Disney Reviews by the Unshaved Mouse #15: Lady and the Tramp

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. 

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Hello everyone. A little bit of housekeeping before we get into this week’s movie. Back in my Alice in Wonderland review I used three racist anti-Irish cartoons to demonstrate why nineteenth century artist John Tenniel was invited to suck my…ahem…unshaved mouse. Now, I’ve since discovered that one of these cartoons:

THIS little treasure.

…was actually not by Tenniel but by his contemporary Thomas Nast. Which honestly I should have twigged as their styles are quite noticeably different. I’ve since changed the Alice review but I felt I should come clean anyway. So yeah, I was sloppy. Sorry. John Tenniel?

Ahoyhoy?

 I apologise for confusing you with that OTHER racist dick weasel.

Oh, quite alright my dear fell…I SAY!

So, now that I’ve hopefully eaten enough crow..

Figure of speech, figure of speech! God! Don’t look at me like that.

…we can get on with the review.

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Lady and the Tramp is a bit unusual in the Disney canon in that it is an adaptation of two separate stories. Animator Joe Grant originally approached Walt with an idea based on his own experiences of owning a cocker spaniel puppy named Lady who he couldn’t spend as much time with once Joe had a son. Walt liked the idea.

A small animal being neglected? What’s not to love?

And he told Grant to draw up some storyboards for a proposed animated feature called Lady. Apparently these storyboards weren’t really up to scratch (and in fairness, there’s not really that much story to Grant’s pitch) so the idea was abandoned and Joe Grant later left the studio. Walt decided that what the story needed was a second dog character to counterbalance the innocent Lady, a streetwise, cynical, wiseguy. A dog with attitude, who gets “bizzay” as opposed to “busy”.

Walt came across a short story by Ward Greene called “Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog” in Cosmopolitan magazine and whoa whoa whoa whoa back the fuck up. Walt Disney read fucking Cosmo!? Oh that is hilarious! That is…where are you Walt?

Look, it was a VERY different magazine back then. It was primarily devoted to fiction and featured work by some of the best American writers of the period…

Whatever, Walt. So anyway, in between learning the 75 Sex Moves Men Crave, Walt Disney decided to buy the rights to “Happy Dan the Whistling Dog” and integrated the story into the existing concept for Lady. The character’s name was changed to The Tramp, and thus was born Lady and the Tramp. Is it any good? Well let’s take a look.

The opening credits play over a very nice version of Bella Notte (the song that’s sung later over the spaghetti scene) and oh God please I don’t ask for much but…

T to the H to O to the R PUTNAM!!!!!

The movie opens with a quote from Josh Billings that says that there is only one thing that money cannot buy: the wag of a dog’s tail. It’s a nice sentiment, but frankly bullshit.

You want the wag of a dog’s tail? I can get you the wag of a dog’s tail. There are ways Dude, believe me.

Anyway, the movie begins with a beautiful depiction of a snow blanketed town at Christmas and this is some very, very strong animation. Certainly better than Peter Pan, maybe even better than Alice in Wonderland. In the house of two human characters, a married couple known only as Jim Dear and Darling, Jim Dear is giving  Darling her Christmas present, a tiny cocker spaniel called Lady. Apparently, this is based on a real life event. Walt apparently forgot a dinner date with his wife and gave her a puppy in a hatbox as a peace offering. Which does not sound at all like the Walt I know.

It was number eight on Cosmo’s list of Top Twenty Gifts to Guilt Your Partner into Taking You Back. I mean…DAMMIT!

Darling is absolutely enchanted with Lady, as well she might be because she is friggin’ adorable.

Yknow, between this and 101 Dalmatians, Disney is probably responsible for pretty much every abandoned Christmas puppy ever.

They try and put Lady in her own basket but she whines and whines until they agree to let her sleep in their bed and as someone with a four month old baby, I feel their pain.

Weeks pass, and Lady grows up into the kind of cartoon dog that gives furries a reason to get out of bed every day. One morning she wakes Jim Dear and runs downstairs, while he implores his wife to teach their dog the concept of “Sunday”. Lady goes tearing around the garden, chasing blackbirds and burying bones. Now, believe it or not we are already ten minutes into this movie and very little has happened. Like Bambi, this film doesn’t exactly have what you’d call a tightly plotted narrative. But that’s not a criticism. The movie’s slow, laid back, we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there approach to storytelling adds to its charm.

The tone makes an abrupt shift when Lady sees a rather sinister looking rat and chases him out of the garden and into lower-income housing, never to be seen again.

Lady gets a new collar and goes to show it to her two neighbours, Jock the Scottish Terrier and Trusty the Bloodhound. Jock is voiced by…holy crap, Bill Thompson? I was actually amazed to discover that Jock and the White Rabbit have the same voice actor because they sound nothing alike. Jock has a thick Scottish accent (a pretty decent one actually), and is stingy and short-tempered which is of course a completely baseless stereotype.

