Lady and the Tramp (USA, 1955)
Directed by Clyde Geronomi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
Starring Barbara Luddy, Larry Thompson, Bill Thompson, Verna Felton
One of the big steps we take in becoming adults is learning to accommodate our nostalgia for the things we loved as a child. We shouldn't deliberately disown the films, TV shows and other cultural icons of our youth; they played a crucial part in making us who are we, for better or worse, and in some way they continue to shape our cultural choices as adults. But we mustn't let ourselves be governed by a rose-tinted view of the past; it is a dangerous blinker on the critical mind, and most attempts to recapture said past result in failure.
Peter Pan, that Disney had the story anywhere near its finished shape, and even then changes were made right up to the release. The now-iconic spaghetti scene was almost cut by Disney, who felt that it was too silly; fortunately his animator Frank Thomas convinced him otherwise.
The Rescuers or Oliver & Company.
Dumbo may be driven by its title character, but the ringmaster is shown at the same level or perspective as the elephant. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad may have a lot of animal characters, but a human villain is inserted on their level to humanise them. In Lady and the Tramp, everything is seen from the diminished view of a dog; the film deliberately resists giving out details about the human world, leaving Lady as the only way in.
Bambi, there isn't really a lot of story in Lady & the Tramp. None of these stories have the great sweep or classic beats of the fairy tales adapted by the company: their charm is more slight and simple, playing on innocence and childlike curiosity about the world rather than exploring more complex tropes and ideas. Ultimately its staying power is not that great, since it's not as visually rich or narratively substantial as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. But it does have a number of memorable moments, some of which have become icons of the Disney canon as a whole.
Melody Time, right down to the slightly strange movements of the horses. But once Lady is introduced, the colour palette opens up and the rich summery colours begin to fill the screen and warm us up. The film is the first that Disney made in Cinemascope, and the widescreen format compliments the dog's-eye-view aesthetic.
Cinderella's fairy godmother. Bill Thompson is good as Jock, but he and Trusty don't have much to do other than stand around explaining the plot to Lady. Stan Freberg makes a nice little cameo as the Beaver, stretching out a single joke as far as it will possibly go. And the Mellowmen sing well for the dogs' barbershop quartet, even if their speaking accents are completely off-kiltre.
NEXT REVIEW: Sightseers (2012)