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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Dean DeBlois
Cast:
Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere, Ving Rhames, Jason Scott Lee, Kevin McDonald, David Ogden Stiers
Writing Credits:
Chris Sanders

Tagline:
There's one in every family.

Box Office:
Budget
$80 million.
Opening Weekend
$35.26 million on 3191 screens.
Domestic Gross
$145.177 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG for mild sci-fi action.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 85 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/24/2009

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Producer Clark Spencer and Writers/Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
• “Your Ohana” Music Video
• “Lilo and Stitch Island of Adventures” Games
• DisneyPedia: “Hawaii – The Islands of Aloha”
• Create Your Own Alien Experiment Game
•” A Stitch in Time: Follow Stitch Through the Disney Years”
• Hula Lesson, Young Voices of Hawaii
• “Burning Love” – Behind the Scenes with Wynonna
• “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” Music Video
• “Animating the Hula” Featurette
• Theatrical Teaser Trailers
DVD Two:
• “The Story Room” Documentary
• Documentary Footnotes
• Deleted Scenes and Early Versions


PURCHASE
DVD
Music soundtrack

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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Lilo & Stitch: Big Wave Edition (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 16, 2009)

With 2002’s Lilo & Stitch, Disney earned an improbable hit. For one, neither they nor any other studio had put out a cel animated flick that made more than $100 million since Tarzan raked in a formidable $171 million in the summer of 1999. Between Tarzan and Stitch, Disney put out three other traditionally animated flicks: 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove and Fantasia 2000 plus 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. None of them exactly cleaned up at the box office, though Groove showed stronger monetary legs than many expected.

With a take of $145 million, Stitch didn’t plow over the competition, but given the declining returns accorded traditionally animated flicks these days, that total sure looked good. It seems especially positive given the unusual nature of the film itself. With a small child as a leading lady, no real villains or heroes, and no musical numbers, Stitch differs from other Disney films. It provides a nice breath of fresh air that makes it a winning experience.

At the start of Stitch, we encounter an alien society in which Dr. Jumba Jookiba (voiced by David Ogden Stiers), the lead scientist of Galaxy Defense Industries, conducted illegal genetic experiments. These resulted in the creation of Experiment 626 (Christopher Michael Sanders), a tiny but powerful creature imbued with nothing more than the desire to destroy. The Grand Councilwoman (Zoe Caldwell) imprisons Jumba and banishes 626 to an asteroid-based prison, but while Captain Gantu (Kevin Michael Richardson) tries to fly away with the little fella, 626 escapes.

The monster hijacks a spacecraft and puts it into hyperspace. This randomly sends him toward Earth, where he crashes on a small Hawaiian island. Initially the aliens want to just gas the planet, but specialist Agent Pleakley (Kevin McDonald) indicates that Earth offers a protected habitat for an “endangered species”: mosquitoes. The Councilwoman then sends Pleakley and Jumba to quietly recapture 626.

In the meanwhile, we meet Lilo (Daveigh Chase), an orphaned young misfit who doesn’t connect well with the other kids. She lives with her older sister Nani (Tia Carrere), but their home doesn’t seem to work very well. Matters get worse when they receive a visit from intimidating social worker Mr. Bubbles (Ving Rhames), who warns Nani that she needs to shape up or Lilo will need to depart the home.

After 626 lands on Earth, a series of trucks hits him. The little guy’s indestructible, but the impacts stun him, and he ends up in a local animal shelter. Since Lilo seems so lonely, Nani takes her to get a pet, and Lilo immediately takes to her fellow misfit. 626 tries to escape, but when he sees Jumba and Pleakley ready to ambush him, he decides to stick it out with his new guardians. Renamed “Stitch” by Lilo, the odd family try to adjust to each other, but Stitch’s violent tendencies usually cause concerns, and these ultimately make things much worse when his actions get Nani fired from her job.

From there Stitch mostly follows two plot lines. We see the aliens’ attempts to recapture the escapade experiment, and we watch the ways in which Nani, Lilo and Stitch start to bond as a family. Also waiting in the wings we find David (Jason Scott Lee), a young dude with the hots for Nani.

Disney offers lots of movies with non-traditional families. Heck, it’s hard to think of many that aren’t missing a father (Toy Story, Cinderella) or a mother (Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas). The clan in Stitch seems different, however, if just because if presents a more realistic form of dysfunction.

Of the movies I mentioned above, either the groups appeared very warm and loving, or they came across as excessively problematic. For example, Belle and her father were very close, while it’s tough to fathom a less loving relationship than that between Cinderella, her stepmother, and her stepsisters.

Of the aforementioned flicks, only the two Toy Story movies provide characters in a modern setting, and those films don’t much concentrate on the human families. On the other hand, Stitch uses “family” as a main theme, so those dynamics become paramount. To its credit, Stitch shows that Nani and Lilo care for each other, but the flick doesn’t hesitate to present the strains that fall on both.

