Movie Name: Lilo & Stitch
Studio: Walt Disney Feature Animation
Release Date(s): June 21, 2002
MPAA Rating: PG
Experiment 626 has escaped custody and crashed on Earth. With Dr. Jumba Jookiba and Agent Pleakley sent to recapture him, the aliens learn that Experiment 626 has been renamed “Stitch” and is masquerading as a dog. Nani is trying to take care of her sister Lilo and keep her from being taken by her new social worker Cobra Bubbles. When Lilo adopts Stitch, Stitch could cost Lilo and her sister everything they have…but ohana means family and no one is left behind.
Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, Lilo & Stitch is the forty-second film in the Disney Animated Classic series and follows Atlantis: The Lost Empire in 2001. The movie was released to mixed to positive reviews but started a franchise. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature (losing to Spirited Away).
I know a lot of people who don’t like Lilo & Stitch. They think the animation is par and the story is weak. I actually kind of like the animation, but I concede that the story leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, Lilo & Stitch gets a thumb up.
As mentioned, the story is rather weak. I like the basis of the film. Originally Stitch was going to be a gang leader who was exiled, but tying the story more to family and belonging is a better idea. The story however derails in the third act when it becomes a simple adventure with the “rescue Lilo from Gantu” part and loses the heart of the movie for a good chunk of the film.
The voice actors are quite good. Child star Daveigh Chase (who was in movies like Donnie Darko, The Ring, and also voiced Chihiro in the American dubbing of Spirited Away which beat this movie at the Oscars) sounds like a real girl, and Tia Carrere provides the voice of her sister. Disney regular David Ogden Stiers is Dr. Jumba Jookiba and Kids in the Hall vet is amusing as mosquito loving Pleakley. Ving Rhames, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Jason Scott Lee round out the cast.
The animation of Lilo & Stitch is highly debated. Disney opted not to go computer animated as movies like Pixar were dominating the market. I love traditional animation and Lilo & Stitch’s whimsical watercolored-esque world is fun…I can see arguments with the character designs however since they look oddly proportioned in most scenes. The movie decided not to do an original soundtrack and tied in with the Hawaii-Elvis theme which really worked.
Despite a lot of Lilo & Stitch hate, I actually kind of like the movie. It isn’t Disney’s best film, but I admire that they tried something new and utilized traditional animation. The movie is uneven and the story is predictable, but Lilo & Stitch is simple fun. Disney followed Lilo & Stitch with Treasure Planet also released in 2002. Lilo & Stitch had a sequel in Stitch: The Movie in 2003 which served as a backdoor pilot for Lilo & Stitch: The Series and a true sequel in Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch in 2005.