PictureLady and the Tramp has undergone an all-new digital restoration makeover for this DVD release, and I'm pleased to report that the results are well worth it. Put simply, the film looks absolutely stunning, and would look just as impressive had it been made ten years ago never mind fifty. The colours are restored to a wonderfully rich, vivid and solid quality that brings the fabulous animation to life. The print is in fine shape, and is image quality is nigh on flawless. Similarly, digital artefacts are virtually unrecognisable here. Disney has also included two ratios for viewing. Although the film marked one of animations first forays into the widescreen format (here presented in a magnificently expansive Anamorphic 2.55:1 ratio), Disney also commissioned a Pan and Scan version of the film, primarily for use in areas where widescreen technology had not been fully integrated. It's this 4:3 version that has been universally popularised on TV and home video for the intervening years. Seeing the film restored to its full widescreen glory is a revelation, and adds a new depth and visual splendour to the film. Of course, the 4:3 version has served viewers perfectly well for some fifty years, and in my opinion nothing story-wise is drastically compromised by the reduction in ratio. It's great to have the choice though, and curious to those diehard Tramp fans to see how comparable scenes make use of the widely varying aspect. Credit to Disney for delivering a superb and comprehensive visual treat.
SoundThe 5.1 mix that takes centre stage here is branded as 'Disney Enhanced'. Now the exact meaning of this is anyone's guess (Mickey and Donald in the sound booth tweaking isolation dials?), but the end result is still pleasing enough for a film now over half a century in age. As to be expected, dialogue remains resolutely stationary in the centre, whilst sound effects and music filtered out generously to the surrounds. The sound quality is refreshingly clear and is presented in a pleasantly smooth and even mix. The LFE channel remains relatively withdrawn for the most part, but is exercised nicely in musical numbers and the occasional action scene. Overall this certainly doesn't boast the sound fidelity to be considered any kind of reference mix, but considering the age and origins of the track as a standard mono track, this is very impressive. The original theatrical mono track is also presented here for the purists, and in restored form.
ExtrasThere is a nice selection of worthwhile extras on this two-disc set, which are specifically designed to appeal to youngsters and also engage older fans of the film. The extras are divided into four sections 'Deleted Scenes', 'Music & More', 'Games & Activities' and 'Backstage Disney'. 'Deleted Scenes' offers one entire removed scene, where Lady fantasises of a world where dogs are the masters of humans. The scene is presented in rough storyboards with added dialogue as opposed to being a full-on useable cut from the movie. Accompanying this is an extended version of the 'Arrival of the Baby' sequence, which adds more musical accompaniment but is somewhat superfluous and was wisely trimmed. 'Music & More' opens with 'The Siamese Cat Song - Finding a Voice for the Cats', which is a highly engrossing little featurette about the work of Peggy Lee who was the primary writer and performer of the musical numbers in the film. The featurette traces the techniques used to achieve the Siamese cat's distinctive and memorable singing style. Wholly less palatable is the accompanying video for 'Bella Note' which inexplicably eschews the film version for some sickening muzak rendition that isn't worth the time of day. 'Games & Activities' reveals a section designed explicitly to entertain the younger fans of the movie. Containing a Tamagotchi-style Virtual puppy to rear on your PC, a quiz, an educational short on dogs, and a personality profile which likens you to characters from the movie, I'm sure this will prove diverting for the nippers. Alas I'm not seven and so found it a touch tedious, as I'm sure most sane-minded adults will. Lastly is the section 'Backstage Disney' which proves the most interesting, as it compiles historical information on the movie. Pride of place is taken by 'Lady's Pedigree', a documentary running at just under an hour in length which takes an interesting journey through the career of Walt Disney himself, and includes some nice behind the scenes information on the forming of the film. 'Finding Lady' takes a more detailed examination of the history and legacy of the art of storyboarding. This is suitably accompanied by the original 1943 storyboard version of the film, which runs at just over ten minutes, and shows the original nucleus of what was to become the finished film a few years later. The extras finish off with 'Excerpts from Disneyland' which consists of early promotional materials shown on the Disneyland TV show. Overall this is a very respectable selection of extras that skilfully balances the needs of children today alongside a well thought out and informative package intended for older Disney fans, animation fans and nostalgics.
VerdictThis sumptuous release of an endearing children's classic is most definitely best in show, as Disney once again produce a sterling DVD with amazing restoration work and a very impressive collection of supplements. My advice would be to snap it up sooner rather than later, as Disney have a habit of deleting their titles with alarming regularity which would make this a sought after and highly expensive purchase further down the line. An essential for Disneyholics, and worth a solid punt for anyone interested in the animated film, or in need of some comforting nostalgic reassurance.
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