Mar 6, 2006
From the horse's mouth
Last week I was happy to finally find the restored DVD of "Lady and the Tramp" waiting for me in my mailbox(the same version I saw last month at the El Capitan).
Of course it's a must-have, with some very interesting extras--we plunged right into Disc 2, sampling such things as original boards from a 1943 version of the film that was leagues apart from its eventual incarnation; most of an episode of the "Disneyland" television show with Walt introducing his new film, and giving a not-bad description of the production process that for once didn't short the story department. One minor peeve I had was the completely unnecessary "juicing up" digitally of the old story panels: while the story sketches was pitched offscreen, the decision was made to "animate" characters to simulate movement during pans, and there was an overuse of the Ken Burns effect: constantly drifting or zooming into and across the panels, some of which might have worked but in the main was(for me, anyway)distracting, giving the thing a slightly seasick presentation. There was also some head-scratching material featuring Kevin Costner talking about how important storyboards are to his projects. That's great, but I would have liked less of a live action focus and much more material about the specific artists who did story on "Lady and the Tramp".
I also wondered why, apart from a few fleeting shots that are already years old of various recent Disney story crews engaged in pitching(no one identified), more time couldn't have been spent with the present-day story artists I know are over there, with plenty of hard-won experience and I'm sure plenty to say re "Tramp" or just story in general. Maybe next time?
Anyway, there was one wonderful moment where Walt, about to describe the storyboarding phase of the film, looked straight into the camera and told us what it's all about.
"At the Disney studio, we don't write our films; we draw them".
Allow me a brief moment here while I get up off the floor and back into my chair.
Seldom has the essential difference between the live action and animated film production process been put so plainly and directly. Keep in mind that the Disney studio certainly used written material--Bambi, Pinocchio, Alice--even "Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog", one of the sources "Tramp" sprung from--was a written story first. But the job of making the story work for animation was best served by the storyboard process.
So go check out this film again, and those extras, and see what you think.