Lies and Stitch
Imagine what it must be like. You're this bizarre little creature that has been kicked out into a world you don't understand and that doesn't love you. A creature of great and terrible power, a creature of potential, but one which society has no desire to nurture. Instead the world sees you as an affront to all that it holds dear and expresses only a desire to see you destroyed. So you run. You run into the darkest corner you can, and find yourself trapped on a tiny island in the furthest most corner of the Universe, in a place where your terrible powers are stifled. The landscape is too barren to service your requirements and so you are forced to deny your very soul and adapt completely to your repressive confines. Imagine what that must be like. Being an animator at Disney. It must be terrible.
The thing about Disney's Lilo and Stitch is that it's not all that bad. It's not offensively ugly. It's cute and amusing for the duration of its screen time, but ultimately instantly forgettable amongst the other six hours of television you probably watched the same day. On the other hand though, because the Gods dictate it, your children will probably watch it every day for six months after it comes out on DVD. It is precisely for this reason that the things that I, The Atlantis Mantis, am about to say, must be said. It is because you, as a species, have a duty to consider what is being allowed into your children's heads and where it is coming from.
A few years ago we all knew where we stood with Disney films. Every nine months or so the factory would churn out the exact same morally corrupt, culturally vacant proto-fascist sing-a-long fairy tale, each time packaged around a different picture postcard interpretation of a foreign culture tainted by good ol' American global internationalism - and we were all sick of it. They became so fantastically predictable and politically dubious that even the most brainwashed of viewer began to tune in elsewhere. But not any more.
These days everyone is talking about the resurgence of the Disney animated feature, and how they are trying to break away from the traditional mold. Fact is, the last couple of films haven't been all that bad. That is to say, they haven't been offensively awful - and as a result you have all been very embracing of old Mauschwitz of late, if only out of a sense of relief. And therein lies the danger. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making you think he wasn't still a complete and utter bastard.
Example. One of the dominating factors in Disney's Lilo and Stitch, supposedly separating it from the rest of the oeuvre, is its contemporary postmodern setting. For one thing we are supposed to be highly impressed that the story focuses around a 'broken' single parent family consisting of a little girl and her older sister. One might suggest that this represents a startlingly brave acknowledgement on Disney's part to recognise the face of the contemporary American family and the break down of its key demographic. One might suggest that, but one would be talking bollocks. All we are being served once again is the same old one and ONLY narrative Disney has ever offered us - that one about the little princess with one parent.
Fair enough. That's what they DO. Or at least it would be fair enough if, like everything else in this and every other film the studio has made, this simple concept wasn't buried under confused and confusing moral paradoxes. The dominant theme in the film is 'the family'. They call it 'Ohana' in the movie, this years Akuma Na Tata, but it's this 'family' idea that is beaten into our brains at every turn. 'Families come in all shapes and sizes. 'Broken' or otherwise, they are still a family as good as any other so long as they are held together by love' - they teach us. 'This is my Family' Stitch announces towards the end. 'They are small and broken, but they are still good.' All fine and dandy. So WHY then (oh why God why) is it considered neccesary for everyone to suddenly make every effort in the last three minutes of the film to form a stupid ass American 'nuclear family' thus invalidating everything that has been said previously and making any child from a 'broken home' in the audience feel thoroughly inadequate about their situation once more. Can you say 'mixed messages' children? Why would anyone do that? Did James Cameron write the script?
I'll tell you why! It's that eighties/fifties thing again. The bizarre perpetuation of an obsession with a fifties that never was, invented in the eighties by Lucas, Spielberg and their countless imitators. This curious but ever present pathological obsession manifests its self on numerous levels throughout the film. On the most obvious level there is the substitution of the once mandatory musical numbers, by way of a tedious deifying of Elvis BLOODY Presley. But underneath this lies a current of fifties American cultures much darker idiosynchracies, namely paranoia, racism and an isolated global outlook. For a start, the film is set in Hawaii, the most fifties place in the world. Not the real Hawaii (if such a thing even exists anymore), but ludicrous postcard Hawaii and its 'wacky' but oh so delightful culture. Various pokes are made at the commercialisation of the island in the script, but without anything but a total pandering to said commercialisation to back this up. Equally, there is at one point a 'hilarious' joke, that I don't care to reiterate, at the expense of Iceland. Suffice to say it is indicative of America's apparent belief that Iceland must be some sort of zany foreign backwater, probably in the Antarctic. All this is to say nothing of the 'comedy Russian' bad guy. Irony? Postmodernism? Laziness? Racism? You decide.
The film starts as it means to go on. Our story opens in the Galactic Senate off The Phantom Menace ( and lets face it, the only reason Disney is doing so much scifi now is to get its nose into the old Star Wars trough ) and we are all but immediately subjected to a preachy truncation of the currently popular genetic engineering debate. But without the debate. Why does this happen? Because its still the fifties, and because Hollywood is still making fifties films. Because GENETIC ENGINEERING! is the new ATOMIC! You haven't moved on. You think you're so clever now, but you haven't moved on. You don't know what genetic engineering even is. You don't know what the hell that means. But your opinion of it has already been well and truly blasted into your brain without even a hint of such inconveniences as scientific understanding or a clear overview of the moral debate. No. This funny little fat Russian guy has been GENETIC ENGINEERING, and is thus the devil himself. That's all you need to know.
Isn't brainwashing fun?
By equal measure there is a recurring joke surrounding the other 'villain' of the piece, made at the expense of 'bleeding heart loony left wing conservationalists'.
Obviously animal rights activists really need putting in their place in this day and age. We all hate those 'Save the Panda' guys don't we. Bastards. God forbid we should be making jokes at the expense of lovely upstanding folks like, say, the military. Or oil companies or something. No, lets have a go at the old greeny's. What a bunch of fuckers they are.
