Has there ever been a more pronounced love/hate relationship than the one between passionate animation fans and the people who currently run Disney Studios? I mean, it's really tough to hold a grudge against the studio that gave us Bambi, Cinderella, and The Lion King -- but on the other hand, it's not hard to look at titles like Bambi 2, Cinderella 2, and The Lion King 2 and come up with the opinion of "Jeez, that's some pretty shameless sequelizin' going on there ... and for such classic films, too."
Nothing screams "money grab" quicker than a direct-to-video Disney sequel, and while it's true that the studio is perhaps held to an unfair standard when it comes to their sequels ... well, I guess one has to get used to "unfair standards" when you work for the studio that created Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Lady and the Tramp.
The regime that's been running Disney for the past ten years has next to no interest in maintaining the studio's long-standing reputation of animation excellence. Indeed, if Walt Disney came back to life and wandered through a Disney DVD rack, how do you think he'd react to titles like 101 Dalmatians 2: Patch's London Adventure or the similarly titled Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp's Adventure? Frankly I think he'd puke all over the floor.
As usual, I'm left digressing. This always seems to happen when I spin one of Disney's DTV sequels, whether it's Bambi 2 (which, OK, isn't all that terrible) or the interminable Hunchback of Notre Dame 2. Basically, I'd just like there to be a little more quality brought to the table where the DTV sequels are concerned. If you want to make a lazy, crappy sequel to Police Academy, go nuts. But if you want to make a sequel to something like Dumbo or Beauty and the Beast, you better stay on your toes and deliver something better than a Saturday Morning Cartoon. Sadly, and this annoys me to no end, 94% of the Disney sequels are just rotten.
But that won't stop the studio from re-releasing the things.
Yes, animation buffs, it's true: The 2001 Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp's Adventure has been re-released in a semi-full-bore Special Edition, which tells me it won't be long before we get reissues of Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World and The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea. Don't let the shiny boxes fool you, young parents. You're better off watching The Little Mermaid for the 175th time than you are buying The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea.
The story this time around: Scamp, rascally young son of the original Lady and The Tramp, escapes from his wonderful home in suburbia, only to discover that the not-so-mean big-city streets are packed with romance, danger, adventure, song & dance numbers, and broadly-drawn life lessons.
The voice cast is an eclectic mixture, to be sure, but you'd be hard pressed to remember anything especially noteworthy from the actors. Chazz Palminteri as the leader of a junkyard dog brigade; Mickey Rooney, Cathy Moriarty, and Bronson Pinchot as his cronies; Scott Wolf as the titular doggy; Alyssa Milano as the puppy love interest. You might recognize some of the voices, but you might also notice that the performances are lax and lacking in character, as if the actors knew they were only needed for a 2-day session on a 63-minute cheapie sequel.
True, the animation found here is perfectly clean and crisp and colorful, but it's sorely lacking the depth, dimension, and charm of the early Disney classics. Lady and the Tramp 2 looks like a high-end after-school cartoon, what with its adorable characters and pretty landscapes, but without a sense of character or sincere emotion -- the relative lack of effort is pretty obvious, especially if you just got done watching the original Lady and the Tramp.
Video: The anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) transfer is quite crisp and pretty. Frankly the flick looks like a Candy Land board exploded, and not in a good way.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS English, French or Spanish 2.0. Optional subtitles are available in English only.
If you're a serious Disney completist and you're wondering if you have to upgrade your original LT2 DVD, I'd have to say the answer is a big, strong NO. Nearly all of the extra features are recycled from the first DVD:
It's tough to imagine who the intended audience might be for the filmmakers' audio commentary: Kids certainly won't care about it, and grown-up animation buffs won't find a whole lot worth listening to. Co-directors Darrell Rooney, Jeannine Roussel, and Steve Trenbirth provide good-natured and semi-informative commentary, even if they've somehow deluded themselves into thinking they've made a worthy follow-up to an animated classic.
The Making of Lady and the Tramp 2 (16:33) is your standard backstage piece, full of enthusiasm, interviews, and smiles, but is lacking one viable (non-fiscal) reason as to why we need a sequel to Lady and the Tramp. One of the animators unknowingly sums the project up perfectly: "If you don't have a good story, you don't have anything."
Also ported over from the previous release is a trio of classic Disney shorts: Pluto Junior (1942), Bone Trouble (1940), and Pluto's Kid Brother (1946). Under the "Music & More" section you can access each of the flick's five musical numbers AND sing along with the subtitle track. Awesome.
Under "Games and Activities," you'll find the Hide & Seek Game that came on the old LT2 DVD, but this time around we three new Junkyard Games, none of which should hold your child's interest for more than 4 consecutive minutes.
Rounding out the disc is a collection of Disney Sneak Peeks for: That's So Raven, Little Einsteins, The Wild, The Little Mermaid SE, Meet the Robinsons, Princess Fairy Tales, The Fox and the Hound, Brother Bear 2, The Fox and the Hound 2, and (yes) Cinderella 3. Ugh.
Bottom Line: In the true Disney classics, there's a palpable sense of passion behind every brush stroke, background, character design, and musical number. In the Disney sequels, there's a palpable sense of everyone semi-trying to replicate those old-school components on a very tight budget ... and not doing a very good job of it.