They’re CRAZY and short-tempered. Rookie mistake.

Trusty on the other hand is played by veteran Western actor Bill Baucom, and he voices the Bloodhound with a deep Southern drawl that sounds like Foghorn Leghorn on tranquilizers. Trusty was apparently an ace tracker back in  the day but Jock confides to Lady that he’s lost his sense of smell. Jock and Trusty are our comic relief but they’re significantly more grounded and less zany than is usual for these types of Disney characters. In fact all the characters, from the leads to the supporting cast are a good deal more rounded and layered than we’ve seen in the canon up to this point. Part of this may be due to the leisurely pace of the story which gives us more time to just hang around with the characters, but Lady and the Tramp is something of a first for a Disney movie in a way that I’ll get into a little later.

The first act ends with Lady curled up beside the fire while Jim Dear and Darling remark to each other that everything seems just about perfect.

We now meet our second lead, the Tramp, as he wakes up in a barrel beside the train station. He stretches, yawns, drinks from a nearby pool, looks around appreciatively and happily declares “What a day!”. I’m going to take a few moments just to talk about what makes this character work so damn well. Firstly, the canine animation is superb. Like with Bambi, the Disney animators used live animals for reference and they’ve really shown their work. Secondly, voice actor Larry Roberts is a perfect fit for this character. From what I can tell this was his only feature film role and that is a damn shame because his voice has real charm. And lastly it’s that introduction. Unlike Lady, who’s living in luxury (seriously, Jim Dear and Darling are clearly loaded) Tramp has nothing. But from his perspective, that means he has everything. The entire world belongs to him, he can go wherever he wants, eat wherever he wants, fuck whoever he wants.

What? What did you think “Breaks a new heart every day” meant?

My point is the joy with which he greets the world upon waking up sets up the character perfectly. We know this guy, and it’s not even thirty seconds into his first appearance.

Tramp comes across the dog catcher’s van and sees that two of his friends, Bull the Bulldog and Peg the Shih-tzu Maltese, have been captured. He sets them free and gets chased by the dog catcher into Lady’s neighborhood. Tramp doesn’t think much of “Snob Hill” as he calls it. He muses aloud and that there must be “a lid on every trashcan and a fence around every tree.” The Tramp doesn’t find such a constrained, controlled existence to be at all appealing and wonders what “the leash and collar set” do for excitement.

Oh you know. The usual.

Meanwhile, Jock and Trusty pay Lady a visit but she’s nowhere to be found. Jock calls out to her with a typical Scottish idiom.

Lassie? LASSIE?

WHAT?!

NOT YOU!

They find Lady moping behind the house because Jim Dear and Darling have started acting very differently and no longer seem to have any time for her. Jock and Trusty figure out that Jim Dear and Darling are going to have a baby. Lady has no idea what a baby is, so Tramp, who just happens to be passing by, invites himself in and explains that babies are nothing but trouble and that once it arrives she’ll find herself in the doghouse.

He ain’t kiddin’.

Lady starts freaking out and Jock throws Tramp out growling that they’ve no time for mongrels and their “radical ideas”. Tramp leaves with one final warning for Lady “The human heart has only so much room for love and affection. And when a baby moves in, the dog moves out.”

There follows a montage of the next nine months with Jim Dear and Darling having their baby shower, picking out names and Jim Dear being sent out at three o clock in the morning in the middle of a blizzard to get Darling watermelon and chop suey. And let me tell you, as food cravings go Jim Dear got off LIGHTLY.

“Okay sweetie. So you want dried figs, celery, coal, iceberg lettuce, a raw zebra steak, the still beating heart of a dragon, the mask worn by Douglas Fairbanks in “Mark of Zorro”, a lesser known painting by Leonardo Da Vinci and an element as yet undiscovered by science.”

The baby finally arrives and Lady decides to see for herself just what a baby is. The scene where Lady ascends the stairs while the song What is a Baby? plays is beautifully done, exquisitely animated and with absolutely gorgeous backgrounds. It’s also a very sweet, gentle scene in a very sweet and gentle movie. Lady enters the nursery and Jim Dear and Darling proudly show her their new baby boy and show that while they may have been distracted they have not forgotten or lost interest in her. The scene ends with her place in the family reaffirmed.

What? There doesn’t have to always be a joke. Can’t we just enjoy this?

