Lilo & Stitch is an American animated science fiction/family-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released on June 21, 2002. The 42nd animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon, it was written and directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, and features the voices of Sanders, Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Ving Rhames, Jason Scott Lee, and Kevin Michael Richardson. Lilo & Stitch was the second of three Disney animated features produced primarily at the Florida animation studio studio located at Walt Disney World's Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida. Lilo & Stitch was nominated for the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which ultimately went to Hayao Miyazaki's film, Spirited Away, which was also distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, and featured a voice-over performance by Chase in the English dub. It is one of the few Disney Animated Canon films to be an original story.
The film today is seen as a modest critical and financial success, though a big commercial success. The 2002 film eventually started a franchise: a direct-to-video sequel, Stitch! The Movie, was released on August 26, 2003. This was followed by a television series, Lilo & Stitch: The Series, which ran from September 20, 2003 to July 29, 2006. A second direct-to-video sequel, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, was released on August 30, 2005. A third and final direct-to-video sequel, Leroy & Stitch, was released on June 27, 2006 as the conclusion to the TV series.
Dr. Jumba Jookiba is put on trial by the Galactic Federation for "illegal genetic experimentation"—the evidence of this is Experiment 626: an aggressive creature that is nearly indestructible and learns quickly (such as the obscene phrase: "Meega nala kweesta!"). Jumba is imprisoned while Experiment 626 is to be exiled on a desert asteroid. During transport on Captain Gantu's ship, 626 manages to break out of his cell and cut off the ship's power grid. 626 hijacks a police cruiser unit upon his escape, but finds himself outnumbered and outgunned. Surrounded, 626 activates the hyperdrive and breaks through their defense, setting coordinates at random, landing him on the planet Earth. The Grand Councilwoman orders Jumba to work with Agent Pleakley to recover 626 discreetly. 626 survives his escape attempt to Earth, landing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai (Okina), but is knocked unconscious by a passing truck, and is taken to an animal shelter because he is believed by the truck drivers to be a breed of dog.
After the recent death of their parents in a car accident, 19-year-old Nani Pelekai is looking after her younger, more rambunctious sister, Lilo. They are visited by Cobra Bubbles, a social worker, who is concerned that Nani can not take adequate care of Lilo. He considers putting Lilo into foster care, but Nani does not approve, as Lilo and she are the only remaining members of her family; Lilo does not help as she does not understand what may happen. After hearing Lilo in her room pray to be given a friend (Lilo has no real friends because every girl in her class makes fun of her), Nani agrees to allow Lilo to adopt a dog. At the shelter, Lilo immediately takes a keen interest in Experiment 626, despite serious misgivings that Nani and the shelter worker have about him being a dog. Lilo names 626 "Stitch" and shows him around Hawaii; Stitch quickly discovers escape is impossible due to the island being surrounded by water (his body is too dense for swimming) and that there are no large cities, which Jumba had previously said he would seek out to cause chaos, and suffers a nervous breakdown.
As Nani attempts to find a good job, after being fired because of Lilo and Stitch, she is forced to bring them with her. Lilo uses the time to try to curb Stitch's aggressiveness by encouraging him to behave like Elvis Presley, whom she calls a "model citizen" as well as reading the book The Ugly Duckling to him. Stitch's antics, although at times foiling Jumba and Pleakley's attempts to capture him, also ruin Nani's chances of getting a job. David, a friend of Nani's, sees her at the beach, where she was trying to get a job as a lifeguard. David suggests they go surfing to improve her mood. While Nani, Lilo and a panicking Stitch ride on a huge wave, Jumba makes one more effort to capture Stitch from underwater; as a result, it appears as if Stitch attempted to drown Lilo. Although everyone gets safely to shore, Cobra saw the whole thing and tells Nani he will come by in the morning to take Lilo away from her and leaves feeling sorry for her. After Stitch sees how much trouble he has caused, he leaves, taking The Ugly Duckling book with him in hopes of finding his "family".
