The countdown to Disney+ is on! Just a few days left and we’ll be streaming new and old content- and to say I’m excited is an understatement. I went on a secret set visit about a year ago to Savannah to watch the filming of the Disney+ movie Lady and the Tramp. That’s where I learned you can teach old dogs new tricks from Lady and the Tramp animal trainer Mark Forbes.
Old Dogs, New Tricks | Interview With Lady and the Tramp Dog Trainer Mark Forbes
I’ve always loved dogs, and I’ve always had one in my house.
My parents felt having a dog in the house made your childhood complete, and I can’t say they were wrong! There was always a lot of love, laughs and tail wags growing up and we’re passing that love along to our own children.
Our pets have also always been rescues or shelter dogs and when I heard the dogs from Lady and the Tramp were from rescues, I fell in love with this movie.
Yup. Didn’t even need to see a single frame of the film; if they were using rescues as actors, I was going to support it 100%!
When we were in Savannah we interviewed a ton of actors & crew on the set. You can read the interview with Yvette Nicole Brown and Kiersey Clemons (they made me cry!)- and more are coming this week.
But the most fun was talking to head animal trainer Mark Forbes and learning how they cast the 4-legged actors and taught them how to work the camera.
Monte, the Tramp, Was Cast From a Picture
Hey, sometimes a head shot is all you need in this business!
At least that’s how it worked out for Monte, the lead dog who plays Tramp in the movie.
Mark told us that they basically cast him from a picture they found online. They showed it to Charlie Bean, the director and flew out to check his temperament.
Mark Forbes, Head Animal Trainer: “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.
The adoption agency thought he was about a year old.
The vet that we took him to had to do an ultrasound on him. And he at that time thought he was more like eight months old which means he was about a year old when we started shooting.
He’s very flirty!”
Can confirm. Ahem.
It Took 2 1/2 Months To Fill Out the Cast
And they looked everywhere to find dogs that could fill these roles.
Most came from rescues and shelters as complete strays, some came from private homes who were willing to give them up, and some from breeders.
When we asked Mark if he was worried about them being trained he just laughed that idea off.
Mark Forbes: “Not really. I mean you know the whole saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
It’s really you know, it’s 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. It’s about eight behaviors.
We’ll spend the first 6 to 8 weeks doing nothing but that. But while we’re doing that we’re taking them to different places and then getting them used to new people so that when we get done with that basic period the tricks, all the special little behaviors really come quickly.
So the first part is just sort of getting them used to learning how to learn. And the great thing about dogs is after a while a pat on the head means just as much as a treat.
Your approval means a lot. So we kind of use that. We rely on that.”
You Really Don’t Want The Dogs To Be “Natural” On the Set
Mark made us all laugh when he told the story about directors (in general) saying, “just have the dog look natural!”
Mark Forbes: ” ‘We just want it to be organic.’
And I have to tell them natural is the dog behind camera lifting his leg. That’s natural.
Actually be in the frame even if it looks like they’re not doing anything, it’s a bit of training.
We did a shot today where lady had to come in. And it was a hard shot coming down the stairs, coming in, sitting and looking away.
And cueing her was somebody in wardrobe. Right before the camera got to her she’s cuing and then she’s acting like an extra. And as the camera goes by then she’s back into the scene.
We use every trick that we can.”
Lady and the Tramp streams on Disney+ November 12!
About Lady and the Tramp
In Disney+’s “Lady and the Tramp,” a timeless re-telling of the 1955 animated classic, a pampered house dog and a tough but lovable stray embark on an unexpected adventure and, despite their differences, grow closer and come to understand the value of home.
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Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)