This idyllic state of affairs doesn’t last long, however. Jim Dear and Darling decide that now is the perfect time to go on a trip and leave their newborn baby with Jim Dear’s Aunt Sarah. Aunt Sarah is played by Verna Felton (Queen of Hearts, Fairy Godmother, Dumbo’s Mother) and is pretty clearly not a dog person. She shoos Lady out of the nursery and Lady slinks despondently down to the living room where she meets Aunt Sarah’s two Siamese cats, Si and Am.

Ohhhhhhhh boy.

Ah so. Honorable Disney-san not being embarrassed by us ever.

Yes, the Siamese cats have huge slanted eyes and buck teeth and they speak in broken Engrish. How bad are they? Well, they were originally going to be called “Nip” and “Tuck” so…small mercies, right? On the scale of racist Disney characters I’d rank them as worse than the crows in Dumbo (which, once you get past the fact that they’re black crows actually aren’t too bad) but not nearly as offensive as Those Guys in Peter Pan. It may be the fact that they’re cats. If they were human Asian characters then it would be pretty much unwatchable. Now here is the bit where I have to admit that…ugh…don’t hate me…I actually kind of…like…We Are Siamese.

We don’t take kindly to indifference to cultural insensitivity round these parts.

I’m sorry but it’s a good song! It is! It’s catchy, it’s funny, the whole sequence is brilliantly animated, the whole schtick with the cats running rings around Lady as she tries to stop them from eating the tropical fish. It’s all gold. Racist, racist, gold. Yes. I know. I’m sorry.

Anyway, the cats trash the place and make it look like Lady attacked them. Aunt Sarah hears the noise and comes down to see Si and Am writhing on the ground howling in pain like a pair of Liverpool players.

To my wife: Yes. I made a football reference. Let it go.

Aunt Sally decides that Lady is too dangerous and takes her to the petshop to be fitted with a muzzle and OH MY GOD SHE’S WEARING A BANE MASK!

Oh Lord, I thank you for this bounty of Batman jokes I am about to receive.

I am Gotham’s reckoning.

Lady breaks free and runs out of the pet store into the streets. She gets chased down an alley way by three feral dogs but Tramp sees her and saves her, fighting off all three of them like a goddamn boss.

Come at me, bro.

Tramp takes Lady to the zoo to see if they can find an animal who can get her muzzle off. They find a beaver who’s trying to move a tree and Tramp cons him into thinking that the muzzle is actually a state of the art log puller.

“If I remove this, will you die?” “It would be EXTREMELY painful.”

Freed of the muzzle, Lady and the Tramp go wandering while she pours her heart out to him. Tramp is sympathetic, and says that her problem is that she let herself be tied down to one family. The Tramp explains that he has a different family for every day of the week, and that he is known by many different names. Now that’s an interesting point. The Tramp never actually tells us his real name in this movie. “The Tramp” is just a nickname the dogs in the pound give him. Maybe he doesn’t have a real name. Or maybe it’s just really embarrassing.

“That CAN’T be your real name.” “Can we drop it?” “THOR PUTNAM?!” “I SAID DROP IT!”

Tramp takes her to an Italian restaurant and we meet Tony and Joe, the two Italians who run the place.

Whadda you mean our princess is in another castle? I break-a you face!

When Tony sees that “Butch” (his name for Tramp) has brought a date, he decides to give them both the best in the house, spaghetti bolognnaise. And so, the stage is set for one of the most memorable scenes in the history of animation.

Incredibly, Walt didn’t like the idea for the scene and thought that two dogs eating spaghetti was stupid. Which, yes, dogs really shouldn’t be given that many carbs but, c’mon. Anyway, animator Frank Thomas was so in love with the idea of the scene that  he went and animated it behind Walt’s back on his own time and only showed it to him after it was done. Walt, impressed (and no doubt a little bit scared) agreed to put the scene in the movie and the rest is history.

He spent dozens of man-hours of his own time single-handedly animating two dogs eating spaghetti. You don’t cross a man packing that much crazy.

The thing about perfection is there really isn’t that much to say about it. This scene is perfect. So let’s move on.

I said earlier in the review that Lady and the Tramp is something quite unique in the Disney canon up to this point. This is a love story that doesn’t stop as soon as the two main characters get together. Snow White and Cinderella end as soon as Prince Charming gets the girl. But not here. We actually get to see what happens after the relationship has begun. We even, goodness gracious, see two characters in a romantic relationship having romantic difficulties. This is groundbreaking stuff.  Lady and the Tramp wake up after spending the night together and oh yeah, that’s something that’s never even been hinted at either. Now I’m not saying the movie implies that they had sex.

What could possibly give you that idea?

I’m saying that for the period this movie was made, even the fact that they are waking up together, even if they only “slept together” in the most literal sense of the word, that’s pretty revolutionary. Don’t forget, this was a time when married couples had to be depicted on TV as sleeping in separate beds.

Lucy, you got some walkin’ to do!

