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Behind Closed Doors with Tom Goodall



Movie Marker Magazine went behind closed doors with Australian filmmaker Tom Goodall to chat about his work in the production of the 2019 live action remake of Disney’s ‘Lady and the Tramp.’ Originally written by Ward Greene in 1955 and released as an animation motion picture by Walt Disney that same year, the story follows Lady, a carefully nurtured, beautifully pedigreed little cocker spaniel. When her family brings home a new baby, the spoiled lapdog finds herself accidentally thrown into the chaos of the streets, with only the lovable stray Tramp as her guide to help her rediscover, and redefine, home.

Welcome to Movie Marker Tom! Tell us about your role in Disney’s remake of the classic ‘Lady And The Tramp’.

Well, I had already been working with the lead producer of this movie for years on other projects, and so he brought me in to be his Number 2 in trying to get ‘Lady and the Tramp’ made. My role at first was to help craft a pitch to the studio to convince them how we would put a worthwhile new spin on this classic tale.

Remaking old movies can breathe new life into them if done right, reintroducing the story to a new audience in a more contemporary way. While this can be very rewarding, you also need to preserve the spirit of what made the original so special. When presenting a pitch like this to Disney, they will only move forward if you show you have a plan to strike that balance. Part of that is also in the team you build to help make the thing, such as choosing the right director, writers, and heads of department, who you know can bring a classic animation into the real world.

After convincing the studio we had the right approach and the right team, we were working with writers right away. We had decided to try and work with screenwriters who weren’t typical big-budget studio movie writers, but rather interesting voices from the independent scene who we thought could bring an unexpected perspective to this Disney story. There were so many ideas of interesting ways to update this classic tale, and we ran with the ones that we felt integrated best into the story. It was a constant discussion, from writing the script to editing the footage: what do we add in our remake, what do we remove, and what do we change. It is incredible how passionate this whole creative team was, always determined to really drill down into the merit of a suggested change.

How is the original animation and live action remake different?

We knew we had a great foundation in the original animation, but if anyone wants to watch that version, it already exists – we were laser-focused on carving the shape of this new version and choosing our points of difference carefully. There is one scene, that I’m sadly not at liberty to specify, but it’s an emotional turning point in the film, and we at one point removed it during the scripting phase to show a different character’s perspective. This was probably the battle I fought the hardest in the entire project because it was clear as day to me that, while this scene was not necessarily pivotal to follow the story, it was such an emotional moment that no audience member would want to skip it.

In a beautiful testament to the team process, when we did reinstate the scene, one of the screenwriters had a genius idea for a single line from an antagonist that gave their character such immediate depth. I had no idea this scene had this kind of potential; I just knew it had emotional value. So, between this writer and I, with two halves of an idea, we managed to help sharpen and define one of the most effective scenes in our movie, that stands as a lovely addition beyond the original 1955 version.

Official Trailer

Can you share any fun facts on set?

One that jumps to mind is when we had to film a scene of Lady and Tramp approaching and boarding a paddle boat, and shooting a scene with that many shots was going to take hours at minimum. This wouldn’t be a problem if the tide wasn’t going to continually come in and out, changing the level of the boat. Of all the continuity errors you can try to hide, a massive boat instantly rising and sinking several times in a single scene isn’t one of them.

We also wanted to film different moments of the dogs and people boarding the boat, which meant the boat and the wharf had to be at just the right level. Unable to control the tides (one of the few things Disney can’t do… yet), we were ready to go back to the drawing board when a truly insane idea was suggested: what if we build a floating wharf set into the water, so that the wharf will rise and fall with the tide as well, so the boat will always appear at the same level relative to the “land” of the fake wharf.

Now that was easy for us to dream up sitting in some office on the Disney studio lot, and we had to call to the team who was actually going to have to execute this vision. But unsurprisingly, they loved the idea and relished the challenge. They knew it was the perfect solution, it would give us ultimate complete control over the scene to dress it and film it just how we wanted. There’s no way you could tell any of this in the finished product, which is a testament to the amazing crew we had on this movie who could make even the insane look effortless.

One personal story from me though was when we first cast the dog who would be playing Lady. Her name was Rose. Now I’ve worked in the Hollywood system for many many years, and I’ve met my share of bigshots or famous people, including on this movie, but have never gotten starstruck… until that day.

When I first saw Rose as Lady, with her classic blue collar on, I was genuinely in awe of her. I was starstruck. It was Lady. The Lady. The classic Disney dog, walking around right in front of me, in real life. It’s a good thing she doesn’t understand English, or she’d know how tongue-tied I was around her.

Tom Goodall & Rose (Lady)

These are such cute stories. Where did you choose to film the movie?

We filmed in Savannah Georgia. It’s an amazing city with so much character to it. Think of its old architecture, its beautiful parks, or its amazing waterside location. Movie productions can often take you to strange faraway places to shoot, and they’re not always the most enjoyable or comfortable. When you find yourself filming in a place like Savannah, you’ve won the lottery.

We landed on Savannah as a location for many reasons, but one quality really set it apart from other options: it felt timeless. When you think back to the original 1955 animation of ‘Lady And The Tramp’, or many classic Disney animations, they have a timeless quality to them. They aren’t set in a rigidly specific year, and their settings don’t feel that dated even today, because the teams behind them labored carefully and rigorously to give the finished product this quality.

When we saw Savannah as a potential location, with its architectural style that feels of the past but still contemporary, and the city’s incredible saturation of nature, we knew it could help the movie sit apart from any obvious time period. This new ‘Lady and the Tramp’ captured that same timeless quality, and the city of Savannah was instrumental in striking that balance.

As a filmmaker involved in such a high profile movie such as ‘Lady and the Tramp’ what do you feel you most took away from the experience?

Ultimately, my biggest responsibility on this project was picking my own jaw up off the floor. The level of incredible cast we got for this movie, both the voice roles and on-camera roles, not to mention the songs! It’s a rare treat to have this many absurdly talented people working on one project, but Lady and the Tramp deserved it.

Where can readers watch the live action movie ‘Lady and the Tramp?’

The movie launched the platform Disney+, so you can see it exclusively there.

Thank you, Tom for sharing this incredible story. How can people keep up with you online?

Thank you! You can follow me on Instagram, or find my work at IMDb or

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