Lady and the Tramp appears in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Disney usually handles their “gems” well, and Tramp indeed looks great.
Sharpness was 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. This was a lovely presentation.
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 a DTS-HD MA 3.0 incarnation - we got a new DTS-HD MA 7.1 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 age-related roots, but it seemed very satisfying nonetheless.
Although the 7.1 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, such as when we first met Tramp; a train moved from the front left to the rear left in a convincing manner.
Unfortunately, music was less satisfactory. The 7.1 mix spread the score and songs across all the speakers, and that made the music lack good definition. It all mushed together in a lackluster way.
In addition, the 7.1 audio tended to lean to the right. During the opening credits, I wondered if my left-side speakers had gone kerplunk; the right half of the mix seemed so much more dominant that I worried my system had a problem.
No, that wasn’t true, and audio did come from the left; the right simply boasted louder material for some reason. As the movie went, it balanced better, but some heavy right-side segments still appeared, and I thought the track generally tilted in that direction. The emphasis on the right wasn’t enough to ruin the mix, but it created some unfortunate distractions.
The 7.1 mix also didn’t sound as good as the 3.0 version, largely because speech demonstrated a light coat of reverb. Lines came across as more hollow and wooden in the 7.1 edition, though they remained clean and intelligible. The same applied to music and effects, though not to the same degree; those remained reasonably natural. The lack of clean definition and the echo to much of the mix left it with a “C+”. Go with the superior 3.0 track.
How did the Blu-ray compare the 2006 “50th Anniversary” DVD? Audio was pretty similar; the lossless material here was a bit warmer, but I didn’t notice substantial growth. On the other hand, the visuals demonstrated the standard step up typical for Blu-ray. The DVD looked good but lacked the Blu-ray’s depth, precision and vivacity.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. I’ll mark exclusives with special blue print.
For the biggest new attraction, we get Second Screen. This offers a different kind of interactive program, as it requires an external device to work best; you’re supposed to synchronize the Blu-ray to your computer or your iPad.
Normally I don’t review anything that requires an external connection; that’s why I’ve never touched on BD-Live, as I prefer only to discuss content that actually exists on the Blu-ray itself. I planned to make an exception for Second Screen, but alas, I was unable to take full advantage of the feature; as I write, the Blu-ray’s still eight days from retail release, so the Second Screen website hasn’t gone live yet.
I’m still going to review Second Screen, however, because even with the external option unavailable, it still functions – albeit in a more limited manner, as it loses some interactive elements that would work on your secondary device. Without “Second Screen” active, we get an audio commentary of sorts. Called “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings”, we find a re-enactment that recreates Disney’s discussions with other filmmaking personnel to work out the movie’s narrative, characters, visuals and other production issues.
The Bambi Blu-ray provides a similar feature; I liked it there and continue to enjoy it here. We get a real “fly on the wall” feel for the proceedings, and it’s fascinating to hear Disney and company sort out all the various topics. The notes offer real insight into the film’s evolution; it’s a true treat to eavesdrop on these discussions.
(Note that the Blu-ray’s booklet claims the commentary includes text to identify the various speakers as well as biographical info about them. The booklet implies this will occur independent of the “Second Screen” usage. I checked out the feature on two different Blu-ray players, and neither displayed any kind of text during this commentary.)
Next comes Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad. In this seven-minute, 51-second featurette, Walt’s daughter discusses the Disneyland apartment that was built around the same time of Lady’s creation as well as other thoughts about that era. We don’t get any great insights, but Diane tells some enjoyable stories about life in Disneyland.
Later on I’ll discuss cut footage that appeared on the old DVD, but here I’ll cover three Deleted Scenes new to the Blu-ray. With a total running time of 19 minutes, 11 seconds, we find “Introduction of Boris” (10:43), “Waiting for Baby” (1:28), and “Dog Show” (7:00). “Boris” features abandoned characters who would’ve been in love with Lady, while “Baby” shows Jim Dear’s hopes for his baby. Finally, “Show” lets us see Tramp’s attempts to prove to Lady that he could’ve been a performing pooch, and they end up in a live stage situation.
We watch these via storyboards accompanied by narration and dialogue. “Baby” is forgettable, but the others are fun. I doubt they would’ve worked in the final film – in particular, “Show” goes on awfully long for too little pay-off – but they’re enjoyable to view as alternate possibilities.
For additional unused material exclusive to Blu-ray, we get a “never recorded song” called “I’m Free As a Bird”. It goes for one minute, 26 seconds and offers a tune that would’ve been crooned by Tramp. We hear a modern take on the song accompanied by storyboards. It’s not a great number, but it’s fun to hear the abandoned work.
With that, we head to the “Classic DVD Features”. In the Deleted Scenes area, we get two segments: “Turning the Tables” (4:38) and “The Arrival of the Baby (Alternate Unused Concept)” (8:14). 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 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.
We also get a modern music video for “Bella Notte”. Performed by Steve Tyrell, this turns the tune into a lounge lizard track. The video just mixes lip-synch shots with movie clips. Blech!
Called Going to the Dogs, we get an installment of the “Disneypedia” series. Hosted by Fred Willard – and here called “Puppypedia” - this nine-minute and 22-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.
With that we head to a 52-minute and 35-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, 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 11-minute, 52-xecond 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 programs, we can watch “The Story of Dogs” (aired 12/1/54, 17:30), “Promo Trailer for ‘The Story of Dogs’” (3:01) and “Cavalcade of Songs” (2/16/55, 21:40).
“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. In addition, the disc opens with ads for Cinderella, Brave, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with promos for The Chew, Mary Poppins on Broadway, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, DisneyNature: Chimpanzee, Secret of the Wings, The Aristocats and Shake It Up.
A second disc provides a DVD Copy of Lady. It gives us a retail version of the release, so that gives it extra value.
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 more than 50 years. The Blu-ray provides terrific picture and solid audio along with a strong selection of supplements. Lady is a real winner, and this Blu-ray becomes its strongest release.
To rate this film visit the 50th Anniversary Edition review of LADY AND THE TRAMP