(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
Sometime before production had started on Mulan, Michael Eisner took a load of the Disney animators out to his mother’s apple orchard so that they could get inspiration from the gorgeous autumnal colours and also because there were a load of apples that needed picking , chop, chop. As the pasty, pencil armed creatures hoisted bushels and sweated against the magnificent backdrop of a September sunset, Michael Eisner’s thoughts turned to Dumbo, another endeavour that would not have been possible without cheap, non-union labour. Why was it that Disney couldn’t make movies like Dumbo anymore?, Eisner mused later that night, enjoying a frothy mug of Mama Eisner’s finest apple cider as the sweet melody of the animators singing their spirituals in the nearby camp wafted through the night air. Dumbo, you’ll recall, was pretty much the only Disney animation of the forties to turn a profit, not because it did that much better at the box-office than the other films but because it had been so cheap to make. The next day, the surviving animators were rounded up and taken back to Burbank and the basic idea for Lilo and Stitch had been planted; to create a successful animated film that did not cost the GNP of a small European nation to make. Lilo and Stich had a budget of $80 Million, which only sounds like a lot because we are poor and clad in filthy rags. For a feature length animated film it’s peanuts. But fortunately, some cartoons work for peanuts.
Actually, the relatively small budget was the gift that kept on giving for this movie. The fact that directors Chris Sanders and Dean deBlois weren’t gambling with a huge chunk of Disney’s money meant that they could work without the execs breathing down their necks like a pack of asthmatic vampire bats. In fact, management was remarkably hands off on this one, which is why it looks, sounds and feels like nothing else in the canon. This movie is shaped visually by Chris Sanders own unique artistic style, and if you came to this movie cold you probably wouldn’t even know it was a Disney movie. But is that a good thing?
Let’s take a look.