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Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD Review

Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD cover art - click to buy combo pack from Amazon.com Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure
Movie, Blu-ray & DVD Details

Director: Darrell Rooney / Writers: Bill Motz, Bob Roth (screenplay); Tom Rogers, Flip Kobler, Cindy Marcus (additional screenplay material)

Voice Cast: Scott Wolf (Scamp), Alyssa Milano (Angel), Chazz Palminteri (Buster), Jeff Bennett (Tramp, Jock, Trusty, Dogcatcher), Jodi Benson (Lady), Bill Fagerbakke (Mooche), Mickey Rooney (Sparky), Bronson Pinchot (Francois), Cathy Moriarty (Ruby), Mary Kay Bergman (Si), Debi Derryberry (Annette), Barbara Goodson (Darling), Nick Jameson (Jim Dear), Tress MacNeille (Aunt Sarah, Am), Andrew McDonough (Junior), Rob Paulsen (Otis), Kath Soucie (Collette, Danielle), Frank Welker (Reggie), April Winchell (Mrs. Mahoney) / Singing Voices: Roger Bart (Scamp), Jess Harnell (Buster), Melissa Manchester (Angel), Susan Egan (Angel)

Songs: "(Prologue) Welcome Home", "World Without Fences", "Junkyard Society Rag", "I Didn't Know I Could Feel This Way", "Always There", "Epilogue", "Bella Notte (This is the Night)"

Video Premiere: February 27, 2001 / Running Time: 69 Minutes / Rating: G

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic); Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Extras Subtitled
DVD Movie and Most Extras Closed Captioned
Blu-ray Release Date: August 21, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in DVD Edition DVD ($29.99 SRP)
Previously released as DVD (June 20, 2006), DVD, and VHS (February 27, 2001)

Buy Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD 2012 DVD 2006 DVD Original DVD VHS

In the early 2000s, Disney began making sequels to practically every one of their animated films that came to mind. Pop in a Disney DVD from the years 2001 to 2003 and you're guaranteed to see ads for at least three sequels
before the menu loads. This boom was not the company's plan for riding out the commercial challenges that the decade would pose to their theatrical animation. They couldn't yet see that coming. It was simply a surefire way to make a lot of money without great expense or exorbitant effort. The budgets were kept low and, no matter how poor the reviews, the sales would still exceed those of most theatrical films.

With their four most popular modern properties (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King) each followed up by 2000, Disney moved to sequelize some of their older classics as well as less potent newer ones. A couple of these efforts (Return to Never Land, The Jungle Book 2) went to theaters. Most went straight to VHS and DVD, their familiar titles and characters guaranteed to win them notice.

Released in February 2001, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure was the first sequel born out of an old, essentially dormant franchise. It must have met expectations because within the next two years, Cinderella and 101 Dalmatians successors would follow.

Scamp's Adventure takes two of the approaches that pervaded the studio's direct-to-video output of the time, both focusing on the youthful offspring of lead characters and flipping an idea from the original film. The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea had employed both of those tactics just five months earlier, but creativity and cleverness were often in short supply on these fast, frugal follow-ups.

Sudden killjoy Tramp scolds his son Scamp for his playful ways. Buster decides Scamp must prove himself before being entered into his gang of junkyard strays.

Picking up shortly after the original film, Scamp's Adventure is set around Independence Day 1911 in an idyllic small New England town celebrated in an opening musical number. That period setting is emphasized, in contrast to the original movie merely hinting at it. As in the Christmastime ending of that one, cocker spaniel Lady and mongrel Tramp have four kids here: three obedient girls that look like her and one mischievous boy that looks like him. Though not named at the conclusion of Lady and the Tramp, the character of Scamp had been developed in print, getting his own newspaper comic strip the year of Lady's 1955 theatrical debut.

Scamp (voiced by Scott Wolf) is clearly his father's son, or rather he is the son of the original film's Tramp. The sequel's Tramp has entirely taken to house pet status, his edges softened, his body aged, and his tolerance of his son's playfulness very low. Scamp's exuberance gets him into trouble, scolded by owner Jim Darling and chained up to the dog house. Out there, the pup gets a look at some neighborhood strays, finding an instant idol in the nonchalant bad boy Buster (Chazz Palminteri).

Able to break free from his chain, Scamp explores the town and meets the street smart young Angel (Alyssa Milano). Get the picture yet? This time around, it's the boy who is sheltered and the girl who is from the other side of the tracks. Angel's tough exterior thinly covers her sweet center, which has been bruised by five unsuccessful attempts to find the right family of owners. Her and Scamp's mushy romance is complemented by Scamp's quest to win acceptance from "king of the junkyard" Buster, who holds a grudge against Tramp (and doesn't know Scamp's lineage).

