I wasn’t wrong, was I. Knew he wouldn’t like Peter Pan. I know my husband (#smugwifealert). I’ve noticed, however, that Ben tends to warm towards the films with cute and/or sassy animals. He liked Jiminy Cricket and, despite not being massively keen on the overall film, he did like Dumbo and Timothy Mouse. Which leads me to our next Disney classic, Lady and the Tramp.
Based on a magazine story, “Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog”, 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, follows an American Cocker Spaniel, ‘Lady’, who lives with her upper-middle class owners, ‘Jim Dear’ and ‘Darling’. A beautiful, well-behaved dog, Lady is loved and pampered by her owners. However, when ‘Darling’ has a baby, Lady starts to feel pushed out. She meet’s a stray dog named ‘Tramp’ and, after a traumatic experience one day, they run off together and Tramp shows her what life is like on the other side of the picket fence.
I know that Ben does vaguely recall seeing this film as child and enjoyed it, but whether he’ll feel the same seeing it 30 years later as an adult, I don’t know. I think he’ll like it, as Lady is cute (particularly as a puppy) and Tramp has that sassy attitude that he enjoys in Disney animals.
Lady and the Tramp is another of my favourite Disney films and I would watch it over and over as a child. It has a good, strong storyline, beautiful animation and fantastic characters that you can really get behind (another factor that Ben likes in a film). There are only a handful of songs, which in a film based on animals works well for me. It also has, arguably, the most romantic scene in any Disney film (I mean, who hasn’t tried to recreate the iconic spaghetti kiss… even if it was with strawberry bootlaces!). I feel that there’s very little to dislike about this film (besides maybe the casual racism regarding the Siamese cats).
P.S. Just watched the live action and I will be reviewing it in due course, so stay tuned for that.
Things have been finally starting to look just a little bit more auspicious for this cynic of all things Disney, to the point where I can now say I’m just cynical of ‘most’ things Disney. These tentative steps in a direction that Kerry has been desperate for, for over a decade now, were helped to a large degree, by ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’. These steps were not helped by ‘Peter Pan’. But where I had deep-rooted aversions to ‘Peter Pan’ that were carried over from childhood (and no amount of “Mermaid Lagoooooun’s” could change that), 1955’s ‘Lady and the Tramp’ is a rare Disney entry, in that not only did I watch it in childhood, I also really liked it. I was very young at the time, and therefore have literally no recollection of anything that happens in the film, but I’m at least hoping that there are still some positive connotations deeply engrained in my subconscious that will give me a more positive eighty minutes or so than that I had to endure our previous time out… 🤞
The usual Disney choir on sedatives opens up the film, before we join a snowy scene in a posh neighbourhood. A dude is giving a box to his wife as a Christmas present. Not just a box obviously. She opens it and there’s a puppy inside. It’s fricking cute. I need to point out right now that I’m a beta-male that’s comfortable in my skin, and I HATE bravado. I’ll still enjoy sports and ‘manly’ things, but I like cute baby animals and have no problem going “aww” once in a while. So I’m very happy to watch this adorable puppy frolic around, and as long as I don’t have to witness her traumatised face as her mother is savagely murdered, I’ll be happy. As this is Disney, my confidence is low. I don’t recall being emotionally scarred by this film in childhood though. But saying that, my anxiety disorder must have come from somewhere, who knows what I’ve repressed? I really hope she wasn’t in that box for too long. That’s a shit way to present a puppy.
The couple go to bed and put the puppy in her bed in one of the downstairs rooms. They named her ‘Lady’ for some reason. Probably because if they called her something like ‘Twinkle-Toes’, the film would be called ‘Twinkle-Toes and the Tramp’. And that’s a shit name. ‘Rhubarb and the Tramp’. Just doesn’t convey that she’s a posh dog. No, Lady is a very convenient name. A good choice. Lady, however, doesn’t like being downstairs, so with some good manipulation and howling, she ends up on the bed “just for the night”.
We then switch to her being a bit older, but still sleeping on the bed which is a nice way to show that she continued to get her way. After that, we get a good chunk of the usual Disney ‘go-to’ of largely plotless meanderings show cute animals being… cute. I used to sit there impatiently waiting for some sort of plot development during these moments, but after discovering that ‘development’ usually involved mummy-doe-murder and donkey-slave-children, I’ve stopped waiting, and now just sit back and watch the animals do their thing. In this case, chasing a rat.
Lady is bought a nice collar with a badge on it, that she is very proud to wear. She goes and meets up with a couple of her friends from the other big houses. Jock, who is the world’s most stereotypically Scottish dog ever, because he is a Scottish Terrier, and Trusty, an old Bloodhound who seems to only pretend to have a good sense of smell. They talk about how Lady now has a ‘Badge of Respectability’. When her male owner returns home she races back excitedly and jumps at him, whilst barking excitedly. This is something that I LOVE in this film. The way we switch seamlessly between dogs interacting like humans would, as well as seeing things from their perspective, then switching to dogs acting like dogs normally do whenever humans are around with a traditional dynamic. They do this perfectly and it’s funny as well as feeling natural.
