Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy 10th Birthday, Lilo & Stitch!

It was on this day, ten years ago, that Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois' animated masterpiece, Lilo & Stitch, landed in movie theaters. Although it was easily one of the, unorthodox animated films that Disney had released, it was an immediate hit with critics and audiences alike. Adorable and unforgettable, Stitch quickly joined the stable of go-to characters for Disney's many marketing and merchandising needs. Hell, they even hastily re-themed a Tomorrowland ride in order to make his presence stronger in the parks!

In the ensuing decade, Lilo & Stitch has lost none of its magic. The sarcastic yet sentimental script still packs a wallop. The character designs look as fresh now as they first did. The voice work never fails to feel both hilarious and heartfelt. The energy and artistry of the animation (care of Andreas Deja and Alex Kupershmidt, among many, many others) is still a wonder to watch, and the gorgeous watercolor backgrounds have yet to be topped via CGI. While rumor has it that John Lasseter hates L&S, methinks Walt would've loved it. After all, with the lion's share of Disney's modern animated flicks taking their cues from Snow White and Cinderella, this is the only one to blend the tenderness of Dumbo with the irascible insanity of the original Mickey Mouse shorts.

On a more navel-gazing note, Lilo & Stitch helped me immeasurably in a time of tragedy. When my pops killed himself, leaving my kid sister and I as late-in-life orphans, L&S's repeated mantra of 'ohana' ("Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind...or forgotten.") and its focus on keeping a fractured family together (as well as being open to adding new members to it), hit me like an uncut speed-ball of spiritual strength and emotional stamina. While it would be hyperbolic to say that I wouldn't have survived the experience without Lilo & Stitch, it would be equally untrue to say that it did not help. A lot.

NEWS FLASH: If it was not already achingly apparent, Lilo & Stitch was the film that inspired the Chris Sanders fandom which wrought this blog. (That's a plus or a minus depending entirely upon your perspective.) Through this blog, I've been lucky enough to meet other folks with similar stories to mine. Some first saw the film ten years ago, upon its initial release. Others didn't find it 'til a year or two ago. Still, we all have one thing in common: Lilo & Stitch changed our lives forever and for the better. And honestly, isn't that the ultimate testament to any piece of art's continued relevance?

Happy 10th birthday, Lilo & Stitch! And thanks a million, Chris and Dean!

Five more L&S retrospectives:

1. Alex Sferrazza's look back at Lilo & Stitch
2. Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois' 2009 interview re: L&S
3. Lilo & Stitch producer Clark Spencer remembers the film
4. The Entertainment Nut's super-smart, irrefutably informative remembrance.
5. Some shameless, aimless blogger rambles on for waaay too long about their undying love of L&S and how it's inspired them to unofficially hype some other film that's not even going to be released for at least another year. Seriously, you can probably skip this one.

A few choice quotes:

Lilo (pulling a doll out of her backpack): This is Scrump. I made her. But her head is too big, so I pretended that a bug laid eggs in her ear, and she's upset because she has only a few more days to...

Lilo: We're a broken family, aren't we?
Nani: No. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. I shouldn't have yelled at you.
Lilo: We're sisters. It's our job.
Nani: Yeah, well, from now on...
Lilo: I like you better as a sister than a mom.

Lilo (while creating voodoo dolls of her playmates): My friends need to be punished.

Pleakley: Look! A mosquito has chosen me as her perch. She's so beautiful. Look, another one! And another one! Why, it's a whole flock! They like me! They're nuzzling my flesh with their noses! Now they're... they're... Aaaaaaaah!

Lilo: You came back.
Stitch: Nobody gets left behind.

Stitch: This is my family. I found it all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good. Yeah - still good.

Some of my favorite scenes from the film:

The beautiful opening credits sequence:

The Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride scene:


  1. Hello. Thanks for commenting on my Lilo & Stitch post on my Wordpress blog. Nice to know I'm not the only one who remembered its anniversary. As you commented on my blog, I felt it only fair to done same with yours.

  2. Glad you could stop by, mwh. Your piece was perfect. In fact, it made me hella jealous and inspired a good five minutes of 'why do I keep doing this if guys like mwh are out there doing it so much better?'-style agony within me. So...uh...THANKS! ;)

  3. Just speaking for myself, this post here is tremendously moving and makes me want to go and watch the film again right away.