The next morning, as Nani waits for Cobra to arrive, David tells Nani of a job offer that she must respond to. Nani tells Lilo to stay at home while she goes to secure the job. Stitch, hiding in the nearby woods, encounters Jumba, who reveals that Stitch can never have a family or "belong" because he was just built to destroy. Stitch races to Lilo's house, followed by Jumba firing at Stitch with his gun. The two fight, with Lilo immediately phoning Cobra for help. The house is ultimately destroyed by the end of the fight, with Nani and Cobra arriving shortly after. As Nani and Cobra argue over Lilo's well-being, Lilo slips away to hide in the forest and finds Stitch, who reveals his true alien identity form to her. While she says how he ruined everything, they are both captured by Captain Gantu, who had been sent to capture Stitch after Jumba and Pleakley failed to do so, and he makes to leave Earth. Nani is shocked to see Gantu putting Lilo and Stitch in a container pod and taking off in the ship. Stitch escapes from the container before the ship takes off, leaving Lilo behind. Nani then realizes that Stitch isn't what she thought he was, and demands he had better speak, just as Lilo always said he did.
While once again trying to capture Stitch, both Jumba and Pleakley are revealed to Nani, and tell her that they do know Lilo, and they can both get her back. Stitch, with help from Jumba's ship and by launching a gas tanker truck out of a volcano, is able to free Lilo and stop Gantu. After they land, they find that the Grand Councilwoman has arrived nearby, in order to capture Stitch personally. When she sees Stitch has developed a sense of respect and compassion, she realizes he has become a civilized creature and no longer an abomination. Using Lilo's certificate of Stitch's ownership, which proves that taking Stitch would mean stealing him from Lilo, the Councilwoman asserts that Stitch, now a part of Nani and Lilo's family, will live his exile on Earth with the humans as his warders. As her guards take Gantu away, she doesn't let Pleakley or Jumba return on her ship, and orders Cobra, a former CIA agent who previously met the Councilwoman at Roswell, to keep an eye on the new family. Stitch, Jumba and Pleakley become integrated into Lilo's family, and the house is rebuilt with the help of the three, David and Cobra.
The film ends with various footage and pictures of Stitch and his new family's life together.
Lilo & Stitch is one of the few Disney animated features to take place in the present day; others include Dumbo (1941), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Rescuers (1977) and its sequel The Rescuers Down Under (1990), Oliver & Company (1988), Bolt (2008), and Wreck-it Ralph (2012) and one of the few to be an original story, rather than a loose adaptation of a classic tale.
Production of Lilo & Stitch began with then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner deciding that, in the wake of a number of high-profile and large-budget Disney animated features during the mid-1990s, the studio might try its hand at a smaller and less expensive film. The idea was inspired by the production of Dumbo, an economically-made 1941 Walt Disney film produced in the wake of the more expensive Pinocchio and Fantasia. Chris Sanders, a head storyboard artist at Disney Feature Animation, was approached to pitch an idea. Sanders had created the character of Stitch in 1985 for an unsuccessful children's book pitch, and developed a treatment for an animated feature featuring the character. The movie was originally intended to take place in rural Kansas so that Stitch could interact with other characters while still being isolated from wreaking greater havoc. A decision to change the film's setting to the Hawaiian island of Kauai was an important choice in defining the plot more clearly. No other animated feature had ever taken place on any of the Hawaiian islands before. In Sanders' words:
|“||Animation has been set so much in ancient, medieval Europe — so many fairy tales find their roots there, that to place it in Hawaii was kind of a big leap. But that choice went to color the entire movie, and rewrite the story for us.||”|
Dean DeBlois, who had co-written Mulan (1998) with Sanders, was brought on to co-write and co-direct Lilo & Stitch, while Disney executive Clark Spencer was assigned to produce. Unlike several previous and concurrent Disney Feature Animation productions, the Lilo & Stitch pre-production team remained relatively small and isolated from upper management until the film went into full production. The character and set designs were based upon Chris Sanders' personal artistic style.
