Disney By the Numbers: Lady and the Tramp (1955)

One Man, One Woman, Eight Decades of Disney Animated Features watched in order, and the overly complex system they invented to grade them. These are our thoughts, rants, and observations.

This is Disney By The Numbers.

ladyandthetramp


 

As we’ve probably mentioned before in this blog, it’s much different watching some of these Disney films as a child versus taking a look at them as an adult. Now keep in mind, the vast majority of these Disney films were made to be consumed by both demographics so it isn’t so much a case of looking at something that’s childish, but seeing something anew from a different perspective.

I went into our last movie, Peter Pan, feeling like it was one of the better old Disney films, only to come out the other side,  very much disliking almost every aspect of it. Indeed, the film only scored as high as it did because it’s technically proficient and ticked the Disney Criteria boxes.

In the case of Lady And The Tramp, I went in feeling like this was a movie that wasn’t so great. It’s about two dogs falling in love. It doesn’t have any really big show stopping scenes in the film. The most memorable moment is a couple of dogs eating pasta. Which by the way, as a dog owner, that’s probably not what you should be feeding them.

So given my less than stellar expectations, how did this movie actually hold up? The numbers will tell all.

Storytelling

  • Theme 1.5
  • Tightness of Script 3
  • Dialogue 2
  • Use of Comedy 2
  • Use of Drama 2

The further away we get from the package films, the more I appreciate a fully composed plot. The day may come where I want things to change back to something less conventional-

ladyandthetrampday

And don’t let the picture above fool you. Lady And The Tramp is many things, but epic is not one of them. And most the big Disney films are epic. They have Princes fighting dragons, mermaids making deals with the devil, bad guys taunting good guys on a castle wall while lighting flashes behind them like they were posing for a metal album.

But like I said before, the big, notable sequence for Lady And The Tramp is a dinner date. The story is noticeably small, the stakes are small. The movie follows Lady, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (which is the best dog breed ever and if you disagree with me I will fight you!) as she starts a relationship with the Tramp, a mutt from the wrong side of town. It’s kind of a West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet thing but… you know… not a horrible tragedy where everyone dies.

So it’s a forbidden romance, except it’s not especially forbidden and it has a happy ending. So it’s pretty close to the lowest stakes you can have. Like, a game of Chess is the only thing that could be lower stakes.

ladyandthetramplivechess
I stand corrected.

 

But the thing of it is, Lady And The Tramp may not be an epic, it may have a small story, and its stakes might not even be the biggest… but that doesn’t stop it from being a great story. Because far off places, daring sword fights, and a prince in disguise are all well and good but sometimes all you really need is to see a couple of goofy kids realize their feelings for each other. And the fact that their adorable dogs doesn’t hurt things either.

Total: 10.5

Music

  • Lyrics 2.5
  • Score 3.5
  • Number of Songs 1
  • Notoriety of Songs 2

I’ve mentioned, the big set piece of this film is a dinner date.

That scene might have been largely forgettable if not for the fact that it’s attached to one of Disney’s most beautiful songs. “Bella Notte” is the stand out of this feature. It takes a scene that could just be two dogs eating human food to one that’s loaded with meaning and romance. Just like “Part Of Your World” would wind up defining The Little Mermaid, “Bella Notte” is the heart and soul of Lady And The Tramp, enough so that it even became the song of the main titles.

The same can’t be said for the second most notable song of the film. “The Siamese Cat Song” is… catchy garbage just like “What Makes The Red Man Red” was in Peter Pan. There’s no denying that it sticks in the brain, but you also can’t refute that it’s every bit as backwards and racist.

There are only two real things that separate these songs. The first, and this is minor, is that the Siamese cats are… well… cats. So the racist caricature isn’t quite as pronounced. It’s still awful though. The second thing, and this is more important, is that “The Siamese Cat Song”  is just one blemish on an otherwise lovely movie where as “What Makes The Red Man Red”  is the dark spot on a movie surrounded by problematic scenes and themes.

But to end things on a less sour note, Lady And The Tramp has one more stand out song. That would be “He’s a Tramp”, sung by Peggy Lee. It’s probably the most contemporary song in the Disney playlist up to that point. It serves the movie well to introduce some doubt into Lady’s mind about her new boyfriend and give the movie a  necessary complication and it’s catchy to boot.

As for the rest of the songs, they’re fairly forgettable but the songs that work, work well enough to carry this category.

Total: 9/15

Animation

  • Quality of Animation 3
  • Use Of Color 3
  • House Style 2
  • Character Design 3
  • Breaks New Ground 1

The day may come where come a time I get tired of seeing classic Disney animation, but… oh… I already used the Lord of the Rings Quote. Humm…

ladyandthetrampday2
nailed it!

Much like Bambi before it, Walt Disney brought out live animals for his animators to study. But since it was dogs instead of deer, it meant that this time the models were a million times more adorable.

