Blu-ray
Must Own
4.5 stars
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

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The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
4 Stars
High-Def Extras
3 Stars
Bottom Line
Must Own

Lady and the Tramp: Diamond Edition

Street Date:
February 7th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
February 2nd, 2012
Movie Release Year:
1955
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
76 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated G
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

"In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money can not buy… to wit – the wag of a dog's tail" – Josh Billings

Before we dive into visionary filmmaker Walt Disney's love letter to man's best friend, I'd like to take a moment to talk about restorations and re-releases of classic films. Disney's "vault" has always been about limiting the company's product availability to make each theatrical and, more recently, home video release special, unique, and profitable. But there is a remarkable, perhaps unintended, consequence. New generations of children experience a classic film as if it were new and made for them. I know exactly how the younglings felt this past year getting to see 'The Lion King 3D' and 'Beauty and the Beast 3D' for the first time on a big screen because it was during 1986 re-release that I first saw Walt Disney's 'Lady and the Tramp'.

Originally released on June 22, 1955, 'Lady and the Tramp' began development as early as 1936 when it was simply known as 'Lady'. Some 19 years and countless ideas and set pieces later, this tight 76 minute film tells the story of, Lady, a dog from the nice part of town, who ends up falling in love with The Tramp, a mutt from the wrong side of the tracks. Lady's dilemma is that she was the center of the household as a puppy, but by the time she is fully grown (at six months), there's a baby coming along and the family's priorities shift. Later, Aunt Sarah comes to babysit for a few days, and brings along her two Machiavellian Siamese cats who immediately frame Lady for their mischief, setting forth a series of events that leads Lady to the wrong side of the tracks and to her eventual love, The Tramp. Along the way, there's adventure, comedy, the constant threat of the dog catcher's net, and a fine love story encapsulated by the iconic spaghetti and meatball scene.

As is the case of many films of one's youth, it's been ages since I revisited this animated classic, the first of Disney's productions to be filmed in the widescreen format, CinemaScope. As an animated film, I must say, I love the themes and the point-of-view of the film. What Lady experiences as a dog being replaced is clearly a metaphor for what any older sibling must endure when a younger brother or sister arrives. And it's a real treat to never get a full look at the human characters. Most of their heads are cut off, or they're shown in a distance, or from behind. In this way, we feel everything from Lady's perspective. Her joys and fears and frustrations are our own.

As an artistic achievement, I'm really not in the position to criticize one of the medium's master in his prime, but personally, this era and look of the film isn't my favorite. Earlier works like 'Snow White' and 'Bambi' or later works like 'Beauty and the Beast' have a much more dynamic, cinematic, and almost 3D feel (when in 2D, I mean) with uses of the multi-plane camera techniques. Here, 'Lady and the Tramp' feels flatter at times, and more impressionistic. Perhaps it was the new widescreen that was harder to capture (or more expensive?), I'm not really sure. My preferences aside, the film is beautifully animated, and captures a wonderfully nostalgic Norman Rockwell version of Small Town Americana. Supposedly, because Walt was developing 'Lady and the Tramp' at the same time as Disneyland, there was a crosspollination of the Victorian era of Walt's youth.

The story itself holds up really well, in my humble opinion. The two lead characters are engaging and, after all these years, you root for them all. The one thing that struck me as odd, for the first time, was the side characters; their added textures and comic relief work well as a product of the 1950s, but most – if not all – are simple ethnic stereotypes. No one would dare make a movie like this today, but I suppose that's part of the film's charm, to think for a moment what was pop-culturally acceptable some 57 years later (or 78 years, if you count development).

Either way, if you're looking for a fun way to spend a night snuggled up with a loved one, adult, child, or canine, 'Lady and the Tramp' on Blu-ray is a terrific entertainment choice for the whole family.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Walt Disney Home Entertainment is bringing 'Lady and the Tramp' via its Diamond Edition series in either blue or gold casing. The blue box, reviewed here, is a two disc set with a single BD50 -- rated to Regions A, B, and C -- plus a DVD edition of the film (Region 1). The gold box features a Digital Copy. Trailers, which you can skip completely or individually -- thank you, Disney! --include Disney All Access Pass, 'Cinderalla', 'Brave', and 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3'.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Do you hear that sound? That's me clapping for Walt Disney Home Entertainment because 'Lady and the Tramp' is absolutely stunning on Blu-ray.

Encoded in AVC MPEG-4 in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1, this 57-year-old film sparkles and dazzles. Aside from two or three blink-and-you-miss instances of soft focus -- for example, there's an odd rack-focus the first time we see Lady in her yard, and the Great Dane in the Dog Pound is softer than the others -- it's pretty much perfect. No dirt, scratches, or signs of age. Colors pop vividly, especially primary and neon colors. The whole frame is rich with texture from the world's background paintings, stuff you couldn't see in previous DVD editions. There's great contrast and range in the "daytime" as well as the "night." The town's wet dirt n' cobblestone roads are like paintings come to life.

