With animated film budgets exploding to 100 million and over, Disney CEO Michael Eisner decided that it was time to take a step back. Lilo & Stitch was that new, lower cost film, and it was given a bare-bones, shoestring budget of 80 million dollars. How Disney could expect to make a decent film with an austere amount?
The origin of Lilo & Stitch
Mulan co-writers Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois were brought in to write and direct this film based on an 1985 idea of Sanders’ for a children’s book. When the setting was moved from Kansas to the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, the whole story was turned inside-out, and pushed the story in whole new directions.
As with most new Disney films, the key Lilo & Stitch creative team took trips to the locales they were portraying to get a better feel for what many of them had only heard about. It was during one of those trips that a tour guide explained to the team the of Ohana and the extended Hawaiian families. As if to drive the concept home, DeBlois noted that everywhere they went, their guide knew someone.
The artwork for the film grew naturally from Chris Sanders’ personal drawing style. Of course, the team was overwhelmed with the natural beauty of the islands. To capture the airy allure of the islands, the directors decided to recreate the bright and delicate atmosphere by painting the backgrounds for the film in watercolors, a medium not used by Disney for a feature film since 1940’s Dumbo.
The “A-113” homage to the screening room at Cal Arts makes a few appearances in Lilo & Stitch. Interestingly, all are license plates. Here they are.
This film took in a total of $145.8 million. It captured nearly $35.3 million at the box office in its opening weekend, making Lilo & Stitch the second highest-grossing Disney animated summer film (the first was “The Lion King,” which grossed $40.9 million in its first weekend).