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Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King Aladdin Bambi Cinderella Lady and the Tramp The Little Mermaid
Peter Pan The Jungle Book 101 Dalmatians Sleeping Beauty Pinocchio

Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition DVD Review

Lady and the Tramp movie poster Lady and the Tramp

Theatrical Release: June 22, 1955 / Running Time: 76 Minutes / Rating: G

Directors: Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson

Voice Cast: Peggy Lee (Darling, Si, Am, Peg), Barbara Luddy (Lady), Larry Roberts (Tramp), Bill Thompson (Jock, Bulldog, Policeman, Dachshie, Joe), Bill Baucom (Trusty), Stan Freberg (Beaver), Verna Felton (Aunt Sarah), Alan Reed (Boris), George Givot (Tony), Dallas McKennon (Toughy, Pedro), Lee Millar (Jim Dear), The Mello Men - Bill Lee, Thurl Ravenscroft, Max Smith, Bob Stevens (Dog Chorus)

Songs: "Bella Notte", "Peace on Earth", "What Is a Baby?", "La La Lu", "Siamese Cat Song", "He's a Tramp"

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Page 1: The Movie, DVD History, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

By the 1950s, when the pieces finally began to come into place on what would become their fifteenth fully-animated feature film, Walt Disney and his studio had returned to the single narrative format with which they had ushered in the animated motion picture to much acclaim nearly twenty years earlier. But unlike the three cartoon films Disney had previously released -- Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan -- there was no world famous piece of literature driving Lady and the Tramp, just the ideas of Disney's story department and Ward Greene, a writer whose short story helped Walt and company decide where to take their tale about dogs.

As you probably know, Lady and the Tramp tells the story of Lady, a petite, playful, pampered cocker spaniel, and Tramp, a cynical, roving mongrel from the other side of the tracks. Like Bambi and Dumbo, Lady starts at square one, with its tiny puppy protagonist Lady becoming a Christmas present between her two owners. This adorable ball of fur brings happiness to Jim Dear and Darling, the married couple whose lives she enters. In turn, they give her their attention and a spot at the end of the bed.

Lady pleas for attention from a very young age. Tramp tries to keep his friends out of trouble.

Lady's story is told strictly from a dog's point of view. The few human characters whose names we know (or think we know) are basically limited to glimpses. We only really see things from Lady's perspective and so her life appears to consist of hanging out with a pair of older neighbor dogs from her small turn-of-the-20th-Century New England town. They are Jock, a feisty Scottish Terrier and Trusty, a forgetful hound named who is losing his sense
of smell. Lady proudly shows off her shiny new collar to them and things seem to be going well. But, soon, Lady's owners become preoccupied with the coming arrival of a baby, which finds with less attention and less patience in dealing with Lady.

At the same time that Lady is expressing concern over her situation, she meets Tramp, a streetwise, owner-less mutt who wanders by and, eavesdropping, warns her of the terror that newborn babies bring to dogs. Nonetheless, things aren't all that bad after Lady's owners welcome their offspring into the world. (This event is humorously portrayed with a subtlety that simulates a pet's emotional distance posing no obstacle to viewer comprehension.) But not long after, Jim Dear and Darling set off on a trip of uncertain purpose and indeterminate length. This brings the old maid Aunt Sarah and her two devilish Siamese cats Si and Am into the household to take care of their baby and, oh yeah, Lady.

The next thing you know, Lady is being blamed for the cats' mischief and forced to wear a muzzle. In a state of distress, she runs off and only finds more trouble. Enter Tramp, who saves the day, addresses her muzzle dilemma, and introduces her to an unbridled way of life she never knew. I'm assuming you know the rest and if not, you probably want to discover what happens on your own. At the very least, I'm sure you're aware that spaghetti and meatballs figure into things.

Jock is defensive towards Tramp and his ideas. Si and Am are two cats with mischief on their minds.

