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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Disneyear: Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Another pet project from the Disney library that was revived in the 50's is today's film, Lady and the Tramp. Like Alice in Wonderland, this movie was originally panned by critics, but overtime has been regarded as a classic. In fact, this movie is noted for currently being in the 95th spot of the American Film Association's 100 Years... 100 Passions list. The only other Disney flick on there is Beauty and the Beast. It's also the first animated film to be presented in CinemaScope. Now with those credentials, you'd expect it to be a pretty decent film. And you'd be right.

The story follows an upper-class Cocker Spaniel's life with an upper-class family. Everything seems to be great for Lady until one day her owners start acting differently than normal, like not taking her for walks and knitting little pajamas. Her friends Jock and Trusty, a Scottish terrier and Bloodhound respectively, reassure her that her humans are only having a baby. Then we get introduced to our leading male dog.... the Tramp. Really, that's his name. He tells her that this baby is going to take over her life and just leaves...Dude, that's cold. However, everything goes back to normal until her owners leave for a trip or something leaving Lady and the baby under the care of  Aunt Sarah. After her Siamese cats frame her for wrecking the house, Sarah has Lady muzzled. Freaked out, she runs away unexpectedly bumps into Tramp again. He agrees to help get her muzzle off and does so thanks to a funny but gullible beaver voiced by Stan Freberg at a zoo. The two hang out together some more that day. She learns about the freedom of being a homeless dog and eventually the two start to fall in love with each other. The next morning, Lady gets caught by a dog catcher after Tramp agrees to take her home. At the pound, she learns of Tramp's jailbird and rather amorous past. Thanks to her collar she goes home and breaks it off with him. But a rat sneaks in the house, putting the baby at risk (to be fair, it's a friggin HUGE rat!) Tramp kills it, the two rekindle and Tramp even settles down with Lady, raising a family with her.

Like I said earlier, this is a cute film from Disney. The charm of the movie comes from the romance between the two main characters and that's where most of the focus is. There's a good reason why it made it to the AFA's 100 Best Romances list: the two share a believable chemistry. It starts with a conversation, abet an unpleasant one. The two are forced into several situations that make them hang out more and the their bond starts to grow from there, a lot like how real relationships work. I always found it funny that two dogs have a better love story than most other romances like... well, you know where this is going. I also enjoy the fact that it doesn't rely heavily on romance film cliches... okay, maybe one or two but they're downplayed. The restaurant scene is the one scene EVERYBODY remembers from this film, and to be fair it's a sweet moment. And that's what this film is: moments. They're nice ones and I can't recall any of them being boring.

I also like how the movie is told through the dog's perspective, such as how Lady thinks her owner's names are Jim Dear and Darling because that's all you hear them call each other. The dogs themselves are nice characters. Lady herself , voiced wonderfully by Barbara Luddy by the way, is naive and sweet but loyal. Tramp is street smart and a slick customer. Jock and Trusty are good and loyal friends, though a bit judgmental of Tramp at first but redeem themselves by saving him from the pound later in the movie. Everyone else is just okay though I don't care for the aunt for obvious reasons.

The animation as expected is top-notch. This is some of the best animal animation since Bambi. Probably because like Bambi, the artists here observed dogs and how they walked and behaved. The fruits of their labor really show. Specifically Frank Thomas' work shines with his animation of, again, the restaurant scene. Just look at the YouTube clip above to see it. It's gorgeous animation.

The songs are great songs. Most of them were performed by Peggy Lee and I think she wrote the songs too. That's friggin' awesome! She does give us that kick-ass Siamese cat song and that's the tune most of us remember next to Bella Notte. He's a Tramp is another personal favorite of mine. I'm surprised no one else has redone that tune yet. Oh well, it rocks with Peggy Lee.

Lady and the Tramp is a film I never watched a lot as a kid, but I do remember liking it every time I did. It's not that groundbreaking as a film, but it's still charming and enjoyable and to be honest, I can't find that many things to nitpick about it. Even if you're not a dog lover, this is worth an hour and a half of your time.

Update: I forgot to show my favorite scene from this movie. Silly me!
It's the scene where the two titular characters go to the zoo to get Lady's muzzle off. There's a great hyena (voiced by Dallas McKennon) and the best beaver character of cinema (voiced by Stan Freberg) !

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