This month marks the 60th anniversary of the beloved 1955 animated feature Lady and the Tramp, a canine love story about two dogs from very different worlds who are united by dire circumstances and a romantic plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
As Disney begins to ramp up its celebrations, we spoke with a former studio archivist and a curator for the official Disney fan club D23, Steven Vagnini, who reminded us that the movie’s most iconic scene almost didn’t happen.
The spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp - in which two dogs from different sides of the tracks nuzzle over a plate of noodles - was cut from the film’s first storyboards by Walt Disney himself. He wanted the dogs to have human emotions, of course, but thought fine dining might be pushing it.
"Walt wasn’t convinced that that would be a very clean-cut scene,” Vagnini tells Yahoo Movies. “As you can imagine, if you have two pets and they eat a plate of spaghetti, it’s hard to envision that being too graceful.“
Directing animator Frank Thomas saved the day and the scene by working up a rough version to convince Disney.
In case you missed it, here's the super cute scene:
The spaghetti scene and the rest of the movie was a result of over 20 years of development, a very long gestation period even by animation standards. All that history means there’s plenty of material for Vagnini and D23, which is celebrating a special “Fanniversary” month for Lady and the Tramp.
Vagnini shared some anecdotes with Yahoo Movies, along with exclusive concept art and photographs.
The movie was first proposed almost two decades before its release by another Disney legend, artist Joe Grant, who suggested a story inspired by his own privileged pup. The title Lady was registered in 1937, just as the company’s first full-length feature, Snow White, was being completed, but Walt Disney didn’t think Grant’s one-dog proposal gave audiences enough story to chew on.
Disney eventually caught wind of a story by Ward Greene about a “pessimistic dog from the other side of the tracks,” Vagnini said, and around 1943, Disney asked Green to help combine the two stories into one script that brought the privileged, purebred Lady and the scruffy, streetwise Tramp together in one movie.
Delayed for years due to story issues, the production of 13 other Disney feature films, and World War II, Lady and the Tramp was finally produced and released in theatres in June 1955. It would become one of Disney’s biggest box-office hits up to that point.
Beginning with Bambi in the early 1930s, the studio often brought in live animals so that animators could study their bodies and movements up close. (They even trucked in elephants for artists to sketch during Dumbo’s pre-production.) The studio was filled with dogs while artists were planning and drawing Lady and the Tramp, most of them brought in by actors, artists, and other Disney employees.
Lady, the refined cocker spaniel, was based primarily on two real dogs: A spaniel named Blondie that belonged to co-director Hamilton Lanske and a dog brought in by the actress Verna Felton, who voiced Aunt Sarah in the film.
Meanwhile, the story of the real-life model for the Tramp could be its own Disney movie: One of the studio’s writers spotted a mutt on the street in his neighborhood and immediately fell in love. Unfortunately, the dog slipped into the bushes and out of the writer’s sight. After a big search, the mystery mutt was eventually located at the city pound.
“She was just hours away from taking the long walk,” Vagnini explained. (That’s right - the Tramp was really a girl.)
Instead of that sad ending, Disney rescued the dog, used her as the main model for Tramp, and later let her live in a private area behind Disneyland. It was a happy ending for the dog, and she - at least indirectly - had the company’s founder and namesake to thank.
These exclusive shots from the films are just a few of the staggering 60 million items in the Walt Disney Studio’s archives. The studio began collecting material - including sketches, drawings, photographs, finished prints, and audio - right from the very beginning of its run in the 1920s.
It’s all stored in acid-free boxes in 11 gigantic vaults at a studio location in Glendale, Calif. Disney is slowly working to treat and digitise each element, the Animation Research Library’s Mary Walsh told Yahoo.
It’s not only for the sake of nostalgia, either: Artists from all of the company’s animation divisions - including Pixar - frequently turn to the library to reference how different movements and characters were drawn, to better inform the company’s future films. (Among the more popular sequences even now: that iconic spaghetti scene.)
“There are so many key animation scenes in [Lady and the Tramp] in particular that animators go back to time and time again,” Walsh said. “Walt in particular from the early days understood the value of keeping the original artwork.”
Jordan Zakarin writes for Yahoo Movies