2-Disc Big Wave Edition
Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: Rated PG For Mild Sci-Fi Action
Film Length: 85 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French & Spanish Language Tracks
Subtitles: French & Spanish
Review Date: March 29, 2009
The Film - out of
Disney satisfyingly veered from the ordinary with this quirky animated success released on the big screen on June 21, 2002. Cheekier than the kind of Disney fare that have dominated the Mouse’s library, Lilo & Stitch has a great deal about it to appreciate and a playful sense that comes through the original and sweet Lilo character in a way unlike other very young Disney characters.
The film begins in the midst of trial of a ‘mad scientist’ aboard a space craft. Alien races convened in a court trying the rotund Jumba for the reprehensible crime of genetic manipulation. Jumba had created a creature of incredible strength whose sole purpose was to ravage and rampage large cities until they are destroyed. Jumba is quickly found guilty and jailed while his creation, Experiment 626, is scheduled to be exiled to a remote planet. But the mischievous experiment creation escapes, steals a small spacecraft (a law enforcement craft, actually) and heads to a small blue/green planet called EARTH. That planet has been designated a ‘wildlife reserve’ of sorts by the intergalactic race now charged with recapturing the impish rogue and soon, the imprisoned evil genius Jumba is recruited to apprehend his creation with a nerdy ward, Pleakley, by his side. In the meantime, a precocious and wily young girl, Lilo – independent but lonely (she has no friends that will play with her) goes about her life on her Hawaiian island home. Her older sister, now serving as her guardian as well since their parents were killed in a car accident, is having a hard time dealing with the responsibility of caring for young Lilo – for example, Lilo works hard to make her living conditions seem unfit for children when a social worker called Cobra Bubbles (a very imposing man voiced by Ving Rhames) comes to inspect. The lonely Lilo is allowed to adopt an animal – but that animal turns out to be the recently arrived alien creature whom she names Stitch and they quickly develop a close relationship all the while Stitch is being hunted. Lilo and Stitch are kindred spirits of sorts, clumsy and ill-behaved and Stitch provides Lilo a much needed dose of hope and a renewed sense of family – a renewed sense of onana!
There is plenty to enjoy with this active, energetic and fun family film. The character of Lilo is quite special. She is very young, sprightly and sweet in equal measure and is brought to life superbly by the vocal talents of Daveigh Chase. As the voice of her older sister, Nani, is Tia Carerre who also does very well. The dynamic between them works nicely as the right mix of antagonism and sisterly love. Stitch by comparison is a little forgettable for at least the middle act of the film. After a rambunctious introduction, things slow down for him while we spend time getting to meet Lilo and her situation. Stitch remains destructive but while we enjoy him learning and growing to fit in beyond what he was created to do, he becomes less interesting. It isn’t until the final act where he becomes a fun and interesting creature that we can again become invested in him.
The rest of the voice talent is quite good. David Ogden Stiers as Jumba does well with the evil Russian accent. Other characters include the mean-spirited Alien Grand Councilwoman voiced by Zoe Caldwell and her head henchman Captain Gantu voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. Love interest to Lilo’s sister, Nani is David voiced by Jason Scott Lee. Jumba’s ward, the wimpy Pleakley, is voiced by Kevin McDonald and Stitch himself comes alive thanks to the vocal talents of Chris Sanders as well as one of the director’s dogs (for the panting etc).
Lilo & Stitch is based on an idea by Chris Sanders who also co-wrote and directed the feature with Dean DeBlois. It’s a smart script for a children’s film but becomes weighed down with some weaknesses, mainly involving the scientist Jumba and Pleakley. But overall this is a fun film that, beyond the cute adventure, is a celebration of diversity. Setting the film on the lush island of Hawaii and with Hawaiian characters – the film immediately takes on a new, refreshing (and much needed) look that sets it apart from other Disney adventures. It features original Hawaiian music and a great score from composer Alan Silvesti (and a few Elvis tunes to boot), Lilo & Stitch is something a little different from the house of mouse and good family entertainment.
