Which movies from Disney’s animated canon will probably get live-action remakes next? Which ones should? If someone asked you these questions, Lady and the Tramp might not be your first answer, or even your tenth. Despite this, the filming of such a remake is currently underway and will premiere on Disney+, the company’s upcoming streaming service. The simple reason is that it is a classic, but what makes it a classic is that it tackles its story of puppy love with surprising maturity and emotional resonance.
Lady and the Tramp is about Lady, a Cocker Spaniel living comfortably with two wealthy human characters known only as Jim Dear and Darling. When the couple expect their first child, she chafes at receiving less than all of their attention. It only gets worse when they go on vacation and leave her and the baby in the care of Aunt Sarah, who is decidedly not a dog person. Luckily, she has her loyal friends Jock and Trusty to lift her spirits. More importantly, a roguish street dog known only as Tramp enters her life and gives her some new experiences — including love.
Disney’s Tenderest Love Story
While Disney is known for their happily-ever-after love stories, the romance between Lady and Tramp is far less bombastic. There is no love at first sight: Tramp meets Lady by barging into a conversation uninvited and worsening her anxieties about whether her owners still care about her. The movie then shows them warming up to each other gradually, culminating in the famous dinner date.
This part is more subdued than most Disney kiss scenes. Instead of a swelling orchestra, there are two enthusiastic chefs playing a ballad on guitar and accordion. The kiss itself is accidental, coming off as the epiphany of their love. Tramp nudging the last meatball towards her may be the tenderest romantic gesture in the studio’s history.
Earning the Happy Ending
However, the movie explores this puppy love in greater depth. The morning after their big date, they learn that their desires run counter to each other: Tramp wants Lady to roam the world with him, but Lady does not want to abandon her family. Clashes like this are common in real life but remarkable in a Disney film. The conflicts that follow this are even harsher: Tramp’s lack of concern for consequences lands Lady in the pound. There, she learns from Tramp’s acquaintances that he has a history of loving and leaving women. Hurt and humiliated, she later confronts him about his past and shuns him.
Naturally, there is a happy ending full of adorable puppies. However, the scenes of heartbreak stand out because they feel so genuine. Lady refuses to be another of Tramp’s conquests, and Tramp can hardly argue. Jock and Trusty’s offers to marry her even imply lasting consequences from her encounter with him. In the end, Tramp almost sacrifices his life to protect the baby from an enormous rat in a surprisingly intense fight. The movie needed a happy ending, but Tramp had to earn it.
An Enduring Classic
Unsurprisingly for a Disney movie, watching Lady and the Tramp is an enjoyable experience. Almost every character gets their share of good jokes, with the funniest and least-expected moment going to a zoo alligator. However, the growth of the title characters and the development of their romance give the movie its weight. Watching them press their paws into a heart etched on wet cement is sweet, but watching them immediately set aside their conflicts to save the baby is powerful.
Disney has a reason for believing that bringing their 1955 romance to 2018 could be an anchor for Disney+. Lady and the Tramp is much more compelling and moving than you may remember, and there is far more to it than the scene with the spaghetti.
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