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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Children > Large Frame Format > Lady & The Tramp – 50th Anniversary Edition (Platinum Edition/Disney DVD)

Lady & The Tramp – 50th Anniversary Edition (Platinum Edition)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B+     Film: B+



By the mid-1950s, Walt Disney had survived WWII, adapted to television quickly, The Fleischer Brothers, all the major studios and switching distributors for his company’s product several times.  At the same time, he was still breaking ground every chance he could and with TV pushing down theater attendance, films went wider in their framing and added stereophonic sound.  Disney had broken ground with such sound in his 1940 classic Fantasia and the rest of the industry was following beginning in 1953.  Lady & The Tramp (1955) offered stereo and CinemaScope, but Disney made sure it also offered a great story and the result is one of their greatest animated features ever.


The story begins with the gift of a beautiful young female dog from husband to wife, who embraces her immediately.  The dog has some adjustment issues, but things eventually work out.  Instead of this being a brief, fast, rushed segment, it is an integral beginning to the film, showing how Lady is brought into the home.  It is a home with much warmth, beauty, freedom and space, a point furthered by the wide frame.  The color richness and the diversity in the home speak of the financial security and stableness of this space.  That is why when Lady has to go out into the natural space of the streets, whether suburbs or city, it becomes even more of an adventure.  When the home family adds a new member, the home space becomes warmer and more frantic at the same time.


On the outside, Lady meets several interesting characters, from her dog neighbors, to non-canine animals to that dog catcher to more streetwise dogs like Peg and The Tramp.  Though the film lasts only 75 minutes, it has so much to offer, underrated for its density and narrative economy.  Art for the CinemaScope frame is not as detailed as the tradition Classical Hollywood 1.33 X 1 Academy Aperture of past animated features and shorts, but Disney and his art team set new standards for how good the art could look in this frame.  Even less recognized, the film was a groundbreaker for composition in the scope frame, which was considered a gimmick for a few decades before Hollywood finally had to admit it that widescreen was the future of filmmaking and animation.  However, the Cinemascope frame would be slightly narrowed to 2.35 X 1 and Disney never used the format for a feature again, though all his future animated features would be widescreen.  With the voices of Barbara Ludy, Larry Roberts, Bill Thompson, Bill Baucom, Alan Reed and the great Peggy Lee among the great cast, the film endures strongly half-a-century later.


One of the very best among many classics from the company, the absolute greatness of this film has yet to be really appreciated.  Yes, it is one of the great love stories, a declaration of independence by Disney from the companies who used to handle him, proof the “Disney Magic” (yes, it really does exist) was just growing more powerful and was about to enter a new golden period.  Lady & The Tramp is a significant masterwork of animation and cinema.  This DVD reissue is much more worthy of this classic and anyone serious about animation or filmmaking needs to get this set.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.55 X 1 image is both an improvement over the previous DVD and far better than the butchering pan & scan version on the same disc.  This was the first animated feature film shot in CinemaScope and is a landmark, with more CinemaScope animation to follow at all the studios.  The film was also originally issued in three-strip, dye-transfer (imbibition) Technicolor and though the color on here can be good, the better shots are not up to that quality and fitting two versions of the film on one disc has unfortunately cut into the color richness and detail in too many scenes.  I have seen the film in several film prints and can tell you this is not up to how great this looks, despite still looking very good.


The sound is here in its original 4-channel 35mm magnetic stereo configuration in Dolby 3.0 Stereo (with some sound fold-down) and a more engaging Dolby 5.1 remix that brings sound to the surrounds in a mix specifically aimed at home theater system playback.  It is so good that it should have been here in DTS, but the pan & scan version of the film likely killed that idea too.  Because CinemaScope was meant for a huge screen and that meant big sound for the theater.  The audio shows some age, but with the great music by Sonny Burke, Oliver Wallace and Peggy Lee, who also sang the most memorable tracks here.  These mixes do great justice to them.


Extras are many, including trailers on DVD 1.  DVD 2 adds a games/activities section with a DVD-ROM “virtual puppy” section for children, virtual trivia game, personality profiles of people & dogs and 9:35 featurette about many dog breeds that put may dog shows to shame.  Another section has reconstructions of two deleted scenes, yet another section for two Music Videos and an especially loaded Backstage Disney section.  This includes several stills galleries, trailers from three different releases, Disneyland TV excerpts, 12-minutes-long 1943 storyboard version fop the film, 13-minutes-long Art Of Storyboards for the film and outstanding making of program at 52:25 dubbed Lady’s Pedigree.  As was the case with Disney’s Snow White set, these are extremely thorough extras and there is even room for a few more in the future when this comes out in an HD format.  Until then, Lady & The Tramp – 50th Anniversary Edition is one of the company’s best animated feature film DVD sets to date.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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