: “Turning the Tables” (four minutes, 38 seconds) and “The Arrival of the Baby (Alternate Unused Concept)” (8:13). Note that those running times include introductions from Disney animator Eric Goldberg. He gives us details about the abandoned segments and helps inform us about them.
“Tables” comes to us as a storyreel of audio and filmed storyboards. It shows a fanciful segment in which dogs command humans. It’s silly but interesting. “Baby” offers a longer version of the existing sequence. It also provides somewhat different voices. I wouldn’t call it fascinating, but it’s fun to see.
The DVD’s “Music & More” area includes two elements. ”The Siamese Cat Song”: Finding a Voice for the Cats is a four-minute and 17-second featurette. Goldberg chats about the issues related to the Siamese cat vocals and we get examples of various tests for these. We also see some concept drawings of the cats in this informative and entertaining piece.
“Music & More” also presents a new “Bella Notte” Music Video. Performed by Steve Tyrell, this turns the tune into a lounge lizard track. The video just mixes lip-synch shots with movie clips. Blech!
When we head to “Games & Activities”, we start with Disney Virtual Puppy. Useful only to those with DVD-ROM drives, this allows you to “adopt” a pooch from the movie and interact with it. It’s a cute little game but it gets tedious quickly.
Everyone can play the Disney Dog Trivia “Virtual Board Game”. This is available in single-player or multiple-player modes. It asks questions about pooches from a variety of Disney feature films and shorts. These aren’t difficult, but they may be a challenge if you’ve not seen all the works in question.
Called Going to the Dogs, we get an installment of the “Disneypedia” series. Hosted by Fred Willard, this nine-minute and 35-second piece features information about canines. It uses Disney dogs to illustrate material and offers a decent little overview of the various breeds. It should prove fun and informative for the kids. Willard also semi-reprises his Best in Show role with a few amusing comments.
“Games & Activities” ends with Your Inner Bark, a “Personality Profile”. This quiz asks you a slew of questions and then tells you which Tramp dog you most resemble. It ain’t scientific, but it’s fun. (I’m not too wild that I’m “Lady”, but it’s probably correct!”)
The meat of DVD Two comes in the Backstage Disney area. The big program here is a 52-minute and 32-second documentary called Lady’s Pedigree: The Making of Lady and the Tramp. It mixes archival materials, movie clips, and interviews. We hear from Goldberg, Walt Disney Feature Animation art directors Mike Gabriel and Andy Gaskill, Walt Disney Historical Museum executive director Kaye Malins, authors/animation historians John Canemaker, John Culhane and Christopher Finch, Marceline MO residents Rush Johnson, Dawn Waxon, Urban Neff and Christine Ankeney, Walt Disney Feature Animation producer Don Hahn, Walt Disney Feature Animation supervising animator Andreas Deja, Walt Disney Feature Animation story development Burny Mattinson, Walt Disney Feature Animation director Ron Clements, animator Frank Thomas’ son Ted, writer Joe Grant’s daughter Carol Grubb, co-composer Peggy Lee’s daughter Nicki Lee Foster, Aladdin supervising animator Randy Cartwright, retired Disney animator/character designer Blaine Gibson, director Wolfgang Reitherman’s sons Bruce and Dick, animator Frank Thomas’s son Ted, Frank Thomas’s wife Jeanette, NYU Film Scoring Program director Ron Sadoff, cartoon music historian Daniel Goldmark, co-composer Sonny Burke’s son Peter, actor Stan Freberg, Walt Disney Imagineering senior VP creative development Tony Baxter, and Disney background artist Claude Coats’ son Alan.
We learn about Walt’s life in Marceline, Missouri, and its impact on Lady, the movie’s story and development, characters and specifics of the animation, score and songs, casting and actors, and the film’s use of Cinemascope and its backgrounds. This creates a fine impression of the movie’s creation. “Pedigree” digs into the topics with a lot of interpretation and introspection, and the thoughts of modern filmmakers helps balance the inevitable absence of the original artists. We learn many cool details like the changes and additions of characters over the development. The mix of archival materials works well too, especially when we check out gems like Frank Thomas’s home movies. “Pedigree” offers a fine examination of Lady.
For more filmmaking information, we head to the 13-minute and two-second Finding Lady: The Art of the Storyboard. In this featurette, we get narration from Goldberg and additional comments from Mattinson, Beauty and the Beast story supervisor Roger Allers, The Birds production designer Robert Boyle, Narnia director Andrew Adamson, Open Range director Kevin Costner, The Greatest Game Ever Played sequence conceptual artist Mick Reinman, and Greatest Game director Bill Paxton. We learn the basics about storyboards and their use in films. Folks familiar with the subject won’t find anything revelatory here, but “Finding” presents a good overview. It also shows quite a few nice examples of boards from various movies.
Specifics about Lady show up in Original 1943 Storyboards”. In this 12-minute piece, Goldberg and Mattinson lead us through this art. They act out a story pitch and let us see an alternate version of Lady. It differs strongly from the final product, so fans will definitely enjoy this glimpse of an alternate concept for the film.
Next we get Excerpts from Disneyland TV Shows. We find three of these. After a four-minute “Introduction” from Goldberg that explains the history of the shows, we can watch “The Story of Dogs” (aired 12/1/54, 17:29), “Promo Trailer for ‘The Story of Dogs’” (3:01) and “Cavalcade of Songs” (2/16/55, 21:39).
“Story” looks at basics of the creation of Lady; we learn about the story and watch storyboards, concept art, voice acting, animation and other artistic areas. The “trailer” just gives us a sneak peek at the then-upcoming show; it also notes some Pluto-related elements we don’t get here.
“Cavalcade” concentrates on the movie’s music and shows a meeting that includes composers Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee, idea/sketch man Joe Rinaldi, and writer/director of story unit Erdman Penner. They look at the story and discuss where to insert tunes. We also see Burke and Lee as they record rough versions of songs and work out the Siamese cat vocals.
All of these pieces benefit from lots of fun behind the scenes elements. We already find some of them in the documentaries, but they still offer lots of interesting material in these shows. They’re a fine addition to the set.
Three Trailers appear. We get ads for the original 1955 release as well as reissues from 1972 and 1986. Finally, the Lady and the Tramp Galleries split into five categories. We find “Visual Development” (105 images), “Character Design” (76 across four subdomains), “Storyboard Art” (42), “Layouts and Backgrounds” (41), and “Production Photos” (68). I always enjoy these collections, and the Lady galleries are a delight.
Lady and the Tramp remains a classic, one that belongs in everyone's collection. It’s a wonderful and warm film that still holds up awfully well after 50 years. The DVD provides terrific picture and solid audio along with a nice collection of extras.
I wholeheartedly recommend this fine DVD, and that goes for anyone who owns the original 1999 disc as well. The new release offers many more supplements and also upgrades both picture and audio. It makes for a very strong set.