Frankly, the film appears brand new; the best it has ever looked in your home. This is one of those restorations and transfers that will be on Top Ten Lists at year's end, and proves Blu-ray is still King of home entertainment quality standards.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Disney once again delivers the audio goods on a classic title with your choice of English 7.1 DTS-HD MA or, for purists, English 3.0 DTS-HD MA. To my ears, I gravitated to the 7.1 mix, which is what most of these comments reflect; you may prefer the other and that's fine too. For a film approaching its sixth decade on Earth, this mix will never compete with the discrete bombast of a modern soundtrack, but we don't really expect it to. In terms of its age, this is a wonderful, wide presentation. Dialog and effects remain prioritized in the front and there's a decent amount of stereo panning. In terms of fidelity, these recordings will always be someone limited, but I've never heard this movie sound as good.

In contrast, I subscribe to Spotify, and pulled up the 'Lady and the Tramp' soundtrack to accompany me while I write this review. The lossless, multi-channel audio is leagues above the Internet streaming soundtrack, which isn't much of a surprise, but the Spotify soundtrack sounds like how I remember the movie on TV and when I saw it as a kid.

The surround channels are mainly used for music, which has the nice effect of sucking you forward into the movie. LFE levels are okay, but lack (…here comes a pun!) growl and punch. Overall, this Blu-ray represents a remarkable improvement in dynamic range and the best this movie has ever sounded (and yes, that includes most of the theatrical exhibitions).

You can also listen to the film in French or Spanish via a 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theatre Mix (AC3, I believe), and there are subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Other that a couple DVD-Rom bonus features, everything from the 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD have been ported over here. There are also a few new features, which I've highlighted below as HD Exclusives. Overall, the entire package is a nice one. It was pretty complete before, and while there isn't much new / HD material, collectors should remain happy.

  • Classic DVD Bonus Features (SD, 160 minutes). Included from before, we have the 53 minute 'Lady's Pedigree: The Making of "Lady and the Tramp', 'Finding Lady: The Art of The Storyboard', 'Original 1943 Storyboard Version of the Film', '"The Siamese Cat Song": Finding A Voice For the Cats', 'Puppy Pedia: Going To The Dogs', '"Bella Notte Music Video', 'Theatrical Trailers', 'Excerpts From "Disneyland" TV Shows, and 'Deleted Scenes'.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Disney has supplemented previous DVD materials with a nice collection of BD-Exclusive apps, featurettes, and never-scene-or-heard-before material. It's hard to top the previous release, because it was so complete, but they've done a nice job here adding to it. Personally, I wish there was even more.

  • Disney Second Screen Featuring "Inside Walt's Story Meetings" (HD). This feature, accessible under Play Movie and Bonus Features, requires an iPad or Laptop and for you to download a free App. Disney does a nice job with their Second Screen applications; there is lots of great behind the scenes information, storyboards, and activities.
  • Inside Walt's Story Meetings: Audio Commentary . I didn't see this anywhere in Bonus Features, but when you select Play Movie, you have the option of turning on this commentary, edited together from audio recordings of Walt Disney as he develops the film. A must listen for any Disney fan!
  • Introduction with Diane Disney Miller (HD, 1 minute). A quick intro from Walt's daughter that is half personal annecdotes and half pitch to come see the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco.
  • Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition (HD, 27 minutes). In this section we find both Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad as well as three new Deleted Scenes presented as storyboards. They're titled 'Introduction of Boris', 'Waiting for Baby', and 'Dog Show'. The Remembering Dad piece is terrific, though Disney fans will likely know much of the included anecdotes about Walt's apartment over Main Street in Disneyland, which was being built during the producing of 'Lady and the Tramp'. Over the Christmas break, I watched a two-hour Walt Disney documentary television, so 8 minutes isn't nearly enough.
  • Music & More (HD, 2 minutes). Well, there isn't much under the "more" category, but the music here is a Never Recorded Song: "I'm Free as the Breeze," Lyrics By Ray Gilbert And Music By Eliot Daniel. An interesting fact; development for 'Lady' began in 1936, some 19 years before it graced the silver screens of 1955 as 'Lady and the Tramp'. Here's a lost gem from 1946, set to various archive artwork.

Final Thoughts

'Lady and the Tramp' -- Walt Disney's nostalgic love letter to our furry, four legged friends -- remains a charming, funny, and emotional love story. And while some of the ethnic stereotyping might not be appropriate today, it seems pretty harmless in its intent, but I suppose that's for you to decide. Personally, it was great to see this movie again on Blu-ray because it looks brand new. This is a resplendent restoration, Blu-ray transfer, and multi-channel audio presentation. In terms of bonus feature, you get most of what was on the Platinum Edition DVD as well as all new exclusive material created for this Blu-ray. Overall, it's a great package, and comes highly recommended. The only choice you'll have to make is whether or not you need a Digital Copy or not. The blue 2-disc combo pack, reviewed here, is just the Blu-ray and the DVD. A must own!

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.55:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Lady’s Pedigree: The Making of Lady and the Tramp
  • Finding Lady: The Art of the Storyboard
  • Original 1943 Storyboard Version of the Film
  • PuppyPedia: Going to the Dogs
  • “The Siamese Cat Song,” Finding a Voice for the Cats
  • “Bella Notte” Music Video
  • Trailers
  • Excerpts from “Disneyland” TV Shows

Exclusive HD Content

  • Disney Second Screen: Inside Walt’s Story Meetings*
  • Audio Commentary: Inside Walt’s Story Meetings
  • Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad
  • Three Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes
  • Never Recorded Song: “I’m Free as the Breeze”