Lady and the Tramp: Diamond Edition (US - BD)
Gabe revisits the most romantic movie staring dogs ever made on Blu-ray disc...
Lady (Barbara Luddy) is a love-spoiled cocker spaniel living an idealistic Victorian era house. One day her owners, known only as Jim Dear (Lee Millar) and Darling (Peggy Lee), begin to act strange and distant. Lady’s friends Jock, a Scottish Terrier (Bill Thompson), and Trusty, a bloodhound (Bill Baucom), explain that Jim Dear and Darling are expecting a child, and that it’s nothing for her to worry about. Meanwhile, a homeless dog aptly named Tramp (Larry Roberts) ends up on the wealthy side of town running from the dogcatcher and is taken by Lady’s beauty. He explains that a baby is the first sign of Lady’s owners losing interest in her. Soon after, Jim Dear and Darling take a holiday, and leave Lady and their newborn child with Aunt Sarah (Verna Felton) and her misbehaving Siamese cats (Peggy Lee, again). Lady’s situation takes a turn for the worse and she’s soon on the street, where Tramp tries to convince her to stay.
Despite its inescapable adorability, Lady and the Tramp is among the most adult oriented of the studio’s animation output. The themes surrounding Lady’s home life are dark, especially when told from the perspective of an innocent dog, and her relationship with The Tramp is genuinely romantic enough to have been compared to the best of their live action human counterpart’s. The dog’s point of view, which is also maintained visually throughout, as most human interaction takes place below the knee, helps disguise the more blatant ‘birds and bees’ elements, but the parents in the audience knew exactly what was going on and likely related quite fondly. I also recall Lady’s treatment at the hands of Aunt Sarah being much more than simply frustrating as a child – I believe I was something along the lines of utterly terrifying. There’s also the rather un-G-rated matter of ‘the long walk’, a song about Tramp’s sexual escapades, and whatever happens when the screen fades after Lady and Tramp’s overnight date (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). The storyline is quite efficient without drawing attention to its rapid pace and it features a more categorically three-act structure, though, also in keeping with the studio’s animated output, the ending feels quite abrupt. The dogs reacting to human’s scenes work more effortlessly than the dog speaking scenes, but the Tramp’s effortless charm keeps things lively even when the storyline wanders off into repetitive social status juxtapositions.
Lady and the Tramp is well known for being the animated feature to be filmed using the CinemaScope widescreen process, which is, I admit, a bit curious considering the intimate scope of the story. Generally speaking I can’t find a ‘good’ reason for the frame outside of a handful of action sequences where dogs run across the frame. Most of the character work stays well within the confines of the center of the screen, as Cinemascope was still an exceptional format, and the film was also released in Academy ration; 1.375:1. I imagine a full 1.33:1 reframe would lose some of the exquisite background detail, but wouldn’t be a The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly sized pan and scan tragedy where important elements go missing on the edges of the frame. The animation is quite impressive on a technical level, comparable to the utterly immaculate Sleeping Beauty, though not always as expressive as some of the more loosely drawn features like The Jungle Book. The animators get the most mileage out of the sequences where Lady reacts to her owners’ discussion without any dialogue, and emotes entirely without words. There are a couple of lumpy bits of paint and movement, but I’m mostly stricken by how successfully the blends and shadows work to convey believable space and physical interaction. Stylistically the most spectacular moments are those more abstract bits of business where time dissolves around Lady, or where she imagines the sad, post-baby world Tramp describes to her.
As stated above, Lady and the Tramp is known for being the animated feature to be filmed using the CinemaScope widescreen process, which means this 1080p Blu-ray is framed at an ultra-wide 2.55:1 aspect ratio ( Sleeping Beauty is the other ultra-wide Disney animated film I can recall, though it was filmed using the 70mm Technirama process, making it even more spectacular in HD). Right off the bat I am in utter awe of the detail level on this disc. The titles run over basic sketches, and the texture of the paper is so lifelike you’d swear you could touch it. From here things move on to more expectedly smooth textures, though paper structure still makes an impression. The painted backgrounds are vibrant, and the sharp shadows produce an almost three-dimensional look throughout. The foreground animation looks delightfully colourful and clean as well, showing little to no sign of wear or tear, but is never as impressive as the backgrounds for the simple reason of texture. Occasionally the hand-made quality shows in terms of cell shadows and paint bleeds, but these are all part of the charm and to be expected from such a perfect image quality. There’s next to nothing in the way of digital artefacts, over-sharpening effects, or even print damage artefacts, like dirt or burns. A fine mesh of discreet grain over the darker sequences (the rat attack sequence especially) is the closest I can find to prove the film is as old as it is.