While the animation team visited Kauai to research the locale, their tour guide explained the meaning of ohana as it applies to extended families. This concept of ohana became an important part of the movie. DeBlois recalls:
|“||No matter where we went, our tour guide seemed to know somebody. He was really the one who explained to us the Hawaiian concept of ohana, a sense of family that extends far beyond your immediate relatives. That idea so influenced the story that it became the foundation theme, the thing that causes Stitch to evolve despite what he was created to do, which is destroy.||”|
The island of Kauai had previously been featured in such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Jurassic Park trilogy. The Disney animators faced the daunting task of meshing the film's plot, which showed the impoverished and dysfunctional life that many Hawaiians lived during the then-recent economic downturn, with the island's serene beauty. The actors voicing the film's young adults Nani and David, Tia Carrere, a native of Honolulu, and Jason Scott Lee, who was raised in Hawaii, assisted with rewriting the Hawaiian characters' dialogue in the proper colloquial dialect and adding Hawaiian slang.
Design and Animation
In a deviation from several decades' worth of Disney features, Sanders and DeBlois chose to use watercolor painted backgrounds for Lilo & Stitch, as opposed to the traditional gouache technique. While watercolors had been used for the early Disney animated shorts, as well as the early Disney features Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Dumbo, the technique had been largely abandoned by the mid-1940s in favor of less complicated media such as gouache. Sanders preferred that watercolors be used for Lilo to evoke both the bright look of a storybook and the art direction of Dumbo, requiring the background artists to be trained in working with the medium. The character designs were based around Sanders personal drawing style, eschewing the traditional Disney house style.
Several major elements of the film changed during production. Originally, Stitch was the leader of an intergalactic gang, and Jumba was one of his former cronies sent after Stitch by the Intergalactic Council to capture him. Test audience response to early versions of the film resulted in the change of Stitch and Jumba's relationship to that of creation and creator, respectively.
The biggest change came to the film's third act, which had Stitch flying a Boeing 747 jet through downtown Honolulu to save Lilo. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, this sequence was revised so that Stitch instead flew a spaceship through the mountains of Kauai (Okina). This revision was done primarily by replacing the CGI model of the 747 with that of Jumba's spaceship, with only a few shots in the sequence fully re-animated.
Another scene that was deleted was one of Lilo's attempts to make Stitch into a model citizen by notifying tourists on the beach about the tsunami warning sirens.
The original version of Jumba attacking Stitch in Lilo's home was found to be too violent by test audiences, and was revised to make it more comedic.
There was also a scene in which Lilo introduces Stitch to Pudge the fish, which ultimately leads to the fish's death. Lilo then takes Pudge's body to the same graveyard where her parents were buried, and thus Stitch learns the consequences of his actions and gains a better understanding of mortality.
There was a scene where Nani brings Lilo pizza and then Lilo tells herself a bedtime story about a friendly and stinky bear named Toaster. This was replaced with the scene where Lilo and Nani talk about being family because test audiences had mistaken Nani for Lilo's mother.
The film opening at #2 with $35,260,212 in its first weekend, less than $500,000 behind the film Minority Report. In its second week, fell to #3, again behind the Steven Spielberg film at #2. The film raked in $145,794,338 in the United States and Canada, and $127,349,813 internationally, finishing with $273,144,151 in the world.
Lilo & Stitch received highly positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. The film's success at the box office and on home video formats led to a Lilo & Stitch franchise, with four direct-to-video sequels and a television series spanning two seasons. The film has received 145 critical reviews on the site Rotten Tomatoes, 124 Fresh and 21 Rotten, giving it a positive total rating of 86%. The film has also earned a score of 73% on Metacritic.
