14 Doggone Adorable Secrets about Disney's Lady and the Tramp

Released 65 years ago today, Disney's Lady and the Tramp gave us a sweet tale of puppy love and forever changed the way we think about spaghetti. Chew on these fun facts.
By Sarah Grossbart Jun 22, 2020 7:00 AMTags
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The sweetest tale of puppy love you ever did hear was inspired by a real-life Springer Spaniel named Lady Nell the Second. 

The year was 1937 and Walt Disney and his team at Walt Disney Productions were off to work on their first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Character designer and story artist Joe Grant, meanwhile, was adjusting to his new role as dad, discovering along the way that his purebred pup was actually a pretty solid nanny to his non-furry child. 

Inspired, the New York City native has said, "Ideas began to flow in form of drawings and story situations. One drawing in particular was especially poignant and I showed it to Walt. He gave us a big 'OK' to develop Lady's story into a feature, with the addition of Tramp to give the story a touch of romance."

Well, hot dog!

Except when Walt saw the draft—involving a visiting grandmother and her troublesome cats that attempt to frame Lady for, among other things, eating the pet canary—he wasn't convinced it was the cat's meow. 

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Unsatisfied, he shelved the whole thing and it was largely forgotten as the company shifted to focus on putting out propaganda films for World War II. It wasn't until 1943, when he came across Ward Greene's story in Cosmopolitan (back before the mag was largely the reading material of teen girls everywhere) about "Happy Day, the Whistling Dog", that he realized his old dog kist might have some new tricks. 

The tales of a runaway purebred and the roaming street mutt were combined by Greene into a canine love story, Lady and the Tramp: The Story of Two Dogs, released in 1953 as a way to build up hype for the eventual film release.

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And this dog had it's day, with the 1955 film earning $7.5 million after its June 22 release, the studio's most profitable hit since Snow White.

In the 455 dog years that followed, it was re-released five times, bringing in nearly $100 million more and inspiring generations of pasta lovers to get creative with their spaghetti consumption. 

And since we can't just let sleeping dogs lie (we're like a dog with a bone, really), we're honoring the big 65th anniversary by digging up some of our favorite facts. 

1. It was Walt Disney himself who came up with the moniker of posh Lady's unlikely paramour, crossing out the name "Mutt" in a script and scribbling down, "Tramp". Other names bandied about included Homer, Rags and Bozo, which, harsh. 

2. He was also the softy behind the sweet scene of Jim Dear gifting wife Darling with Lady. Having made the hard sell for them to get a family pet, Walt had convinced his bride a Chow Chow was the dog for them. The very next day, the Mouse House founder went out and selected his new furry friend, keeping the purchase under wraps until the holidays.

"On Christmas Eve I picked my chow up from the dog kennel and I took it over, kept it in a big hat box. I got a big ribbon on it," Walt recounted of his gift. "When the time came, I went over and put the little puppy in the hat box, tied it up with a ribbon. So, my wife didn't see me bring it in. My niece went over and she said, 'Oh, it says to Lilly from Santy Claus!' So, she brought this big hat box over and put it in front of my wife. And my wife said, 'Oh, Walt! You didn't?!' She didn't know I bought a dog. She thought I bought her a hat! So, she started to open it and it moved. When she opened it this little chow stuck its head out. And from that time on, that was her baby." 

3. During the animation phase, the studio literally went to the dogs, with staffers and even one of the film's voice actors bringing in their pets to serve as inspiration. 

4. The pup behind the Tramp, though, was quite special. As the story goes, story artist Erdman Penner spotted the mutt in his neighborhood while driving home one night. Though Penner lost it in the bushes, the stray was eventually tracked down at a shelter, reportedly saved just before it was set to be put down. In a surprise plot twist, the dog was a girl, but they moved forward with using her as inspiration. Quite ahead of their time. 

5. Having earned her keep, the months-old puppy was adopted out to Dolly and Owen Pope—the couple in charge of managing the horses at Disneyland—and lived out the rest of her days in luxury. 

6. The streets Tramp roamed were modeled after Marceline, Missouri, where Walt spent four years of his childhood living on a farm. Also serving as inspiration for Disneyland's Main Street, the tiny town (population is little more than 2,000) is now home to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. 

7. Several other characters went through name changes: cats Si and Am were first dubbed Nip and Tuck, and their owner, once, a somewhat sinister mother-in-law called Mumsie became Aunt Sarah. As for Lady's owners, Jim Dear and Darling, they were originally referred to as Mr. and Mrs. Fred. 

8. Among the roles from that original scrip that went to the birds, so to speak: the family's canary, Trilby, and a neighbor's duck. 

9. The flick's most iconic scene was almost left on the cutting room floor with Walt feeling the shared spaghetti moment might be pushing the animals-with-human-emotions boundaries. "Walt wasn't convinced that that would be a very clean-cut scene," former studio archivist and a curator for the official Disney fan club D23 Steven Vagnini told 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." Thankfully directing animator Frank Thomas came up with the right recipe to save it. 

10. In a sign of just how far technology has advanced, the original press release for the film touted the use of two million rough and finished drawings by more than 150 Disney artists and animators. The phrase working like a dog comes to mind...

11. In her 1989 autobiography, Miss Peggy Lee, jazz singer Lee, who supplied the voices of cats Si and Am, dog owner Darling and Peg, a female dog at the pound and wrote the lyrics for many of the original songs, revealed she pocketed $250 a day for the film—totaling $3,500 across three years of work. She later sued for royalties when she discovered her voice was used on video tapes, technology that didn't exist back in the 50s. Following a lengthy legal battle, she was awarded $2.3 million.

12. The 50s classic is responsible for influencing another beloved Disney film, with Toy Story art director Ralph Eggleston sharing that seeing a movie told entirely from the point of view of the family pets inspired he and Pixar to tell their story from the toys' perspective. 

13. Last year's live-action version featured Tessa ThompsonJustin Theroux and Theroux's beloved rescue pit bull Kuma. "You blink, you might miss her, but she's in the pound scene," the actor shared on Good Morning America.

14. With Walt a big fan of leaving Easter eggs for Disney fans, Lady and Tramp both make an appearance outside on a London street in 1961's One Hundred and One Dalmations. Good to know their romance wasn't simply young puppy love.