Recently, there have been announcements that Disney have a Lilo and Stitch remake as a live action movie in the makes. The original Lilo and Stitch movie is an animated film released in 2002, and is about an alien called Stitch who crash lands on Earth and is adopted by a lonely Hawaiian girl named Lilo. The animated film had received positive reception, and is a well known movie to this day, especially as one of Disney’s unique films that differ from the standard “fairy tale” animations. The animated film already stands well on its own, and a live action remake is not necessary, not to mention how it would most likely bring down the original animation. There are various reasons why a live action film would be sub par to the animated film, such as reinforcing negativity towards the animation medium, and ruining various things the original film featured, such as the plot, themes, and representation.
Disney is famous for animation, especially for the advanced 2D animation that the company started off with and have made countless movies with. Animation is a difficult medium due to the amount of time and effort put into it, especially combined with the elements of storytelling to make an animated movie. Unfortunately, animation and animated films are severely undermined and seen as a “lesser” art or medium, and have a stigma of only being suitable for children. Though the stigma most likely comes from Disney’s films having a main audience children and other animations like children’s TV shows, it neglects Disney’s writing and animation that everyone can enjoy and watch, as it is geared to being family friendly as well. Back to the main point, with animation seen as a “lesser” art, movies like live action are seen as “more valuable” and “mature”, given the amount of movies in live action geared to mainly be for older audiences. Both animation and live action are different mediums and should be respected for their own individual positives, but this is not the case with the many live action remakes of animated films. With movies like Beauty and the Beast, which already had animated films, be remade as live action, it further reinforces that animation is an “inferior” medium, and potentially hurts professional artists and animators. Another important thing to know is that even as a children’s movie, Lilo and Stitch doesn’t have writing that infantilizes the audience, and actually has complex themes and plot, which opposes the negative stigma of how animation isn’t meant for mature audiences.
To further emphasize Lilo and Stitch’s deep writing, it is a children’s animated film, but it includes mature themes in the plot ranging from loss of parents, struggling to self provide for a family, and the life of Hawaiian people affected by stereotypical tourism that are all relevant to when it the movie was first released and still in today’s society. With live action though, changes and cuts are inevitable to the script to try to save up on time and get to the basic points of the main plot, though it will take away the importance and true feeling of the original animated film. Even as a movie meant for children, the animated film’s plot includes the issue of Lilo’s parents recently dying, and Nani, her older sister struggling to support Lilo to prevent child service from taking her away. In the movie, trophies, posters, and an emotional moment in the movie where the family surfs indicate that Nani was on her way to be a professional surfer, but with the current family situation and her working jobs to support everyone, she gave up on that future to take care of her sister. With one of her jobs too, one integral plot point is how Lilo and Stitch cause trouble at one of the businesses she works at, which serves two things; furthering the issues of the family being supported and Lilo staying under Nani’s custody, and how the business itself reflects the life of Hawaiians and tourism (which will be covered later). Lilo herself struggles to make friends, and acts differently with how she adopts Stitch, who doesn’t resemble a typical dog, and acts in ways other people would consider strange, such as taking photographs of tourists, “punishing [her] friends” by mixing around spoons in a pickle jar as childish attempts to do voodoo, and more. Instead of being upset at Lilo for being fired and complicated situations, Nani supports her and plays along, never putting her ideas down and always making sure that Lilo doesn’t feel blamed for severe problems. Though they have a rocky relationship in the movie, Nani and Lilo genuinely care for each other and want to stay together, especially in hard times of their parents’ recent deaths. Unfortunately, a live action would most likely gloss over, ignore, or outright cut out themes and moments like these in favor of practical things such as saving the budget. These themes in the original animated film bring more meaningful depth to the plot and characters, and a live action would be harmful to these themes and the true impact of the original movie.
Finally, as Lilo and Stitch takes place in Hawaii and features native Hawaiian characters, it’s important to accurately show representation of Hawaiian people for more authenticity and positive representation. For the original animated film, Hawaiian people were cast for the roles, and were asked for input on writing the scripts to improve them. One of the most prominent examples is with the theme of how tourism is negative and stereotypical, such as the luau business that Nani worked at and was fired from. Even as she leaves when being fired, Nani calls it a “fakey luau”, which is an accurate description, as luaus were originally a sacred practice that were appropriated into a tourist gimmick that Hawaiian people had to work for in order to support themselves. Also, there was a deleted scene where Lilo clearly resents the tourists and scares them away with a tsunami alert, though this subplot is still present in the final cut when Lilo’s photos of them are shown, as she takes pictures of them to mock how the tourists would take pictures of the natives as if they were props too. As mentioned earlier, live action movies would cut or modify the script of the original film, and results in loss of depth and important themes, and Disney is definitely guilty of that for another animated film with an ethnic minority having a remake; Mulan. Mulan is another animated film about a young Chinese girl who joins the army in secrecy due to sexist laws, and ends with her defeating the main villain, hailed a savior of China, and respected as such as a woman, especially in the face of China’s sexist laws and stigma in the movie. The movie remake, even being in production at the moment, has received backlash for constant changes. Some are changing the villain from a male Hun leader to an evil sorceress, which wipes away the original message the original movie was conveying and replacing an important male character who respects Mulan as a female warrior in the animated film with a “new” male character who hates Mulan until he finds out she’s a woman and is only attracted to her from then on. With how all of the intense criticism has been going for one movie representing an ethnic minority that hasn’t even been released yet, there are legitimate concerns and doubts that the Lilo and Stitch live action will be good as well, and not face such degrading changes to the plot and characters like Mulan.
Overall, Lilo and Stitch stands well on its own as a children’s animated film that also features many important themes and representation of an ethnic minority, and shouldn’t have a live action remake of the movie. Even as it’s in production at the moment, it’s likely that the live action will disrespectfully reinforce animation to be a “lesser” medium, cut away the importance and themes of the animated film, and ruin a lot of the representation and plot of the movie itself.