Lady and the Tramp was released June 22nd, 1955, making this June its 65th anniversary. The film was so popular, a live-action version of it came out in 2019! The original movie has so much history, and such a strong fanbase, we at ArtInsights thought it would be a great idea to pull together a collection of original art available for sale to our Lady and the Tramp collectors. Check out all the art, then read on for my own experiences as an animation art gallery owner selling Lady and the Tramp art for over 32 years, as well as videos and trivia about this classic Disney film.
I have some vivid, lasting memories of my experience with selling Lady and the Tramp production cels as an animation art gallery owner. I have several clients that I’ve known nearly the entire time I’ve been in the business, who have been collecting Lady and the Tramp cels for over 25 years. When I started in 1988, you could find Lady and the Tramp production art, including cels, for as little as $200. Although the Spaghetti Scene production cels have always been the most expensive, and have never been cheap, there was always cels and drawings you could get for very little.
I have had some wonderful key set-ups in my time selling Lady and the Tramp art. Because of these longterm clients, they usually never make it to the general public, and that’s ok. Gratefully, most of these folks are willing to let us show the art in the gallery for a few months before they take it home and it’s never seen again.
CALL IT PUPPY LOVE
Some years ago, there was a poll done for the most romantic films of all time, (this was pre-The Notebook which I’ve never seen, by the way) and Lady and the Tramp was 2nd on the list. At the time, I thought it was odd, but if you’ve looked at any of those “Most Romantic Movies of All Time” lists, they are full of really depressing choices, and very unhealthy relationships: Gone With the Wind? Casablanca? Love Story? and Brokeback Mountain is so sad I could never watch it again. So, yes, I’m onboard with Lady and the Tramp being one of the most romantic movies of all time. It has since been one of only two animated features added to the AFI’s “100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time”, landing at 95. Once again, however, you’ll see lots of very depressing, fatal or extremely toxic relationships on the list. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Last Tango in Paris are #89, #67, and #48…I’ll stick with Lady and the Tramp.
DISNEY ART CORNER AND RESTORATION GEEK SPEAK
The problem as always been that Lady and the Tramp falls during the Art Corner era of Disney art. Most of the cels from the movie were trimmed down, put against a litho background or colored mat, sealed into that recognizable Disneyland mat, and sold at the Art Corner at Disney. As I’ve mentioned before in other blogs, that means they are all stuck to their backgrounds. That the art is stuck to the background does not inherently reduce the value of the art. If you’re buying a full cel, or even if you get a Disneyland mat set-up, a few bits of separation are no big deal, and you shouldn’t restore any piece that just has a bit of flaking. Only restore art that is impossible to enjoy as it is.
GIVING VOICE TO A CLASSIC
Some of my favorite voice artists worked on Lady and the Tramp. You may find it’s more than a coincidence, as an animation art collector, that your favorite characters from wildly different movies are all voiced by the same artist. For example, Barbara Luddy, who voiced Lady, also gave voice to Merryweather in Sleeping Beauty, and Kanga in Winnie the Pooh. *She is also in the Primal Scream episode of 1975’s The Night Stalker! Verna Felton, one of my personal favorites, lends her voice to Aunt Sarah. She’s also the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. *For fans of I Love Lucy, she’s in two episodes from 1953.
My favorite characters in Lady and the Tramp, including the two lead stars, are all pound dogs. I love Jock, but my favorites are Bull, Toughie, Pedro, and Boris. Voice actor Bill Thompson, who had a long and successful career, played both Jock and Bull. You might find it fun to know he voiced another Scot, Scrooge McDuck in 1967’s Scrooge McDuck and Money. He’s also Mr. Smee in Peter Pan, the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Bearing that in mind, it won’t surprise you he voiced Droopy and Ranger J Audubon. The voice of Pedro and Toughy, both of whom I LOVE, are courtesy of Dal McKennon, who was a very successful character actor on TV in the 50s and 60s. I love that IMDB says he was the voice of Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but he’s uncredited!
Tramp was played by Larry Roberts, who has just the one screen credit, having been discovered onstage by a Disney insider. Before that, he had fought in World War 2 and performed for the troops during the Korean War. He was a popular guest on variety shows, but retired in the late 50s. He then turned his interests towards clothing design, which he did till shortly before his death by AIDS-related causes in 1992.