This is possibly the first Disney movie to look at love in any way deeper or mature than the most surface level “And then the Prince arrived and they all lived happily ever after.” This is the first movie where I actually care about the relationship of the two leads, and where it feels like there are real obstacles for them to overcome.

Well, apart from this one.

In fact, it seems that their relationship is doomed from the start. Tramp offers to show Lady the world: Shining, shimmering, splendid. A whole new world, you might almost say. Lady admits that it sounds wonderful, but says that she can’t go with him. Lady is not like the Tramp, she can’t just abandon her responsibility to her human masters, no matter how badly they’ve treated her. Tramp admits defeat, and sadly offers to take her home.

On the way they pass a chicken farm and Tramp asks Lady if she’s ever chased chickens. Lady is indignant but Tramp tells her that she needs to “start building some memories”.

C’mon bitch. YOLO.

See, Tramp is not the typical perfect Disney male protagonist. He has plenty of positive characteristics, sure. He’s loyal to his friends and courageous to a fault. But he’s also reckless, and not just with his own safety either. He leads Lady into a dangerous situation for no real reason and almost gets her shot by the farmer. Then as they’re escaping, she gets captured by the dog warden and taken away before he even thinks to realise that she’s gone.

We shift scene to the dog pound and, apropos of nothing, the movie decides that it wants to break you into a million pieces. We see several of the dogs howling a mournful dirge as we take in a scene of utter canine misery and…goddamn it movie you will not make me cry…

C’mon. Keep it together. It’s just a dog…

What? That all you got? Huh? Not crying…not crying…

AW NO, NOT THE PUPPIES! NOT THE PUPPIES!

WAAAAAAAAAAHHHAAAHAHAHAAAA!

Walt? Why? Why would you do that to me?

I read it in Cosmo. “50 ways to Break an Unshaved Mouse.” That’s one.

Lady is thrown in with the other dogs (including Peg and Bull from before) and Lady learns that Tramp has a rather, shall we say, storied past. Peg then launches into probably the movie’s most famous song He’s a Tramp.

Peg is voiced (and indeed based on) singer Peggy Lee, who also does the voices for Darling and Si and Am. She is a phenomenal voice talent, incredibly versatile and with a great set of pipes. She also recorded the original version of the song Why Don’t you Do Right?

So you can also thank her for THIS.

It’s a fantastic song, and an early precursor to the wonderful, laid back, jazzy musical numbers that we’ll be seeing a lot more of as we move into the sixties.

Aunt Sarah takes Lady home, who stays moping in her dog house in a depressed funk. Jock and Trusty, knowing that she is now a fallen woman having spent time in the pound, both offer her their paws in marriage so that she can escape her life here and start over in a new house. Aaaand how is that supposed to work exactly?

“Darling? Next door’s dogs are at the door with a proposal of marriage for Lady.” “Oh, just squirt them with a water bottle.”

The Tramp shows up with an “I’m sorry” bone for Lady.

Lady is having none of it however, and won’t forgive him for leaving her behind…shit! I just thought of a great joke about the “I’m sorry” bone can we just go back…no?

Too late?

Fine.

Lady is genuinely distraught and says she was so scared in the pound, and Tramp tries to comfort her by saying “Now, now, now. Who could ever hurt a cute little trick like you?”

Dude! DIG UP!

Lady then tears him a new tramp-hole listing off all his previous girlfriends that she heard about while she was in the pound and the look on Tramp’s face is just priceless.

BUSTED.

Lady tells him to go walkies and he leaves, heartbroken. However, it’s at this moment that the rat from before decides to make another appearance. Of course, if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens next. The rat breaks into the house to try and eat the baby and Lady and the Tramp save him.

But I hate to break it to you, that’s not what actually happens.

Ladies and gentleman, at last the truth can be known. I give you, the Tragedy of Larry the Misunderstood Rat.

“Ah, what a lovely brisk night for a forage. Larry, you are one lucky rat. Beautiful wife, three gorgeous kids, I…OH GOOD GRACIOUS ME!”

“Some fool’s left the window to the baby’s room open! The poor dear will catch its death of pneumonia!”

“Oh, this really isn’t safe climbing weather. But if anything were to happen to that baby I wouldn’t be able to live with myself! Darn the risk, I say!”

“There, the window’s closed. Now, I’ll just leave a polite but firm note to remind them of the dangers of leaving the window open at this time of year and OH MY LORD!”

“THERE’S A FERAL DOG IN THE BABY’S ROOM! STAY BACK, YOU BRUTE!”

“Don’t worry baby! Larry’s here! Larry will save you!”

“C’mon then, you bastard! YOU WONT TAKE HIM! NOT WHILE LARRY’S AROUND”

“FOR THE BABY!”

