“What you see before you is the first of a new species. I call it experiment 626. He is bullet proof, fireproof, and can think faster than supercomputer. He can see in the dark and move objects 3000 times his size. His only instinct: To destroy everything he touches.”
This affront to nature is none other than one of the staring characters in Disney’s 2002 animation feature Lilo And Stitch. It was created by an alien mad scientist, Dr, Jumba (Stiers). Unfortunately, the Intergalactic Federation considers it dangerous and an abomination. They throw Dr. Jumba in prison and sentence the creature to exile on a desolate asteroid. The elusive creature escapes the transport ship, stealing a police cruiser, the red one. He ends up on a backwater planet called Earth, more specifically a place called Hawaii. It seems that the Federation can’t simply obliterate the planet. It has been designated a protected world, a sanctuary for an endangered species, the mosquito. So the council sends Jumba and their representative, the one-eyed worm, Pleakley (McDonald) to either retrieve or destroy the experiment. Meanwhile, living on Hawaii are two orphan sisters. The teenaged Nani (Carrere) and her younger sister Lilo (Chase). They are having some trouble getting along now that Nani must also become a parent figure to her young sister. It doesn’t help that social services has sent their toughest agent, Cobra Bubbles (Rhames) to decide if Nani is fit to raise Lilo. The truth is Lilo doesn’t fit in at school, and she’s grown incredibly lonely. She prays for an angel to come and be her friend. Since angels are scarce in Hawaii, she suggests a dog. They end up at the pound where experiment 626 happens to be. Lilo falls in love with the alien experiment and names him Stitch, thinking him an exotic species of dog. Of course, the two get themselves in a lot of trouble, not to mention being hunted by Stitch’s pursuers. Still, the two bond and both learn to adapt their natures.
I never saw this particular Disney film before. It’s almost impossible to believe that in the hundreds of films I watch every year, and my inherent love for Disney films, that I managed to miss this one. It doesn’t help that I held a bit of a grudge against one of the title characters, Stitch. I live fairly close to Walt Disney World, so we make it to the Magic Kingdom from time to time. In Tomorrowland, one of my favorite attractions was something called Alien Encounter. It was a very cool, but unfortunately scary ride. Disney deemed it too intense and reimagined the attraction with a Stitch theme. So now, instead of a cool winged creature that wants to rip you to pieces, you get Stitch. So, when I heard I was going to be watching and ultimately writing about Lilo And Stitch, I decided to unload my grudge and give the film a fighting chance. Boy, am I glad I did.
Like most Disney classics, the animation is simply captivating. Even after 60 years, the studio manages to infuse their animated features with a soul of their own. From the moment you meet these characters, you can’t help but fall in love with it all. The animation is incredibly fluid and captivating. The characters somehow elicit emotional responses that live actors would have a hard time creating. Again, Disney put together a superb voice cast that features the likes of David Ogden Stiers, Tia Carrere, and Ving Rhames. All of the voices appear natural and add to that magic I was talking about. Certainly, the story is overly simple and extremely contrived, but when you mix in a little magic, somehow those things don’t seem to matter so much. Add a captivating score from Alan Silvestri with a little Hawaiian flavor provided by Michael Tavera and this film is as about complete as many of the Disney classics that came before. I’m not going to say that it rivals films like Pinocchio or The Lion King, but it certainly belongs in the same conversation. But, for some reason, this film doesn’t often find itself in those conversations. Maybe it’s the decidedly science fiction element that often appears to stigmatize this effort, or maybe it’s the overuse of direct to video sequels, which is the kryptonite of the Disney Empire. Whatever the reason, Lilo And Stitch is often lost in the sea of Disney efforts. I was a part of that same group, until now. If you haven’t ever seen this one, you’re in for a super treat.
Lilo And Stitch is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 but it really is enhanced for your 16×9 television screen, so that it fits perfectly without any noticeable distortion. The first thing you notice is the wonderful animation. Lines are very clean and the picture provides a lot of detail. Colors are wonderfully vivid. This is Hawaii, after all, and there are plenty of reasons to display wonderful colors. Honestly, one of the most spectacular scenes is the spaceship dogfight towards the end of the film. Simply gorgeous. Black levels are strong. This is as good as it gets in standard definition. I can’t wait for Disney to get around to releasing this one in Blu-ray.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is quite alive and vibrant. The score adds some very uplifting moments to the film. The songs come through with wonderful fullness and clarity. Dialog is fine. The film uses tons of good surrounds to immerse you in this playful make believe world.
There is a rather informative Audio Commentary with Chris Sanders, who created the characters, Dean DeBlois, and Clark Spencer.
This 2 disc release comes filled to the brim with great extras. The first disc contains all of the elements from the earlier release of the film on DVD. These include:
Music Video: “Your Ohana” is a film clip montage set to the song.
Lilo And Stitch Island Adventure Games: 5 game demos
DisneyPedia – Hawaii – The Islands Of Aloha: This is an interactive map of the islands of Hawaii. When you select an island you’re given an educational clip about that place.
Create Your Own Alien Experiment: Dr. Jumba wants you to help him create a new experimental creature. You help by answering trivia questions.
A Stitch In Time: See stills from many of the all time classic Disney animation features with Stitch Photoshopped into a scene.
Hula Lessons: Hula expert Mark teaches you the traditional island dance. I can’t get the scene from Sanford And Son out of my head where Fred’s learning the Hula.
Burning Love: Go inside the recording studio with country singer Wynonna for the sessions of the end credit song.
Disc 2 contains a 2 hour Documentary complete with 21 footnotes that range a minute or so each and 5 deleted scenes using storyboards and conceptual art.
What better way for the family studio to present an animated feature about family? That’s the lesson here for our two orphans, the importance of being a family. “And family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten.”