While the sequel is often weaker than the original, the "Lilo and Stitch" series has - at least in my opinion - improved after the first film, with a pair of enjoyable sequels and an entertaining Saturday morning TV series. The film opens on a far-off planet, where scientist Jumba (David Ogden Stiers) has just gone against the laws of the planet by creating Stitch, an unstoppable little monster who's got a rude sense of humor and whose focus is destroying pretty much everything. In the middle of being sent far away, Stitch escapes and heads towards Earth on a stolen ship, crash-landing in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, a little girl named Lilo (Daveigh Chase) is living with her older sister (Tia Carrere), who is barely able to keep control over the sometimes bratty Lilo, who is still trying to adjust to having her sister being her parent. Tension arrives in the form of an intimiding social worker named Bubbles (voiced by Ving Rhames), who is skeptical that Nani can take care of her younger sister. At the local pound, Lilo runs into "Experiment 626", the little escaped alien monster, who she renames Stitch.
Of course, the two become fast friends, even if Stitch continues to cause trouble whereever he goes. Things are complicated when the scientist and an assistant are forced to venture to Earth to bring back Stitch - any way possible.
The original film certainly has its moments - some of his scenes (such as the moment where he plays "Godzilla" with Lilo's miniature city in her room) are very amusing. Stitch's transformation from destructive creature to a part of Lilo and Nani's "family" is also nicely handled. However, the main issue with the original film that I continue to be unable to overlook is the heavy-handed (both in delivery and frequency) way that the film's messages (mainly regarding the importance of family) are delivered.
While messages regarding the importance of family are terrific, the picture goes over the same ground again and again, topped with a score by Alan Silvestri that borders on sappy at times. The TV series - and to some degree the sequel - have managed to weave in the occasional lesson, but have mostly focused on the adventures of the title characters. Overall, "Lilo and Stitch" is a decent effort, but it still stands as a bit of a letdown in comparison to the film that came before it - "Emperor's New Groove" - and will likely be enjoyed by kids more than adults.
VIDEO: "Lilo and Stitch" is presented by Disney in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although the film's animation isn't as striking as some of the computer animated pictures of recent years, it still looks quite nice on this DVD presentation. Sharpness and detail are excellent throughout; while this film's animation has a somewhat "soft" quality, it still looks crisp and attractive here.
While the animation is good, but not magnificent, the way that the transfer presents it certainly is superb - there's not a scratch to be found on the print used, while no edge enhancement or pixelation was found. The film's vivid and rich color palette also looked stellar, appearing well-saturated and bright, with no smearing.
SOUND: "Lilo and Stitch" is presented by Disney in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although not terribly aggressive (aside from Stitch's escape in the opening and the film's final sequences), I appreciated the little things about this mix: the way it presented the Hawaiian-themed score with exceptional clarity, detail and warmth and the occasional ambience and smooth use of the surrounds to fill the room with the score and the occasional sound effect. Dialogue also remained crisp and clear. While not outstanding, this was certainly still an enjoyable listening experience.
Teaser Trailers: "Stitch"'s teaser trailers had the character entering into the world of some of the other Disney cartoons (Beauty and the Beast, etc.). Four (Stitch with: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid and Lion King) teasers - which I believe are all there was - are included here. The "Lion King" teaser is easily the funniest of the four, in my opinion.
On Location With the Directors: This is a fairly rough (but better for it) featurette that lasts nearly twenty minutes. Thankfully, this isn't one of those wacky, perky featurettes that takes a look at the process in-between lots of promotion, but a down-to-earth and occasionally quite funny mix of clips looking at the animation process, recording the voices and other steps along the way. Quite honestly, I'd call this the disc's best supplement.
Featurettes: "Young Voices of Hawaii", "The Look of Lilo and Stitch" and "Animating the Hula" are the three production-related featurettes included. Although "Voices" is fine, the "Look" and "Hula" pieces are more interesting, as they take a good - if very brief - look at the animation process. All three featurettes are only a few minutes each.
Also: "Disneypedia" informative featurette on Hawaii; "A Stitch in Time" parody featurette, with Stitch's place in Disney history; "Hula Lesson" featurette; "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You", A-Teens music vid; "Burning Love" - Behind the Scenes W/Winona Judd and 3 deleted scenes w/intros.
This new set also includes a few major new extras, starting with a director's commentary from co-directors Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois, who are joined by producer Clark Spencer. While I still have some minor reservations about the film, the audio commentary is one of the better tracks that I've heard lately. The three start their discussion at full steam and keep the comments going quite well throughout the majority of the film - we hear a great deal about various story and character changes that happened during the production, animation style/color choices (such as the watercolor backgrounds), technical issues and much more. There's very little - if any - in the way of fluff in this track, as the group offers a great deal of insight and provides a stellar overview of the production.
The second disc offers a documentary that runs nearly 150 minutes and follows the entire production, starting with a discussion by the directors of their experiences working in animation and working together. We then go into the development of "Lilo and Stitch", starting with a look into the research that the filmmakers did in Hawaii (a story meeting by the pool, tours of the area), character development/design and initial production (coming up with the voice for Stitch, the role of producer Clark Spencer, storyboard meetings), the animation process (changes made to the film during the production) and the process of trying to finalize the film (including even meetings regarding marketing the picture, which initially seemed difficult until the directors came up with the idea of inserting Stitch into other Disney films in the trailers for "Lilo") and the eventual release of the picture. As with the commentary, this is an outstanding extra that is not only incredibly informative, but also quite entertaining. This is a must-see for fans of the film.
If the documentary on the second disc wasn't good enough (and it's awfully good), we also get "documentary footnotes", which is a set of additional material that includes everything from deleted scenes from the film to deleted scenes from the documentary (such as an interview with co-director DeBlois and his animation mentor Joe Grant) and clips other Disney films. The four famed teasers for "Lilo" where Stitch invades other Disney films can be found at the end of the section. The 8 deleted/alternate scenes are also available in their own section on the second disc.
Final Thoughts: While "Lilo and Stitch" may not be one of my favorite Disney films (although I have enjoyed other "Lilo and Stitch" efforts since), this is a marvelous Special Edition that delivers some absolutely superb new extras (especially the over 2-hour documentary.) Highly recommended for fans.
The Film B-