Peter M. Nichols states that through the character of Nani Pelekai and her struggles the film appeals to older children better than such attempts by the studio to do so as Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and The Emperor's New Groove.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on December 3, 2002. In 2003, a 2-disc DVD version was announced alongside special edition DVDs of Alice in Wonderland and Pocahontas, which were released in 2004 and 2005 respectively. A 2-disc special edition DVD of Lilo & Stitch was released in the UK on August 22, 2005, alongside the UK release of Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, but a release in the US suffered from continuous delays.
On March 24, 2009, Disney re-released the DVD, which they dubbed a 2-Disc Big Wave Edition. This set includes most of the bonus features from the original DVD and adds an audio commentary, a two-hour making-of documentary, more deleted scenes including the original climax with the plane hijacking, a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes, and some games.
The film was released on Blu-ray on June 11, 2013 in a 2-Movie Collection with Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch.
At the 2003 Academy Awards, Lilo & Stitch was nominated for Best Animated Feature, losing the Oscar to Spirited Away. At the Annie Awards (Animation Awards), Lilo and Stitch was nominated for 10 Annie's, with the only winner being Daveigh Chase for her Outstanding Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production.
- Dumbo appears in Lilo's bedroom when she spots a shooting star.
- A poster for Mulan is in Nani's room.
Sequels and TV series
The success of Lilo & Stitch paved the way for a franchise that included direct-to-DVD and television sequels as well as two TV series.
- Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) served as an interquel to Lilo & Stitch and Stitch! The Movie. Unfortunately, Stitch has missed a much needed molecular charge when he was created, thus creating a glitch where he goes on a hapless rampage at odd times.
- Stitch! The Movie (2003) gave much of the exposition for the TV show that was to follow. It tells how Dr. Jumba and Dr. Hämsterviel created Experiment 626, as well as the 625 experiments before him. After a fiasco, started by Dr. Hämsterviel wanting to collect his remaining experiments, Experiment 625 is activated from the dehydrated pod he'd been stored in. While having the same powers and strength, this experiment has a strange fascination with sandwiches. The film ends with Dr. Hämsterviel arrested, the other pods falling into water and the start of Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
- Lilo & Stitch: The Series ran from 2003 to 2006, for a total of 65 episodes. In each episode, Lilo and Stitch searched for other experiments Dr. Jumba had created, now having turned into a live experiment. Keeping the 'ohana theme, they searched for the experiments on Kaua'i, turning them from bad to good by finding the place for them to belong.
- Leroy & Stitch (2006) ended The Series and the original run of the Lilo & Stitch franchise. After all the experiments have had their place found for them, Captain Gantu, who is still bitter from his inability to capture the other Experiments and Stitch, decides to free Dr. Hämsterviel from prison. They go to Dr. Jumba, who has his laboratory in working order again, and order him to create Leroy. Dr. Hämsterviel and Leroy, plus many other Leroy clones, proceed to attempt to kidnap and destroy the other experiments. In a fabulous Deus Ex Machina, Dr. Jumba remembers he installed a shut-down command when "Aloha 'Oe" is played. It works, and Dr. Hämsterviel and Leroy, plus many other Leroy clones, are sent back to prison.
- An anime series titled Stitch! ran from 2008 to 2011 in Japan, with two TV specials broadcasted there in 2012 and 2015. Taking place years after the events of Leroy & Stitch, Stitch has left Lilo, and he ends up on an island off the coast of Okinawa where he meets a Japanese girl named Yuna.
- "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" by Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu & The Kamehameha School's Children's Chorus
- "Stuck on You" by Elvis Presley
- "Burning Love" By Wynonna
- "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley
- "Heartbreak Hotel" by Elvis Presley
- "(You're the) Devil in Disguise" by Elvis Presley
- "He Mele No Lilo" by Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu & The Kamehameha School's Children's Chorus
- "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley
- "Can't Help Falling in Love" by A*Teens
- "Aloha `Oe" by Tia Carrere (not in CD soundtrack)
- "Suspicious Minds" by Gareth Gates appears on the Canadian release and its music video as well.
