Disney
Disney

14 Things You Might Not Know About Lady and the Tramp

Disney
Disney

Happy birthday to Lady and the Tramp, which turns 60 years old today! That’s about 47 years older than the lifespan of the average pooch, in case you were wondering. To celebrate its 420th birthday (that’s in dog years, of course), here are 14 things you might not know about this canine classic.

1. It was inspired by a real dog named Lady.

In 1937, Disney writer Joe Grant showed Walt Disney some sketches he had done of his Springer Spaniel, Lady. Walt was impressed, and encouraged Joe to create a full storyboard. Like her fictional counterpart, the real-life Lady was learning how to deal with her owners’ new baby, which served as the main inspiration for Grant’s plot. In the end, Walt wasn’t thrilled with the storyline, and the idea was scrapped. Several years later, Disney came across a story by Ward Greene in Cosmopolitan titled “Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog." He believed that the two ideas could be combined into one to create a stronger story, and asked Greene to come up with one.

2. Walt Disney personally came up with the name “Tramp.”

In early drafts, the scruffy male dog was called Homer, Rags, Bozo, and even just Mutt. Walt himself scratched out “Mutt” in one of the scripts and penciled in “Tramp.” Ward Greene and the movie's distributors protested, feeling the name was a little too risque—but Walt Disney usually got his way, and this was no exception.

3. The real Tramp was a girl.

The writers and animators had plenty of inspiration for Lady, as some of the people involved with the film had spaniels they brought in as models. But the perfect mutt proved to be more elusive. One of the writers spotted the perfect happy-yet-bedraggled dog roaming around his neighborhood and tried to coax it over, but the dog was too quick. After failing to spot the dog again, the writer eventually checked with the city pound, where he found his perfect Tramp. Disney adopted the dog, who had apparently been just hours away from “taking the long walk,” and let her live in a private area behind Disneyland.

4. The Disney offices were filled with live animals for the animators to reference.

Not only were there dogs of every shape and size roaming around, but animator Woolie Reitherman kept a cage of rats next to his desk to reference for the rat fighting scene.

5. Walt thought the animators lost focus.

The idea for the story originated in 1937, and the rights to “Happy Dan” were purchased in the early 1940s—so why did it take until 1955 to get the movie out? Well, for one, Disney switched its focus somewhat during WWII, working on propaganda films. But at one point, Disney felt his animators had lost their feel for the characters. He removed them from work on Lady and the Tramp and had them switch to Sleeping Beauty for about six months. The change of scenery apparently worked; Disney believed that when the artists returned to the dogs, they “tackled the project with new enthusiasm.”

6. Roy Disney helped bring the movie back to life.

When the movie was put on the back burner due to WWII, it was almost forgotten completely. It wasn’t until 1952 that Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother, encouraged him to start work on the movie again, outlining a plan to run the film in smaller first-run theaters only.

7. A gift Walt once gave his wife inspired a scene in the movie.

For Christmas one year, Walt bought his wife, Lillian, a Chow puppy. Instead of just trotting it out, Disney placed the puppy into a hatbox and presented his wife with the gift. She was disappointed at first—Lillian preferred to choose her own hats—but quickly recovered when the pup emerged. They named him Sunnee.

8. Many of the characters went through name changes.

The sinister Siamese cats had been part of the script since Joe Grant’s earliest versions, but instead of Si and Am, they were originally called Nip and Tuck. They belonged to an equally sinister mother-in-law, then called “Mumsie,” who later evolved into Aunt Sarah. And Jim Dear and Darling were once known as “Mr. and Mrs. Fred.”

9. Other characters didn’t make the cut at all.

Secondary characters that eventually got the axe included a pet duck that belonged to a neighbor and a canary named Trilby.

10. A song called “I’m Free” was also chopped.

After the Tramp character was further developed, it was decided that the tune no longer fit his roguish character as well as it once had. It was released as an extra when the movie came out on Blu-ray in 2012.

11. The spaghetti scene almost didn’t happen.

It’s now one of the most famous (and parodied) scenes ever, but Walt was against that cozy pasta scene. Though he wanted the dogs to have human emotions, he just couldn’t wrap his head around two dogs romantically sharing a strand of spaghetti. If you’ve ever watched your dogs fight over a plate of leftovers, you can imagine why. Disney eventually relented after animator Frank Thomas worked up a rough draft of how it might work.

12. Peggy Lee sued Disney for $25 million 30 years after the fact.

Singer Peggy Lee provided several voices for the film: both cats, Si and Am; Peg the dog; and Darling. She also wrote lyrics for the songs she performed in character. In 1988, Lee sued for $25 million in royalties and damages, claiming that her original contract said she would receive money for “transcriptions for sale to the public.” When the contract was written in the 1950s, of course, VHS didn’t exist. Lee’s argument was that VHS fell under the umbrella of “transcriptions,” and that Disney hadn’t given her anything for the millions of VHS tapes they later sold. ”I should think [Disney] would be willing to share, but I guess mice need a lot of cheese,” she later said. The court awarded Lee $3.83 million in 1991.

