Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy 11th Birthday, Lilo & Stitch!

NOTE: This post originally appeared on 6/21/12. Back then, it was titled 'Happy 10th Birthday, Lilo & Stitch.' You see what I did there? CLEVER.

It was on this day, eleven 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 11th 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:

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