While Lady and the Tramp is noteworthy for being the very first animated film to be made in the very wide CinemaScope format, a format which retrospectively seems associated with grandiosity and spectacle, it is actually one of the most down-to-earth of the single-narrative features that Walt oversaw. Although Lady lacks the epic feel and elements of Disney's beloved fairy tales, it holds in this place a charming spirit and a compelling story which entertains more readily than many of the aforementioned class.

Whereas fairy tales often strive to achieve a timelessness, Lady recreates the simpler times of the early 20th century and coupled with the mid-'50s sensibilities which distinctly show through the production, it still ends up aging extremely well. The film's structure is not remarkably different from present-day romantic comedies, but its execution elevates it to a status far loftier than the types of movies that expect returns purely based on the fact that nearly 70 percent of American adults are married or in a committed relationship. Lady plays its opposites-attract story to expectations but nonetheless, the diverting pleasures it offers do not seem formulaic or trite.

Like most of the best Disney animated films, Lady wins audiences over with a blend of music, comedy, imagination, and romance. Looking back, it seems that the Disney studio should have run out of stories relying on these ingredients long ago, and yet it has repeatedly put them to fine use, to the encouragement of flocking audiences even when the reviews were not as kind, as was the case for Lady.

Peg is basically Peggy Lee, in shaggy dog form. Here, she enjoys the spotlight for her memorable song, "He's a Tramp." Tramp sings the praises of freedom to the house-trained Lady.

After adapting the fantasy lands of children's literature fixtures Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie, Lady's visuals may have been less fun for Disney animators to bring to life, but their world-through-the-eyes of dogs is a captivating one and, with Cinemascope offering framing nearly twice as long as what Disney had previously used, new tread is definitely and satisfactorily tread here.

As far as music goes, the presence of pop star Peggy Lee as co-composer and the voices of four characters took the film's soundtrack towards modernity, a different direction for Disney. Lee sings two of the film's three most memorable numbers, summoning stereotypical Asian dialect for the "Siamese Cat Song" and her usual sound for "He's a Tramp", performed as pound puppy Peg, a character named after her. The third, the Italian-flavored "Bella Notte", is heard over the opening credits and the film's most iconic set piece at the alley by Tony's Restaurant.

Story and characters are essential to most films' success and ultimately, they are responsible for why it is so easy to be completely taken by Lady and the Tramp. If like me, you haven't turned to Lady for many repeat viewings, revisiting it may reveal that you don't remember the rat showdown that provides the obligatory action climax, have any recollection of a song called "What Is a Baby?", or know that Jim Dear has a mustache. But if you've seen Lady and the Tramp even once, then you likely remember its sheer power to entertain and the core romance that left an indelible mark on cinema in relatively little time.

Buy Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.55:1 Anamorphic Widescreen,
1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (English,
French, Spanish), Dolby Digital 3.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles: English (Enhanced for Hearing Impaired);
Closed Captioned
Release Date: February 28, 2006
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps and Cardboard Slipcover

Lady and the Tramp's History on DVD / What is this version called?

Lady and the Tramp first came to DVD as a "Limited Issue" disc on November 23, 1999 in the autumn that Disney finally embraced the format enough to release some genuine animated
classics on it. The movie was presented in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, contained no bonus features at all (aside from "full color artwork on disc", something that, ironically, Disney has abandoned for an okay and presumably cheaper alternative this year), and carried a suggested retail price of $39.99. Times have surely changed as far as Disney's animated classic DVDs in the six and a half years since. Anyway, as announced in 2000, Lady and nine other best-selling Disney video titles became part of the studio's Platinum Collection. Originally intended to offer one popular animated classic per year followed by a 10-year moratorium period, the Platinum line now offers two per year (one in "spring", one in October) followed by a 7-year period of unavailability. To even things out, four additional films were added to this premier line in 2003, putting a total of 14 films (about one-third of the "Animated Classics" canon) on a home video release cycle of 7 years. Like all of Disney's long-term plans, this of course is subject to change.

To further confuse matters, as they have since 2002, Disney has been promoting this Platinum Edition DVD as something other than a Platinum. Typically, that has been "Special Edition", but they're calling this Lady re-release a "50th Anniversary Edition" on the cover and the spine (in addition to the "Platinum Edition" banner). That would make more sense if Lady opened in theaters in 1956, but along with Disneyland and "The Mickey Mouse Club", it actually turned 50 last year.

