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|Kevin Krock, editor|
This story of Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure continues six months after the original, with Lady, Tramp, and their three daughters and son still living in the Darling’s house.
The daughters Annette, Colette, and Danielle love living in a house and being groomed all the time, while their brother, Scamp, wants to be wild and free like his dad had been before settling down with Lady. While out in the back yard, Scamp escapes from his chain and joins up with a gang of junkyard dogs – the kind that embody Scamp’s dreams of freedom and carefree living. While out on his own, Scamp encounters a young female stray named Angel, and the two become inseparable. However, Scamp's disappearance worries Lady and Tramp, and they, along with old friends Jock and Trusty, begin an intensive search for him. In the end, Scamp must decide between a harsh street life and a comfortable life with his unconditionally loving parents.
The first thing that struck me about this movie was that it actually feels like an extension of the original, and while maintaining the story continuity, still manages to introduce and focus on a new set of characters. The balance between the old and new characters works pretty well. Of course, it also helps that the animators apparently took great pains to remain true to the character designs, animation style, and environments of the original movie. In fact, there are several newly animated shots that mimic the ones that appear in the original. For example, the interior of the Darling household was exquisitely reproduced down to the wallpaper and carpeting. There are a number of homages to the original movie, including an update to the romantic spaghetti scene, and an appearance of the old, broken horse-drawn dog pound cart on top of the junkyard pile.
The final key to making this a reasonably enjoyable movie is the reminiscent music. According to the supplemental video material, Disney strove to reproduce that "classic Disney sound," and the five new songs written by Melissa Manchester and Norman Gimbel fit in quite well with the characters and the story. My personal favorite is the fun "Junkyard Society Rag." After Scamp is introduced to the junkyard dogs, they fill in the little housedog on life in the junkyard via song, and it greatly strengthens the impact of Scamp’s decision to become a junkyard dog and leave his family behind. This is also true of the other songs, and they all emphasize particular plot points rather than act as feeble attempts to mask poor story development with music. All in all, the music nicely complements the rest of the sequel’s attempts to remain true to the original.
Like most direct- to- video releases, I didn’t really expect any significant goodies, but I was happily surprised when I saw the feature set for this disc. It has the typical Disney goodies: a few classic cartoon shorts and a set-top game. However, this one has two features that I don’t normally associate with these kinds of releases.
The first is a pretty good "Making of..." featurette that covers all of the aspects of the movie’s development, from the character designs to the digital editing process. It provides a great bridge back to the making of the original by including several old TV clips of Walt talking about the development of Lady and the Tramp. It doesn’t go into a great deal of detail, but the interviews with the production team and the behind- the- scenes artwork and rough animation are enough to satisfy the basic interests of animation fans. Overall, it really helps to explain and solidify the production efforts that went into telling this different story while maintaining much of the feeling of the original.
The other goodie that caught me by surprise is a full-length audio commentary by the director, Darrell Rooney, co-director / producer, Jeannine Roussel, and director of animation, Steve Trenbirth. I expect to see a commentary like this on a collector’s edition for a theatrical feature, so I was curious about a commentary for a direct- to- video release. This one actually provides several interesting insights and personal reflections that enhance a viewer’s understanding of the production process beyond those presented in the "Making of..." featurette. The only minor issue with the track is that Trenbirth’s comments were apparently recorded separately and edited in with Rooney and Roussel’s comments. Although the result is a slightly fragmented commentary with the discussion jumping around a bit, overall the whole track is worth a listen.
The Video, Audio, and Interface…
The video transfer of this movie looks really nice. The transfer is done in anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1, enhanced for widescreen TV), so it has a theatrical look to it rather than the usual full-frame picture associated with direct- to- video releases. The colors and detail look great throughout the movie, helping to really show off the artwork.
As for the audio, there’s something for everyone. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack sounded very nice on my Dolby Pro Logic system, so it ought to sound great on a full DD 5.1 system. If you have a DTS receiver / decoder, there’s even an English DTS 5.1 surround soundtrack. In addition to the English soundtracks, there are also Spanish and French language tracks. Finally, as I mentioned, there is a pretty decent full-length commentary. There are a lot more audio features than I had expected for a direct- to- video release, but it seems like Disney has caught on to the things that set DVD apart from VHS tapes.
Disney also appears to have figured out that the user interface is just as important as many of the other DVD features. The main menu on this disc is well-themed, animated, and musically highlighted. The menu selections are blended into the menu background, but the text is still legible. It’s a cute yet functional interface. The rest of the submenus have static graphics, but they all have music playing in the background. Disney’s menus have come a long way from their first DVDs, and they now seem to be on the right track.
The Final Evaluation…
This movie truly has a story that the entire family can enjoy, and it also explores many familiar feelings and situations that we all encounter through our lives. While it’s not destined to be an animation classic like its predecessor, it’s a more solid and well- executed, direct- to- video release than I had anticipated.
Besides the fairly enjoyable movie, the DVD has several other items that make it worth picking up over a VHS copy. Between the featurette and the commentary track, there’s enough on this disc for just about everyone in the family.
If you are a big fan of the original, you probably won’t be disappointed by this DVD. Otherwise, take it for a test spin to see what a pretty well- assembled, direct- to- video release should look like.
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