Lilo & Stitch
The art of animation has certainly come a long way. Many of us created our own primitive flip books by drawing a series of pictures; each one slightly different from its predecessor and successor. When you flip the pages you create the illusion of movement. this may have been the humble origins of this style of art but there has certainly been vast improvements over the decades; many of them within the last ten years or so. This is also basis for all movies since all it takes to make a film is to substitute drawings with photographs; the same concept still applies. One studio has stood at the apex of animation and family entertainment for over seventy years and show no signs of relinquishing its position; the Walt Disney Studio. The released the first animated feature length movie in 1937 with ‘Snow White’ and ever since they have been delighting one generation after another with they magical films. Disney helped to pioneer the advent of computerized graphics into animated films taking it from a novelty to an entirely new format for telling a story. In 2002 they once again reinvented animation with their film ‘Lilo and Stitch’. It may sport a different look and feel than the Disney movies most of us grew up with but at its core it is one of the best Disney has ever presented. One of the many wonderful things about a Disney movie is they do not present a condescending attitude to the kids or adults in the audience. They acknowledge the fact even children have emotions, thoughts and are able to follow a story. This movie is part of a new wave of Disney movies and is destined to be a classic and remembered with the same affection as the other members of the much lauded Disney animated canon. It was followed by a relatively shorted lived television series and, of course, there have been DVD releases of the film right after the theatrical release. In true Disney fashion there is another bite at the home theater market with the all new ‘Big Wave’ edition DVD. Like most other re-releases this one contains plenty of family friendly extras to keep the kids and grown occupied long after they are done watching the film. With this movie Disney is doing what they do best; bring families together for an evening of sheer joy and entertainment. It is rare that a movie can keep the children happy while also engaging the adults but this one manages to do it with style.
The original idea came from the fertile mind of Chris Sanders who developed it into a screenplay with Dean DeBlois. Sanders has a career that only spanned a decade at the time of this movie but they are all groundbreaking Disney classic; ‘Mulan’, ‘The Lion King’, ‘Aladin’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’. I sincerely doubt that there are many people in the country who do not have fond memories of at least one of these films. DeBois had less experience with co-authorship of ‘Mulan’ as his only other previous credit but together they made a story that hits every requirement for entertainment. The main characteristic of this story reaches young and old alike; feeling alone and isolated. We are a social animal and we all need to have friends. In this story a little girl who wishes on the proverbial star for a friend. Her wish is answered but not in the way she could ever imagine. This whimsical tale is about the social outcasts and misfits and at one time or another in our lives we have experienced it. The choice for a location was groundbreaking in its own way. Instead of some far off fairy tale kingdom of big city the writers placed this in Hawaii. There is a certain intrinsic wonderment ti this setting with the tropical landscape and local customs yet is it is still part of the United States. Lilo finds the friend she craves in the unlikely form of a little alien outcast from another planet.
Sanders and Debois also collaborated on the direction of this film. Although this was the first time for both they did an incredible job of it. The story seamlessly blends science fiction, fantasy and the warmth of a good old fashion family story. For those out there that have been long time fans of Disney movies the first thing you might notice is the different look of the movie. The backgrounds are done in watercolors that add warmth to the picture that sets it above the colder feel of a lot of 3-D style computer animation. Considering the setting of the tropical island of Hawaii this was the only way to go. Computer graphics are great and have their place but it is reassuring to know that there is still a place for techniques like those used here. There is just the right amount of family friendly danger and excitement to keep the entire family on the edge of their seats for the duration of the film.
On a far away planet Dr. Jumba Jookiba (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) is standing trial for illegal genetic experiments. One of the creatures he created, experiment 626, later known as Stitch (voiced by Chris Sanders) is deemed too powerful and dangerous to keep around. He has an instinct for mayhem and potential for being lethal. He is banished by the council to a deserted asteroid but manages to steal a vehicle and heads for earth. Once there he is able to hide the extra limbs and feathers that make him stand out and now looks like a strange little animal. The little critter is inadvertently hit by a car and the driver takes him to a local animal shelter. Once there he is adopted by Lilo Pelekai (voiced by Daveigh Chase) who was recently orphaned and is now living with her adult sister Nani (voiced by Tia Carrere).She thinks the creature is a dog and names him Stitch. Lilo begins to become emotional bonded to Stitch and actually identifies with his propensity towards mayhem. Meanwhile the creature is being hunted by people from his home world and the chase is on. There are elements of a lighter ‘Men in Black’ combined with the usual fun we have come to expect from Disney.
This Big wave edition is fantastic. The video is perfect with a color palette that is gentle and soothing. The audio provides a full sound stage that envelops the living room. This is a full blown two disc edition with the second disc jammed full of entertaining extras. This is a new classic that will be part of your family tradition for a long time to come.