Lilo seems remarkably flawed and human for a Disney character. We clearly see her problems and issues, and while the film makes her sympathetic, we can also discern how she’d get on the nerves of Nani and the other kids. Lilo provides something of a “warts and all” little oddball. Normally when we encounter personalities that others in the film don’t like, we totally see the side of the shunned one. They’re made out to be superior in most ways and we’re told how stupid and myopic the others are.

That doesn’t really happen in Stitch. Admittedly, the little girls who disdain Lilo don’t receive positive treatment, but because Lilo comes across as so genuinely odd, we can see understand their attitudes. In addition, her interactions with Nani show how troubled a little girl Lilo is, and these make her much more dimensional than the average Disney character. Usually they have various personal concerns but present hearts of gold; they seem to possess some form of inner light, really. That doesn’t happen with Lilo, who comes across as a quirky but otherwise totally believable little girl.

At times, Stitch tends to hammer us with its family theme, but overall, that doesn’t become an issue. Indeed, it adds some depth to the movie. Periodically that concept seems a little forced and hokey, but it also resonates nicely much of the time. We grow to care about this odd little clan and actually begin to believe the notions it promotes, even if they do seem somewhat heavy-handed on occasion.

Lilo & Stitch doesn’t provide an exceptional piece of Disney animation, but it works well as a whole. Despite the unusual leading characters, much of the film seems pretty traditional, as it mixes action, comedy, and sentiment into a neat little package. An unassuming piece, Stitch provides a nicely charming and entertaining film.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A- / Bonus A+

Lilo & Stitch appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Were it not for one problem area, the transfer would have excelled.

The main issue stemmed from edge enhancement. Moderately heavy haloes permeated the movie and caused distractions. They occasionally affected definition as well. Most of the movie showed good delineation, but some elements came across as a little blurry and tentative due to the haloes.

Otherwise, I found a lot to like about the presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects appeared absent. In regard to print flaws, I noticed none, as the movie looked clean and fresh from start to finish.

The tropical Hawaiian setting of Stitch meant that it boasted a wonderfully vivid and varied palette, and the DVD presented those hues well. The colors consistently looked dazzling. From the lush landscapes to the vibrant fish to the bold tones of the aliens, the hues always came across as lively and tight. Black levels also seemed terrifically deep and solid, while shadow detail was appropriately dense but never seemed overly murky. Though much of the image pleased, the excessive edge enhancement left this as a “B-“ presentation.

Lilo & Stitch also provided a pretty strong Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Much of the movie favored the front channels, but the mix opened up well when appropriate. It started strong in that domain due to the outer space escapades, and it also concluded with a lot of exciting sonic activity. In between, things seemed more subdued, but the soundfield matched the film nicely.

Music always demonstrated positive stereo imaging, and the effects created a realistic and involving sense of atmosphere. When the action heated up, the surrounds added a fine layer of material that contributed some lively and engaging audio. For example, when 626 escaped the prison vessel through the ventilation grid, he skittered about convincing, and all the shots that featured space flight appeared solid.

Audio quality seemed very positive. Dialogue always came across as natural and warm, and I detected no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Music appeared bright and dynamic, with concise highs and rich lows. Effects also were tight and realistic. Those elements betrayed no distortion, as they consistently appeared clean and accurate.

The effects provided some strong bass response as well. From laser fire to explosions to Captain Gantu’s pounding steps, the low-end sounded deep and rich without any boominess or other issues. Because much of the movie lacked a very ambitious soundfield, I nearly gave Lilo & Stitch a “B+” for audio, but the terrific climactic sequence demonstrated enough activity to bump it up to an “A-“.

How did the picture and sound of this 2009 “Big Wave Edition” compare to those of the original 2002 DVD? Both seemed identical, which was a disappointment in terms of visuals. Given the edge enhancement, I wish Disney had offered a better presentation for the 2009 version.

When it came to extras, the two-disc “Big Wave Edition” added a ton of components to those found on the original disc. I’ll mark new supplements with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, then that component popped up on the old release.

We start with an *audio commentary from producer Clark Spencer and writers/directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story and characters, rewrites and changes from the original script, cast and performances, Hawaiian elements, the movie’s visual style and use of watercolors, and music.

Apparently recorded back around the time of the film’s 2002 release, the filmmakers provide a terrific look at the flick. I especially like the notes about story elements; the commentary starts with a discussion of radical changes made to the opening, and it continues to dig into many fascinating similar issues as the flick progresses. The filmmakers throw out many other cool notes and turn this into a terrific little chat.

By the way, if you don’t normally stick around through the end of audio commentaries, you should make an exception here. We get some surprisingly snarky and sarcastic thoughts about one of the film’s musical contributors during the end credits. I love it!

