“Lilo & Stitch” is a very unconventional Disney film. It has all of the beauty of the Disney classics as the animators bring Hawaii to life through the unique appearance of the characters and the highlighting of Hawaiian culture; and yet, the main character is a fugitive alien who belches and develops an affinity for the music of Elvis Presley. It is interesting to look back at the advertising campaign for this film, which focused on how Stitch is unlike any other Disney character. Four teaser trailers placed him into different Disney films with mischievous results. The theatrical trailer drew attention to him not fitting into the Disney stereotype. Even the film poster focused solely on Stitch, showing all of the classic Disney characters looking at him with the headline “There’s one in every family.” But I believe that Stitch has been completely misrepresented. This film is drawn together by one important theme: Ohana. “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind.” Both Lilo and Stitch act out because of their broken family situations but this film goes beyond their defiant actions. We should remember the Stitch that cries out “I’m lost” when he reads The Ugly Duckling, not the one in the “Stitch’s Great Escape” ride at Disney World. He isn’t any different than Simba when he runs away or Elsa when she isolates herself. It’s true that the constant stream of jokes and mischief makes the story feel more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a Disney classic, but the tandem journey of the main characters to find themselves supersedes any of the slapstick comedy. Like all of the entries in the Disney animated canon from 1999-2008, this film would have been better as a musical. Several Elvis songs and another called “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” cannot compare to “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea.” Alan Silvestri’s score captures the important emotional moments for the main characters, but it just doesn’t feel like Disney without those musical numbers. In the end, you’ll love the jokes (especially anything involving mosquitoes), be amazed by the animation, and your heart will melt once Stitch calms down and reminds you of your favorite pet. “Lilo & Stitch” may be completely unconventional on the surface but the heart of its story captures the Disney essence.
[Pictured: This is the Stitch that we should remember]