Seventh in the series, Lady follows six acclaimed films that had not ever previously been released to DVD. It ushers in a period of the Platinum Collection where worthy films are given their long-due special DVD treatment. Next in line: The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, and 101 Dalmatians, three other casualties of Disney's failed Limited Issue fall. Clearly, the term "double dip" couldn't be less applicable here, as these beloved films are badly in need of revisiting with the type of remastering and supplemental material that the Platinum line entails. Let's look at what the return trip to DVD has brought Lady.

Wet cement was invented for lovers' paws. The pound is clearly not a scene that Lady digs.

VIDEO and AUDIO

As is widely known among Disney film buffs as well as briefly discussed and demonstrated in this set's bonus features, Lady and the Tramp was photographed in two ways. First and foremost, it was composed and filmed in the 2.55:1 CinemaScope widescreen ratio, as the premiere feature-length cartoon in this young format that caught on in the early 1950s as a way to distinguish cinema from increasingly popular television broadcasts. This innovative process lent Lady a look unlike any of the animated features which came before it. Alas, in 1955, most but not all theaters were equipped to project CinemaScope film reels. Never wanting to be one to limit his viewership (he had studio workers oversee sound system enhancements in anticipation for Fantasia's pioneering stereophonic engagements), Walt approved the decision to film Lady a second time -- this one in the Academy Ratio that had always previously been employed -- to accommodate theaters which could only exhibit "flat" films. Both widescreen and fullscreen versions of Lady and the Tramp are included on Disc 1, but for a variety of reasons, the original CinemaScope and Academy filmings have not consistently been presented in full for theatrical reissues and various home video releases. Does that change here?

As far as the widescreen version that most will (and should) opt for, yes, change has occurred and for the better. Unlike its 1999 Limited Issue DVD release in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Lady here measures to exactly 2.55:1, meaning the entire width of its Scope aspect ratio (and Lady is Disney's widest animated film ever) has apparently been preserved. That such a feat was accomplished is part of more great news; like other classic films treated to Platinum Editions, Lady has undergone a drastic restoration job from the fine folks at DTS Digital Images (formerly known as Lowry Digital). While Disney's press materials haven't made as big a deal of this as they did for Cinderella or Bambi, the results are every bit as pleasing, if not more so.

The picture quality looks about as perfect as anyone could hope for on the DVD format. Colors are vibrant, the element is impeccably clean and thankfully unmarred, and the film's impressive visuals are enabled to shine gloriously. This may be the most pleasing DVD transfer on a Walt Era animated film that we have seen. Of importance is the fact that while Lady has been dusted off to look new, it never oversteps any boundaries. You're still highly aware that this is a cel-animated film made in the 1950s with tiny human imperfections if you look for them. The closest thing to a potential transfer flaw that I could spot was a lack of consistency to the colors. I'm not referring to the fact that Tramp is gray and not a light brown the way worn out videocassettes may depict. But rather, the coats of fur on he and Lady sometimes seem to vary depending on scene. Some, like the spaghetti at Tony's sequence, are easily explainable due to nighttime lighting. Other times, though, it's unclear what is causing the subtle variations. Still, this is a fact that is barely worth mentioning or noting, let alone spending five sentences on. The only other shortcoming I could spot was that a couple of seconds in a couple of places seemed slightly out of focus, quite possibly an error that dates back to the original filming. Suffice it to say, the 2.55:1 transfer -- which, oh yes, in case you had any doubt, is of course enhanced for 16x9 televisions (unlike the film's prior DVD) -- is definitely a dazzling sight to behold.

In CinemaScope, you see that Lady has a muzzle on her face. In Pan & Scan, you don't see Lady at all in this shot!