And the attention to detail shows, with the dogs moving and stretching in exactly the way real dogs do.

ladyandthetrampstretch

Not only do the dogs move in a convincing way but the Disney animators found that perfect balance in the character design between realistic and expressive faces. It could have been easy to make them look completely goofy or go too far the other direction and make it look too real. The result of their efforts are characters with that familiar Disney appeal that emote perfectly in spite of having canine whiskers.

Like every Disney movie from this era, Lady And The Tramp is a beauty to watch and not enough good can really be said about its animation.

Total: 12/15

Love Story

  • Character Interaction 3
  • Importance To Overall Plot  3
  • Complexity 2
  • Pulls At Heartstrings 1
  • Overcomes Obstacles 3

Well look at that! A high score for a romantic pairing! It’s funny when you think about it; Disney is a company known for it’s romantic stories, so much so that it was considered subversive when the “act of true love” in Frozen was between sisters and not the romantic couple. But when you really start examining these Disney movies, particularly the early ones, romantic love is almost always window dressing with the main plot  centered around other kinds of love.

Not so in Lady And The Tramp. Romance is front and center.

ladyandthetrampromance

Lady And The Tramp‘s story has many of the usual love tropes we expect, not only in Disney films, but in love stories in general. The boy and the girl from different walks of life meet, the boy defends the girl in some way, there’s a romantic interlude, followed by an inevitable falling out between the two due to miscommunication before a final resolution that see the two finally getting together.

Dare I say it, but it’s a tale as old as time.

Yet, in spite of this story treading well worn ground, it’s still entertaining to see it happen. This is largely due to the strength of the leads and the inescapable adorability of it all. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to craft a good love story, you just have to have likeable characters that don’t demean an entire gender. The movie before that could have stood to learned that lesson.

 

Total: 12/15

Hero

  • Sidekick 0
  • Charm 2
  • Goodness 2
  • Emotional Transformation 0
  • Comedy 1

When it came time to grade this category, my wife and I had a little bit of debate over who could be considered the main character or hero of this tale. In some Disney movies there are pretty much co-leads. Rapunzel and Flynn are basically this in Tangled. But this movie? While it comes close to that, there is a clear leader in this category.

ladyandthetramplady
She does get top billing after all.

In the fine tradition of Disney leading ladies, Lady actually stands out as one of the most fleshed out. We know she’s dedicated to the Dear family, particularly the baby, of whom she acts as a protector.  We know she takes pride in her home and has a nice circle of friends. On top of that, she can keep up with the Tramp’s streetwise antics just fine.

When the Tramp has to help her get the muzzle off he convinces a beaver that they’re selling it as a log puller. As soon as it’s off and she can talk, she tells the beaver that it’s a free sample, that’s probably the moment The Tramp actually fell for her.

Furthermore, the plot revolves around Lady’s troubles and decisions. The Tramp is basically all in once you get past the “Bella Notte” scene. He’s ready to give up his wild ways and settle down with Lady. She’s just not so sure about him and his intention once she listens to some Peggy Lee.

Basically, I could go on and on about how awesome Lady is. I could go on all day about it…

ladyandthetrampsmaug
Hmmm, well it’s still Tolkien so I’ll allow it.

Total: 5/10

Villain

  • Evilness 1
  • Comedy 0
  • Sophistication 0
  • Henchmen 0
  • Poses A Threat 2.5

When you watch a movie or tv show, sometimes there are the villains and then there are the characters you actually hate. Oh sure, you want to see the heroes overcome the villain, but what you really want to see is this other person to get what’s coming to them. You’re looking at characters like Dolores Umbridge, Walter Peck, Azula… and this prick

ladyandthetramptommy
The fact that this guy hasn’t been eaten by a Demogorgon is an injustice on par with the Watt’s Riots and 9/11

What I’m driving at is that we determined that since there wasn’t a Disney villain in the classic sense, we pretty much had to go with the rat that threatens the Dear Family’s baby. But the thing is, the rat is just a rat. It’s ugly and vicious, but there’s not much else to it.

And there’s a character that, while we didn’t quite think sank to the level of villainy, was the one that we found we hated far more than a animal that wanted to eat a newborn. That person would be Aunt Sarah.

ladyandthetrampauntsarah
The fact that this lady hasn’t been eaten by a Demogorgon is an injustice on par with the Watt’s Riots and 9/11

Aunt Sarah, who clearly would have been more at home in the Aristocats, is just the worst. She idiotically thinks that Lady is a threat to the child; Lady, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, probably the most harmless, least aggressive breed of dog on the planet. I know this because we own a Cavalier and he’d probably try to make friends with a bear even if it ate us.

There’s a line of dialogue at the end that tries to redeem her, that she sends treats or something. But that doesn’t even sort of make up for it. She can burn in the ninth circle of hell along with the rat.

