Few companies throughout the history of the world have been so shameless in their pursuit of the almighty dollar as the Walt Disney Company. After breaking the mold in 1934, Disney has never shied away from creative marketing and release strategies to wring every last dollar out of its most beloved pieces of intellectual property. Each week, we’ll look at the House of Mouse’s various sequels, prequels, spin-offs and various misadventures relegated from the silver screen to the small screen. Is there any artistic merit to be found? Or was each film mostly conceived as an excuse to print more money? Join me as we search for the answers from the wonderful world of Di$ney.
Why does this exist?
The easiest route to take for a sequel — especially one that wasn’t planned from the beginning — is to base it around the child(ren) of the original film’s lead character(s). This seems to be the way that a good portion of these films throughout this project will be operating so far; sometimes the conceit works, sometimes it’s a little strained. At least with Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, the children were already baked into the narrative at the end of the original film.
Beyond that, it seems like Disney at this point was simply going down the list of its original properties and producing sequels to anything with any long-term cultural impact. Lady and the Tramp was released in 1955, with 46 years between films.
What’s going on here?
Scamp, the only male offspring of Lady and Tramp, is a mischievous puppy who longs for leisure and adventure. A drinking game could be made out of the number of times he says he wants to be “wild and free”. But his rambunctious attitude gets him chained up in the backyard. He manages to break free and run into a pack of junkyard dogs like Angel and Buster, where he seeks acceptance and a new lifestyle. Eventually, it’s revealed that Tramp showed Buster the true meaning of living free and the two enjoyed a care-free lifestyle until he met Lady, which Buster always viewed as a betrayal. A romance also sparks between Scamp and Angel, as each of them longs to live like the other.
How much of the original is preserved?
If I had to take a lie-detector test and confirm if I’ve ever seen the original film, it would be a complete toss-up whether I’d get it right or wrong. Re-watching Lady and the Tramp, I was struck by how structure-less the whole endeavor felt. Until the finale, the film is basically a jumble of scenes featuring two dogs exploring the quirks and weirdos of their small town. The goal of the film is to develop Lady from a fussy dog into someone much more carefree, but any character development happens gradually and is almost secondary to the rest of the film. Scamp’s Adventure is just that, an adventure. The stakes are higher and the personal growth from Scamp feels much more forced. If anything, Scamp’s Adventure shows that the Disney of 1955 and the Disney of 2001 are two very different companies with different methods of storytelling.
Does this ruin the original film?
Nah. The two films do share similarly over-arching beats and themes, but somehow it doesn’t feel like a complete re-hash, as in previous entries like Honey We Shrunk Ourselves or The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.
The biggest difference between the two films is the music. Where the original film used its songs sparingly, Scamp’s Adventure has three songs in the first 20 minutes. The songs aren’t bad per se; they just fit the mold of nearly every other Disney film of its time. It’s funny how mostly non-essential the songs in the original film, basically supplementing everything else that’s going on where the songs in Scamp’s Adventure underline what the film is already trying to say. None of this necessarily kills the film, of course, but I find it hard to believe that even the most die-hard Disney fans don’t check out during most of the musical sequences.
Scamp’s Adventure plays it safe, and, believe it or not, that’s OK. Even at the time of its release, Lady and the Tramp wasn’t exactly a cultural phenomenon. Most of its box-office receipts come from re-releases since 1955. Just as with the films of Happy Madison, you have to adjust your expectations accordingly. To go into a home-video sequel and expect something like Toy Story 2 is to set yourself up for disappointment. Many aspects of Scamp’s Adventure may have been executed more successfully by Disney before — even within the confines of this series — but there are far worse ways to spend 70 minutes of your time.
- Next Time: The film is called Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, so does that imply that Cinderella’s dreams did not come true in the first film when she went from literal rags to riches? Or is Cinderella rubbing her newfound status in our faces? Cinderella’s changed, man.