We now head to some railroad tracks where we meet another dog. I have deduced that he is The Tramp. He has a chat with some cute little puppies in a shop window and scabs some food from a nice if somewhat overly exuberant and generic Italian restaurant owner. Then he breaks some other dogs out of a dog-pound van, escapes capture himself and finds him the posh suburbs of town. I’m liking this dog. He’s got balls (probably literally as he’s a stray so likely unneutered), a lot of character, but also a lot of warmth too. He seems like a good egg.
Lady is sad because she was called “that dog” and is being ignored by her owners. She calls them Darling and Jim Dear as that’s what they call each other, so that’s what she assumes their names are. A nice touch. I’ve realised that I’m so far being far more positive about the details of this film than any other I’ve reviewed so far. It’s also less ridiculous than most of the films I watched so far too. Trusty and Jock tell her about, in their words, “the birds and the bees”. Well, they tell her that Darling is pregnant, anyway. They weren’t giving her an impromptu sex-ed class or anything. Tramp appears in the garden to warn lady that she will be basically ignored now that there’s a baby on the way. Jock and Trusty try to reassure her.
Darling is desperate for a girl and is (recklessly in my opinion) only knitting pink things. Jim Dear wants a boy. After the baby is born, we get our first song. Well I say it’s the first song, Lady starts singing about the new baby as she goes up the stairs, But Kerry says that it doesn’t count as it’s not a full song and isn’t on any albums. I dispute this, and say we’ve had our first song twenty-eight minutes in. As we get a ‘proper’ song a mere three minutes after, it doesn’t really matter and either way, I’m happy the first song is so far into the film. I wonder if there will be a correlation between number of songs and how much a film pisses me off? I might make a spreadsheet at some point to find out. I like spreadsheets.
As Darling and Jim Dear are going away for a few days, Aunt Sarah is looking after the baby and Lady for a few days. I learnt in Media class back in the day, that a lot of films (especially ones made in America), follow a classic pattern of:
equilibrium → disruption → resolution → new equilibrium (that’s often even better than the first one).
To be honest with most American films, between disruption and resolution you could probably chuck in ‘cheesy-as-fuck-montage’ too. We’re at the disruption stage here, therefore Aunt Sarah is a bit of a battle-axe, and has two cats. So let’s play a game: Based on this film, does Walt Disney prefer dogs or cats?
It’s a close call that can only be separated by a dash of horrifically sadistic evil.
Lady tries to stop the cats eating the goldfish and tearing shit up and in the commotion that follows, she gets the blame. As a result she’s taken to the pet shop for a muzzle. Even though they attach it, the positive is that she escapes. She gets chased by three stray dogs after running into the rough part of town, but Tramp saves her and their journey to ‘hooking up’ can begin.
I’ve said it before, but I really like Tramp. Best character in Disney so far for my money. The princesses, Snow and Cinders were nice but a bit weak. Peter Pan was a bit of a bellend as were Mr Toad and Ichabod. Donald Duck is a sex-pest who I’m happy not to watch ever again, and the less said about José-bloody-Carioca the better. Pinocchio was a just a gullible fool. The Princes have had zero personality. Bambi, Dumbo and Bongo were all cute enough, but the animals in this film are far above them because they also have bags of charisma.
Next, we get some beaver eating. Specifically, eating the straps on Lady’s muzzle. What a helpful beaver. Following this, Tramp shows Lady the benefits of being a stray and his tricks for getting food. He takes her for an Italian. The one owned by that stereotypical and exuberant dude I mentioned earlier. He’s very nice but a little batshit crazy. It may just be me who thinks that. It may seem perfectly sane to some people that when two trampy dogs turn up outside your restaurant, the logical thing to do is light some candles, serve them up a portion of your house speciality and SERENADE THEM WITH YOUR FUCKING ACCORDIAN! It’s a lovely gesture though. The speciality in question is spaghetti and everyone knows this scene. It’s beautifully done.
The next scene is them, awakening on a hill somewhere the following morning. We all know what happened. And as they’re dogs, we can safely say that alcohol wasn’t a factor in that decision, so no regrets all round. Tramp tells ‘Pidge’ as he likes to call her about the joys of being free. Life without fences rather than life on a leash. He makes a damn good point. Obviously being free involves scaring the crap out of chickens, so that’s what they do. Unfortunately after being chased away, Lady gets caught by the Dog Warden and taken to The Pound.
