Original ‘Lilo and Stitch’ Director Talks Why Original Was 2D and the Challenge of Translating Stitch to Live Action

Lilo and Stitch
When the original Lilo and Stitch came out it was still a few years before Disney would move to using CG animation for their animated features. But it turns out that CG was considered for Disney’s lovable blue alien. At the premiere of his new movie, The Call of the Wild, Chris Sanders discussed why they went with traditional animation and the challenges the live action remake will face in making Stitch “real”.


“I like cute and fluffy.” That’s what Stitch declares when his creator Jumba suggests that he’ll make Stitch’s replacement look a little less friendly. It was also one of the biggest challenges in his design. Stitch is a blue alien with four arms who can, somehow, still pass himself off as a dog. These days it’s hard to imagine him looking different from the mischievous little terror that Sanders and Disney introduced to the world back in 2002, but he could have looked very different.


It turns out that the challenge of Stitch’s design is the main reason Sanders and his team chose to use traditional animation over the computer generated animation that was by this point the hallmark of Pixar and Dreamworks.


Lilo and Stitch


Speaking with Cinemablend at the premiere of The Call of the Wild, Sanders recalled that he and co-writer/co-director Dean DeBlois were offered the choice of going the CG route for the movie, but felt it would have been the wrong decision for the look of the film;


“I definitely thought CG was, not at that point, up to the task of turning [Stitch] into something that would be visually not disturbing. With traditional hand-drawn animation cells you can make it in a particular way you can look at that and not see it as odd. If you think about a reinterpretation of Lilo as a CG character, she would just look very strange because I think she’d feel very Muppet-y because of her big mouth, while in the hand drawn realm she looks pretty normal.”


It’s a question that Sanders has pondered about the live action remake, where the alien characters will have to interact with human actors. Though he stopped short of confirming his rumored involvement, he did share his thoughts on the challenge the remake would face with Stitch’s design.


“Even though he was very bizarre, I think you could buy that people would accept maybe that he was some sort of dog and not just run screaming from him [in the animated movie]. But in live-action with real people that’s going to be different. I don’t think you could put a literal Stitch in there and believably think that people wouldn’t just run away from him. So I’m very curious what angle they will take on him.”


Honestly, I think Disney are going to have to rely on suspension of disbelief with this one. Trying to make a photo realistic Stitch look more dog like would lose too much of the cute charm of the character’s design. Right now I’m thinking they should retain the original character designs and do something similar to Sonic where the CG characters had a slightly animated look to them. After all, Stitch and his friends are aliens. And, quiet frankly, the thought of Jumba and Pleakley receiving a photo realistic makeover like the Michael Bay Ninja Turtles is slightly terrifying. Whatever direction they take, Disney needs to make sure that Stitch is recognizable as his “cute and fluffy” self when the remake hits Disney+.


Lilo and Stitch is expected to start filming later this year for release on Disney+. No release date has been announced.