However, despite Larry’s valiant efforts, he is apparently killed. Aunt Sarah runs into the room and sees the crib overturned and thinks that Lady and the Tramp tried to savage the baby. She locks Tramp in the broom closet and Lady in the basement and calls the dog catcher.

Jim Dear and Darling arrive at the house just as Tramp is being hauled away by the dogcatcher who tells them that he was caught attacking a baby. Jock and Trusty overhear this and Trusty can’t believe that even Tramp could do something so awful. Jim Dear and Darling race into the house and Aunt Sarah tells them what happened. Jim Dear doesn’t believe it and frees Lady from the cellar. Lady runs to the baby’s room and shows them the tattered, mangled remains of Larry…

My life…means nothing…just…please…tell me…is the baby…okay?….

Realising what happened, and that Tramp is about to be sent to live on the same farm they put Bambi’s mother, Jock and Trusty race after the dog catcher.

Against all odds, Trusty is able to track down the wagon and throws himself in front of it. Jim Dear and Lady arrive in a car to rescue Tramp but it seems like it’s too late for Trusty.

OH GOD WALT WHY!?

That’s two. Only forty-eight to go, Mouse.

You sir, are a nasty piece of work.

I am a nasty work of ART.

We then skip forward to Christmas where Lady and the Tramp are now the proud parents of a litter of puppies and all seems to be well. They’re joined by Jock and, surprise, surprise, Trusty who is still alive. The original ending for the film would have had Trusty actually dying but Walt didn’t want a repeat of the whole “Bambi’s Mother” fiasco so he ordered it changed. Honestly, while I’m not a fan of fakeout deaths, if Trusty had actually died and they just skipped to the next scene it would have been very jarring so I’ll let this one go. The movie ends as it began, with Lady surrounded by her loved ones at Christmas. A happy ending for almost everyone.

Never forget.

Lady and the Tramp was a huge hit when it was released in 1955, out performing Cinderella at the box office and becoming the studio’s second biggest hit after Snow White.

Still number one, bitches.

Amazingly, the movie was not a hit with critics which just goes to show that anyone who thinks that their subjective opinion on a movie is somehow so superior to everyone else’s is a pompous ass and a fool.

What?

Incredibly, some critics criticised the artwork and animation which is frankly preposterous. This is a beautiful, beautiful film, possibly the first film from this period that can legitimately stand up to the great Disney movies of the forties. The critics were wrong on this one, and the great unwashed masses were right.

You fucking…wait, what?

I didn’t really have great expectations for Lady and Tramp going into this review. There are some Disney movies that I can recite word for word and some that just slipped through the cracks and for me this was one of the latter. But now that I’ve had a chance to rewatch it,  there is so much to love about this film. Highly recommended.

Scoring

The Animation 18/20

There’s no big epic monster battle, no wildebeest stampeded, no army of huns running down a mountain. But in it’s perfectly rendered canine motion, fluidity and absolutely gorgeous facial expressions, this has some of the best animation in the canon.

The Leads: 18/20

Finally a movie where the leads are the most interesting characters. Lady and the Tramp are a great couple, sweet, funny and believable.

The Villain: 10/20

Poor, poor Larry. Alright, in all seriousness the rat is impressively creepy and sinister. 

Supporting Characters: 14/20

Plenty of solid supporting characters, but this is one Disney movie that’s all about the leads.

Music: 17/20

Bella Notte and He’s a Tramp.Two of the all time greatest Disney songs are in this movie and it’s not even really a musical. Also, the incidental music is very good, particularly in the climactic fight between Tramp and Larry

FINAL SCORE: 77%

NEXT WEEK:

This is a big one. The one you’ve all been waiting for. Join me next week as the Unshaved Mouse reviews Sleeping Beauty, one of the greatest feminist movies of the twentieth century. Not kidding.

Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. You can follow him on Twitter. The blog updates every Thursday. Thanks for reading!

34 comments

  1. Always outdoing yourself, Unshaved Mouse, I loved it entirely! Btw, did you know that voice actor Bill Thompson also did the voice of Droopy Dog? He was a talented man.

  2. “Aunt Sarah takes Lady home and stays moping in the her dog house in a depressed funk.”

    Sorry, this part made me laugh…well, the whole review did, but I don’t think that this was intentional…though the idea of Aunt Sarah moping in the dog house….

    Loved the idea that Disney was afraid of such a determined animator.

    Okay, I might get some very unfriendly answers for this one, but I have trouble to see the Siamese Cats as truly racist. For two reasons:
    1. Nearly every animal character who gets some lines in this movie is some sort of stereotype, it is basically an equal opportunity joke. If the Siamese Cats are racists, wouldn’t Jock and Trusty be racist too?
    2. They are cats! If stereotypes are racist an nature, than the restaurant owners in the Bella Notte Scene are way more racist, because they are actually human. If I by watching an animal behave in a certain way, recognize those stereotypes, than I think it tells more about me than about the group the stereotype is based on. Because if I wouldn’t know those stereotypes in the first place, I wouldn’t connect them to a special group of people.

