On Christmas morning in 1909, Jim Dear gives his wife Darling a cocker spaniel puppy that they name Lady. Lady enjoys a happy life with the couple and with a pair of dogs from the neighborhood, a Scottish Terrier named Jock and a bloodhound named Trusty. Meanwhile, across town by the railway, a schnauzer-mix stray mutt, referred to as The Tramp, lives life from moment to moment, be it begging for scraps from an Italian restaurant or protecting his fellow strays Peg (a Lhasa Apso) and Bull (an English bulldog) from the local dog catcher.
As she blossoms into a one-year-old, Jim Dear and Darling become increasingly short and impatient with Lady, hurting her feelings. Jock and Trusty visit her, and determine that the change in behavior is due to Darling expecting a baby. While Jock and Trusty try to explain what a baby is, the eavesdropping Tramp enters the conversation and offers his own opinions. Jock and Trusty take an immediate dislike to the stray and order him out of the yard; as Tramp leaves, he makes a final speech that "when the baby moves in, the dog moves out".
In due course, the baby arrives and Jim Dear and Darling introduce Lady to the infant. Soon after, Jim Dear and Darling decide to go on a trip together, leaving their Aunt Sarah to look after the baby and the house. Aunt Sarah, however, hates dogs and refuses to let Lady near the baby. When Lady clashes with Aunt Sarah's two trouble-making Siamese cats, Si and Am, she takes Lady to a pet shop to get a muzzle. A terrified Lady escapes, but is pursued by some street dogs. Tramp sees the chase and rescues Lady. The two then visit a zoo, where Tramp tricks a beaver into removing the muzzle. That night, Tramp shows Lady how he lives "footloose and collar-free", culminating in a candlelit Italian dinner.
As Tramp escorts Lady back home, Lady is caught by the dog-catcher. At the pound, the other dogs admire Lady's license, as it is her way out of the pound. Soon the dogs reveal the Tramp's many girlfriends and how he is unlikely to ever settle down. Eventually, Lady is collected by Aunt Sarah, who chains Lady to a doghouse in the back yard. Jock and Trusty visit to comfort her, but when Tramp arrives and tries to apologize, thunder starts to rumble as Lady furiously confronts him due to the other dogs at the pound telling her about his past girlfriends (Trixie, Lulu, Fifi, Rosetta, Peg, etc.) and him not coming to rescue her, after which Tramp sadly leaves.
Moments later, as it starts to rain, Lady sees a rat trying to sneak into the yard (which is the same rat that she chased out of the yard at the beginning of the film). While the rat is afraid of Lady, it is able to evade her and enter the house. Lady barks frantically, but Aunt Sarah yells at her to be quiet. Tramp hears her and runs back to help. Tramp enters the house and finds the rat in the nursery. He and the rat start fighting each other. Meanwhile, Lady breaks free and races to the nursery to find the rat on the baby's crib. Tramp pounces on the rat, but knocks over the crib in the process, awakening the infant. Tramp kills the rat, but when Aunt Sarah comes to the baby's aid, she sees the two dogs and thinks they are responsible. She pushes Tramp into a closet and Lady into the basement, then calls the pound to take the Tramp away.
Jim Dear and Darling return as the dogcatcher departs. They release Lady, who leads them and Aunt Sarah to the dead rat, clearing Tramp. Jock and Trusty, having overheard everything, chase after the dogcatcher's wagon. Jock is convinced Trusty has long since lost his sense of smell, but the old bloodhound is able to find the wagon. They bark at the horses, who rear up and topple the wagon onto a utility pole. Jim Dear arrives by car with Lady, and Lady is happily reunited with Tramp. Unfortunately, Trusty is injured in the struggle. Horrified by seeing his limp body, Jock howls in sorrow.
A year has gone by, Christmas has arrived, and Tramp, now a part of Lady's family, has his own collar and license. It is also revealed that Aunt Sarah has made amends with Lady by sending her a box of dog biscuits as an apology for mistreating her. Lady and Tramp also have their own family, a litter of four puppies: three resemble Lady (Annette, Danielle, and Collette) and the other resembles Tramp (Scamp). Jock comes to see the family along with Trusty, who has a broken leg.