Trailers Teaser trailers for this film parody trailers for other Disney films (two of these were animated by Sanders) from recent years. These are called "Inter-Stitch-als" and are featured on Disney's official site. The original actors were brought back to reprise their roles and were shocked when asked to act negatively towards Stitch. The trailers also include the AC/DC song track "Back in Black".
Beauty and the Beast: The Beauty and the Beast ballroom dance sequence begins as normal. However as the camera pans to the angels on the ceiling, Stitch is seen crawling across the painting. Watching Belle and the Beast, he crawls onto the chandelier, which breaks. The Beast dives and pulls Belle with him out of harm's way while the chandelier smashes on the ballroom floor behind them. The moment ruined, Belle announces she will be in her room. As she departs Stitch wolf whistles after her, to which she replies indignantly, "Get your own movie!"
The Little Mermaid: Ariel is singing the reprise of "Part of Your World", when a huge wave, which is being ridden by Stitch, dumps on her. As the ocean settles, Ariel pops up and throws a starfish at Stitch, saying "I was singing here!" This trailer was the most difficult to parody, as the film had been painted using traditional cel animation rather than using the digital CAPS system and had to be cleaned up by hand.
Aladdin: Aladdin and Jasmine are interrupted in the middle of the "A Whole New World" sequence by Stitch. Stitch flirts with Jasmine and she drives off with him in his cruiser, leaving Aladdin sitting alone on the carpet, yelling at Stitch to "get your own movie!".
The Lion King: There are two versions of this commercial. In one of them, clips of past Disney classics are shown, with a voice over saying "For over seventy years, the Walt Disney studios has won the hearts of audiences with the most enchanting, delightful and lovable characters the world had ever known. On June 21st, the tradition...", and is suddenly cut off as Rafiki thrusts Stitch into the air in the manner of the presentation ceremony in the original film. A warthog (not Pumbaa) cries out "Hey, that's not Simba!". All the animals flee, leaving Stitch alone on Pride Rock. Stitch clears his throat and roars unconvincingly. In the other commercial, the end of the song "Circle of Life" plays, Rafiki raising Stitch into the air on the last note. The rest of the parody plays out as the previous one, except that in this commercial, Timon (sitting on Pumbaa's back) is the one who yells "Hey, that's not Simba!".
In the United Kingdom, Lilo & Stitch trailers and TV ads featured a cover of Elvis' song "Suspicious Minds", performed by Gareth Gates, who became famous on the UK TV program Pop Idol.
- When the movie was shown on television, the part where Nani traps Lilo after she comes out of the dryer was cut out, probably due to time constraints or that the scene was deemed unsafe as Lilo was hiding in the dryer and it would set a bad example for children.
- In the book titled Disney Trivia from the Vault - Secrets Revealed and Questions Answered by Dave Smith (who is also known to have his own column in the very first Disney Magazine called "Ask Dave", or the most recent D23 [Disney's community for Disney fans] Web site) of page 4, there was a sign on Lilo's bedroom door with the word "Kapu". "Kapu" means "keep out" or "off limits" in Hawaiian.
- In the detention cell, a Dr. Hämsterviel look-alike is shown to be in one of the cells.
- The space dinosaur that was in the detention cell was sent to capture Stitch in the video game Lilo & Stitch: Trouble in Paradise.
- During the trial in the beginning of the movie, Jumba claimed that he would never make more than one experiment, when in fact, he had already made 625 experiments before 626.
- When Nani, Stitch and Lilo were walking towards the electronics store after buying Stitch, the Chinese place next to the electronics store was called Mulan Wok.
- During the part of the movie where Stitch hits Jumba with a "punch buggy", a Mulan poster is seen in Nani's room.
- One of the surf boards that David carries in the surfing sequence, has a red and blue taeguk, like the one on the South Korean flag.
|Disney theatrical animated features|