I Just Watched The Live Action Trailer For Lady and the Tramp, and I Have Several Pressing Questions

I lived a more peaceful life before Disney decided 59.43 billion USD wasn’t quite enough revenue for them (hint: it’s certainly enough to pay their workers a living wage). Enter the 2019 live adaptation of the Lady and the Tramp, which took a Greenies to my knees, asked me to beg for its sympathy and then pissed on my bed regardless.

 

 

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I would rather receive forty lashes with one of these than to be made to sit through this two-minute trailer again.

 

If you too would like to commiserate with me, I encourage you against my better judgment to take a quick peek at the trailer below. (Technically, this is the second one, but it’s the one I had to watch without any indication of what was about to happen to me).

 

The trailer starts off typically enough. We see silhouettes of Tramp dodging through the town, stealing food and promptly giving it to orphans à la Aladdin. 

 

 

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I have no idea if it’s my video quality or the trailer itself, but something about the dogs seems superimposed onto the background, like I’m watching a PlayStation 1 cutscene instead of a multi-million dollar movie. I couldn’t find information on how the film was shot—I’m assuming it’s using a mixture of actual dogs and CGI—but something about the animals in this film comes across as far less natural than your typical dog movie, suggesting some permissive CGI use. I get it, you can’t exactly train dogs to slowly slurp the same spaghetti strand. But when you’re relying heavily on CGI to animate what made your original movie so fluid and charming to begin with, you have to ask— is the live-action even worth it?

 

Seeing as the live-action Lion King made 1.629 billion at box offices even while half of the cast slumped around in catatonic states, I suppose Disney’s answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”

 

 

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… The reality of having to watch these dogs do the spaghetti scene is now dawning on me as I write this. I can feel my quality of life dwindling.

 

 

Created by Jessica Bansbach

 

We meet with our heroine next. Considering how the Tramp, even with the uncomfortably stiff movements CGI has limited him to, still essentially looks like a normal dog, your hopes might be fairly neutral at this point.

 

 

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Aaaand we made the dogs sexually dimorphic. Worse yet, this still is from a moment of her laughing, showing us how awfully they’ve rigged her model’s mouth for speech. Upon further examination, I’m not sure that Lady is an actual dog for the majority of the trailer, save a few shots, and not an entirely computer-generated model. Even Tramp and company look like they’re a mixture of both. Just take a look at this shot of her sitting next to her neighbors:

 

 

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Something about Lady’s body just doesn’t fit naturally in this scene. I know part of this is because they have to make her appear as dignified as she was in the original movie, something dogs are not known to pose well for, but she doesn’t even look like she’s from the same movie as Tramp. She doesn’t even look like she’s in the movie at all in some shots.

 

Even in scenes where her model looks more natural, her face gets posed in these strange ways to connotate emotion that are just uncomfortable to watch.

 

 

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And those “few shots” I mentioned before? It’s painfully obvious when they’re using a real dog versus a model.

 

 

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It’s easy to throw up your hands and say “of course these screenshots look off! They’re still images of something supposed to be moving!” But animation shouldn’t look painfully stilted even when it is paused. This is not an issue of smear frames or multiples, where pausing inherently ruins the special effect. It should at least look decent or understandably askew when paused, and better when moving. Lady and the Tramp’s remake has neither of these things.

 

 

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Then we get to the Siamese cats, a spot of delightfully awful racism in the original film. Early Disney, in general, was not exactly great on the Asian representation front—you may remember the tight-eyed Shun Gon from the Aristocats, who played the keyboard with chopsticks and yelled about fortune cookies being wrong.

 

 

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The Siamese cats in the original Lady and the Tramp serve a more vicious role as Lady’s tormentors, which has absolutely no racial undertones whatsoever. They also sing one of the more memorable songs from the movie, which includes lovely nuggets such as “we are former residents of Siam/There are no finer cat than I am” and “now we’re looking over our new domicile/if we like we stay for maybe quite a while,” which takes on an even more fun meaning when you consider that the original film was released in a time of Chinese immigrant influx

 

Although it isn’t revealed in the trailer, Disney’s solution for this is not mere exclusion from the film, seeing as the cats are integral to sowing discontent in Lady’s owner’s hearts in the original plot— something they were all too happy to do with the “Jim Crow” crows of Dumbo. Their solution is to make the character (I believe it is only one cat now, probably to remove the racist “Siamese twin” implication) played by black singer Janelle Monae. The original song will be replaced by a song of her own as well.

 

 

Again, though, I see this as another form of Disney exclusion. Call me crazy, but when a massive media corporation contributes to the racial oppression of an ethnic group and decides later on that what they did was unacceptable, the solution is to not wash your hands of the entire matter and pretend it never happened. I’m not expecting a Disney kid’s movie to make a massive statement on past racism on their part (though I think with a team of Imagineers at hand, it can absolutely be addressed effectively) but at the very least, I think the socially responsible thing to do would be to give the part to an actual Chinese person with de-racialized lyrics and characteristics, or to involve Chinese persons at different levels of the film (maybe even—gasp— giving one a leading hero role?). I don’t see evidence of either of the two happening. I sincerely hope that I’m just not looking hard enough. At absolute best it’s a misguided attempt to fix a problem without understanding its source, and at absolute worst it’s propping up a black woman and saying “I mean, at least she’s not Chinese.”

 

On a less severe note, they even do the “falling on top of each other trope” with dogs. Dogs!

 

 

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Me and my girlfriend had to pause the trailer at this point, we were tearing up so much.

 

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Lady and the Tramp digs up when it finally drops on Disney+ November 12th, 2019. Get your VPNs ready.

 

… and I cannot wait to see what they do to rig up the promiscuous pound dog from the original.

 

 

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