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'Lilo & Stitch 2' Makers Want to Be True to Original

26 Aug, 2005 By: Stephanie Prange

KAHUKU, Hawaii — Much of the talented team from the hit Walt Disney Pictures animated feature Lilo & Stitch — about an alien experiment who finds friends on earth — touched down again for the direct-to-DVD sequel.

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch streets Aug. 30 on DVD and VHS at $29.99. Extras include an animated short about Stitch's origins, a music video and games.

“The first movie bonded the actors,” said David Ogden Stiers, the voice of Stitch's alien inventor, Jumba. “[The first film] affected people massively, and I think that's why everyone elected to do [the sequel].”

The camaraderie between Stiers and Kevin McDonald the voice of Jumba's alien sidekick, Pleakley, extends offscreen in a case of life imitating art — and vice versa.

“They look a little like us,” said McDonald, of their alien characters, one plump and one thin. Except, he noted wryly, he doesn't have one eye.

Those new to the project were careful to honor the franchise's history.

“Stitch, like Mickey Mouse, lives outside of the movie,” said sequel director/writer Michael LaBash. “We were trying to do something that lives up to the standard of the first one.”

One addition to the cast is Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds) as Lilo.

“The original Lilo was ... getting a little bit too old,” said producer Christopher Chase. “Dakota was so charming. Every time she came into the room, she brought something. It was all about acting chops.”

Chris Sanders, creator and voice of the lovable alien Stitch, turned over helming and writing duties on the sequel in part because the studio was developing it before he finished the first film. Nevertheless, he likes the follow-up. “It wasn't safe,” he said.

That's a good approach, because Stitch isn't your typical Disney character, he said. While many Disney characters tend to be archetypal good guys or villains, Stitch isn't.

“He actually lands somewhere in-between,” he said. “If the nice Disney characters had a party, they probably wouldn't invite him. And if the villains had a party, they wouldn't invite him. I think that basically he is like us. He is ruled by his childish urges.”

Another important element the new directing/writing team brought to the property is further exploration of Hawaiian culture. LaBash and fellow director/writer Anthony Leondis traveled to the island of Kauai to get a feel for the atmosphere.

“We had a squirrel in our movie,” Leondis said. After looking at all the chickens on the island, though, he “realized it had to be a chicken.”

As in the first film, the directors used an elaborate watercolor background technique to portray the vivid colors they saw in Kauai. “It's the original technique Disney used in Snow White,” Leondis said.

Other research in Kauai yielded an ancient story of redemption about Pele and her sister Hi'iaka that the writers adapted to the friendship between Lilo and Stitch.

“We really want to respect the Hawaiian culture,” Leondis said.

Jason Scott Lee (returning as the voice of David) said that's one reason he's part of the “Lilo & Stitch” movies. He grew up in Hawaii, surfing and absorbing the local dialect. He describes the “Stitch” movies as “a gentle way of conveying the philosophy of Hawaiian culture.”

“The movie is once again filled with Ohana [the Hawaiian spirit of family],” said Buena Vista Home Entertainment president Bob Chapek in introducing the world premiere. Afterward, the newest addition to the Buena Vista direct-to-DVD fold had its birthday party in a beautiful beachside setting punctuated by a breathtaking fireworks display.

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