Disney's animated movie franchise isn't quite as prominent as it once was. The "classics" are all from a bygone era and nowadays if a release isn't from PIXAR, well, chances are good it's not successful enough to stand toe to toe with the likes of The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. While it isn't quite as moving as the aforementioned classics, 2002's Lilo & Stitch was an undeniable success. It was a movie that had just about everything you could ever want from a Disney film. An entertaining story, heart, emotion, cute characters, a maniacal alien menace, and an inherent love for everything Elvis brought the picture together and ignited a spark that Disney hadn't seen in a while.
Between then and now Lilo & Stitch has gone on to produce three more DVD release sequels and a moderately successful television show. Disney has, however, parted ways with Stitch's creator Chris Sanders, so who knows what we'll be seeing from the little blue guy in the future. Stitch's jets may have cooled off, but seven years after the original release he has finally been given the special edition DVD treatment. It may not be as grandiose or as "must own" as the Platinum Edition series we've seen from Disney, but Lilo & Stitch's 2-disc Big Wave Edition is worth the wait, and even worth a double dip when you look at some of the new bonus features.
If you're coming to this release from having previously owned the 2003 DVD, then you should know that nothing is different about the film. The story is every bit as lighthearted and fun as it was the day it hit theaters, which is definitely a good thing. No new scenes have been shoehorned in like some other Disney double-dips have done and quite honestly I'm pleased about that. The original release of Lilo & Stitch thankfully remains unscathed by prying hands.
The film starts out in a deep region of space where an idiot scientist, pardon me..."Evil Genius"...stands before the head of the Galactic Government on trial for his latest project, which actually yielded results. As it turns out the creation in question is a little guy known as experiment "626" who is a fluffy blue creature with a potty mouth and appetite for destruction. Soon enough 626 escapes custody and blasts away only to land amongst the hapless natives of Hawaii. Naturally a galactic pursuit ensues which sees his creator, Jumba, and Agent Pleakley heading to Earth to capture him.
Meanwhile, a young girl named Lilo is having a tough time of her own. Her parents recently passed away and she's been living with her sister Nani, who has been struggling to make ends meet and keep custody of Lilo. Things haven't been easy, and Lilo frequently makes more trouble for Nani than she probably intends to. Soon enough 626 comes into their lives and provides something that was missing: a demented alien hell-bent on destroying society. Through events that could only best be described as fate, Lilo comes into contact with 626 at the dog pound. It seems he was hit by a truck and presumed dead, but they tossed him in with all of the other pooches anyway. With Jumba and Pleakley lurking outside 626 is named Stitch by Lilo and taken home as a new puppy. Thus the insanity begins.
Lilo & Stitch takes some time here to develop the relationship between the titular characters. Stitch's destructive programming begins to crash as he realizes that he's marooned on an island. Making matters worse is the fact that Lilo inundates him with the stylings of Elvis, the joys of surfing, love, friendship, and ohana (family). Soon enough Stitch starts to realize that there's more to life than hitting people, messing with traffic signals, and stealing everyone's left shoe. Unfortunately as he and Lilo grow closer, Nani becomes more convinced that Stitch is a bad influence on her, which is mostly compounded by his attempts to escape Jumba and Pleakley who are still trying to capture him. Everything comes together to put Stitch back into the hands of those out to capture him, but there are quite a few twists leading up to the climax of the film.
While the story in Lilo & Stitch is very entertaining and energetic, it's not exactly the cream of the crop to be found in the Disney Empire. It's more of a lighthearted action-adventure that sets out to have fun and take you along for the ride. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and it holds up very well for all age groups. If there's any critique for Lilo & Stitch it's that it marches to the beat of a different drummer rather than being a fairytale classic with a strong moral as we've seen with so many Disney classics. Even that's not necessarily a bad thing and it sets this film apart from all the others.
The bottom line is that Lilo & Stitch is a solid film with an incredible sense of energy, loveable and memorable characters, an offbeat sense of humor, and a charming yet simple story. It was never intended to be the most epic masterpiece pumped out by Disney, but it didn't needed to be. Lilo & Stitch is just a brilliant and quirky piece of work that will endear itself to you and not let go no matter how many times you watch it. Whether this will be your first time watching the movie or your twentieth, consider the Big Wave Edition highly recommended.
Lilo & Stitch is presented on DVD with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. In case you're coming to the Big Wave Edition from the previously released 2003 single disc version the transfer for this upgrade is virtually identical. There was no remastering done, no color modification, and no tinkering of any kind as we've seen in Platinum Editions. Quite honestly Lilo & Stitch looked darned good before, and thankfully it still looks every bit as sharp (for a DVD that is).
Like most Disney films Lilo & Stitch benefits from a substantial amount of quality production. The movie bombards you with colors and it's such a vibrant piece of work that you'll swear it's like a water color come to life. The transfer keeps up with the art direction as well and offers everything in a clean fashion with no compression artifacts to muck things up. Some interlacing can be spotted at times and there is a fine layer of grain here and there, but all around this is one solid looking DVD. It's a shame that Disney didn't spruce things up a smidge with a Blu-ray release, but if you waited six years for the Big Wave Edition I'm sure you can wait a little longer.
