In the pantheon of Disney animated movies, Lilo & Stitch has always been a little different. This is especially true for the substantial changes made to the film before it hit theaters. We've talked a bit already about how Zootopia and Toy Story had surprisingly dark undertones early in production, but in those cases most everything was ironed out before animators got to work. But Lilo and Stitch had completed whole scenes and massive setpieces that ended up dramatically altered for the finished product -- some for understandable reasons, and some not.
One of the more drastic tweaks was made to an action scene about an hour into the running time. The alien Jumba had just been fired from his mission that required him to use safe and clandestine methods to capture Stitch -- which he took to mean "Now I can use dangerous and loud methods to capture Stitch." What follows is essentially a silly home invasion bit that ends with Lilo's house destroyed.
Test audiences weren't happy with the scene, which they thought was too violent. And so, step-by-step, the scene was watered down. Originally, Jumba was going to destroy the roof while trying to shoot Stitch with his laser gun -- but after the changes, those lasers became thrown dishes.
You can tell they re-used a lot of the same animation and only changed some of the particulars. One of the big exceptions is Jumba himself, who apparently lost a lot of weight during reshoots. That's one of the hazards of re-animating scenes so long after the fact; besides losing all sense of menace, it seems like the re-do was farmed out to a studio that wasn't super-concerned with keeping characters on-model.
Some of the excised moments don't have equivalents in the theatrical edition, like this part:
When it came time to take a harder look at the bit where Lilo gets chased by an out-of-control chainsaw, Disney was like "Nah, maybe we don't need to threaten this six-year-old with dismemberment."
Even though you can see where they were coming from with some of the changes, they may have gone too far in a couple cases.
Jumba's original Swiss Army Knife of Doom was goofy from the start. An omnitool that includes an axe, a buzzsaw and a dart is inherently ridiculous and far removed from reality, but it was excised all the same in favor of something out of Tiny Toons. Lilo & Stitch has a bite to it that separates it from a lot of other Disney cartoons, and changes like this dull that unique edge.
The end product is fine but the pre-focus test version was admirable in its brashness. In the theatrical edition of the movie, Lilo's house blows up because a carrot causes Jumba's gun to backfire. The house still blew up in the original cut, but it was because a giddy Stitch cut the gas main.
Making all of these edits may have made for a more family-friendly film, but it did so at the price of de-toothing one of its main characters. In the very same scene, Stitch was just seen brandishing a chainsaw and tossing a VW bug around -- having him play hot potato while wearing a plunger on his head goes a long way to neutering his character.
While Disney saw fit to at least see this sequence through with finished animation, the same can't be said for a quieter moment that explores life as a native of Hawaii. These pencil sketches show us a somber scene in which Lilo interacts with (i.e. barely tolerates) a handful of racist yokels that visit the island for pleasure.
Imagine having to deal with this shit in your every day life. Dickbags like this would roll up next to you in their jeep, take one look at the color of your skin and a) assume you know where the beach is and b) are more than happy to play tour guide for any passerby. These are the same shitheels who assume every non-white person they come across speaks English as a second language (at best). The saddest part about these Walmartian pissants is that you just know they exist in reality, and local Hawaiians have to deal with them on a daily basis.
Keeping this in mind, you can't help but be on Lilo's side when she fakes a tsunami warning to clear the beach of annoying tourists.
She's right, you know. In all likelihood, you probably don't know what it's like to live in a place that most people only visit.
You know people on the creative team cared about this scene -- but production stopped short of screening in front of test audiences. It's not a stretch to suggest that we're looking at a result of executive interference. Maybe some Disney suit figured that this sober reflection of America might offend some mouth-breathers who wouldn't understand the irony of a white person being offended by white people being offensive.
Though you could argue that Disney made a bad call not including such an insightful scene, the same can't be said for the drastically different ending that never made it to theaters. Like the version that everyone has seen, Lilo is still kidnapped by Captain Gantu and the rest of the gang still gives chase. But in the original cut, Stitch does this by hijacking a 747.
In full production by 2001, Lilo & Stitch existed both in the time before and after the September 11 attacks. When that fateful day came, everyone at Disney realized that there wasn't a chance in hell they could show a plane being hijacked in their cartoon, much less by their protagonist. And so the 747 instead became Jumba's huge spaceship.
But that wasn't the only thing they had to change. See, the script initially called for the 747 to fly through Honolulu and crash into buildings, terrorizing the local populace. Yeah. They animated all of that.
The finale was heavily revamped, and the setting of the climactic chase scene shifted from the city to the mountains, thus saving millions of parents everywhere from whispering under their breath "Oh... oh, god..." while trying to keep cool in front of their kid.
Tristan Cooper can be found on Twitter.