Scamp and Angel run out of the way of a fast-approaching train. Lady and Tramp use some of their limited screentime to mope in front of a familiar stained glass window.

The prominent Broadway-style songs, asked to supply the emotional weight the film otherwise lacks, are far removed from the original's eclectic musical sensibilities, which varied from Peggy Lee showcases to ethnic caricature to glorified poetry.

This is a slight and standard production, one that wraps up just past the hour mark. The voice casting of "Party of Five" alumnus Scott Wolf as Scamp is an odd choice;
he tries to sound young, but in his early thirties, he never gets as young as the character looks and acts. Vague ages also cast a cloud over the odd quasi-love triangle formed by Buster around Scamp and Angel.

Visually, the sequel does a good job of recalling its predecessor, albeit in narrower dimensions and with far less artfulness. Where applicable, original background art is reused or adapted. CGI sometimes stands out, most glaringly in the car of the dogcatcher. Speaking of which, that dogcatcher so clearly modeled after Don Knotts (but not voiced by him) is one of two supporting human characters who raise eyebrows, the other being a portly bald woman who is repeatedly separated from her wig in the name of comedy.

With the talent, budget, and time they had, the makers of Lady and the Tramp II did an adequate job of creating passable children's entertainment. But though similar in spirit, this film is nowhere near good enough to compare to the original and nowhere near creative enough to deserve to have been made.

Change in management has clearly gotten Disney to reconsider the value of direct-to-video sequels like this, their brand dilution presently outweighing the considerable profits they have always turned. Many of the sequels from a decade ago already seem to be fading into obscurity, specifically those who predecessors didn't make a deep, personal impact on a recent generation (i.e. everything except the so-called Big Four of the '80s/'90s). Disney looks to extend a potentially short lifeline with a Blu-ray release. Arriving six months after the original Lady returned to print, Scamp's Adventure hits high definition today in a Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.

Watch a clip from Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure:

VIDEO and AUDIO

Scamp's Adventure boasts perfect picture quality on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 transfer offers vibrant colors, bold lines, and no concerns of any kind. The rich, detailed presentation even seems to remove some of that sterile look that distinguished the direct-to-video productions from this time (it's probably just the recycled backgrounds calling notice away from the bland character work). No one will mistake this for one of Disney's animated classics, but the movie is polished enough to delight at this resolution.

The default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio also impresses. The mix really springs to life on musical numbers, beginning with the choir voices that claim the surround channels on the film's opening tune. Other songs also carry weight and impact as well. There is also a pleasant amount of atmosphere in outdoor scenes. Two dubs and a 2.0 Dolby Surround English soundtrack are also provided.

When it runs out of dog facts, the Puppy Trivia Tracks resorts to describing other Disney dog movies. Alyssa Milano comments on the look of her character Angel in "The Making of Lady and the Tramp II: From Tramp to Scamp."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Though your first glance at the Blu-ray's bonus features menu suggests a featherweight platter (an ad for Blu-ray 3D is the third listing), that gladly is not the case.

The top-billed supplement is the all-new Puppy Trivia Tracks. As you would guess, this enhances playback of the film primarily with dog facts. Don't expect to get a good viewing of the film this way. Each tidbit is dispensed in a colorful pop-up graphic claiming about a quarter of the screen (inevitably covering vital visual information) and announced with a sound effect that reduces the film to a Dolby Surround 2.0 mix. This neither utilizes subtitle streams nor picture-in-picture technology, so there's no easy way to enable or disable it during playback.
Flowing regularly and seasoned with dog puns, the facts try to pertain to what is onscreen, extending to the film's creation and animation at large, before devolving into thinly-veiled promotion for other Disney dog movies. It even includes silent behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the original movie and other Disney dog flicks.

Other extras fall under the heading Classic DVD Bonus Features.

They begin with "The Making of Lady and the Tramp II: From Tramp to Scamp" (16:34), a surprisingly substantial featurette that takes us behind the scenes of production and places this in the tradition of the original film, which is paid tribute in vintage Walt Disney television remarks and making-of bits. An assortment of crew members and celebrity voice actors share their thoughts on characters, animation, settings, and magic. Their comments are complemented by clips from both movies.

Sing along with the banal "I Didn't Know I Could Feel This Way" as Angel and Tramp enjoy spaghetti and meatballs from Tony's. The curiosity Pluto Junior leads his father up to this clothesline.

The movie's five original songs are given the sing-along treatment (13:31), playing their scenes from the film in 1080p and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound with white lyric subtitles that turn yellow in time with the singing. Each song is announced by a title card.