With a score by Alan Silvestri and voice talent provided by the likes of Chris Sanders, Ving Rhames, Kevin McDonald, Tia Carrere, Daveigh Chase, and David Ogden Stiers, Lilo & Stitch comes to life. Audibly it's nearly every bit as vibrant as its water colored visuals. The 5.1 Dolby Digital English language track provided here is stunning to say the least. It creates a great sense of immersion thanks to subtle nuances on the soundstage and key moments that really kick it up a notch. From effects to dialogue and music every channel gets a workout with Lilo & Stitch, and the quality of the audio doesn't disappoint. French and Spanish language tracks are available, as well as subtitle tracks for all three languages.
Ok, here's the big reason you're probably coming to this release of Lilo & Stitch. The two discs presented in the Big Wave Edition are packed with bonus features and while some of the content is ported over form the prior DVD, there's plenty of new stuff to sink your teeth into.
The first disc contains the film itself along with a bevy of extra stuff to sift through. Up first is a very notable audio commentary track with Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, and Clark Spencer. The track is filled to the brim with information and there's quite a bit that is uncovered as you watch. The discussion is kept almost purely informational and there's very little banter so things can get a tad dry, but if you want to know more about the movie then it's going to be fascinating to you. All of the changes that the early versions of the film went through right up to some retrospective of what it was like working on the project are included here.
Up next is a few light inclusions such as a music video with clips of the film for "Your Ohana" by the Kamehameha Children's Chorus. Some game samplers for the kids are here, but if you're little one is a Stitch lover and has the Adventure DVD game that was released a while ago then they've already seen these bits. There's also a little alien creator game thing along those same lines. The DisneyPedia on Hawaii has also been ported over from the 2003 release of the film. More material from the 2003 release continues on the first disc and fills in the rest of the features. "A Stitch in Time" is a brief montage of Stitch being inserted into still images from other Disney movies, some how to hula lessons, and a look behind the scenes with Wynonna on her version of "Burning Love". There's also a music video for A*Teens' "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You", the Inter-Stitch-als trailers for the film, and a bit about animating the hula.
The second disc in the Big Wave Edition is where the money's at. Just about the entire disc is taken up by a two hour documentary chock full of information about the production of the film, from Chris Sander's pitch to screen. Quite honestly if there was anything you ever wanted to know about Lilo & Stitch, it's here. So much is discussed here and for so many reasons this documentary is the reason you're going to want to upgrade. Featurettes about animated films hardly get into as much nitty-gritty detail as this one does and if you're not expecting it, you'll feel like it's a daunting task to sit through the documentary (not in a bad way though). It's a nice adult, technically oriented discussion on the project that splays open everything you could have ever wanted to know about Lilo & Stitch.
Throughout the documentary there are several candid interviews with just about everybody who was anybody that worked on the film. Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, Clark Spencer, Roy Disney, Andreas Dejas, Alex Kupershmidt, Thomas Schumaker, and several others get together to discuss the film they worked so hard to create. There is plenty of personal retrospective on the project and there's even quite a bit of talk about the movie while it was being made. Everybody has something interesting to say about the process and there are even some nice shots of the crew collecting their thoughts, talking about earlier reviews from storyboard screenings, and retooling everything to make it better. There are even quite a few shots of them in the storyboard room remaking sequences and working through rough spots.
The interviews are the driving force of the documentary here and most all of the information they reveal is fascinating. There's plenty discussion of character designs and the evolution of their personalities. For instance, did you know that in the original draft of the film Stitch was an intergalactic gangster? Jumba was even a former member of his gang! After some screening to the bigwigs the team had to retool the background quite a bit and eventually settled on what we know of the characters today. There was even a sequence towards the end with a 747 jet flying through Honolulu. Due to the events on 9/11 this scene had to be altered and it turned into the fight against Gamtu with Jumba's spaceship through the mountains. This is only a small example of what you'll find here, but rest assured there is so much more it's not even funny.
In addition to the complete documentary (which is also broken down into scene selections in case you just want to watch it in parts) there is also a separate documentary footnotes selection. These bits are plentiful as well and are essentially examples of some of the things that were discussed in the documentary in order of their appearance. What can you expect to find here? Well, there are deleted scenes aplenty, extended sequences, additional interviews, and plenty of promotional material. While there's tons of material here as well, I found the most interesting item to be the Chris Sander's Pitch Book. This is a 45 page early version of the story that Chris used to pitch to Disney full of sketches and the original story. It's fascinating to see how far the story went from this early version to the final product.
As far as the presentation of this bonus material is concerned it's mostly all done in anamorphic widescreen. The sound quality is ok, but nothing to write home about due to volume pitches and some poorly recorded segments. The same can more or less be said about the video quality as well due to a heavy amount of interlacing, grain, and softness. Most of this material was from candid interviews and spur of the moment camera work, but there were some bits that simply could have been much better. It's a shame really because this documentary is so rich with detail that it should have been treated better.
Lilo & Stitch 2-disc Big Wave Edition is a very nice upgrade to the original 2003 release. The additions of the audio commentary and massive documentary are more than enough to warrant a double-dip. If you've ever been a fan of the movie this is the version to own, but with that being said the lack of a presentation upgrade is disappointing especially considering how Disney is pumping out Blu-ray discs lately. Even so, this release of Lilo & Stitch is better all around and is definitely worth picking up whether you already own the original or not. Consider it highly recommended.
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