A Deep Dive into Lilo and Stitch

Belle and the Beast dance on the ballroom floor, as Mrs. Potts sings of a tale as old as time. Above them, a devilish blue figure crawls across the ceiling’s cherubic fresco. It accidentally brings the chandelier down near the would-be couple. Belle leaves in a huff, telling the creature, “Get your own movie!”

This teaser sums up the marketing for Disney’s 2002 animated feature Lilo and Stitch, which treats the latter as the canon’s black sheep. Since then, though, he’s become about as prominent in merch and media as Tinker Bell and Winnie-the-Pooh. The movie itself remains beloved.

A Girl and Her “Dog”

The story starts in outer space, where Experiment 626 is the subject of a galactic trial. The creature is a creation of mad science, a powerful bio-weapon too dangerous to roam free. He proves it by escaping imprisonment, hijacking a spacecraft, and jumping to an isolated planet called Earth.

In the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, a small child named Lilo Pelekai struggles to be understood. Her unusual habits and quirks cause much strain for her older sister Nani, who raises her alone. They also make Lilo feel lonely, leading Nani to take her to a pet shelter.

It’s there that the two misfits find each other, with Experiment 626 taking a less alien form and receiving the name Stitch. They must learn to live together, which proves easier said than done. All the while, a social worker threatens to separate the Pelekais and extraterrestrial agents stalk their new “dog.”

Little and Broken, But Still Good

The most well-known scene of the movie is when Stitch, Lilo, and Nani ride a wave together on the same surfboard. It’s a lovely bonding moment, but it’s a rare moment of peace in a story full of struggle. Stitch is a terrible pet, “70% bad” by Lilo’s estimation. Literally built for destruction, he frequently lashes out and misbehaves. The chaos he generates only worsens the already fragile Pelekai family’s situation.

Even so, Lilo invests a great deal of effort into making Stitch a “model citizen.” It becomes clear that when she looks at this bizarre animal — misunderstood, feared, generally disliked, prone to acting out — she sees herself. Stitch is a metaphor for his owner, and she recognizes that. The movie strongly suggests that the advice she gives him and the language she uses for him come from her own experience.

‘Ohana Means Family

Lilo and Stitch is grounded on the Hawaiian concept of ‘ohana, which holds that anyone can become deserving of love typically reserved for family. As the characters famously define it, “No one gets left behind — or forgotten.” When Lilo successfully invokes it to keep him from getting the boot after causing trouble again, Stitch is shocked. Of course he is — he’s a fugitive from justice just for being born.

The greatest threats in the story aren’t to the characters’ lives, but their bonds. Jumba and Pleakley are tasked by the galactic government to capture Stitch. The US government, meanwhile, almost separates Lilo from her only living relative before Gantu almost separates her from her homeworld. After escaping Gantu’s clutches, Stitch rises above his destructive purpose and goes back to save Lilo. He won’t leave her behind. These heroic actions are what ultimately keep the family together forever.

Lilo and Stitch Merchandise at Your WDW Store

Lilo and Stitch is a powerful story on par with their Renaissance era from the previous decade. It’s not all serious emotional conflict, though. The anarchic alien is fun to follow, and the quirky and adorable Lilo is enjoyable as well. The Hawaiian setting combines with Disney’s gold-standard animation and distinctive watercolor backgrounds to create something fresh and beautiful. It’s no wonder that the film remains so fondly remembered.

If you are among its many fans, then you’re in good company. You can find plenty of great Lilo and Stitch pins and merchandise right here at Your WDW Store. Like we said before, Stitch has endured on the level of other all-time classic Disney characters. Shop from over 200 pins featuring him and his friends on our site.