The TrampIn early script versions, the Tramp was first called Homer, then Rags and Bozo. However in the finished film, the Tramp never calls himself a proper name, although most of the film's canine cast refer to him as "the Tramp." The Tramp has other names that are given to him by the families he weekly visits for food, such as Mike and Fritzi. However, he doesn't belong to a single family, so his name is never confirmed, although most comics and indeed the film's own sequel assume that he is also named Tramp by Jim Dear and Darling. He is most likely a Schnauzer-mix.
Aunt SarahThe character that eventually became Aunt Sarah was softened for the movie, in comparison with earlier treatments. In the film, she is a well-meaning busybody aunt (revealed to be the sister of Darling's mother in the Greene novelization) who adores her cats. Earlier drafts had Aunt Sarah appear more as a stereotypical meddling and overbearing mother-in-law. Her singing ability is apparently non-existent. While she is antagonistic towards Lady and Tramp at first, she sends them a box of dog biscuits for Christmas to make amends for having so badly misunderstood them.
Si & AmEarlier versions of the storyline, drafted in 1943 during the war, had the two cats appear as a sinister pair, suggesting the yellow peril. They were originally named Nip and Tuck. In Ward Greene's novelization, they tearfully express remorse over causing the Tramp's impending execution by hiding the rat's body as a joke, and then try to make amends, while in the film they do not partake of the climactic scene.
Jim Dear and DarlingIn pre-production, Jim Dear was known as Jim Brown, and Darling was named Elizabeth. These were dropped to highlight Lady's point of view. In a very early version, published as a short story in a 1944 Disney children's anthology, Lady refers to them as "Mister" and "Missis". To maintain a dog's perspective, Darling and Jim's faces are rarely shown. The background artists made models of the interiors of Jim Dear and Darling's house, and shot photos and film at a low perspective as reference to maintain a dog's view.
The film's opening sequence, in which Darling unwraps a hat box on Christmas morning and finds Lady inside, is based upon an actual incident in Walt Disney's life when he presented his wife Lily with a Chow puppy as a gift in a hat box.
BeaverThe Beaver in this film is similar to the character of Gopher in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, down to the speech pattern: a whistling noise when he makes the "S" sound. On the Lady and the Tramp Platinum Edition DVD he demonstrates how the effect was done, and that a whistle was eventually used because it was difficult to maintain the effect.
The Beaver's voice was created by Stan Freberg, who has an extensive background in commercial and comedy recordings. He was known for his works with Warner Bros. Cartoons, but at the time that studio was briefly closed due to studio owner Jack Warner's belief that 3-D film would trump animation. The same closure led to animator Chuck Jones doing work on Sleeping Beauty.
RatThe rat, a somewhat comical character in some early sketches, became a great deal more frightening, due to the need to raise dramatic tension.
In 1937 legendary Disney story man Joe Grant approached Walt Disney with some sketches he had made of his Springer Spaniel named Lady and some of her regular antics. Disney enjoyed the sketches and told Grant to put them together as a storyboard. When Grant returned with his boards, Disney was not pleased and the story was shelved.
In 1943 Walt read in Cosmopolitan a short story written by Ward Greene, called "Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog". He was interested in the story and bought the rights to it.
By 1949 Grant had left the studio, but Disney story men were continually pulling Grant's original drawings and story off the shelf to retool. Finally a solid story began taking shape in 1953, based on Grant's storyboards and Greene's short story. Greene later wrote a novelization of the film that was released two years before the film itself, at Walt Disney's insistence, so that audiences would be familiar with the story. Grant didn't receive credit for any story work in the film, an issue that animation director Eric Goldberg hoped to rectify in the Lady and the Tramp Platinum Edition's behind-the-scenes vignette that explained Grant's role.
More problems arose as the premiere date got closer. Although Cinemascope was becoming a growing interest to movie-goers, not all theaters had the capabilities at the time. Upon learning this, Walt issued two versions of the film to be created: one in widescreen, and another in the Academy ratio. This involved gathering the layout artists to restructure key scenes when characters were on the outside area of the screen.
The finished film is slightly different from what was originally planned. Although both the original script and the final product shared most of the same elements, it would still be revised and revamped. Originally, Lady was to have only one next door neighbor, a Ralph Bellamy-type canine named Hubert. Hubert was later replaced by Jock and Trusty. A scene created but then deleted was one in which, while Lady fears of the arrival of the baby, she has a "Parade of the Shoes" nightmare (similar to Dumbo's "Pink Elephants on Parade" nightmare) where a baby bootie splits in two, then four, and continues to multiply. The dream shoes then fade into real shoes, their wearer exclaiming that the baby has been born.]