Next comes a *music video. We find “Your Ohana” performed by the Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus, and we watch movie clips as they perform. It’s as forgettable and blah as that description sounds.

Another new component arrives via the *Lilo & Stitch Island of Adventures Games. This breaks down into three mini-games, some meant to be played with friends. This is actually a sampler from a DVD available separately. None are especially memorable. (Note that these come from a 2003 DVD game also titled Island of Adventures.)

DisneyPedia entry that tells us about “Hawaii – the Islands of Aloha”. Narrated by Tia Carrere and Daveigh Chase in character, these lead us through six islands individually or together via the “Play All” option. (Cutely, if you wait too long to select something, Chase starts to complain.)

Taken through the “Play All” method, these segments last a total of eight minutes and 34 seconds; additional narration shows up in the menu screen as well. These clips cover topics like volcanoes, surfing, luaus, ukuleles, leis, and other issues that connect strongly to Hawaii. They also offer a short vocabulary lesson in many native terms. Obviously oriented toward the kiddies, these pieces offer a moderately entertaining little romp through the islands.

Next we get the Create Your Own Alien Experiment Game. Narrated in character by David Ogden Stiers, this combines trivia questions and guessing contests to get you to make three different alien critters. The problems seem fairly easy, and the color sequencing activity is very forgiving. “Experiment” doesn’t go much of anywhere – it offers no reward for successful completion – but it offers a painless experience.

A novel extra, A Stitch in Time: Follow Stitch Through the Disney Years lasts three and a half minutes as it presents the notion of Stitch as a struggling actor. Narrated out of character by David Ogden Stiers, it shows stills from many Disney classics like Pinocchio and 101 Dalmatians. Though not as much fun as the ads I’ll soon discuss, “Time” still presents a moderately cute extra.

The Hula Lesson provides what its title implies. We get a three-minute, 35-second presentation from Mark Keali’I Ho’omalu, hula consultant and Hawaiian music composer. We learn a little about the hula and then get led through some basic steps. Brief and insubstantial, “Lesson” does at least offer a decent little overview of the dance form.

”Burning Love” – Behind the Scenes with Wynonna looks at that song’s recording. We watch her sing and hear from Wynonna as well as writer/director Chris Sanders during this 90-second clip. It seems very flimsy and pointless, especially since it doesn’t even bother to toss in a full performance of the tune.

After this we do find a music video for “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by A-Teens. Like most other clips of this ilk, “Falling” mixes movie clips with very cutesy lip-synch images of the performers. Clocking in at a mere 60 seconds, this video seems lame.

For a little more behind the scenes material, check out Animating the Hula, a three-minute and four-second featurette. This discusses the challenges of bringing that dance to the cartoon screen. It shows behind the scenes dance footage and animation shots, movie bits, and interviews with Sanders and De Blois and producer Spencer. It doesn’t present a wealth of information, but it mentions some of the methods used to translate the dance, and it also includes a nice split-screen comparison that lets us watch real hula alongside the animated version.

Another very fun extra, the theatrical teaser trailers section includes four ads. Each of these places Stitch within the milieu of a different Disney classic: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King. All of them seem wonderfully ingenious and amusing.

With that, we head to DVD Two and its components. The primary attraction comes from *The Story Room, a two-hour, five-minute and 25-second documentary. The program features Sanders, DeBlois, Spencer, Ho’omalu, Disney Feature Animation executive vice president Pam Coats, Disney Feature Animation president Thomas Schumacher, Disney Feature Animation chairman Roy E. Disney, art director Ric Sluiter, visual development Marcello Vignali, background supervisor Robert E. Stanton, visual effects supervisor Joe Gilland, supervising animators Alex Kupershmidt, Byron Howard and Andreas Deja, production designer Paul Felix, layout supervisor Arden Chan, story artist Chris Williams, co-head of clean-up Christine Lawrence-Finney, associate editor Eric Dapkewicz, Walt Disney Music president Chris Montan, composer Alan Silvestri, and music teacher Lynell K. Bright.

We learn how the filmmakers got into animation and their growth at Disney, the origins of Lilo and the development of its story, and research in Hawaii. From here we go through character and visual design, cast and performances, alterations to the original story plans, art and animation issues, test screenings and further changes. Finally, the show looks at maintaining sanity during the long production period, score and songs, and promoting and premiering the movie.

Frequent readers know that I often malign DVD documentaries that tell us everything about the production was happy, happy. “Room” does not provide that kind of program. No, it doesn’t provide a dark, dismal view of the film’s creation, but it feels much more “warts and all” than usual, as it presents many conflicts and problems that accompanied the production

Since the commentary includes so much information, I worried that “Room” would be little more than a long rehash of the same bits and pieces. Happily, that doesn’t occur, as it presents many fresh notes and perspectives. Told in a straightforward, uncomplicated manner, the documentary works exceedingly well as it gives us a great view of the production.

