Disney Animated Features
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Release Date: 22 June 1955
After animating several well-known stories (including The Wind in the Willows, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan were the most recent), Disney turned to what was essentially an original story. Legendary Disney storyman had come up with a story almost twenty years earlier about a pampered spaniel named Lady, based on his family's own pedigreed pooch. Although popular around the studio, the story ended up sitting on the shelf; it was too complex to make into a short cartoon, but it was far too weak to support a full-length feature.
The eventual solution lay in an obscure tale called "Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog," written in 1943 by Ward Greene. Greene's canine protagonist, a carefree mutt, was the perfect foil for the refined, sheltered Lady. Disney quickly bought up the rights to Greene's story, though only the character was really put to use.
Mercifully, Walt changed the stray dog's name from "Happy Dan" to "Tramp", presumably to evoke the title of the popular song "The Lady Is a Tramp".
The story of the film is somewhat in the Romeo and Juliet vein. A beautiful young cocker spaniel named Lady, a happy resident of an upper-middle-class home, has her life thrown into chaos when a new baby arrives. She encounters a reckless but kind mutt named, simply, Tramp. Lady discovers that adventure and excitement are missing from her pampered life, while Tramp realizes that the stability and protection of a loving family might not be such a bad thing. The two fall in love, of course, and after a series of adventures, all is well and a litter of puppies has been born.
Lady and the Tramp was the first of the Disney Animated Features to be filmed and exhibited using the CinemaScope process. This fact is significant mainly to film buffs, but illustrates that Disney remained on the cutting edge of film technology.
There were only a few songs in this film; they were written by Sonny Burke and recording artist Peggy Lee (who provided the voices for Darling, Peg, and Si and Am (the siamese cats)). The most memorable of the songs is the "Siamese Cat Song." The film won no awards in the United States, but was recognized with a Best Picture nomination by the British Film Academy.
Again, though, like Peter Pan before it, the lack of awards is no indication of lack of quality. Lady and the Tramp is a fine film, with just the right proportion of comedy, adventure, and romance.
Lady and the Tramp has one direct-to-video animated sequel. Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure was released in 2001. Scamp is apparently one of Lady and Tramp's puppies.
Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/~fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.