13. Trusty the Bloodhound almost didn’t make it.

Near the end of the movie, Trusty the bloodhound finds himself on the wrong end of the dogcatcher’s wagon. Though we later see him enjoying Christmas Day with his friends, it wasn’t supposed to end so happily. There are two stories as to why Trusty got a reprieve: one version is that Walt had gotten a lot of criticism for killing Bambi’s mother, and he wasn’t eager to repeat the experience. The other is that he saw Peggy Lee crying in the studio one day, and when he asked her why, she declared that the scene was just too sad. He argued that the movie needed the drama, but Lee pleaded with him to let Trusty live.

14. It was the first animated film to be made in CinemaScope.

The widescreen movie format was brand-new technology at the time. Though it was intended to help the viewer get a broad scope of landscapes and scenery, not everyone thought the format suited the movie so well. A New York Times critic reported, “The sentimentality is mighty, and the use of the CinemaScope size does not make for any less awareness of the thickness of the goo. It also magnifies the animation, so that flaws and poor foreshortening are more plain.”

10 Things That Went Disastrously Wrong on Disneyland’s Opening Day

Disneyland is commonly known as the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but when the park opened on July 17, 1955, it didn’t live up to its now-ubiquitous nickname. In fact, Disney employees who survived the day refer to it as “Black Sunday.” Here are 10 of the most disastrous things that went wrong.

1. FAKE TICKETS FLOODED THE PARK.

Disneyland’s opening day was “invite only” and not for public consumption. Tickets were mailed out and only reserved for special guests, including friends and family of employees, the press, and celebrities, such as Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. However, scores of counterfeit tickets were widespread on opening day. Disneyland was only expecting about 15,000 guests in total, but more than 28,000 people entered the park.

In addition, there were two sets of tickets with designated times: one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The time to leave Disneyland was printed on each ticket, so if it read 2:30 p.m., you were supposed to leave the park at that time to make way for the afternoon ticket holders to come in. Unfortunately, the morning ticket crowd didn’t leave, so attendance ballooned when the afternoon attendees were admitted.

There was even some money to be made from Disney's woes: one man set up a ladder outside one of the park's fences and charged $5 per person to climb it and sneak in.

2. TRAFFIC WAS BACKED UP FOR MILES.

Sukarno riding mini car with Walt Disney
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Since Disneyland and the city of Anaheim were not prepared for the amount of people that showed up, California's Santa Ana Freeway that led into the park was backed up for seven miles. The traffic essentially shut down the freeway for hours. In fact, people were in their cars for so long that when they finally made it to Disneyland, there were reports of families taking restroom breaks in the parking lot and on the side of the freeway.

3. THE PARK WAS COVERED WITH WET PAINT AND WEEDS.

Completing Disneyland was a race to the finish. Walt Disney wanted a quick turnaround, and it took exactly one year and one day from announcement to opening day, with construction crews working around-the-clock to meet their deadlines. 

However, once the doors opened, guests could easily see that it was not completely finished. Workers were still painting structures and planting trees all over the park. Along the Canal Boats of the World (now the Storybook Land Canal Boats), weeds had yet to be removed from the riverbanks. And instead of landscaping the area, Walt Disney simply added signs with Latin plant names printed on them to make it look like they were meant to be there.

In addition, a number of rides were still under construction like Tomorrowland’s Rocket to the Moon, which showed a glimpse of what routine space travel would look like in the distant future of ... 1986.

4. NO FOOD, NO DRINK, NO FUN.

For the lucky people who made it into Disneyland on opening day, they experienced a shortage of food and beverages in every restaurant and concession stand in the park. Because of the unexpected influx of guests, virtually all food and drink inventory was wiped out within hours.

5. THERE WAS A PLUMBERS' STRIKE.

Entrance to Disneyland circa 1957
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

While there were plenty of water fountains on site, many of them were not working because of a plumbers’ strike during construction. Walt Disney had to choose between working water fountains or working restrooms for Disneyland on opening day, so he picked the latter because he felt the toilets were more important.

“A few weeks before the opening, there was a major meeting,” Dick Nunis, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, explained to WIRED. “There was a plumbing strike. I’ll never forget this. I happened to be in the meeting. So the contractor was telling Walt, ‘Walt, there aren’t enough hours in the day to finish the restrooms and to finish all the drinking fountains.’ And this is classic Walt. He said, ‘Well, you know they could drink Coke and Pepsi, but they can’t pee in the streets. Finish the restrooms.’”

6. THE WEATHER WAS SCORCHING.

Although Walt Disney had no control over the weather, it contributed to the disastrous opening day experience at Disneyland. Temperatures reached an intense 100 degrees, which must have been unbearable in a park without working water fountains. The day was so hot that the fresh asphalt became like a sticky tar, with guests complaining that they were getting their shoes and high heels stuck in the pavement of Main Street, U.S.A.

7. THE RIDES WERE BREAKING DOWN.

Like so many of the other workers toiling to make Walt Disney's one-year deadline, both Disney Imagineers and construction workers rushed to complete the theme park. As a result, a number of rides—including Peter Pan’s Flight, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland—broke down or were closed altogether because they simply were not finished yet.

