Personal Overview: Lilo & Stitch was a definite departure for Disney in terms of story style and structure. It was set current day, not based on an existing story or fairy tale and romance only played a peripheral role.
It could easily be called a family dramedy. At the heart of it is family and how important belonging to one can be. Lani does everything she can to be a parent and a big sister to her little sister Lilo and keep them together at the same and the addition of an alien genetic weapon developed by a mad alien scientist masquerading as a dog (Stitch) throws that into complete and utter disarray.
For the second time in a row Disney went sci-fi. Initially Stitch follows his programming and attempts to create total chaos everywhere, but then he reads the story of the ugly duckling and tries to become part of Lilo’s family unit.
Because of what Stitch is the possibilities that animation can use him for are almost limitless and a lot of the advertising around the film and the successful TV show that followed the movie used this to promote it. He’s similar to Aladdin’s Genie in that respect.
Lilo is also a great character and her opening encounter with the black suited, dark glass wearing child welfare agent who resembles one of the Men in Black (which he was in a former occupation) more than someone looking out for the welfare of a young girl, is hilarious with Lilo misinterpreting her sister’s hand signals and insisting that she’s disciplined 5 times a day and trying to perform voodoo on her classmates with decorated spoons and a jar of pickles.
It wasn’t something Disney had ever really done before, but I felt in this instance it worked really well.
Hero/es: mostly Lilo, along with Stitch, but it’s not your standard hero/villain Disney film. Lani and her potential boyfriend David also get the chance to perform a few heroics and even Stitch’s creator; mad scientist Dr Jumbo Jookiba, along with his offside, the one eyed mosquito enthusiast Pleakley, go from being villains to heroes when Lilo is almost transported off planet late in the story.
Villain/s: for a lot of the story Jookiba seems to be this. He created Stitch for purely selfish purposes and he seems to be prepared to stop at nothing to get him back, and we’re not entirely sure he won’t unleash him rather than dispose of him as a danger to civilization, but then he does a 180 when Gantu goes after the genetic weapon. Gantu is the other villain of the piece, it probably doesn’t help matters that he looks like an orca with two legs. He’s your typical driven military type to whom the mission matters more than anything else and doesn’t care who else gets hurt in the completion of said mission.
Cuteness Factor: it sounds weird, considering the sort of havoc he can cause and that he was designed by Jookiba to look scary, but it’s Stitch. Lilo herself is also undeniably cute as a button.
Animation: it was a more cartoony style than Atlantis, but the animators were really allowed to let the imaginations run wild with the aliens. Jookiba has 4 eyes, Bleakley has one eye, but three legs. Stich has four arms and a row of spines down his back. I swear I saw a teddy bear with eyes in his ears in the alien council when Stitch is first presented. The ships are also an exercise in imagination and match the otherworldliness of the alien culture. Care was taken to make Lani and Lilo look Hawaiian, too.
Final Words: a sweet message and a lot of fun with a kid doing just that (having fun), and while Stitch isn’t really a dog, he’s the best friend a little girl could ever ask for.