    In general, I always took Disney using stereotypes for mice, candlesticks and whatever else they could think of more as Disney making fun of them and in a sense pointing them out to the audience (not that I believe that Disney is a critical studio, they never were). And yes, I like “we are Siamese” too (does anybody who complains about the song even know how Siam is named nowadays? Or are we so trapped in our stereotypical ideas that we think every Asian is the same?)

    Ironically I think that nowadays “Lady and the Tramp” is mostly appreciated for it’s artistic quality, while the audience slowly starts to forget this little gem. I love the movie for it “dog perspective”, for it’s characters for it’s quite moments…but because of the laid-back tone I tend to prefer other Disney movies, which are more flashy.

    1. Doh! You caught me out. It was my daughter’s Christening last weekend so I was pressed for time. That’s why this review was a little less scrupulously proofread than usual.

      You raise an interesting point (as usual). Why are two Siamese cats speaking in Asian accents racist whereas a Scottish terrier speaking in a Scottish accent isn’t? Isn’t it essentially the same joke? Well you could make the argument that since this movie is written from a White American perspective and Scotland is a historically white country that’s it’s not racist since white people can’t be racist to each other and can’t be victims of racism.
      But I don’t think that’s true for a minute. I know from my own country’s history and more recently from events in the Balkans that white on white prejudice can exist and be extremely destructive. I think in the case of Jock and Si and Am (and I will confess, I did need to look it up to see that it’s now Thailand) it’s a question of the same joke being told in two different ways. Jock, while he does have stereotypical Scottish traits, is still a character rather than a caricature. He isn’t drawn noticeably differently from the other dogs to accentuate his “Scottishness”. Si and Am on the other hand, draw rather heavily in their design on negative Asian stereotypes (the eyes, the teeth, the broken English). As for Tony and Joe, are they racist? Well, a little. Yeah. A little bit. I’d put them around halfway on the spectrum between the siamese cats and Jock.

      Now let’s be honest, if we pretend that there is an iron clad rule of when something is racist and when it isn’t we’re deluding ourselves. All comedy has the potential to be offensive. All of it. I can find you someone who thinks that Bugs Bunny promotes cruelty to animals, that Spongebob Squarepants is fostering a radical gay agenda, and so on and so on. We ignore these people because, well, they’re freaks, and if we always listened to the freaks we would deny ourselves so much wonderful art. But when it’s not just the freaks who are complaining, but a majority of us, that’s when we decide that something is offensive. It really is that messy and ad hoc. Quality also has a major part to play in it. We forgive racism in movies if they’re good movies, because the artistic value we get from the movie outweighs its problematic content. A great movie with racist parts is a great movie with racist parts. But a bad movie with racist parts is a racist movie. It may not be fair, exactly, but it’s the closest we’ve got to a workable system.

      1. The thing is: Especially Bugs Bunny did some really offensive and racist stuff in some episodes of the show. Compared to him pretending to be an ex.slave, Si and Am are a sensible portrayals a foreign culture.
        The problem with the majority deciding what is racist is the question if it is really the majority or simply a very loud minority? Nevermind that it is sometimes impossible to apease people on a war path. If anything, the fuss around Princess and the Frog proved that, when one group of people insisted that the prince had to be black, and another grioup insisted that he had to be white (and that before the movie hit the theaters). Well, in the end Disney went for something inbetween…
        Sometimes I’m wondering why some people are so obsessed with finding racist or sexual messages in Disney, especially since there are so many animated features out there, which are really, really bad (I even know of one which was so offensive that it got banned in !Japan!).
        I grew up in an area, in which there were foreigners, but no African or Asian people. And when I meet the first ones, they didn’t behave in a special way. So when I saw those Disney movies the first time, I honestly saw only crows and cats. I only got the joke (for lack of a better word) with the cats after I watched my first episode of Bonanza. Beforehand I simply though that they had slanted eyes because cats have slanted eyes.

      2. Btw, about Jock not being drawn “scottish”…he wears a tartan-like pattern, he has the typical “scottish” beard and he sings a song about his own stinginess.

    2. While racist is a rather loaded term, people can still perpetuate stereotypes and cause them to permeate the public consciousness without meaning harm. While I don’t think racism necessarily ruins a movie, it’s fine if people still note it(as long as they aren’t shoving it down our throats). In general, I don’t think Disney in its works necessarily meant malice(nor did Bob Clampett in say, Coal Black). But I think it’s important to be aware of how outdated ideas can sometimes mislead us.

