Over the past two decades, Lilo & Stitch has become an especially beloved movie amidst Disney’s huge collection of iconic animated favorites. With the movie nearing its 20th anniversary, it’s time to look at its beginnings. According to Lilo & Stitch co-writer/director Dean DeBlois, quite a bit of the movie’s core changed during its development at Walt Disney Animation.
When CinemaBlend spoke to Dean DeBlois about Lilo & Stitch, we asked about the evolution of the modern animated classic. The filmmaker, also known for making the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy, recalled how the idea was initially pitched to Disney. In his words:
Chris Sanders, who co-wrote and directed the movie alongside Dean DeBlois, originally had an idea for a children’s book about a forest creature who was an outcast from his society. The pair had met during the production of 1998’s Mulan, which was DeBlois’ first feature with Disney. DeBlois continued:
Lilo & Stitch most certainly would not be the same if it took place in Kansas and Stitch had landed in a young boy’s backyard. Here’s how it ended up becoming the movie we know and love:
We’ve seen a lot of alien stories over the years, but it’s true: one element of Lilo & Stitch that really sets it apart from others is its location. Because it’s in Hawaii, it’s a smaller scale that doesn’t go that E.T. route, which later inspired DeBlois for How To Train Your Dragon, with government experiments and such. Along with Hawaii being a good setting for the story to make it unique, the filmmakers also sought to authentically capture the culture.
One major element of this was through the casting of Hawaiian actors Tia Carrere and Jason Scott Lee as Nani and David, respectively. Carrere also spoke to CinemaBlend how the filmmakers of Lilo & Stitch brought “true inclusion” to the film by inviting Hawaiian people such as herself to contribute to the film beyond the script they had written.
Lilo & Stitch is currently available to revisit with a Disney+ subscription. Happy 20th Anniversary to the Disney classic!
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