    (That's not to take anything away from the excellent post by MWH1980; both enrich my appreciation of Lilo and Stitch and I'd be deprived of much enjoyment if I hadn't read both. Now I have to check out the other links you provided...)

  4. Hey, I know you! We used to kinda-sorta correspond when I did a blog for the Inkwell Bookstore. It's great to hear from you again. And yes -- GO WATCH THE MOVIE AGAIN! It holds up wonderfully.

  5. (deadpan voice) Imagine that. What an amazing coincidence. I am completely shocked and stunned.

    1. Sad but true: I actually was amazed. I reckon I'm oblivious to some obvious online resource, but I honestly cannot figure out how you'd have known that I was the same fella who did the Inkwell Blog. While I'm tempted to ask you to share your trade secrets, I think I'd miss the mystery surrounding my newly imagined persona for you: Dick Bensam, Digital Detective.

    2. You might be underestimating the fan following you developed in your previous endeavors!

  6. It's nice to know the stuff I write is 'legible.' I'm not very verbal in real life, and it usually takes plenty of alcohol to get me to really be 'forward' (it just so happens there's 4 beers and some Johnny Walker fueling this reply :P ).

    I was watching the scene where Stitch is in the forest and says 'I'm lost.' I think it is really a very poignant moment, and I can't think of any other moment in the last 10 years of Disney Feature Animation (excluding Pixar!) that has that much heart to it.

    I was the eldest brother of two younger sisters. I remember when our Mom passed away in 1995, it was a major turning point, and both of my sisters did not get along well during their pre-teen/teen years all that well. Eventually, they have mellowed in the years since, but the slamming of doors and yellings of 'you are such a brat!' did reminde me of the fights in the film (funny enough, one of my sisters did get a rabbit when she moved to Toronto, and I was eager to know how she'd react to Lilo's 'rabbit' comment!).

    Btw, there's a great 6-part interview with Chris Sanders on Youtube, and it provides some amazing insight into making the film, notably how Thomas Schumacher shepherded and attempted to keep the making of it quiet and secretive...because if 'the suits' had gotten ahold of it, can you imagine how they would have attempted to punch it up? There's even a great moment where Michael Eisner saw it and said, 'I like it! I can't say exactly why, but I like it!'

    P.S. I think when something hits us emotionally, there's always a film that we tie to it. For me, when my Mom passed away, it was 'Forrest Gump.' When Forrest lost his Mom, it reminded me of my own (who also had cancer, and died on a Tuesday, and when Forrest lost Jenny, it reminded me of my Dad (Jenny was my Mom's nickname, and I think like Forrest, he kept his sadness about her passing away from us to appear 'strong').

    1. This was not only 'legible', it was genuinely touching and incredibly appreciated. Thanks a million for sharing that.

      Honestly, what you wrote is exactly the sort of response that I was hoping to inspire with this blog. While I am sooo looking forward to 'The Croods' (hell, to ANY new Chris Sanders film), I knew at this blog's inception that news bits and sound bites were only going to go so far to interest readers...and me. So I decided to try and make at least a third of the posts about the reasons WHY I'm compiling said news bits and sound bites. I decided to try and explore the emotional connection I have to Sanders' films, and, as you said, the emotional connection that we have to films in general. While this occasionally leaves me feeling overtly emo and/or shamelessly look-at-me, I keep hoping that it will also help me to form a few new friendships and receive some sort of outside insights into my obsessions.

      I feel like Richard Bensam (the only other commenter on this post thus far) is a kindred spirit in this regard. His blog does much the same thing, using essays and reviews to detail and dissect his pop culture delights. Heck, he's even written and edited a couple of books about his favorite comic books! (Warning! Warning! Jealousy levels are reaching their critical limits!)

      Just so's you know, mwh1980, I've added both you and Bensam to my mental list of active allies in the battle against the thumbs-up/thumbs-down, best-movie-ever/THAT SUCKS style of reviewing that currently passes for introspection on the internet. I know that this is a war we will not win. In fact, we will surely die without seeing any shift in the hive mind's mindset. Still, it'll be fun to pick apart our likes and dislikes, mining gravitas from goofy shit and insights from the seemingly insignificant. Not only that, we just might make some like-minded internet acquaintances along the way. How cool is that?