      Anyway, Lady and the Tramp is rather underrated, which is a shame because I think it’s a nice contrast to some of Disney’s more famous features; it’s a bit more concerning everyday characters(albeit dogs), it focuses more on character development and interaction, and it’s just very relaxing.

  3. As ever, Mouse, beautifully done. I always felt like Uncle Walt was ripping off (ahem, forgive me) *paying homage* to the legend of St. Guinefort with the grand finale to this movie…though of course there it was a snake and not a rat, and Walt’s ending is quite a lot happier. Really, I can’t wait for what I’m sure will be your epic Sleeping Beauty review. But please, Mouse, if you can, explain Prince Phillip’s hat to me. In cinematic history, I don’t think there’s ever been a less practical, more Lady Gaga-esque piece of haberdashery. In fact, I’m not sure Disney could make the thing in real life; they have the Prince Phillip in the parks wearing a weird top hat-style thing. Yet the hat *is* the prince in the movie…they become totally conflated, to the extent that the faries just have to see the hat to know Phil’s been locked up in Maleficent’s little gothic BDSM dungeon. Thanks again for all the laughs and insight! You’re doing a bang-up job.

  4. I love the reoccuring jokes like Devil Panchito, Thor Putnam, and warlock Jose Carioca. Hope to see more of them!

  5. I agreed with very single point you made, and great review (as always). This film did step it up with more developed characters and relationship, some adult content, a slow-paced movie which actually has lots of things going for it. I think that this film carries through is because of the characters and the circumstances; you ant to know what is going to happen and it catches your interests. I hate it that people only say this movie good because of the spaghetti scene. It is good, but there is so much more to the movie than that.

  6. Couple things:

    1. The beaver is the same voice as Gopher in the Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh (not in the book). Not too surprising.

    2. The non-death of Trusty really is OK, especially in the light of “The Fox and the Hound” and its sins (ex-dog Chief in a cast). Let’s face it, a carriage wheel isn’t a train. And it provided a nice payoff line at the end of the movie when Trusty “plum forgot what his uncle used to say” (a running gag in the movie that I’m surprised you didn’t mention.

    1. Wow, really should have done my homework on the Beaver/Gopher thing. While the LatT Beaver was clearly a prototype for Gopher, they were NOT voiced by the same actor. Which is kind of amazing.

  7. I think it’s worth mentioning that Peggy Lee didn’t just do the phenomenal voice-work; she also co-wrote the entire soundtrack for the film (with Sonny Burke). Aaand sued the Disney Company over video tape rights for it and won. 😉

    Overall, great review and I’m glad I stumbled on these things – they are wonderful entertainment (and tools for procrastination).

  8. Currently writing our review of Lady and the Tramp right now and we have discovered that the rat was originally going to be a comic character called Herman … was instantly reminded of your rendition of the misunderstood Larry!

  9. Lady and the Tramp is kind of a bit similar to Bambi for me. I know it’s a classic, but I have very few actual memories about it. Maybe that’s actually because my family didn’t own it; I do seem to have more vivid memories of reading Lady and the Tramp as a picture book than I do of actually watching it, and it may in fact have been one of those ones that I actually watched far after reading the book-of-the-movie (or having it read to me, I don’t think I could read back then). And I guess Lady and the Tramp does have that same kind of slow plot pace as Bambi. It kind of gives a feel of taking place during the “dog days”. And I guess it’s the movie that has the 50s feel the most, so naturally it’s got a sort of mild, everyday kind of generic feel to it, as the general feel of the 50s was. I’m not that into the whole suburban scene, so that might be why I more appreciate this movie (particularly after hearing some of the points you gave about it) than actually like it. By the sounds of it, you had similar thoughts before reviewing it, so I wonder if it’s just a matter of watching it again. Hmm.

    Ooh, eating crow, eh? Watch it, Mouse, you are what you eat, right? Wouldn’t want to get Scarlet Fever germs in your digestive tract. And the Cosmo joke cracked me up. I wonder if the tagline to the article that gave Disney that idea was “Bitches love bitches”. I liked the Jock bit too. I guess being from the British Isles gives one a bit more expertise. Aww, are you in the doghouse, Mouse? Is it for firing the dog-nanny? That’s it, isn’t it? Unless the dragon’s heart stopped beating before you could get it to the Missus. You poor soul.

    Y’know, now that I think of it, it seems kind of strange that Jim and Darling (I have to wonder if she’s called that because she’s a distant relative of the Darlings in Peter Pan) took off and left their newborn child behind. Is that something people did in the 50s? Maybe it could be a different-times-different-customs thing, but that kind of sounds a tad negligent, don’t you think? Or s doing that a helpful post-partum depression treatment? My knowledge on that is minimal. Also, the scene with Tony and Joe. Why didn’t they notice Lady’s collar when they saw her? Wouldn’t they have figured she was someone’s pet and wondered where she was?