There is also the 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer, which under most circumstances wouldn't be worth saying much about, but seeing as how Lady was filmed in the Academy Ratio for its initial theatrical run, doubtlessly requires observational comments. Is the DVD's fullscreen presentation to the original Academy print? I can't say definitively, but it does not appear to be. Nor does it appear to be the same old Pan & Scan presentation that showed upon earlier international DVDs. Close examination reveals a slight gain (about 5%) in picture at the top and bottom of the frame and a severe loss (ranging from about 40-45%, more on that in the next paragraph) in picture in the horizontal aspect. I was unable to notice any instance where characters have been moved closer together (similar to, but long before, Pixar's reformatting of A Bug's Life) like they have in screencaps from the apparently true Academy Ratio laserdisc. Only the tiny gain in the vertical dimension suggest that anything differently would have been achieved through a second filming (if this is indeed it) rather than a pure Pan & Scan of the Scope presentation; even that gain might be attributed to the disc's mastering process, not the sources being used.

Curiously enough, in some widely-composed scenes that would suffer dearly from cropping, vertical stretching appears to have been performed to make less cropping necessary. In these scenes, to get the presented Scope version to look like the 1.33:1 version, you need to leave a tiny bit of the black bars that are there at top and bottom, crop heavily (though true to the name "Pan & Scan", this is not limited to the center of the screen) to somewhere between 1.4-1.5:1 and stretch to 1.33:1. The fullscreen version fills in those tiny black portions with picture (as it seems to do regardless of the stretching), but otherwise resembles your makeshift image precisely.

Losing 40 to 45 percent of the frame with minimal gain, coupled with the fact that it probably is not an accurate representation of what can be considered the film's secondary original aspect ratio (1.37:1 Academy), few should find use in the Pan & Scan transfer for anything but illustrating the beauty of widescreen with comparisons. Of course, coming from the same drastically remastered source, the picture quality on this compromised transfer is also stunning, albeit it's obviously far less satisfying than the Scope presentation. If, as it appears, the fullscreen transfer did not stem from the original Academy Ratio filming, one can assume it is due to the fact that this would have required an entire second print of the movie to be remastered, a timely and costly procedure which at best would have satisfied curiosity or made for a reasonable alternative viewing experience. Still, doing a Pan & Scan on the remastered Scope print also would have been a timely and costly procedure which only satisfied the poor few who still haven't grasped the idea that most movies are wider than standard TVs.

Trusty can't recall if he's mentioned his uncle before in this frame from the CinemaScope version. Stretching has been employed so that all three characters remain on the screen, albeit slightly out of proportion.

Sheesh, all that talk and we're only now getting to audio. At least, this set's need for elaboration has offered a change of pace from the typical DVD review's audio/video spiel. Four audio tracks are provided. Three (English, French, and Spanish) come in Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes bearing the "Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix" banner. Those expecting the type of house-rocking sound presentations offered on the similarly-designated Platinum Edition DVDs of The Lion King and Aladdin obviously need to pull their expectations down to Cinderella and Bambi, which were also proclaimed as such despite originating from a much earlier film era. At least, Lady and the Tramp, unlike the two aforementioned Walt Era Platinums, boasted multi-channel stereo sound in its initial theatrical engagements, so there's a bit more to work with, as well as less fear of betraying an original monaural mix. Still, Lady's 5.1 remix (which is no doubt different from the film's 5.0 Limited Issue mix) is satisfying without being overly showy. Channel separation is not too apparent most of the time. A scolding from Aunt Sarah is noticeably dispensed from the rear right speaker, and a thunderstorm (or a thunderclap, anyway) opens up the environment. The music also effectively widens the soundstage with the rear channels being called in to reinforce both Oliver Wallace's score and the songs penned by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee. It's sometimes tough to pinpoint what is good or bad about a soundtrack, especially when you're dealing with a remix that is not numerically faithful to the original presentation. Still, this 5.1 presentation, "DEHT" or not, deserves kudos.

