50th Anniversary Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Peggy Lee
Directors:  Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.55:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  76 Minutes
Release Date:  February 28, 2006

"What a dog!"

Film ****

It’s odd, but as many times as I’ve seen Lady and the Tramp, I never realized until now that there are actually no villains in the film.  Maybe that’s what sets the film apart from other Disney animated classics.  The story is not driven by conflict, but rather, by likable and well-drawn characters.

It also takes one of cinema’s most used themes…the rich, pampered girl meeting up with the poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks…and makes it seem fresh and new, by the fact that the protagonists are dogs.  And aside from their dialogue, they are very real dogs in every sense of the imagination, from the way they move, to the way they interact with humans, to the range of emotion from happily playful to fiercely protective.  Disney found a successful formula here, one that it would try to duplicate with cats later on in The Aristocats, but by then, it was an idea past its expiration date.

Lady is a sweet natured cocker spaniel who seems to have everything a dog could want…loving owners, a good home, friends…until the arrival of an unexpected new family member in their lives.  And Lady has no idea what a “baby” is, or what it might mean to her cozy home (the way the movie constantly shows aspects of life we understand from a dog’s point of view is just one of the film’s many winning touches).  And things get even more complicated when Aunt Sarah, a cat lover, shows up to run the house for a few days.  In a misunderstanding, Lady runs away, and finds herself in the harsh real world for the first time in her life.

Luckily, the Tramp appears on the scene, and this charming mongrel shows Lady what life can be like for a free dog…a world with no fences or collars, and nobody to answer to.  As a couple, they are perfect opposites, and as such, their chemistry is genuine and appealing, but naturally, the time will come when one or the other might have to change the way he or she lives if their story is to continue toward a happy ending.

It feels strange describing a film about dogs as romantic, but really, there’s no other word for it.  Lady and the Tramp is a classic love story, warm and delightful to its fuzzy heart.  The voice characterizations are all wonderful, and the bevy of songs co-written by Peggy Lee add to the experience (I think “Bella Notte” is the prettiest Disney song not to have achieved the kind of popularity some of their other tunes have enjoyed over the years). 

And I guess the fact that there are no real ‘bad guys’ in the film keeps anything ugly from shattering the pure, enjoyable spell the picture casts.  The blend of romance, adventure, and even a touch of well placed melodrama in the margins keep the film buoyant and charming throughout.

Incidentally, this was the first Disney animated feature to use the CinemaScope widescreen ratio, which they would abandon again after Sleeping Beauty.  Having never seen the picture in letterbox before, I found it interesting to study how animators went about their business with more space to play with.

Put it all together, and Lady and the Tramp is just as magical and enchanting today as it first was 50 years ago.  That's what I call the true mark of a classic.

Video ****

What a stunner...as usual, Disney delivers the goods with their Platinum Edition discs!  From the end of the first song, when I saw the Christmas tree, I was floored by the rich colors.  The restoration effort for this animated feature is nothing short of breathtaking.  I've seen this movie in various home video incarnations, and it's never been like this.  The detail level is striking, as is the cleanness of the print.  But the tones of those colors are really something else...many of the images have a near 3D quality to them.  Superb!

You can select either widescreen (in its original intended CinemaScope 55 ratio at last!) or pan & scan, but trust me, with this visual cornucopia, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't go widescreen.

Audio ***

This 5.1 Home Theatre mix is quite pleasing.  It works best with the score; the orchestrations are rich and full, and encompass both the front and rear stages.  Notice when Peg sings "He's a Tramp" how well the surround works.  Dynamic range is fairly strong, and the voices are clean and clear.  Not much use is made of the surrounds and the subwoofer apart from the music, but that's good enough.

Features ***1/2

This Platinum Edition is well put together.  All of the bonuses are on disc two, and they start with a new 52 minute featurette on the making of the movie.  You can watch it all at once or use the menu to go to your favorite part (mine was the voice casting).  There are a pair of deleted scenes with introductions (mostly storyboarded sequences), three trailers, excerpts from Disneyland TV shows, plus original storyboard and other galleries.

There is also a new music video for "Bella Notte" by Steve Tyrell, a look at the Siamese Cat song, the Disneypedia for dogs, and some games for the kids, including a personality match and a trivia test.  For your DVD ROM, there's even a virtual puppy!


Lady and the Tramp is a sweet, winning picture with appealing characters and storyline.  This anniversary Platinum Edition DVD is also a visual stunner and well packaged with goodies, and is sure to please all fans, be they ladies or tramps!

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