Monday, June 27, 2022

Lilo and Stitch: 20 Years of Chaos

Fun fact: If you have a Chase debit card (not-sponsored) you can get a special character meet-and-greet at Disneyland. You don't get to know who the character is and you can only do it once a day, but the line is short and it's usually air conditioned or covered so if you're into character meet ups like I am it's pretty cool. 

On one of my pilgrimages to the happiest place on earth my wife and I stopped by for our Chase meet up/photo op, and when we step around the corner who is waiting for me? 


I screamed. 

And may've cried. 

Let's look at why. 

Disney's Abomination

Stitch is a weird character, even for Disney. He's not part of any fairy tale, historical fiction, or piece of literature. He's an 100% Disney homebrew creation, part rabbit, part dog, part koala, part Bugs Bunny. He's an alien designed specifically to cause chaos wherever he is. The Looney Tunes reference comes in full force here where even when in combat he mostly plays tricks on people, using cleverness and pranks more than physical force, even though we see that he's more than capable physically. 

Stitch's character arc isn't him becoming a full hero, it's him learning to temper his needs vs others needs, specifically Lilo. He's still a chaotic wacky beast, seen in the ending song trading his coffee bottle with a baby's milk and getting selfies as Lilo beat up her annoying frenemy. Stitch starts out as a monster and ends as a monster, and his charm is that he accepts himself for mostly who he is. It's a great message, that being a better you doesn't mean becoming a completely different person, it just means tempering some parts so you can reach your full potential. 

Pillar of Disney
Since Stitch doesn't really have a proper place in the Disney categories, his appearances and merch has been folded into the Mickey Mouse gang, seeing him with equal billing next to Donald Duck and the mouse himself. This is probably due to his overwhelming popularity, since other Disney oddities like The Emperor's New Groove and Treasure Planet don't get nearly the same visibility. His original advertising even featured him subverting other Disney movies, like dropping the chandelier on Belle and Beast or taking Jasmine away from Aladdin because he had a sweeter ride. Stitch now belongs everywhere in Disney, making him accessible to all ages and all tastes. 

His exposure and universal coverage reminds me of another character who became bigger than was expected: Harley Quinn. Originally a fun one-time character from Batman: The Animated Series,DC Comics have flat out stated that Harley Quinn is the fourth pillar of DC, alongside Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. It just proves that no matter what you can't predict how big a character can be until the fans have spoken. 

20 Years of Love
This year is 20 years since Lilo and Stitch premiered, and it has yet to lose steam. Part of it is the couple movies and the fun TV series that followed, but the other part is that Stitch is a universally likeable character. Cute if you want cute, mischievous if you want mischievous, and heartwarming if you want heartwarming. Stitch is an all-around good character, and it's no wonder that 20 years later we still scream when we see a new piece of Stitch merch or, if we're lucky enough, when Stitch comes around. 


Check out Spencer's creature feature on Stitch

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