Total: 3.5/10

Supporting Characters

  • Comedy 2
  • Inventiveness 2.5
  • Clear Help Or Hindrance 2.5
  • Strength of Relationship with Main Character 2.5

In some Disney films, the side characters tend to overshadow the mains. Heck, for as great as I think Snow White actually is, there’s no question that the Dwarfs are more memorable.  This can be either a good or a bad thing depending on the movie. But for as prevalent as that can be, that trope goes right out the window when you have characters as strong as Lady And The Tramp. When we’re genuinely invested in the story of the main characters, the minor characters don’t have to do so much heavy lifting.

And this leads us to the supporting characters here. The Dear Family get an honorable mention for being nice enough folk but the real stars are the other dogs that Lady and the Tramp interact with. Jock and Trusty are particularly fun, each with their own quirks and endearing comradery with Lady. Trusty has a nice little runner throughout the film about always just being about to tell a story before he’s interrupted. He also gets to be the mvp of the film as it’s Trusty who has a moment of greatness that allows him to sniff out where the dog catcher is so they can save the Tramp.

Honestly, the only reason they didn’t max out the category is because there are funnier Disney supporting characters out there and we have to have some standards! And heck, after how badly these categories performed in the last film, it’s nice to see them this high.

Just like before, I could go on but I suppose that my ultimate answer has to be

ladyandthetrampday3
I mean… I guess it counts. It’s still epic fantasy.

Total:

Disney Magic and Legacy

  • Theme Park Presence 1
  • Timelessness 1.5
  • Impact On Culture 1.5
  • Scope of Audience 2
  • Disney Feels (Or Did It Make us Cry?) 2

Everybody knows Lady And The Tramp, everybody’s seen Lady And The Tramp. But it’s not really one of Disney’s most influential films. Oh sure, it’s always going to be associated with romance, the “Bella Notte” scene is iconic enough to affect our shared concept of a romantic movie moment. But Lady And The Tramp don’t show up in too many other places besides the movie they shared.

That isn’t to say there isn’t any influence outside the film, or the “Bella Notte” scene at all. Within the Disney Parks you can actually dine at Tony’s yourself.  The Magic Kingdom has a small Italian Restaurant in Town Square dedicated to the film.

ladyandthetramptonys
Complete with adorable dog statues!

Lady and the Tramp is also one of the most enduring films in the canon. After all the rampant sexism and racism in Peter Pan, it’s actually refreshing how well this film holds up. Romance movies from this era can be all sorts of problematic but Lady And The Tramp‘s relationship is surprisingly equal and refreshing. Now, the film does lose points in the timelessness subcategory due to the racist cats, but that’s a singular problem, one that can be easily removed (and likely will be by Disney someday soon).

And there’s one other thing. It’s the real world influence that Lady has had on not only dogs in general, but her specific breed of canine. The name ‘Lady’ is a popular dog name and especially for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. In fact, Lady is so associated with the breed that many people, upon seeing one, will automatically assume it’s a girl.

I know this because our Cavie gets mistaken for being a lady all the time.

ladyandthetrampbaxter
Don’t let his cuteness fool you, he’s no lady… or even a gentleman really.

Not bad all in all about a small movie about puppy love.

Total:


Grand Total

Disney makes all sorts of movies. The ones that typically stand out are the bigger ones. The fate of a kingdom lies in the balance and it’s up to our plucky, adorable heroes to go the distance, kiss the girl, and bring about a whole new world. We all love those movies.

But Disney also makes smaller, more personal movies and they’re great too. Lady And The Tramp has relatively low stakes but a lot of heart. You can see it with how earnest the film is with the “Bella Notte” scene, or the beginning when Jim gives Darling Lady in a hat box, a recreation of a moment between Walt Disney and his wife Lilly.

And I love big movies but there’s always room for these simple stories. And the day might come where I get tired of discussing these movie but it isn’t today, in fact-

ladyandthetrampday1
Oh come on! This isn’t even from a fantasy story! And I don’t even know you well enough to want to kill you!

 

Alright, I’ve been trying to be a dutiful, snarky, reviewer, so I’ve been ignoring the juxtaposing reaction gifs  here. I’m trying to talk up the virtues of small stories and yet we have all these gifs from epic fantasy movies. Why is that? What’s happening that would lead us to some sort of epic fantasy? What movie is next?

 

ladyandthetrampmaleficent
oh. Oh… Ohhhhhhhhh!

 

2 Comments

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  2. Great review. I agree that Lady and the Tramp has a lot of simple timeless charm. Honestly it’s hard to believe how old it is sometimes. Also reading your reviews has brought home how derelict a mom I’ve been in how few Disney movies my kids have really been exposed to. We went to see the new Lion King tonight, and I realized my youngest has probably never seen the original, and my older two boys hardly remember it. And speaking of the Lion King remake the point you made of the risk animators run of losing something in the way animal characters, meant to be anthropomorphic, communicate emotions through facial expressions when said animals are drawn too realistically was exactly the impression I had watching this new CGI Lion King. In my opinion there was much lost in translation in a too realistic depiction. But it was otherwise an ok movie. And I’m totally pumped for the Sleeping Beauty review. Love the subtle segway using epic fantasy gifs.

    Like

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