The Sweet Reason Why Lilo & Stitch Was Picked As The Better Nate Than Ever Musical

Not unlike Hollywood’s passion for remakes and reboots, Broadway has been stricken with a trend of adapting famous movies into musicals as of late. Moulin Rouge, Mrs. Doubtfire, Mean Girls and Beetlejuice have become popular musicals after being big-screen favorites. So, we wouldn't put it past Disney if they decided to adapt more of their classics to Broadway. And in the latest Disney+ film, Better Nate Than Ever, a Lilo & Stitch musical is imagined. 

When CinemaBlend spoke with the movie’s writer/director Tim Federle, who previously rebooted High School Musical as a series for Disney+, he shared the sweet reason why the 2002 animated film was chosen as the backdrop of its protagonist’s cut-throat New York audition. In Federle’s words: 

One of the taglines from Lilo & Stitch is ‘Family means no one gets left behind,’ and I think for a lot of young kids and theatre kids and kids like Nate don’t necessarily always feel welcome in their own families. So I thought it would be cool to have him audition for a musical in which he’s going out for the role of an alien because I know when I was in middle school I felt like an alien in my own body, in my own community, in my own school.

There’s actually a rather deep meaning to Nate, played by newcomer Rueby Wood, auditioning for Stitch in the family movie. Better Nate Than Ever is based on Federle’s book of the same name, except in the source material, he is looking to play E.T. in a musical adaptation of the classic Steven Spielberg movie. The writer/director continued:  

From a Disney point of view, I just thought it was a fun wink. What I was able to do with High School Musical [the series] was to almost, but not quite make fun of the original franchise because there’s something so inherently campy and silly about musicals, but also they are the best. I just liked the image of Nate auditioning for this animated classic.

The filmmaker also shared that he was a “dancing seagull” in the original The Little Mermaid Broadway production, so he has firsthand experience of the “inherent comedy” of taking something the world loves and turning it into a musical. In Better Nate Than Ever, we don’t get to see Lilo & Stitch as a full-fledged production, but we start to get a sense of what it might be like and yes, it includes Stitch having a show-stopping music number. 

It did have me thinking while watching it: do I want to see such a revamp of the classic animated film? The answer for myself is maybe? The movie itself had a lot of music from Elvis Presley, so I more so imagine a mashup of Elvis covers than a ton of original songs. 

It does go back to the issue many people have had with the idea of the 2002 movie being remade in live-action. Stitch might lose his inherent cuteness as a puppet or CGI being. Last we heard, Crazy Rich Asians and In The Heights' Jon M. Chu was tapped as director of the remake, but he is currently developing the movie adaptation of Wicked more actively. 

Overall, the addition of Lilo & Stitch in Better Nate Than Ever works the best to get across its themes of acceptance amidst adversity. The Disney+ movie has been met with an overall positive reception from critics and audiences alike. Check out CinemaBlend’s own review of Better Nate Than Ever, and you can stream the movie now with a Disney+ subscription

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.