Lilo & Stitch (also known as Stitch or, sometimes in Japan, Stitch! with an exclamation point) is an American Disney franchise that commenced in 2002 with the animated feature film of the same name written and directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. The film's combined critical and financial success, which was a rarity for Walt Disney Feature Animation during their "Post-Renaissance" era, led to Disney quickly developing a franchise that has seen three direct-to-video and television sequel films, three different animated television series, a short film, a number of video games, a few theme park attractions, and various merchandise.
The franchise mainly focuses on the adventures of the titular eccentric and mischievous duo; an orphaned Hawaiian girl named Lilo Pelekai (voiced by Daveigh Chase in most media produced from 2002–2006) and an artificial extraterrestrial creature originally named Experiment 626, whom she adopts and names Stitch (voiced by Chris Sanders in all Western media). Stitch was originally genetically-engineered to cause chaos and destruction across the galaxy, but was rehabilitated by the Earth girl thanks to the Hawaiian concept of ʻohana, meaning family in an extended sense of the word. Most of the sequel and spin-off material of the franchise also involve many genetic experiments similar to Stitch, nearly all of whom he treats as his "cousins". However, since 2006, Stitch is controversially separated from Lilo, who is subsequently removed as a main character, and he ends up on different regions of Earth where he makes new best friends with other human girls, namely an Okinawan girl named Yuna Kamihara and a Chinese girl named Wang Ai Ling. The tone of the franchise also shifted from "soft" science fiction with an element of realism to science fantasy over the years.
Although the Lilo & Stitch franchise's success in the Western world peaked in the mid-2000s and never quite hit the mainstream as much as some of Disney's bigger animated franchises such as Winnie the Pooh, The Lion King, and Frozen, it nevertheless became Disney's first truly successful Disney Animated Canon-based franchise of the 21st century, and the last largely successful one based on a traditionally-animated Disney film. Lilo & Stitch is the only such franchise from both the 2000s decade and the "Post-Renaissance" era to remain successful to this day, primarily thanks to the popularity of its title protagonist Stitch and the franchise's much bigger popularity in East Asia, which has kept the franchise alive with the television spin-offs Stitch! and Stitch & Ai. Stitch quickly established himself as one of Disney's most popular characters worldwide, becoming the first 21st century-debuted Disney animated character to achieve a high level of popularity among the company's characters, although this was helped by some rather heavy marketing of the character during the mid-2000s, especially in Disney Parks (mainly Walt Disney World). The franchise also managed to introduce the Hawaiian word ʻohana to a global audience outside of its home state.
Lilo & Stitch is arguably one of the few Disney franchises whose sequel material can be considered integral to its fictional universe, mainly due to the characters who were formally introduced in said sequel material—namely Stitch's experiment "cousins" and a villainous character called Dr. Hämsterviel. (The original film's prologue had the experiments' creator Jumba Jookiba briefly suggest their existence through a bad lie, and also had Hämsterviel cameo in a brief, unvoiced, silhouetted appearance. Some of the experiments—including later major character Experiment 625/Reuben—also appeared in prequel spin-off material released before and around the time of the original film's theatrical release.) This has gotten to the point where it's actually the first Disney franchise whose animated television sequel-introduced characters appeared in both a Kingdom Hearts game (Experiment 221/Sparky in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep) and a later Disney Animated Canon film (Experiment 619/Splodyhead in Big Hero 6). One of the experiments, Experiment 624/Angel, also broke out as a considerably popular character, receiving numerous merchandise sold worldwide. (This includes the Lilo & Stitch franchise's home country of the United States, where the franchise's popularity has cooled off the most significantly—although not to the point of obscurity—and where the anime series that she appears in more frequently was quickly removed as soon as it debuted there.)
Films and television
An extraterrestrial mad scientist named Dr. Jumba Jookiba (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) is put on trial for illegally creating creatures to cause chaos and destruction. His latest experiment is Experiment 626 (Chris Sanders): a little blue alien with four arms, two legs, and antennae who is deceptively strong and indestructible. 626 (pronounced "six-two-six") is sentenced to exile, while Jumba himself is jailed. However, 626 escapes custody, steals a police cruiser ship, and heads to the planet Earth. Jumba gets sent on a mission to retrieve his creation along with a partner on board, self-proclaimed Earth expert Agent Pleakley (Kevin McDonald), who is forced to go along to keep an eye on him.
Masquerading as a dog, 626 is adopted by a little girl named Lilo Pelekai (Daveigh Chase) who is living with her 19-year-old sister Nani (Tia Carrere). Lilo is lonely and a bit of an outcast until she finds a new friend in 626 whom she names "Stitch".
Ex-Captain Gantu (Kevin Michael Richardson) is hired by the evil Dr. Hämsterviel (Jeff Bennett) to retrieve the remaining 625 experiments. Meanwhile, on Earth, Stitch is still not fitting in, but when trouble comes calling through the form of Experiment 221 (Frank Welker), he and Lilo must band together to stop his electrical rampage. Meanwhile, Gantu ends up with a new ally, Experiment 625 (Rob Paulsen), but is displeased by his lazy behavior and love of sandwiches.
