17. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
As mentioned in the Emperor’s New Groove entry, Disney was struggling in the early 2000’s, but there were some successes along the way and Lilo & Stitch was one of them. This is an odd film because it was only Disney by name only. Heck, the ads for it had Stitch interrupting classic Disney moments we all loved and adored. The film did the opposite of the typical route and dove into science fiction, which Disney did and failed with Atlantis: The Lost Empire the year prior. Where it succeeds unlike Atlantis is by making a film that as not too ambitious, yet not afraid to take risks either. I’ll clear this up in the next portion. The story is about an alien named Experiment 626 (Chris Sanders) created by Jabba (David Ogden Stiers), a mad scientist hellbent on experiments. While being sent to prison, 626 escapes and crash lands to Earth in Hawaii. Here he meets up with Lilo (Daviegh Chase) who is looking to adopt a dog. Her sister Nani (Tia Carrere) has been struggling to make ends meet. Luckily, these two meet and begin to discover the odd bond that can come from such an unlikely friendship.
Honestly, this sort of movie is ballsy because it is deeper than that plot synopsis. It’s a story about family and the struggles dealt with it, be it without a family or with having to deal with the loss of one. Lilo struggles with Nani as they cope with mourning the loss of their mom and dad in an accident. Stitch is nothing more than a creation of science who has no sense of structure or having family. It takes a deep route of not only that, but the abuse Lilo faces at home due to the stuggling. They even deal with the idea of Child Services being able to take away a child seriously, even if the agent’s name is Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames). Even better, it never feels forced or overly cheesy. The animation also feels more realistic despite the creative alien designs. The world of Hawaii is lush with greens, blues and browns while the designs of the human characters have a natural cartoon aura to them. It is a marvel of modern animation that has grown into popularity over the years and it is all well-deserved.
Critic’s Quote: “This is a happy throwback to the time when cartoons were cinema’s most idiosyncratic form instead of one of its most predictable.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2002
Signature Moment: Lilo and Nani lie under the stars in a hammock spending one possibly last good night together as Stitch looks on in sorrow.