(Truth in titling note: I’m not sure that the documentary is actually named “The Story Room”. That’s the title listed on the box, but the DVD just refers to it as “documentary”. “Story Room” doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense as the title of a comprehensive documentary, but it’s the only name I can find, so I’ll go with it!)

For more info about the elements referenced in the show, we get 25 Documentary Footnotes. Some of these also appear elsewhere; “Footnotes” repeats the four teaser trailers on DVD One as well as the eight “Deleted Scenes/Early Versions” I’ll discuss soon.

That means “Footnotes” provides 13 clips not located elsewhere. Simply show scenes from movies alluded to during the program: we get short scenes from Mulan and Dumbo. The other 11 fall into the “behind the scenes” category. These include “Walking Is Falling: Joe Grant In Conversation With Dean DeBlois” (10:40), “Chris’ Pitch Book” (42 screens), “Chris’ Photo Gallery” (1:04), “Treatise on Stitch” (7:09), “Andreas Deja’s Sketches of Lilo” (4:32), “Fishing with Ric” (9:15), “Ric Sluiter Interviews Maurice Noble” (10:46), “Chalk Talk: Alex Kupershmidt on Stitch” (8:38), “Chalk Talk: Andrea Deja on Lilo” (9:36), “The Sanders Style Book” (9:51), and “Dean Pitches New Sequence, Early Version of ‘Dysfunctional Angel’” (3:07). All together, the components unique to “Footnotes” run a total of one hour, 14 minutes and 36 seconds.

What do we find in these pieces? We mostly get more notes from the filmmakers, though exceptions occur. “Falling” offers thoughts from legendary 95-year-old Disney animator Joe Grant, “Interviews” features long-time Disney artist Maurice Noble, and “Pitch Book” lets us see Sanders’ early story outline. “Pitches” throws in footage that takes us to a story meeting, and “Photo Gallery” includes stills taken during a Hawiian research trip. “Treatise” presents details about Stitch made to look like they come from a government agency. Both “Chalk Talk” segments show the animators in the film’s early days of production as they instruct their peers about how to design the characters.

I think it was a good idea for the documentary’s creators to omit this material from the final documentary, as the stuff feels like footnotes; some get pretty technical. That said, we find plenty of interesting pieces here, so give them a look. I think the producers put a lot of thought into what they included, and the “Footnotes” add value to the set.

DVD Two also presents five *Deleted Scenes and three *Early Versions. In terms of the “Deleted Scenes”, we find “Stitch’s Trial” (2:17), “Gantu’s Challenge” (1:30), “The Untimely Death of Pudge the Fish” (2:16), “Bedtime Story” (1:51), and “The 747 Sequence” (3:16). Under “Early Versions”, we find “Model Citizen: Mayhem on the Beach” (1:49), “Jumba Attacks” (2:23), and “The 747 Sequence with Stitch’s Gang” (5:19). (“Trial”, “Challenge” and “Bedtime” repeat from the 2002 DVD; the others are new to this set.) These snippets mix finished art, pencil animation, and a few storyboards; they vary radically in terms of level of completion.

The deleted “747” sequence was pretty much finished; as we learn elsewhere, it got revamped to suit post-9/11 sensitivities. Though referred to as an “early version”, “Jumba Attacks” also features mostly final animation; it was dropped because test audiences thought it was too violent. In that vein, “Pudge” seems awfully dark; I’m surprised it ever got off the drawing board. Many of the scenes probably would have worked fine in the film, and all are a lot of fun to see.

Does this “Big Wave Edition” omit anything from the prior DVD? Yup – it omits a few featurettes. Also, the old disc’s “Deleted Scenes” included some intros from the directors that fail to reappear here. I don’t know why the new disc cut those, and it’s too bad the other snippets didn’t reappear; some may’ve been redundant when combined with this DVD’s extras, but I still think reissues should provide all the old material, even when the stuff may seem repetitive.

While not the best of Disney’s animated films, Lilo & Stitch nonetheless provides an entertaining and unusual piece of work. It doesn’t totally reinvent the Disney wheel, but it stands as something different for them, and it generally achieves its goals as it offers a compelling experience. The DVD provides erratic picture, terrific audio, and a simply fascinating collection of supplements. On the surface, it doesn’t look like this DVD provides tons of extras, but the bits we find are really well done.

Your interest in bonus features will dictate your decision to get the “Big Wave Edition” of Lilo & Stitch. If you don’t care about extras, you’ll be fine with the single-disc 2002 release; both releases feature essentially identical picture and audio. The “Big Wave” set throws in some excellent supplements, though, so it’s definitely the way to go for fans who want to learn more about the film.

To rate this film visit the original review of LILO & STITCH

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main