Another cut scene was after Trusty says "Everybody knows, a dog's best friend is his human". This leads to Tramp describing a world where the roles of both dogs and humans are switched; the dogs are the masters and vice-versa.
Prior to being just "The Tramp," the character went through a number of suggested names including Homer, Rags, and Bozo. It was thought in the 1950s that the term "tramp" would not be acceptable, but since Walt Disney approved of the choice, it was considered safe under his acceptance. On early story boards shown on the Backstage Disney DVD had listed description "a tramp dog" with "Homer" or one of the mentioned prior names.
The spaghetti scene, wherein Lady and the Tramp eat opposite ends of a single strand of spaghetti until meeting in the middle, is often parodied, including in the film's own sequel, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure.
At the time, the film took in a higher figure than any other Disney animated feature since Snow White. An episode of Disneyland called A Story of Dogs aired before the film’s release. The film was reissued to theaters in 1962, 1971, 1980, and 1986, and on VHS and Laserdisc in 1987 (this was in Disney's The Classics video series) and 1998 (this was in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection video series). A Disney Limited Issue series DVD was released on November 23, 1999. It was remastered and restored for DVD on February 28, 2006, as the seventh installment of Platinum Edition series. One million copies of the Platinum Edition were sold on February 28, 2006. The Platinum Edition DVD went on moratorium on January 31, 2007, along with the 2006 DVD reissue of Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure. A spring 2012 Diamond blu-ray release has been advertised on the insert of the Bambi Diamond blu-ray.
A New Adventure of Lady and the Tramp appeared in Donald Duck's Beach Party #2, published in 1955. The character of Scamp seen briefly at the end of the film starred in a spinoff comic strip and Dell comic book. Scamp also stars in a direct-to-video sequel released in 2001 titled Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure.
Despite being an enormous success at the box office, the film was initially panned by many critics: one indicated that the dogs had "the dimensions of hippos," another that "the artists' work is below par". However the film has since come to be regarded as a classic.
Lady and the Tramp was named number 95 out of the "100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time" by the American Film Institute in their 100 Years . . . 100 Passions special, as one of only two animated films to appear on the list, along with Disney's Beauty and the Beast (which ranked 34th).
In 2010, Rhapsody (online music service) called its accompanying soundtrack one of the all-time great Disney & Pixar Soundtracks.
In June 2011, TIME named it one of "The 25 All-TIME Best Animated Films".
Best Animated Film
David di Danatello Awards
Best Foreign Producer
Best Youth DVD
(songs and musical cues as listed on CD)
"Main Title (Bella Notte) / The Wag of a Dog's Tail"
"Peace on Earth (Silent Night)"
"It Has a Ribbon / Lady to Bed / A Few Mornings Later"
"Sunday / The Rat / Morning Paper"
"A New Blue Collar / Lady Talks To Jock & Trusty / It's Jim Dear"
"What a Day! / Breakfast at Tony's"
"Warning / Breakout / Snob Hill / A Wee Bairn"
"Countdown to B-Day"
"Baby's First Morning / What Is a Baby / La La Lu"
"Going Away / Aunt Sarah"
"The Siamese Cat Song / What's Going on Down There"
"The Muzzle / Wrong Side of the Tracks"
"You Poor Kid / He's Not My Dog"
"Through the Zoo / A Log Puller"
"Footloose and Collar-Free / A Night At The Restaurant / Bella Notte"
"It's Morning / Ever Chase Chickens / Caught"
"Home Sweet Home"
"What a Dog / He's a Tramp"
"In the Doghouse / The Rat Returns / Falsely Accused / We've Got to Stop That Wagon / Trusty's Sacrifice"
"Watch the Birdie / Visitors"
"Finale (Peace on Earth)"
Recording artist Peggy Lee wrote the songs with Sonny Burke, and assisted with the score as well. In the film she sings: "He's a Tramp", "La La Lu", "The Siamese Cat Song", and "What Is a Baby?". She helped promote the film on the Disney TV series, explaining her work with the score and singing a few of the film's numbers. These appearances are available as part of the Lady and the Tramp Platinum Edition DVD set.
On 16 November 1988 Peggy Lee sued the Walt Disney Company for breach of contract claiming that she still retained rights to the transcripts, including those to videotape. She was awarded $2.3m in 1991 after a contracted legal battle with the studio.