The new live-action version of “Lady and the Tramp” on DIsney+ has a few changes from the 1955 animated original.
Most notably is the exclusion of the racially offensive “Siamese Cat Song” from the new version, replaced with a number called “What a Shame.”
“It felt like an opportunity, and responsibility, to do something very new here and very different,” says director Charlie Bean of the new song. The film’s music collaborators, Nate “Rocket” Wonder and Roman GianArthur, wrote the new song and voice the cats in the new film, which is now streaming.
Bean believes new version “honors the story point” of the villainous cats but in a new way. The cats are no longer Siamese Cats, replaced by Devon Rex, which are “cool-looking cats with huge ears and big eyes.”
The cats are realistically animated in film alongside the live-action dog Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson).
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The original song was co-written and sung by Peggy Lee in a stereotypical “Asian” accent. The cats, Si and Am, owned by visiting Aunt Sarah, wreak havoc on the main human characters’ house. When discovered, they blame this mishap on the cocker spaniel Lady, who had tried to prevent the damage.
We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you don’t please
Now we looking all around new domicile
If we like we stay for maybe quite a while
Do you see that thing swimming round and round
Maybe we can reach in and make it drown
If we sneak up on it carefully
There will be a head for you, a tail for me
Do you hear what I hear? A baby cry
Where we finding baby, there are milk nearby
If we look in baby buggy, there could be
Plenty milk for you and also some for me.
The culture website Flavorwire describes the inherent problems with the original scene:
“Si and Am move in perfect symmetry; they have no individuality; their innocent blue eyes bend into a sinister glare as they cave at the slant. They are jaundiced and sly; sick and feral; domesticated, though nevertheless propelled by their mischievous, impish nature to deceive and intimidate.”
The new scene features a jazzy number with the Devon Rex cats (called Devon and Rex) jumping out of a basket, similar to the original. The cats knock down vases from a table, and slide down curtains with their claws out.
But the lyrics are:
Now sit right there. And take a seat
I’m sure you’re glad we came
We’ve got some cleaning up to do
We’ll need to re-arrange
We’ll take care of this furniture
If to you it’s all the same
But if you don’t like how we decorate
Well, that’s too bad, what a shame
I think we can reupholster here
This figurine is so last year
These tables need refurbishing
These curtains need a change
But if you don’t like our artistic flare
Well that’s too bad, such a shame
Cat got your tongue?
Why you so miffed, give your little room a modern twist
We want some credit for this, not blame
Are you mad? What a shame
The song ends with Aunt Sarah (Yvette Nicole Brown) walking into the room and blaming the chaos aftermath on Rose.