The final soundtrack is one that purists would likely flock to - it's a Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround intended to replicate the original theatrical presentation via faithful restoration. But in fully equipped theaters, Lady utilized a composite magnetic stereophonic sound process that would have boasted four discrete channels. This track only offers three distinct channels of sound - in the front right, left, and center speakers, with nothing at all emanating from the rear channels. That would seem to defeat the purpose of including this track at all, without the monaural rear channel that would have accompanied the CinemaScope exhibition (fueling the movie house's side and rear speakers), this does not recreate the theatrical experience. One assumes that the mix employed for this has not been manipulated in ways that "Disney Enhanced Home Theater" entails, but I had trouble discerning much difference. In any event, if you don't have a home theater and/or don't care for remix jobs, this serves the viewer fine. But it would have made more sense to include a 4-channel stereo soundtrack or even the 5.1 remix that graced the Limited Issue disc. Nonetheless, I have a feeling that the majority of viewers will be content with the default 5.1 remix and may not know or care what Lady offered in 1955.

As far as requisite "revisions" go, Lady does open with the blue Walt Disney Pictures castle logo but then moves to the original Buena Vista Film Distribution logo (which marks the start of the score). As was done for Bambi and Cinderella, post-movie credits have been added to recognize those responsible for the DVD's digital remastering work. Like the other cases, these tactfully match the film's opening credits. With the additions, Lady still rounds to 76 minutes, the running time listed on its 1999 DVD release.

DISC 1 BONUS FEATURES

With two versions of the film, it's probably good that Disc 1 has only one real bonus feature. Unfortunately, that bonus feature is not a 76-minute audio commentary that many fans and animation enthusiasts would clamor for, but a one-minute video previewing the contents of Disc 2. A common staple of Platinum Editions, this informs the viewer
that much more is waiting to be found on the second platter and whets one's appetite for such content. It's quite a shame that Disney seems to have abandoned including audio commentaries on their Platinum line, when even non-Platinum discs like Fantasia, Dumbo, and Sleeping Beauty have led us to expect them and the commentary-like "Inside Walt's Story Meetings" feature on Bambi won the studio high praise.

Like all multi-disc sets released by Disney, synergy kicks in the moment Disc 1 is inserted. The obligatory auto-playing previews promote The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition (called "Special" here), Tim Allen and company's new take on The Shaggy Dog (a trailer/featurette hybrid), Chicken Little on DVD, Brother Bear 2 (an amusing, not-likely-to-be-seen again Lady and the Tramp-inspired promo), and the newest Air Bud movie, AirBuddies. Additional spots can be found from the Sneak Peeks menu for Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure: Special Edition, Dumbo: Special Edition, and Disney World (a cute canine-centric ad set to "So This is Love").

Alternatively, if you press nothing, Disney's trademark FastPlay system will kick in, cycling through the first round of trailers, playing the Pan and Scan version of the movie by default (gah-ross!) and subjecting you to the remaining previews of Disc 1. If you've avoided direct-to-video sequels and low-priced cartoon compilations, then this could very well be your first encounter with the apparently mainstream "FastPlay", which basically reduces DVD to VHS - no interaction necessary!

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More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Page 1: The Movie, DVD History, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

Related Reviews
Platinum Editions
101 Dalmatians (1961) The Jungle Book (1967) Peter Pan (1953) The Little Mermaid (1989) Cinderella (1950)
Bambi (1942) Aladdin (1992) The Lion King (1994) Beauty and the Beast (1991) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Disney Dogs
Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001) Oliver & Company (1988) The Ugly Dachshund (1966)
Old Yeller (1957) & Savage Sam (1963): 2-Movie Collection Benji the Hunted (1987) The Complete Pluto, Volume 1
Greyfriars Bobby (1961) Sing Along Songs: Pongo & Perdita (1996) Goof Troop: Volume 1 (1992)

Disney in the 1950s
Sleeping Beauty (1959) The Shaggy Dog (1959) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Davy Crockett: 2-Movie Set Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Related Pages:
Lady and the Tramp in Disney Animated Classics Countdown (#9)
Top 100 Disney Songs Countdown (featuring "He's a Tramp" and "Bella Notte")
Top 50 Disney Heroes & Heroines Countdown (featuring Lady and Tramp)

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Reviewed February 18, 2006.