Disney's big screen offerings over the last decade have greatly been defined by the studio’s ambitions to reimagine its most famous animated movies into live-action films. Recent remakes for Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aladdin each topped $1 billion at the worldwide box office, and the House of Mouse is moving right through its library with upcoming big-budget films based on The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan. And now, the studio looks to be finally moving forward with its plans for Lilo & Stitch, which was first announced back in 2018.
The 2002 film is an underdog among Disney Animation’s accomplishments, and often gets overlooked considering its place in the post-Disney Renaissance period (coined the Second Disney Dark Age or Experimental Era). Lilo & Stitch was not a huge hit for the studio right away, but over the past 20 years, it's gained a massive ohana of adoration. Disney is currently in negotiations with Jon M. Chu to helm the live-action remake, per THR.
Jon M. Chu is a major filmmaker who is coming off the major success of Crazy Rich Asians, a book adaptation that became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in ten years, and the first studio film in 25 years featuring a predominantly Asian cast in a modern setting. Chu previously directed two Step Up films, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Now You See Me 2, and he's gearing up to bring Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights to theaters next year.
The filmmaker is a great choice for Lilo & Stitch for one because he has years of experience adapting beloved properties into entertaining films. John M. Chu is also an Asian American, meaning he could have a new perspective on the material centering on a Hawaiian family. Chu began a relationship with Disney last month by signing on to direct the pilot for a Willow series for the company’s streaming service.
It’s still unclear whether the Lilo & Stitch movie is being made for Disney+ or theatrical release, but John M. Chu has previously been vocal about preserving the movie theater experience especially when it comes to movies made about minority audiences. The director famously passed on a huge bid from Netflix for Crazy Rich Asians to allow for the film to make history at the box office. Chu and Miranda also made sure In The Heights did not go straight to streaming despite COVID-19 delaying its release a full year.
Lilo & Stitch, of course, tells a sweet story about a young Hawaiian girl who finds a friend in an alien experiment runaway. Lilo teaches the alien about family and Elvis Presley as Stitch escapes from undercover aliens following his tracks. There’s a lot of potential for a live-action adaptation, though the original film’s writer/directors, Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, have both been vocal about their distaste for Disney’s decision to remake the project. DeBlois previously said this:
I’d rather see something original — especially for a studio that’s such a pioneer of originality, that bugs me. Knowing how well-to-do the studio is, how capable they are of taking risks, and watching them not take risk. What bothers me the most is that it seems to suggest the animated version of it is lesser. It is a lesser form than the expensive, glossy live action.
We'll have to stay tuned to see Disney and John M. Chu's vision for the film. Newcomer Mike Van Waes reportedly wrote the first draft to the Lilo & Stitch remake, and an additional writer to work with Chu on the project is currently being sought out. What do you think about Lilo & Stitch going forward and with Jon M. Chu? Vote in our poll below.