Some good news for a gloomy winter; Disney are planning a live action movie version of Lilo and Stitch. What’s that, you’re underwhelmed? That can only be because you haven’t yet seen the original 2002 animated film by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, who went on to create How To Train Your Dragon. It’s worth remembering that back in 2002, kids films were for kids, Pixar was still establishing itself, and Dreamworks production Shrek was still in cinemas, breaking taboos about what kind of audience a family film might expect. Lilo and Stitch was ahead of the curve in several ways; it’s socially aware, totally woke to gender issues, and skips the sexism, racism and pretty much any kind of –ism in favour of fun, laughter and a genial sense of humour.
Lilo is a Hawaiian girl of six years old, orphaned after a car accident and brought up by her sister. She loves her island paradise, which abruptly becomes the centre of an intergalactic conflict when Stich arrives; otherwise known as Experiment 626, Stich can just about pass for a dog, even though his blue pallor and multiple sets of teeth suggest something else. Stich is an alien, much in the vein of Ridley Scott’s, a mutation deliberately created to cause utter chaos. Lilo adopts Stich on the understanding that he is a rather strange dog, but she sticks by him as part of an expanded family unit, in keeping with her own culture. Stich’s handlers close in, but Lilo and Stich have a bond that can’t be broken, and their friendship enables them to save the day.
I’m often minded to criticise children’s films for negative messages they send; Lilo and Stitch passes all tests with flying colours. Lilo’s ethnicity, background and economic situation are all well-drawn, the closeness of the sisters makes it a precursor of Frozen, and the film takes place in a recognisably real world, despite the crazy, Tex Avery-style opening set in space. Sanders himself provides the ‘voice’ of Stitch, although the creature does not speak; he makes plenty of other strange noises, and every appearance is notable, if not downright laugh-out-loud hilarious.
We are what we consume, and both children and adults deserve to have decent, strong-valued, yet irreverent films to watch. Lilo and Stich doesn’t seem to be celebrated in the way that the most popular animations are, which is a pity; perhaps this proposed new Disney take will put the little mite back on top. This is a kids film which is well worth seeing for adults, with a great moral, fun gags, and a slew of Elvis songs to keep the mood sky high from soup to nuts.