Disney offers both a newly remixed DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix and the original 3.0 mix, also presented in the form of an uncompressed DTS-HD track. As per usual Disney bucks the trend of modern remixes sounding awkward or wrong, and the overall quality of the 7.1 mix is generally exquisite, sharp, and incredibly clean. Stereo and surround effects aren’t incredibly common, but include rushing wind from an open door, horse drawn coaches and animals running across the screen, and other general, natural ambience. As per the norm, the bulk of the rear channel work comes out of the music, which sounds quite nice in the entirely frontal 3.0 track (note, there is no ghost rear channel here), but is given a definite boost thanks to the discreet LFE channel. Generally speaking there’s little comparison between the music on the two tracks – the 7.1 score sounds endlessly warmer and is never lost in the dialogue or effects. There are also a few minor instances of dialogue bleeding and reverb effects towards the end of the film on the 3.0 track, which have been ‘corrected’ on the 7.1 track, which will be enough for some people to prefer the remix.
The only advantage to running behind on this particular review is that Disney has put the second screen option on this disc live, and I don’t have to simply glaze over it for this review. In general I’d still prefer a picture in picture option, but this is a solid multi media experience, including plenty of production illustrations to compare to the on screen images, text-based factoids, reenactments of Walt Disney and staff’s story meeting transcripts in audio only form (including second screen descriptions of the people speaking), and a few interactive options. The interactive stuff is the most interesting option, and sets second screen apart from standard pop-ups, including drawing options, flip books, puzzles, etcetera, all of which are also available to explore outside the synced timeline. I’d prefer an augmentation of a more tradition expert commentary track (Disney does those so well) to the transcript reenactment, which offers a glimpse into the creative process, but wasn’t as endlessly intriguing as the lesson plan-like commentary.
Under the ‘Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition’ menu you’ll find a new featurette entitled Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad (7:50, HD). This rather fluffy discussion with Disney’s daughter covers the Disney family Victorian apartment in Disneyland (which was built around the time Lady and the Tramp was being produced), where Walt and his wife would store their knick-knacks. Also available under this title are three deleted scenes (19:10, HD), presented in the form of narrated storyboards. The ‘Music and More’ menu features only a new presentation of a never recorded song ‘I’m Free as the Breeze’ (1:30, HD), lyrics by Ray Gilbert and music by Eliot Daniel. From here we move on to the ‘classic DVD bonus features’, which include the behind the scenes documentary Lady’s Pedigree: The Making of Lady and the Tramp (52:40, SD), Finding Lady: The Art of the Storyboard (13:00, SD), footage from the original 1943 storyboard version of the film (11:50, SD), The Siamese Cat Song: Finding a Voice for the Cats (1:50, SD), Puppypedia: Going to the Dogs (9:20, SD), ‘Bella Notte’ music video, three trailers, three excerpts from the Disneyland TV show, and four more deleted scenes (12:50, SD).
It was a pleasure revisiting Lady and the Tramp, and an even greater pleasure to experience it in its full 1080p HD glory. This is among the best transfers to come out of Disney’s animated output yet, and a hearty upgrade over your old DVD copies, even the ones that featured the 2.55:1 framing option. The soundtrack includes both the original three-track sound, and a new, well-designed 7.1 track, and both are presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio sound. The extras include a few new entries, including a fun second screen option for your computer or tablet, and all previous DVD features to boot, making this a solid and recommended purchase for animation fans of all ages.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
All ages admitted
Release Date: 7th February 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Disney Second Screen 'Inside Walt's Story Meetings', Deleted Scenes, Deleted Song, Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad, Lady's Pedigree: The Making of Lady and the Tramp, The Siamese Cat Song, Puppypedia: Going to the Dogs, Trailers, Disneyland TV show exerpts, Music Video, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Cast: Peggy Lee, Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Bill Thompson, Bill Baucom
Length: 76 minutes
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