Disney Marathon: ‘Lilo & Stitch’


This is the very definition of a Disney fan favourite. A messy production, an attempt to redefine the company image and poke fun at itself. Often these are not a good idea for the House of Mouse, especially during this point in their history. Somehow it became something of a cult classic that remains a huge merchandising brand for Disney. Expect to wait in line a long time if you want to get a photo with Stitch at Tokyo Disneyland.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 40 year old blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 8 year old princess) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Lilo & Stitch

Released: 2002

Director: Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois

Cast: Chris Sanders, Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Ving Rhames

Plot: An alien biological experiment escapes from captivity and flees across the universe. He winds up on Earth, stranded on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, where he pretends to be the pet of rambunctious offsider child Lilo.

Review: Everyone loves Stitch. By law. It’s illegal to not like Stitch (Sanders). He’s cute, fluffy, angry, impulsive and chaotic. Lilo (Chase) is also a fantastically fun character, toeing the line between being aggravating and precocious. This is in part due to the spirited performance from Daveigh Chase, who also appeared in other cult films from the era, The Ring and Donnie Darko.

We open with the Galactic Federation, in epic science-fiction fashion, meeting to sentence mad scientist Dr. Jumba Jookiba (Ogden Stiers) for his illegal genetic experiments. This experiment comes in the form of Experiment 626, a small blue monster of immense strength and intelligence who is driven only by a desire to wreck havoc. When 626 escapes and heads for Earth, Dr. Jumba Jookiba is paired with Agent Wendell Pleakley (McDonald), a nervous Earth expert, to recapture him.

In order to avoid the aliens, 626 poses as a dog and gets adopted by Lilo and her sister Nani (Carrere). Nani is struggling to keep and job and manage the oddball Lilo, at risk of her sister being taken away by social worker Cobra Bubbles (Rhames). Cue the hijinks as Lilo and Stitch cause endless problems in all their lives while being hunted by Jumba and Pleakley.

The art style doesn’t get much discussion, especially having competed against the CGI hits of the day. The rounded out corners and the slight bubbled nature of the design is unique and fun. The colours are bright and Hawaii looks more interesting than the alien architecture that appears at the beginning of the movie.

Narratively Lilo & Stitch is a bumping, start-stop affair. Sometimes the individual scenes don’t gel together very well. There’s a montage made up of individual scenes that go on just long enough to break the rhythm. Some of the set-ups to get Stitch into a public space, or to leave Lilo unsupervised just as Bubbles is about to turn up, feel contrived. It’s not a movie with a good flow. The overall feeling of the movie is better than the individual moments.

What does bring the movie together are the relationships. We have Lilo and Stitch, of course, with both looking for family members in very different ways. Nani and Lilo is the more relatable pairing, perfectly capturing the energy of siblings at odds with one another. The scene where Bubbles comes to take away Lilo is deftly written, avoiding the trope of the sinister social worker and creating a sympathetic and emotionally powerful sequence. Even Jumba and Pleakly are a fun odd couple of laid-back and neurotic.

In spite the action laden finale and silliness, this is an odd animated feature with heart. The marketing focusing on Stitch being the black sheep of the Disney family brought in an average box office take, but started Stitch on the path towards being of the most merchandised characters this side of Elsa.

Best Song: Even if I was a big fan of Elvis, which dominates the soundtrack, I’d still go with ‘Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride’. It backs a really beautiful surfing sequence and gives the film a fun tone.

Coolest Easter Egg: Disney culture has certainly infiltrated Kaua’i. Lilo has a Dumbo toy in her room, there’s a Mulan Wok eatery, a postcard for Orlando features the Magic Kingdom and Nani has a poster for Mulan in her bedroom.

Weirdest Trivia: The entire spaceship chase scene in the third act had to be entirely redrawn after the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US. The deleted scene, which is surprisingly available on Disney+, shows Sitch and friends hijacking a 747 passenger plane and flying it through a city where they demolish skyscrapers. Awkward.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

It’s hard not to be drawn in by Stitch’s charm, or Lilo’s heart. It’s not a typical Disney movie, but it is a welcome addition to the canon.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. The Lion King
  6. Wreck-It Ralph
  7. Alice in Wonderland
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. Moana
  10. Big Hero 6
  11. Lilo & Stitch
  12. The Great Mouse Detective
  13. The Little Mermaid
  14. Frozen
  15. Tangled
  16. The Sword in the Stone
  17. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  18. Mulan
  19. Cinderella
  20. Emperor’s New Groove
  21. Fantasia
  22. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  23. The Three Caballeros
  24. The Jungle Book
  25. Sleeping Beauty
  26. The Princess and the Frog
  27. Hercules
  28. Oliver & Company
  29. The Aristocats
  30. Saludos Amigos
  31. Home on the Range
  32. Bolt
  33. Dinosaur
  34. The Fox and the Hound
  35. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  36. Pocahontas
  37. A Goofy Movie
  38. Fantasia 2000
  39. Treasure Planet
  40. The Wild
  41. Chicken Little

AMELIA

It’s little surprise that Amelia connected with Lilo and Stitch as characters, as she seems to exist somewhere between the two of them.

  1. Frozen
  2. Moana
  3. Tangled
  4. The Little Mermaid
  5. Emperor’s New Groove
  6. Zootopia
  7. Lilo & Stitch
  8. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  9. The Great Mouse Detective
  10. Home on the Range
  11. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  12. Mulan
  13. Hercules
  14. Alice in Wonderland
  15. Cinderella
  16. Wreck-It Ralph
  17. Bolt
  18. Pocahontas
  19. Dinosaur
  20. The Aristocats
  21. The Princess and the Frog
  22. Robin Hood
  23. The Jungle Book
  24. Fantasia 2000
  25. The Lion King
  26. Beauty and the Beast
  27. The Three Caballeros
  28. The Fox and the Hound
  29. The Sword in the Stone
  30. Saludos Amigos
  31. Oliver & Company
  32. Aladdin
  33. Treasure Planet
  34. Big Hero 6
  35. Fun and Fancy Free
  36. Sleeping Beauty
  37. A Goofy Movie
  38. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  39. Chicken Little
  40. Fantasia

JOSHUA

It was fine. That’s all he had to offer.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Saludos Amigos
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Frozen
  12. Mulan
  13. The Princess and the Frog
  14. The Lion King
  15. Lilo & Stitch
  16. The Jungle Book
  17. Robin Hood
  18. Bolt
  19. The Sword in the Stone
  20. Beauty and the Beast
  21. Oliver & Company
  22. Sleeping Beauty
  23. Tangled
  24. The Great Mouse Detective
  25. Cinderella
  26. The Little Mermaid
  27. Home on the Range
  28. Pocahontas
  29. A Goofy Movie
  30. The Aristocats
  31. Fantasia
  32. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  33. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  34. Fun and Fancy Free
  35. The Fox and the Hound
  36. Fantasia 2000
  37. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  38. Dinosaur
  39. Hercules
  40. Alice in Wonderland
  41. Chicken Little