Lilo & Stitch: The Series (2003–06)
Continuing where Stitch! The Movie left off, Lilo and Stitch are given the task of collecting the rest of Jumba's missing experiments, changing them from bad to good, and finding the one place where they truly belong. Meanwhile, the former Captain Gantu and his reluctant partner, Experiment 625, try to capture the experiments for the imprisoned Dr. Hämsterviel.
Running for a total of 65 episodes over two seasons, The Series ended with the television film Leroy & Stitch. The series had a crossover of three Disney Channel shows and an ended show, featuring Kim Possible, Jake Long, Penny Proud and the Recess gang
Set at a time between the original film and Stitch! The Movie, Lilo (voiced by Dakota Fanning in this film) and her classmates are preparing for a hula competition where the winner gets to perform at the local May Day festival. Each student is required to create an original dance. While preparing for the competition, Stitch's past comes back to haunt him. It seems that after Stitch was created, Jumba did not get a chance to fully charge Stitch's molecules before they were both arrested. At first, this glitch causes Stitch to revert to his old destructive programming, but it will ultimately destroy him if Jumba cannot create a charging pod before Stitch's energy runs out.
The Origin of Stitch (2005)
Set up as a prologue to Stitch! The Movie, this short film included on the Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch DVD sees Stitch finding Jumba's secret computer. Stitch becomes horrified at the revelation of what strange alien creatures were used to create him, as well as being reminded of his original purpose. However, Jumba arrives to comfort him. The other experiments are also alluded to and cameoed in this short.
After three years, their mission to capture all 624 experiments and repurpose them on Earth has been completed, so Lilo and her family are honored as heroes by the Galactic Alliance. Despite originally turning down their new offered positions in order to stay with Lilo, Stitch and the crew separate to live out their ambitions. However, after Gantu frees Hämsterviel from his prison, they create a new experiment of their own, Leroy (Chris Sanders). Lilo and Stitch must reunite and unite every single experiment they have to fight Leroy and his army of duplicated clones.
The anime series features a Japanese girl named Yuna Kamihara in place of Lilo, and is set on a fictional island off the shore of Okinawa instead of Hawaii. The first two seasons were animated and co-produced by the Japanese animation house Madhouse, while the third season and two television specials were animated by Shin-Ei Animation. Many of the characters, such as Jumba Jookiba and Pleakley, appear, as well as five villains; Captain Gantu, Dr. Jacques von Hämsterviel, Reuben, Experiment 627, and a new villain named Delia. It also features new experiments exclusive to this series. 86 episodes (including three specials) were made from 2008 to 2011, while two post-series specials were released in 2012 and 2015.
Taking place in China's Huangshan mountains, this 13-episode animated series stars Stitch and a local girl named Wang Ai Ling. Produced in English with the partnership of American animators, the series was animated by Anhui Xinhua Media and Panimation Hwakai Media and began broadcast on CCTV-14 on March 27, 2017.
Cast and characters
A number of video games based on the Lilo & Stitch franchise have been produced.
- Lilo & Stitch (Game Boy Advance; 2002)
- Lilo & Stitch Pinball (2002)
- Lilo & Stitch: Hawaiian Adventure (2002)
- Lilo & Stitch: Trouble in Paradise (2002)
- Disney's Stitch: Experiment 626 (2002)
- Lilo & Stitch 2: Hämsterviel Havoc (2002)
- Stitch Jam (2009)
- Stitch Jam 2 (2010)
The franchise's settings and characters have appeared in a number of video games.
- Kingdom Hearts II (2005)
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (2010)
- Disney Magical World (2013)
- Disney Infinity (2013)
- Disney Infinity: 2.0 Edition (2014)
- Disney Magical World 2 (2015)
- Disney Magic Kingdoms (2016; characters and other franchise elements added in an April 2018 update)
- Disney Crossy Road (2016; characters and world added in a 2017 update)
- Disney Emoji Blitz (2016)
- Disney Heroes: Battle Mode (2018)
Theme park attractions
Various Lilo & Stitch-themed attractions have opened in Disney theme parks.
Stitch's Great Escape!
Stitch's Great Escape! was a "theatre in the round" show that opened on November 16, 2004 in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort as a replacement for the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. It last operated on January 6, 2018, and was officially confirmed to be closed on July 16, 2020.
Stitch's Supersonic Celebration
Stitch Encounter is an interactive show similar to Turtle Talk with Crush that opened in 2006 at Hong Kong Disneyland at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. Other versions of the attraction opened Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris (as Stitch Live!) in 2008, Tokyo Disneyland at Tokyo Disney Resort in Spring 2015, and Shanghai Disneyland Park at Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016. The original version in Hong Kong closed in 2016, and no versions of this attraction have ever opened at either American Disney resort.
The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!
The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai! is a "theatre in the round" Audio-Animatronics show that opened in 2008 in Tokyo Disneyland at Tokyo Disney Resort, and is the fourth incarnation of The Enchanted Tiki Room.