Here’s a great video about the voice artists, including an interview with the voice of the Gopher, Stan Freberg:
A PART OF ANIMATION HISTORY
Some of the greatest animators of all time worked on Lady and the Tramp. Hamilton Luske, who won an Oscar for Visual Effects in Mary Poppins, directed Lady and the Tramp with the same directing partners he worked with on Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred Jackson. It was scored by Oliver Wallace, who won an Oscar for his score for Dumbo. He also scored about a million Disney shorts, including 1939’s Society Dog Show, and Der Fuehrer’s Face. If you love the music to Cinderella, Peter Pan, or Alice in Wonderland, you can thank Oliver Wallace. The backgrounds were done, in part, by famed artists Claude Coats and Eyvind Earle.
I remember going to the Disney Animation Research Library when Lella Smith was in charge. It was a tour set up for members of the Disney Advisory Board. She had laid out a bunch of backgrounds, layouts, and storyboards from Lady and the Tramp. Most of the folks walking through didn’t know as much about the vintage stuff as I did, nor did they recognize the work of both Claude Coats and Eyvind Earle, as I did. I literally had to hold back tears seeing all this beautiful art. Lella saw me getting overwhelmed, and we talked for quite some time while the other members kept walking. I really believe the fact that the art moved me so much is why Lella and I became friends.
My friend Willie Ito worked on Lady and the Tramp as an in-betweener. It was one of the first jobs he had at Disney, and he got to work on the spaghetti scene! He remembers it fondly.
Given that Lady and the Tramp artist Willie Ito spent part of his childhood in a Japanese Concentration Camp in the US, maybe we should talk about Si and Am.
A WORD ABOUT THE RACISM IN LADY AND THE TRAMP
Depending on where you fall on the ‘we learn from history’ continuum, you either believe the Si and Am, the Siamese cats that wreak havoc at the Darlings, blaming it on poor Lady, are an abomination, an important reminder of the history of racism against Asians in the US, or just a silly, ill-advised part of an otherwise great movie. To me, the part of the characterization that is most problematic (apart from the song) is that Siamese cats in general are portrayed as evil creatures up to no good, AND they’re voiced as Asian. I’m strongly on the side of never cutting anything out of any movie, even the blackface in Holiday Inn. Our country, as we all know, has a history of racism still showing itself today. We have to acknowledge where that comes from, recognize it, note it, and learn from it. I spent my whole childhood hating Siamese cats because of Lady and the Tramp. I don’t think I internalized that kind of judgment on Asian folks, but racism is an insidious thing. I mean, people stopped going to Asian restaurants because of COVID, somehow making a correlation there, however stupid that is, so….
The original pair of cats was drafted and designed in 1943, and was meant to suggest the yellow peril. They were called Nip and Tuck. In Ward Greene’s novelization, written during the production, Si and Am actually offer a tearful and genuine apology to Tramp for hiding a rat’s body in the nursery as a joke.
The 2019 live action version of Lady and the Tramp changed the cat breed to Rex, calling them Devon and Rex. What I think should happen for the original, is the film should have an introduction by a scholar of Asian cultural anthropological studies, who can frame that part of the film for today.
Here’s a video of Peggy Lee working on the song, and performing it, which is, no matter how you look at it, fascinating.
THE STORY BEHIND THE CHARACTERS
Lady was designed after story man Joe Grant’s cocker spaniel Lady. She had been sidelined when Joe’s baby arrived. He showed Walt some sketches he made of her in the late 30s, who found them intriguing so he asked Grant to work up some storyboards. Walt didn’t like them, so the idea was shelved. In 1943, Walt bought the rights to a story by Ward Greene called Happy Dan The Cynical Dog, and the studio started working on some version of that, which kept including Lady in some fashion. Grant left the studio in 1949, and never got the credit for his part in making Lady and the Tramp a classic. Watch Disney historians and animators talking about the original story here:
A BOX OFFICE SUCCESS
When Lady and the Tramp came out, it was the most successful movie since Snow White, even though originally it was panned by critics. That only goes to show how wrong we movie critics can be.
I know from personal experience just how beloved the film is, especially by Disney fans. It’s for this reason that I thought I’d bring together a collection of Lady and the Tramp original production cels and drawings for sale on this special occasion of the film’s 65th anniversary. None of these pieces are listed on the gallery website. For more information, prices, and to inquire about purchasing any of the images, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a wonderful collection of Lady and the Tramp art actually used in the making of the film. Using the numbers listed for each image, please contact us immediately to find out about availability!
We’ll leave you with a great little video that shows exactly what the dogs looked like that they used for the models of these classic characters:
HAPPY 65th ANNIVERSARY, LADY AND THE TRAMP!