Next up come three HD cartoon shorts featuring one of Disney's most famous cartoon dogs:

1942's Pluto Junior (7:08) introduces Pluto's never again seen young son, who is entertained here by a balloon, dandelion seeds, a caterpillar, a woodpecker, and a clothesline, misadventures that inevitably come to involve Pluto himself.

"Bone Trouble" takes a cheerful Pluto inside a fun house for mirror distortion. Pluto's red-eared kid brother makes trouble for him.

Bone Trouble (8:42), which launched Pluto's solo series in 1940, finds the dog trying to swipe a bone from Butch, the bulldog next door. The ensuing chase leads to a fun house for a number of distorted mirror gags.

Another diminutive single-use relative features in Pluto's Kid Brother (6:51), a 1946 short that finds Pluto's young sibling (K.B.) creating mischief with a red cat and Butch.

Finally, buried at the bottom of the section is an audio commentary by director Darrell Rooney, co-director/producer Jeannine Roussel, and, recorded separately, Australian animation director Steve Trenbirth. Though the movie may be aimed at kids, this commentary is not. The three speak passionately about staying true to the original movie, this film's look and characters, voice recording sessions, real-life connections, and technical considerations. This bonus is an anomaly among Disney's animated output, especially the direct-to-video sequels, being a rare instance where we're let in on the creative process of something primarily made for commerce. And while most people won't care about how and why Lady and the Tramp II was made, those who do will be enriched by a listen.

Scamp and Angel play on the new Lady and the Tramp II DVD's main menu.

Because Disney is so over DVD, the second disc here is ludicrously barren. The only extras deemed worthy of inclusion alongside the barely hour-long film are the sing-along songs.
If you're buying this for the Blu-ray, you may not expect anything from the DVD but the movie. But Disney chose to author this new disc and instead of simply updating the trailers and leaving the healthy platter as is, they did this, stripping the disc of content and value. Bye, making-of featurette, audio commentary, and Pluto shorts! From this day forward, people will have to have a Blu-ray player or delve into the second-hand DVD market to enjoy you.

Both discs include Timon and Pumbaa's Blu-ray 3D pitch (4:23), a DisneyFile digital copy promo (1:04), while only Blu-ray wastes your time with an "Info" listing that leads to standard legal disclaimers.

Scamp's Adventure completists may be disheartened to learn that two of the film's DVD supplements do not resurface here: "Tramp's Hide-and-Seek Game" and "Junkyard Games." It's interesting that set-top games used to be top priority and most likely addition to an animated Disney DVD. Now, they're the bonus feature most likely to be dropped on a new edition. It's understandable, when you consider how lame most DVD games were and how few people would probably care to see them upgraded to Blu-ray.

The discs open with ads for Disney Studio All Access, Cinderella: Diamond Edition, and Finding Nemo 3D. The menus' Sneak Peeks listing repeats those and follows them with promos for Disney Movie Rewards, Secret of the Wings, Pocahontas & Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World: 2 Movie Collection, The Tigger Movie, Chimpanzee, The Aristocats, The Rescuers & The Rescuers Down Under: 2 Movie Collection, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3, and Planes.

The scored, basic menu plays clips from the movie from an under the train tracks view. Like other Disney Blu-rays, this one does not resume playback and does not support bookmarks. It does, however, remember where you left off watching the film if you did not, in spite of the brevity, complete it in one sitting.

No expense is spared on packaging; Scamp's Adventure's combo pack boasts a holographic, embossed slipcover. Inside the Blu-ray case (a DVD packaging version is also available), we find a single booklet with Disney Movie Rewards code atop the plain gray DVD.

Angel, Lady, Tramp, and Scamp cheesily share the screen while singing (by proxy) about families in "Always There"

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Lady and the Tramp II is a sequel that didn't need to be made and doesn't need to be seen. It's a tolerable effort, but one short on creativity, substance, and all-audience appeal. You could make the same arguments against a number of Disney's direct-to-video movies, but they hold more weight when the subject in question follows up one of Walt's own works half a century later. Those who enjoy this and other Disney sequels needn't feel guilty; they do so in spite of the apparent inferiority and it's not as if there has been a wealth of 2D animated fare to enjoy in recent years.

Still, Scamp's Adventure is pretty low on the list of DTV productions worth your time. If you disagree that a single viewing suffices, then you'll be glad to know this Blu-ray represents the movie's best release for now and for the conceivable future. However, supplement fans, take note: if you have one of the movie's two previous DVD releases, it's in your interest to hang onto it and use it to replace the mostly worthless new DVD created for this combo pack.

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Reviewed August 21, 2012.