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Lilo & Stitch

A Hawaiian-set movie in the summer of 2002, Disney's Lilo and Stitch was a bit of an escape from the classically animated movie. Lilo and Stitch is one of the few movies to use watercolors for the background.

Table of contents
1 "Stitch, we're not in Kansas anymore..."
2 "Ohana means family"
3 Representing the Island
4 Changes because of September 11th
5 Pathing its way to merchandising
6 References

"Stitch, we're not in Kansas anymore..."

Originally, Chris Sanders had the movie set to take place in Kansas. Stitch would crash down in that state, and live among mild-mannered forest animals, in a mix of Predator and Bambi. This was a plot device to allow Stitch to crash land, and other spaceships to cruise around without much notice.

It remained in Kansas until Chris Sanders glanced at a map, noticing the smallness and "finite" size of Kauai.

This posed a question of functionability. No other feature-length animated movie had ever taken place on any of the archaepeligo of Hawaiian Islands before, and so the choice seemed less than obvious.

"Animation has been set so much in ancient, medieval Europe - so many fairy tales find their roots there, that to place it in Hawaii was kind of a big leap. But that choice went to color the entire movie, and rewrite the story for us." - Chris Sanders

"Ohana means family"

When visiting Kauai his mind was changed by a tour guide, who expounded on the meaning of ohana and extended Hawaiian families. This theory of ohana became an important part of the movie.

Dean DeBlois recalls that,

"No matter where we went, our tour guide seemed to know somebody. He was really the one who explained to us the Hawaiian concept of ohana, a sense of family that extends far beyond your immediate relatives. That idea so influenced the story that it became the foundation theme, the thing that causes Stitch to evolve despite what he was created to do, which is destroy."

Representing the Island

In the past, the Garden Island of Kauai has starred in such cinematic triumphs as Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Jurassic Park trilogy. As previously mentioned, Kauai was not the first setting chosen for the movie, but another secluded, idyllic setting was, Kansas.

But the animators faced the taunting task of the clashing messages the plot had with the settings. While the plot showed the stark, impoverished, dysfunctional life that many Hawaiians and other Westerners lead during this economic downturn, the island is full of pure serene beauty.

So, to give a brighter, purer image to the backgrounds, the studio resurrected an animation technique not used since Dumbo in 1941: watercolors. DeBlois says that due to the production schedules, which have continuously tightened since Dumbo, watercolours are risky - even one wrong stroke can ruin a piece. And with some 1,200 creations for this movie to be shot upon, there is certainly no time available for waste. As Sanders pointed out, the opaque gouche and acrylic paints that are the current industry standard are much more forgiving than watercolor. If an artist makes a mistake, they can simply paint over it, and it won't be evident. Without the element of forgiveness in watercolors, the artists had to plan everything out exactly before they started in order to avoid mistakes. Also, an advantage to the current ways of creating the backgrounds was that although the overall image may seem grayed compared to the brilliance of the pigments of watercolors, the latter medium does tend to show all of the brush strokes, looking somewhat sketchy.

Sanders and the studio's Backgrounds Department searched and searched for media to use to give the same look as they wanted, while being more forgiving, but found that even after over a half century of progress, nothing looks like watercolor except watercolor. Therefore, the Orlando crew took a crash course in the technique, and used traditional watercolor.

Changes because of September 11th

The ending of Lilo and Stitch was completely revamped, due to the unfortunate circumstances of September 11, 2001. The original ending features Stitch stealing a 747, then joyriding among the office and hotel towers of Honolulu, as Stitch is attracted to urban centers.

Within a few minutes of news of the disaster, the scene of the plane careening among the buildings was scrapped. Inserted in its place is a giant spaceship for the plane, and cloud were substitutes for buildings.

From a studio that is often blamed for recycling characters and plots through seemingly endless sequels, to the filmmaking industry in general, often blamed by critics for not coming up with any strong, original ideas, Lilo and Stitch is a witty comedy with a heavy dose of reality, strong characters and writing, and more importantly originality.

Pathing its way to merchandising

Perhaps due to the success of Pokemon, Disney saw an opportunity to exploit the merchandising market. Starting in the Fall of 2003, Disney Channel will air "Lilo & Stitch" as a weekly series. With Stitch being Experiment Number 626, Disney automatically has 625 more characters to outnumber the Pokemon. On the other hand, even if you don't like Pokemon, "Lilo & Stitch" is sure to be of interest to any person who loves little monsters, Hawaiian culture, and satire.