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Lilo and Stitch, An Often Overlooked Gem

Jun 5, 2008
Lilo & Stitch is an animated feature released by Walt Disney Pictures in June of 2002. It was only the second feature produced at the animation studios at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida. It marks only the sixth Disney film to be set in present times, and had originally been slated to be set in rural Kansas. The setting was soon changed to Hawaii to facilitate a new take on the story.

The movie begins with Dr. Jumba Jookiba, voiced by David Ogden Stiers, being tried in a galactic court for illegally creating creatures that cause terrible chaos and destruction. Meanwhile, Captain Gantu, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, is ordered to dispose of one of these chaos-inciting creatures, known only as Number 626. En route to an isolated colony, 626 manages to escape, crash landing on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i. This creature is soon found and adopted by Lilo Pelekai, voiced by Daveigh Chase. Posing as a pet, Lilo attempts to rehabilitate the creature, now called Stitch, to the ways of civilized life. His antics, however, soon land Lilo in hot water with her sister, and sole caretaker, Nani, voiced by Tia Carrere. Soon Captain Gantu is on the scene, in search of Stitch, but his ship is destroyed by the puckish creature. Will Stitch end up on his prison planet? Or will Lilo be able to keep him in line?

While the animation team visited the island of Kaua'i, which had also been used in such features as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park, their tour guide explored the meaning of the Hawaiian concept of ohana. This traditional concept became a key part of the film's story. As Dean DeBlois, one of the co-directors, 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."

Lilo & Stitch was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but finally lost to Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. In 2003 Disney expanded the Lilo & Stitch franchise to include a television series. The series ran for 65 episodes, from 2003 to 2006. The series carries on the narrative established in the film, with Lilo constantly trying to keep Stitch in line.

Two sequels followed the success of Lilo & Stitch. Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch was released directly to video in 2005, while Lilo & Stitch 3: Leroy and Stitch was released direct to video in 2006. Not surprisingly, plans for a fourth Lilo & Stitch film are in the works, though in March 2008 Disney announced they would reimagine the film into a Japanese vehicle, known simply as Stitch. In place of Lilo will be a Japanese girl named Hanako, and instead of Hawaii, the film will take place on the island of Okinawa. The series is set for an October 2008 release.
About the Author
Steve Collins is an Author and Journalist based in Encino, CA. A huge Disney fan, he uses the Disney Movie Club to complete his collection. Read his reviews of the movies he purchases on the Disney Movie Club
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