I am so thankful to Disney for inviting me to visit the set of Lady and the Tramp and have a chance to meet Lady and Tramp. It was super special and a once in a lifetime opportunity. During the visit, we met and interviewed the Head Animal Trainer Mark Forbes.
THE LADY AND THE TRAMP DOG CASTING
Mark was a wealth of knowledge. He walked us through how they got the dogs as well as the training process. He said they cast one of the dogs from a picture. “They had posted his picture online. And we showed his picture to Charlie, to the director. So, we flew out there, checked out his temperament. He was great. We adopted him and here he is today. So, we got him about 4 ½ months before we started shooting. We really don’t know what his life was before that.”
It was interesting to hear about the length of time it took to get the entire cast in place. He said it too about two and half months to cast all the dogs. Impressive right, I thought so too. These dogs were strays and recues. A few came from breeders which helped the process for sure. “I think the last one we got was Jagger who plays Isaac sort of the mean heavy street dog. We got him about eight weeks before we started filming.”
HOW THEY TRAINED THE DOGS
We had a chance to walk the grounds where they trained the dogs. It was pretty fascinating because it looked like a training ground, but also like a set. It was the perfect combination. When asked if he was worried about the dogs being trained, he said “not really.” I totally believed him after meeting both Lady and Tramp.
“I mean you know the whole saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It’s really about positive reinforcement. It’s getting them to be sort of a team. But first thing you know we start with basics. We start training them to sit, lie down, on your feet, go get a mark, stay.”
THE WAY THE DOGS ARE LOVED
It was clear that the entire cast loved dogs. They invested so much in their training…and lives. From how they taught the dogs to understand that a pat on the head meant just as much as getting a treat. Giving them time, attention, approval and love was their way. I think my favorite story was about shamus and Wendell who were both cast as Tramps. Shamus was a rescue from Northern California. They had every intention on him being Tramp but he got sick.
“He kept losing weight. And it was literally a cycle of every four days. It would go on for a couple of days and then. Finally, all three vets basically said, the only thing left is exploratory surgery. Ended up being a mass. It wasn’t cancer it was scar tissue, this mass that was in his small intestines. So, it was two surgeries and $18,000 later, Shamus is happy and healthy.”
Wendell had a hard life. He was grew up on the streets on Los Angeles and was involved in a dog gang just roaming the streets. Probably backed in a corner he ended up killing another dog and was caught. He had no idea that he fit another bill….yup, he fit the bill of Tramp. And after a temperament test, he was rescued by Disney. Mark said they spoke with the rescue facility and asked for Wendell. “Give us a chance. They let us take him on.” Now Wendell is training every day. What a transformation! It’s a lesson, we are better than are greatest mistake. Wendell is certainly proof of that.
You see this is not only a great movie, a true classic, it is so very impactful. Mark and the other trainers are excellent with the dogs. After hearing about Shamus and Wendell I left with an appreciation for how we all need people in our lives willing to give us a chance and take care of us.
Please check out “Lady and the Tramp” premiering on November 12, 2019, streaming only on Disney+. Follow Lady and the Tramp on Facebook and Disney+ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.