Now Disney clearly likes to try and ruin everything they touch in some way (just my experience, don’t yell at me), and they have a bloody good go now, using a couple of their preferred methods of torture, namely, hideous songs and animal death. Firstly, the dogs in the pound literally howl a rendition of some famous song I vaguely recognize. It’s unpleasant. What’s more unpleasant is that they felt it necessary to have one of the dogs destroyed, just so we, the viewer, can never fully escape from reality and all the misery that accompanies it. I do understand that the grisly demise of most of the Pound’s residents is a good plot device to make us really worry about Tramp’s capture later on, but still… a little escapism please. A couple of the stray dogs in The Pound are the two that Tramp freed from the Dog Warden’s van, earlier in the film. They’re jealous of Lady’s collar as it means she’ll basically get out alive. The dogs are, however, digging a hole so they can escape. Clever dogs. Lady is informed that although he is very cunning and good at avoiding capture, Tramp is, in fact, a right old slut. Must make that night on the hill feel a bit icky…
Once Lady is collected and brought home, she is tied up outside. She, as well as Jock and Trusty, give Tramp the cold shoulder when he turns up and essentially slut-shames him. A bit later a rat sneaks into the baby’s room and because Lady’s tied up, she can’t catch it. Fortunately Tramp is obsessively hanging around and goes after it. This doesn’t go very well. They trash the bedroom, get the blame, Lady gets locked up and Tramp gets taken off to the pound. It doesn’t go very well at all…
Remember the whole equilibrium → disruption → resolution → new equilibrium thing I was talking about earlier? We’ve had quite enough disruption and now that shit needs to be sorted out. So Darling and Jim Dear return and with Lady’s help, discover the rat. They realise that she and Tramp were trying to help. Now Aunt Sarah looks like a right dick. I was hoping she gets some sort of gentle comeuppance like her cats clawing her eyes out, but alas that never happens. So now the dogs chase down the Dog Warden’s van, with the help of Trusty’s sense of smell which turns out to be fine after all. Trusty and Jock scare the horses causing the van to tip and Tramp is saved. But oh no! Trusty is under the cart and motionless. Is he dead?! Fortunately, it turns out he’s not. A big thank you so much to Disney for resisting the temptation to murder something.
So we get a happy ending of Tramp living at the house with Lady and clearly enjoying a life surrounded by fences and, judging by their 4 puppies, much humpage. Oh, and a gift from Aunt Sarah at Christmas which now makes me thankful that the cats actually didn’t scratch her eyes out… But this leads me nicely into my one small criticism (not including the destroyed dog at the pound) that I found. It’s not so much a criticism so much as something that doesn’t quite sit right with me. I’m a big believer in freedom, and I’m slightly uncomfortable about the notion of ownership. I get that dogs and cats are domesticated and therefore seemingly prefer things that way, but as demonstrated, (rather bluntly) in this film, a dog that is no longer owned by a human will ultimately be, quite literally, destroyed by a human. So although being owned is a far happier ending to being put to sleep, the fact the ‘happy ending’ involves Tramp embracing the confines of fences and collars, it suggests that the writers are portraying it as worse for him to be the freedom-loving-dog-who-don’t-need-no-man beforehand. But to be honest, as this is the first Disney film I genuinely enjoyed, I’m inclined to say fuck it, and just appreciate the fact I’ve finally enjoyed Disney…
Because I did genuinely enjoy it. And I really liked it. I’ve quite liked a few of the previous ones, but this is the first time I actually felt like I was watching one of these films because I actually wanted to, and given the choice, wouldn’t just go upstairs. Or to the pub. The two ‘lead’ characters (pun unintended) were both warm, likeable and full of personality which meant I was really rooting for them. The supporting characters were good, the plot was good and the Disney-isms of the early films that have made me roll my eyes film after film, were scaled back or absent altogether. For Disney and me, it’s fourteenth time lucky, which is actually quicker than I expected… Although nothing’s permanent. Sleeping Beauty is next…
Additional: Ok so this is a few days later and last night, Kerry put on the Lady and the Tramp live-action remake. This caused me a problem, but a good problem. I was going to score the original LATT 9/10. But then I watched the remake and realised that I liked that a lot more (apparently a lot of other people didn’t, but I’ll get to that in the future). And then it dawned on me that I’ve maybe spaced the scores on the films I watched so far, a little bit too widely, especially on the upper end, and I’m forgetting that modern films tend to be a lot more well-rounded and better presented…. So I need to be slightly more reserved and a bit less ‘Amazon product reviewer where everything is 1 or 5 stars’. So maybe ‘Cinderella’ should be a 7 instead of 7.5 for example, and ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ 6 instead of 7 etc. That being said, I’d still give Bambi 1/10…. With that in mind though, I still say for this film: