It’s a dogs life in Lady and the Tramp, and although that seems obvious, it’s the design that makes such an idea work. One of Disney’s more well known illusions sets the point of view low, or where appropriate, higher. It depends on the positions of the dogs, not the human characters, hence why there are numerous viewpoints of animated human legs.

This is of course crucial, almost making it seem sensible that dogs can talk. This is their world, shared through their eyes and their problems. Disney’s story avoids a “fish out of water” approach, even if there literally is a fish out of water during the Siamese cat sequence. Lady, voiced with such warmth and sincerity by Barbara Luddy is an honest, strong willed dog, inadvertently broken down by the outside world.

Lady and the Tramp, at times, feels forced, or maybe obligated if the word fits better. Struggling to find closure, the feature pushes forward with a glowing-eyed rat and shadowy dog catcher as if each Disney feature of the day needed something villainous. Whereas prior entries naturally built a narrative around the idea of a dangerous entity (even one off screen in Bambi), here it feels sudden and necessitated because it’s the popular thing to do.

The film finds conflict where it doesn’t feel warranted. With the energy of Tramp, the sweetness of the romance, and heart-wrenching feelings of being ignored, there’s enough to build a stable flow and push Lady out onto the streets for her freedom adventure. Even with the heavy dramatic shift, little is lost. Walt’s admiration for dogs is evident as they’re captured with their own subtle quirks, mannerisms, and movements. They’re as individualized as humans.

What matters is that even with their anthropomorphic movements and sturdy grasp of the English language, they remain dogs. There’s no attempt to take it any further or humanize them. They remain a dog in a humans world, something always around to remind a viewer of their place. Side characters are the only ones allowed to break that rule, i.e., the clever beaver who becomes thrilled with his new “log pulling” device.

Lady and the Tramp is simply smart. How it’s presented, animated, and colored is across the board brilliant, the end product of animation geniuses in their prime. The eventual sequel serves as a direct comparison, with it disillusioned design and immersion breaking visual style. That’s what happens when this story loses all of its subtlety, and thankfully, the original will continue to exist. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

Disney’s process in bringing their animated classics to reinvigorated life on Blu-ray involves a skillful application of DNR. The idea is to preserve the animation as cells, not film, hence the elimination of grain. The idea has opponents, while the masses viewing the end results were typically too floored by the quality to care (and rightfully so). Lady and the Tramp marks the first time the process seems obvious. It’s not glaring or applied in a slip shod manner. It’s more subtle than that, relegated to shots where the animated part of the frame slips into the background.

That’s where fine lines begin to wash themselves out, lacking the precision the pencil sketch and coloring would usually still hold. This isn’t a matter of softness so much as it is a loosely defined, almost watercolor-like look. It’s simply not there in close where Lady is as pure, crisp, and resolved as anything else Disney has produced. Maybe “unclean” is the best way to describe it, unnatural for animation of the period, and an entirely digital application.

What effect does it have on the viewing experience? For most, probably none. The generous saturation, brightness, and beautiful paint strokes that build the backdrop of this romanticized world leaps from the screen. Detail within Disney’s classic animation is all about the backgrounds, flooded with minor quirks, additions, and imagination. For as much work would go into motion, an equally keen eye was given to where that movement would play out. This AVC encode captures that concept marvelously.

As per the expectation, the video presentation hits all of the usual aspects on the head. The nighttime romp that leads to Luigi’s diner is bathed in heavy contrast from light sources and depth generating blacks. Color springs to new, HD life, all controlled without exaggeration. Compression is never a factor, even within the chaotic action or chases. Disney pushes out another winner, even if their tricks are beginning to show. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Remastered into a DTS-HD 7.1 track, this is more of an accentuation or expansion of the original audio. The purists are given a nod via a 3.0 uncompressed track which carries the same fidelity and life. The wider mix spaces the film beyond the 2D origins, such as the train as Tramp is first introduced. A camera pan winds down to his sleeping quarters near the tracks, the engine leaving the station in the left stereo.

The same goes for the music, one of the most memorably melodic of the golden age features. From the drums in “We Are Siamese” to the piano cues within the main score, this is a pristine, fluid presentation. A sweep into the surrounds is handled deftly, and in a way that brings the music new life. Dialogue carries a vintage scratchiness, enough to lend it age and character, without losing the purity. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Little has been discovered or found in the Disney archives, at least if the slate of bonus features is to believed. The Blu-ray houses an inviting chat with Diane Miller Disney as she remembers her fathers life during the creation of Lady and the Tramp, put together alongside Disneyland. Three deleted scenes also include a newly done recording of a deleted song which never made it that far originally. Disney’s Second Screen support is here too for iOS and PC users.

Everything else is hauled over from DVD editions, including the hour long making-of and 13-minute visit with storyboards. Lady was planned for 1943, and that version is partially reconstructed via storyboards in a separate feature. An alternate recording of the Siamese song is included, and the fun Puppypedia has Fred Willard looking at the various species of dogs. Excerpts from the TV show Disneyland are shown in brief, while another cycle of (different) deleted scenes include introductions. A music video and BD-Live freshen things up before the bonus menu expires. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Extras]


2 thoughts on "Lady and the Tramp Diamond Edition Review"

  1. Pingback: Peter Pan (1953) Diamond Edition Review | DoBlu.com Blu-ray reviews
  2. Christopher Zabel says:

    This news doesn’t have anything directly to do with Lady and the Tramp per se, but Disney has just let go of their traditional hand-drawn animators:

    http://thedisneyblog.com/2013/04/12/walt-disney-animation-studios-lets-most-of-hand-drawn-team-go/

    Don’t expect any future hand-drawn classics to come from Disney…

    1. gamereviewgod says:

      Wow. What a shame. Disney is cleaning house, but while I’ll miss things like Lucasarts through nostalgia, the animation crew is a true loss of talent that still had plenty of life left. Princess and the Frog was amazing.

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