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The opening cast credits are preceded by the phrase, "With the talents of." The story begins with the following written foreword: "`In the whole history of the world there is but one thing money can not buy... to wit-the wag of a dog's tail.' Josh Billings. So it is to all dogs-be they Ladies or Tramps that this picture is respectfully dedicated." Billings was the pen name of nineteenth-century humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw.
The following information is taken from studio press materials, unless otherwise noted: The inspiration for Lady and the Tramp came in 1925 when Walt Disney presented his wife with a cocker spaniel puppy in a hatbox. Although originally conceived of as a short film, by 1942, according to a April 10, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, the studio was already working on storylines for a feature-length version of Lady and the Tramp. Modern sources state that Frank Tashlin and Sam Cobean worked on a version of the story in the early 1940s. At that point, the story centered on the character of "Lady," but subsequent versions included a mongrel male dog character named, at different times, Homer, Rags, and Bozo. A June 1943 storyboard included Lady, Bozo, Siamese cats named Nip and Tuck, and a rat. Later in 1943, Disney read a story in Cosmopolitan magazine by King Features Syndicate general manger Ward Greene, entitled "Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog," and hired Greene to write the "Dan" character into his film. As a result, Greene created "Tramp," and published the novel on which the film was based, Lady and the Tramp; The Story of Two Dogs, in 1953.
In the meantime, with the advent of World War II, the studio shelved all fiction films in order to focus on production of war-related films for the government, and the feature was not worked on again until 1952, at which point a June 29, 1952 New York Times article noted that the budget was set for $2.5 million. The final cost of the film reached $4 million. More than 150 animators worked for four years on the film, creating approximately two million drawings. Artists built a complete miniature replica of Lady's home, a Victorian Gothic mansion, furnished and decorated exactly as seen in the final drawings. With this set, animators were able to choose unusual "camera" angles and to determine the point-of-view perspective of a small dog.
"Peg," the Pekingese, was originally named "Mame" in reference to her prominent bangs, which reminded animators of current First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. To avoid offending Mrs. Eisenhower, Disney changed the dog's name to honor singer Peggy Lee, who inspired the sultry character's personality and provided her voice, as well as that of "Darling, "Si" and "Am." The model for Lady was a cocker spaniel named Blondie that belonged to actress Verna Felton, the voice of "Aunt Sarah." Tramp's model was a female mutt rescued from the local pound. Felton's son, Lee Millar, played "Jim Dear."
Lady and the Tramp marked Disney's first feature cartoon based on an original story rather than a classic, as well as the first ever animated feature to be shot in CinemaScope. Disney promoted the film on his television series, Disneyland, by including footage on programs broadcast on December 1, 1954 and February 16, 1955. Although critical reception to the released film was lukewarm, audiences loved it, and Lady and the Tramp has since become one of Disney's most beloved classics. As noted in a October 1, 1956 Los Angeles Times article, Italy honored the film with the David di Donatello award for highest excellence in motion-picture production. Since its release, the scene in which Lady and Tramp share a plate of spaghetti has often been included in montages of great moments in American film history, as well as being parodied in various comedies.
The picture was re-released in 1971 and again in 1980 for its twenty-fifth anniversary. In December 1987, Disney released the first videotape version of the picture. A November 17, 1988 Hollywood Reporter article reports that by the following year it had grossed over $90 million, making it the third largest-grossing video to that time. On November 16, 1988, according to the Hollywood Reporter article, Lee sued the studio for $25 million for breach of her 1952 contract, which prohibited "phonograph recordings and/or transcriptions" of the songs she wrote for the film without her permission. The lawsuit, which asked for a portion of the videotape's profits, was considered a potential landmark ruling in the marketing of current technologies such as videotape, which had not been invented at the time of the original contract. On April 11, 1990, Variety reported that Lee had won a summary judgment in the suit and would ask for $12.5 million. Although Hollywood Reporter noted on March 13, 1991 that Disney's lawyers asked for a mistrial after Lee's lawyer told the jury that another star had also sued the studio over video rights, the mistrial was not allowed. The Wall Street Journal announced on March 21, 1991 that Lee had won the suit. According to that article, although the jury awarded cumulative damages of $3.8 million, the judge ruled that only the largest single award, that of $2.3 million, could be counted. On April 17, 1991, as noted in a The Wall Street Journal news item, Disney stated they would appeal the verdict, but on October 8, 1992, according to a Los Angeles Times news item, a California Court of Appeal upheld the initial judgment.
As noted in a June 9, 1997 Variety article, Buena Vista reissued Lady and the Tramp in Italy on June 5, 1997, under the title Lillie e il vagabondo, with a completely redubbed dialogue track that featured actors Margherita Buy, Claudio Amendola, Nancy Brilli, Riccardo Garrone and Marco Columbro. On February 27, 2001 the studio released a straight-to-video sequel entitled Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventures, which starred Scott Wolf and Alyssa Milano.