The growing pains didn’t stop on opening day. During the first few weeks after opening, the stagecoach ride in Frontierland permanently closed when it was discovered it would flip over if it was too top-heavy; 36 cars in Autopia crashed due to aggressive driving (ironically the ride was designed to help children learn respectful rules of the road); and a tiger and a panther escaped from the circus attraction, which resulted in a “furious death struggle” between the animals on Main Street, U.S.A.

8. THE MARK TWAIN RIVERBOAT SANK.

The iconic Mark Twain Riverboat in Frontierland was filled way over capacity on opening day, with about 500 people cramming into the attraction. This caused the boat to go off its track and sink in the mud, but the ordeal was far from over.

"It took about 20 to 30 minutes to get it fixed and back on the rail and it came chugging in," Terry O'Brien, who was working the ride on opening day, later recalled in an interview. "As soon as it pulled up to the landing, all the people rushed to the side to get off, and the boat tipped into the water again, so they all had to wade off through the water, and some of them were pretty mad."

9. SLEEPING BEAUTY’S CASTLE ALMOST CAUGHT FIRE.

A gas leak in the park prompted the closing of Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland for a few hours, while flames from the leak were seen trying to engulf Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Walt Disney was so busy during opening day that he didn’t learn about the fire until the following day.

10. ABC'S LIVE SHOW FROM DISNEYLAND WAS A TRAIN WRECK.

Walt Disney had a partnership with the broadcast network ABC, which helped finance Disneyland with an investment of $5 million of the park’s $17 million price tag. In return, Walt Disney would host a weekly TV show about what people could expect to see in Disneyland, a full year before it was set to open its doors.

On opening day, Walt Disney hosted a 90-minute live TV special with co-hosts Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and future president Ronald Reagan. Over 90 million viewers tuned in to see the “Happiest Place on Earth.” And while the cameras showed the fun and excitement of Disneyland, the TV special obscured the numerous disasters described above.

However, the live broadcast itself was riddled with technical difficulties, such as guests tripping over camera cables all over the park, faulty miscues, on-air flubs, hot mics, and unexpected moments that were caught on camera—namely Bob Cummings caught making out with a dancer just before going on air.

“This is not so much a show, as it is a special event,” Art Linklater said during the live broadcast from Disneyland. “The rehearsal went about the way you'd expect a rehearsal to go if you were covering three volcanoes all erupting at the same time, and you didn't expect any of them. So, from time to time, if I say, ‘We take you now by camera to the snapping crocodiles in Adventureland,’ and instead, somebody pushes the wrong button, and we catch Irene Dunne adjusting her bustle on the Mark Twain, don't be too surprised.”

The live broadcast also featured the debut of the original Mouseketeers from The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, which premiered a few months later in 1955 on ABC. So at least something positive came out of all of it.

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iStock
Disney Parks May Soon Have Robotic Stunt People
iStock
iStock

Animatronics are a staple of any Disney park, but as the company introduces more characters into the fold—like heroes from Star Wars, Marvel, and Avatar—the bar is being raised on audience expectations. On the screen, these characters defy gravity and pull off death-defying stunts, yet at the Disney parks, they’re still relying on fairly static animatronic models for their live shows and attractions. As Tech Crunch details, though, the gap between what the heroes do on film and in the park may be closing.

This development is all thanks to Disney’s R&D department, where Imagineers are working on next generation animatronics that can pull off aerial stunts like you’d see in any of the studio’s blockbuster films. The project is called Stuntronics, and its goal is to create animatronic stunt "heroes" that can replace a more static model in the middle of a Disney park show when the scene requires some high-energy action to take place. It's similar to the flesh and blood or CGI stunt people that movies have been using for decades.

In a video demonstrating their progress, a robot model is shown leaping from a cable to do backflips, double backflips, and other heroic landings. It’s something straight out of a Spider-Man movie and is years ahead of any animatronic character currently at the park.

Tony Dohi, principal R&D Imagineer at Disney, told Tech Crunch that the idea for this type of animatronic came about because they realized there was a “disconnect” between the exhibits at the park and what people see on film, so swapping in advanced animatronics for complex action scenes would go a long way toward making Disney’s parks feel more authentic to their properties. The Na’vi Shaman from the Avatar exhibit shows that Disney can get their animatronics to emote; this next step will put them into action.

According to Tech Crunch, right now the stunt robots are realized with the help of an “on-board accelerometer and gyroscope arrays supported by laser range finding.” They are autonomous and self-correct their aerial stunts to hit their marks. Though the model used in the video is just a generic mockup, it’s not hard to see how the Imagineers at Disney can easily turn it into any number of heroes from Marvel or Star Wars.

Stuntronics is just one of the advancements happening with robotics at Disney. Tech Crunch also detailed the Vyloo, which are a trio of autonomous bird-like robots in the park that react to guest movements. They can be seen in the Collector's Fortress in the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! attraction at Disneyland in California.

The Stuntronics project is still in the R&D phase with no practical application in place just yet. But if this technology does progress the way the Imagineers are hoping, the blockbuster action of Star Wars, Marvel, and The Incredibles won’t just be exclusive to the movies anymore.

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