    Speaking of maternity, Nit called, he wants to correct that cred sheet for Verna Felton… *checks IMDB) …Well, I’ll be! Verna Felton actually did voice Mrs. Jumbo! She has a more major role as the Matriarch in Dumbo, which surprised me to not be her only role, Matriarch sounds like Verna Felton, Mrs. Jumbo never did to me. Though maybe if I watched Dumbo now, I’d notice. Well, Nit, time to slink off into that shameful corner of… somebody’s scalp, I guess.

    Wait, is Nip and Tuck a racist reference? I didn’t actually know what it refers to, and all I got was a cosmetic surgery term. Anyway, I’ve never been that fond of Si and Am, but I kind of feel as if that’s mainly because in most of the classic Disney canon, cats and dogs tend to coexist and the scene with them is a major exception. The later movies have characters like Tibbs and all, but these guys are basically the Cats are Mean trope through and through, which has always bugged me. Either way, the angry mob putting down cultural insensitivity in Southerner speak was priceless.

    Also, damn, Steve Hanley was apparently wrong. Tramp clearly beat Aladdin to the first troll face by at least three decades. And is it just me, or did the Winnie the Pooh movies take a lot from Lady and the Tramp? Gopher’s pretty obviously an expy of that beaver, and Pooh actually sings a version of the lullaby Darling sings to her son in the Tigger Movie with different lyrics (which I know because it’s on my iPod because I’ve got no sense of “normal”).

    I’ve sure got to hand it to Mr. Thomas for that kind of determination. And the fact that it’s the most memorable scene really says it paid off.

    “Leading a friend into a dangerous situation for no real reason”? Kind of reminds me of a certain lion. Though I guess at least he had “prove his bravery” on the list, so that might put him ahead of Tramp? Yeah, that raid was probably a bad idea, but at least it didn’t lead to Tramp getting his tail shot off. Hang on, his tail seems a bit short for a stray, doesn’t it? Well, that old mutt just doesn’t learn, now does he? And too bad he’s an animal and can’t read Cosmo, maybe he could have gotten the idea to give Lady a puppy as an apology gift instead of a bone. Though maybe he did read a different article, because he certainly did know how to break an unshaved rodent. Poor, Poor Larry.

    Hmm, didn’t cutting to a nice, peaceful scene after having a character kick the bucket kind of work in Bambi? And you’ve got to at least give Walt credit for not being a nasty enough piece of work to leave Trusty off in Pluto territory. Though I wonder why the part with him getting crushed by the wagon was left in at all if it didn’t contribute much to the story.

    Wait a minute, Nit’s back, wasn’t Snow White technically not a “Walt Disney Studio” production? In that case, maybe our doggie friends might be in for a loophole-exploitation-acquired gold trophy.

  10. Thank you for this brilliant review. I had always thought it was a personal prejudice of mine, that I love this film so much … we saw it in Cork shortly before we got married (1969) and wept copiously. But you’re right, it has a whole lot to recommend it besides happy associations.
    Jock and Trusty are perfectly pitched. I could never take ‘comic’ characters in later movies, the parrot in Aladdin possibly coming bottom of the list. The scene that still makes my neck hairs tingle, thinking of it, is when Jock keens for the fallen Trusty. It transpires that the joke is on Jock; he said that Trusty had lost his sense of smell, but it’s mean snooty Jock who has lost his edge and can’t tell that he’s still alive.
    So there was stereotyping? In the 1950s? Wow.
    As my grandpappy Old Reliable used to say, they don’t make them like that any more. Except for Pixar.

  11. The racial note in calling the cats Nip and Tuck: Nip was used derogatorily for a Japanese person. (Nipponese, Siamese, what’s the difference? Fluctuations.)

  12. “…anyone who thinks that their subjective opinion on a movie is somehow so superior to everyone else’s is a pompous ass and a fool.”

    Oh come ON, Mouse. Surely by now it is obvious to everyone in the world that Me, Myself, and MOI am (is? are?) always right, and all who disagree with me on any particular opinion are, um… well, I’m very humble, so it pains me to admit it… wrong.

    …Unless maybe you’re meaning to imply that someone who is a pompous ass and a fool can also be right about everything. In which case… hey, you may be onto something there!

    1. I just rewatched this since childhood and I was amazed how much I enjoyed it, usually I prefer animated films about people more than animals. It’s a very sweet story and the romance is more developed than other Disney films up to this point. I don’t understand why the critics were complaining about the animation, I thought it was lovely. This is probably my third favorite Walt- Era film after Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland.

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