I mean, where the fuck did THAT idea come from? Did someone let the elephants out of their horse box at Disneyland zoo that week or something? You can just imagine some Disney fat cat executive fuck sitting in his office thinking 'I hate those greeny bastards, we should take the piss out of them in our next film. The kids will really go for that.'
Anyway. I digress. So Disney's Lilo and Stitch is a seemingly harmless film that is actually laden with fascististic right wing propaganda for all the family to enjoy. Who'd have thunk it. But lets return to the plight of those poor animators I was talking about earlier.
A couple of years ago Disney bought the worldwide distribution rights to the work of Japan's Studio Ghibli so that they could sit on them. They do this a lot. It is by this method alone that they maintain their reputation as masters of the art form against all incriminating evidence to the contrary. Had they made this move ten years ago, Disney could have hidden the work of Ghibli from the world quite successfully, but unfortunately for them most of Ghibli's catalog was produced in the nineties, by which time the internet had been well and truly invented and the word leaked out by way of their own beloved globalisation. Subsequently they have been slowly and quietly releasing the back catalog with all the enthusiasm of a fat man trying not to fart in a restaurant.
This notwithstanding, it is perfectly evident to any one who cares enough to look, that everyone working creatively at Disney's animation studios would much rather be working for Ghibli. Ghibli are the best theatrical animation studio in the world. Disney are the worst. End of story. Everybody knows this. Subsequently there are numerous Ghibli 'inspired' moments throughout Lilo and Stitch. These fall into two categories.
The first category is the 'so heavy handed as to be tantermount to theft' category. Listed here are such things as the recurrent use of the frog/toad out of My Neighbor Totoro. The frog is first introduced in a scene that plays homage to the famous umbrella scene in 'Totoro in a number of ways. As the film progresses, however, the frog becomes a recurring character with the exact same narrative function. Postmodernism is one thing, but in my book (which is quite a long book, as you might imagine) taking a character from one film and just putting it in another film its entirety does not constitute a 'homage'. It is called stealing. The same could be said for the use of Ghiblis trademark 'epilogue in stills over the titles' device.
The second category is titled 'Dear God help me, I'm trapped at Disney and I can't get out'. This is the message one gets from the animators when you see such images as 'Kiki's Coffee Shop' or the distinctive Porco Rosso-esque behavior of the Russian guys spaceship. These things are less nodding references to the sister studio, so much as a desperate S.O.S from a bunch of people who would much rather be working on something else someWHERE else.
Equaly, Disney's Lilo and Stitch is representative of the fact that Disney have built their empire on stealing other animation studios ideas, but that they only ever seem to get around to it a great many years after everybody else has moved on.
Years ago, for example, John Krisfalusi somehow got away with having The Ren and Stimpy Show run on Nickelodeon for several years, before the network took it off the air for being any good. Of course this didn't stop Nickelodeon from spending the next ten years churning out bad Ren and Stimpy knock-offs. Similar things have happened over the course of the nineties with Rugrats (which was good once, I seem to remember) and Dexter's Laboratory, so that today the multitudinous kid's channels (including Disney's own) are chock-a-block with unbelievably bad attempts to infringe upon the copyrights of the one or two GOOD shows that have ever been accidentally produced over the past ten years. As a result, 'wackily drawn multicoloured ethnically diverse glow in the dark politically incorrect jungle based anthropomorphic psychopath cartoons' is practically a genre. A genre which has dominated the cartoon networks for over a decade, but a rapidly dying trend non the less. It is strange then that Disney's theatrical animation department should NOW of all times decide it wants to cash in on this trend, when it clearly peaked around 1998. Anyone doubting that it is more this market that Disney are aiming for (and less the Pokemon market as some lazy journalists have ascertained) should bare in mind that the film is called 'Lilo and Stitch'. Ren and Stimpy. Cow and Chicken. Pinky and the Brain. CatDog. Lilo and Stitch. Nuff said.
As a result of trying to capitalise on this market, the film seems constantly stifled and ultimately fails to win you over. There are two dominant forces behind this film. There are the animators, who want to be working on a Ghibli film, and there are the writers, who want to be working on Invader Zim. Neither group seems to want to be working on Disney's Lilo and Stitch and this is evident in every scene. The very premise revolves around the ideas of death and mass destruction, yet everyone knows you are not allowed either of these things in a Disney film. The result is similar to what happens on a lot of TV animations based on live action films, such as The Mummy animated series for example. Shows that revolve around something which they are barely even permitted to discuss (such as the reanimation of corpses and so on), and so shouldn't even really exist in the first place.
You can't make a Disney film with black comedy and everyone knows this. So why even bother. What is the point in digging your own grave, when everyone knows you're immortal anyway?
They also seem to be trying to capitalise on that eighties trend for chaos-enducing culture junky aliens that become household pets, established by E.T and perpetuated by such things as Gremlins and Short Circuit. Talk about a late entry. They tried to make this film a few years back. In those days they called it Mac and Me. It was dull then and it's dull now.
To conclude, the best thing one can really say about Disney's Lilo and Stitch is that at least it's not Disney's Treasure Planet! What a fucking brilliant idea that is. Well done Disney, let's make Titan A.E AGAIN. That'll be REALLY great. I've got nothing against recontextualising the classics, but if Robert Louis Stevenson were alive today I very much fucking doubt he would have chosen to add a fucking 'space snowboarding' scene.
Crass Californian bastards.
The Atlantis Mantis.
© The content of this sight and all associated imagery and materials are protected by copyright.
Any unauthorized duplication will result in legal action and/or untimely demise.