The Lilo & Stitch 2-Disc Big Wave Edition comes correctly framed at 1.66:1 and is enhanced for widescreen televisions. This isn’t a 100% pristine transfer though it retains a great film look and looks great for 7 years old. It isn’t over processed and shows off some of the the warm color palette of the film nicely. Lines are clean, especially the computer generated animation (which is employed mostly for the scenes in space and finale) and debris and other artifacts are non-existent. Having not seen this film in theaters, I cannot tell if the slightly muted tones found in the background’s animation style on the beautiful Hawaiian island was an artistic choice or something to mention as a detractor, but I think the water color backgrounds are beautiful and suit this film very well. I would say that Lilo & Stitch looks very good in this DVD release.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track provided by Disney won’t wow you, but does get the job done. The dialogue activity in the center channel is clear and the Hawaiian songs and influenced score by Hollywood great Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) is used well in the fronts and surrounds occasionally. Sound effects from the space vehicles and the Stitch induced carnage complete the surround speaker activity while the subwoofer gets a little workout again from Stitch and somewhat during the surfing sequence, one of the films best sequences I might add.
Audio Commentary - (00:00) – Co-directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois provide some revealing production history, notably the change the opening sequence went through from its original treatment and the finale. Their care in presenting the culture of Hawaii correctly and accurately, through step for step dance moves animated from videos they shared and the use of traditional chants, is discussed (and welcome) here. A good, valuable and full commentary.
“Your ‘Ohana’” Music Video Featuring the Hawaiian Chorus - (2:11)
Lilo & Stitch Island Adventure Games – Previous experiments (pre experiment 626) have been released across the island – to play, choose any of the three games samples to win and collect the escaped experiments.
DisneyPedia” Hawaii – The Islands of Aloha: Explore the Hawaiian Islands – An interactive feature that allows you to select any one of the Hawaiian Islands to learn more, or choose the select all feature for a full, uninterrupted tour.
Create You Own Alien Experiment Game – A cute game allowing you to build an Alien by answering questions that trigger the activation of solutions to be injected into your experiment then selecting the correct order to mix them. I got the questions right but the mixing order wrong. Go figure.
A Stitch in Time: Follow Stitch Through The Disney Years – This is a cute feature, narrated by David Odgen Stiers (of M*A*S*H and The Dead Zone TV Show fame), who voices Jumba in the film that tells the fictional story of Stitch trying to break into Disney films, inserting the Stitch character into classic Disney films, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through 101 Dalmatians and more.
Hula Lessons - (3:36) – Learn how to Hula with this brief instructional extra.
“Burning Love” – Behind The Scenes with Wynonna - (1:31) – Country music singer Wynonna provides the song playing over the closing credits – this feature shows some footage of the recording of this track.
“I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” Music Video Performed by A-Teens - (1:02)
Animating the Hula - (3:04) – A respectful look at the cultural and spiritual significance of the Hula dance and the care and detail taken in the animation of that dance. Since none of the animation of the dancing was rotoscoped, the process was even more painstaking – but worth the effort.
“Inter-Stitch-ials” Theatrical Teaser Trailers – Trailers for Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King
The Story Room: An Interactive Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Making Of The Film - (2:05:32) – A comprehensive making of documentary that covers just about every aspect of the production and release of this film. It begins with a look at the principles involved in the production, the co-writers and co-directors, who they are, how they got into animation and why. This is well constructed and continually interesting, engaging and thorough in a way that most making of’s are not. This documentary isn’t flashy or stylized like the superficial ones you can suffer through from time to time. It is relaxed and in depth and well worth watching. What is clear in watching this is how this film was difficult to bring to completion. A project designed to be a smaller, less expensive animated production but just as rich in character and heart as larger Disney films that struggled to be fleshed out to completion.
Documentary Footnotes – Additional footage, comprehensive additional information that supports and completes the already great documentary.
Deleted Scenes and Early Versions – Eight deleted/early sequences, including two versions of the exciting 747 sequences that was altered in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001.
This 2-Disc Big Wave Edition of Lilo & Stitch, loaded with well over 2 hours of bonus material, is a great treatment of this fun family film. The film itself is good fun, certainly different and a welcome refreshing adventure that doesn’t look like other Disney films – something that really helps set this film apart. It isn’t perfect as the second act in particular still doesn’t quite excite like the opening and closing acts, but the film is filled with some good laughs and a sizeable amount of heart. The special features on disc one are good, but the documentary and accompanying features on disc 2 make this a great purchase, especially if buying it won’t be a double dip for you.