Looking back on Disney’s bluest, fluffiest, most bizarre character
Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 00:04
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 10 years since Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch” first hit theaters in June of 2002. At that time, the Walt Disney Studios Animation Department had been in existence for more than 70 years. During those decades, not one of its animated classics were considered science-fiction. Therefore, it is somewhat notable that they released two of them in 2002, the well-received “Lilo” and that holiday season’s famous box office bomb “Treasure Planet.” “Lilo” is nothing less than a modern classic.
Credit must be given to the Walt Disney Studios for investing in a film whose concept can basically be summarized as “Aliens in Hawaii with Elvis.” Describing the film to anyone over the age of 3 is a challenge. An evil scientist in space is tried for creating an illegal genetic experiment. His creation, Experiment 626 (six-two-six), later named Stitch, has only one designed purpose: to destroy and cause chaos. 626 escapes and, after hijacking a ship, crash-lands in Hawaii. Isolated from the major urban centers, he was designed to destroy. Stitch, posing as a dog, is adopted by a young orphan native girl named Lilo. Not the typical film premise.
As if an alien in Hawaii wasn’t odd enough, the film featured several songs by Elvis Presley that fit perfectly into the film. For example, when Lilo feels upset, she sulks listening to “Heartbreak Hotel.” A fantastic cast of characters supported the film. Lilo is also not the typical girl: her hobbies include walking up to overweight sunbathing tourists and taking their photos, feeding sandwiches to Pudge the fish (whom she believes controls the weather), and practicing voodoo against other girls her age. Stitch may appear “cute and fluffy,” but has super strength and he can be seen throwing cars. Mad Scientist Jumba and Bumbling Pleakly, the two aliens sent to capture Stitch, provide hilarious comic relief, dressing as humans, among other things. And of course no one can forget Cobra Bubbles, a serious government agent despite his name.
A great story and cast of characters is the heart of the film, but it becomes the total package with a beautiful score by Alan Silvestri and some of the finest animation and art design ever seen. All of the film’s backgrounds were done in painstaking but brilliant watercolors. The use of Computer Animation in the climactic spaceship chase is breathtaking.
The genius directors of the film, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, have moved on to DreamWorks Animation, where they helmed what some say to be the best film ever made by the studio, “How to Train Your Dragon.” Meanwhile, Stitch has become an iconic figure throughout the Disney Company in video games, television and the theme parks. Upon its release, many critics called “Lilo and Stitch” one of the strangest films they have even seen. They were correct, but this tale of an alien and a little girl also represents the pinnacle of the best that Disney Animation has offered, and it’s a classic to be remembered for years to come.