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Ahem.... Harry here and this is a helluva damn fine report... I mean real damn good. Lots of info about the next few years of Disney Animation.... So pull up to the table, put on the bib and start to read, there seems to be good things in the future.... Unless we hear otherwise from Jim Hill or Sir Etch-A-Sketch....

My mother wears the Mouse Ears in the family, working in Orlando. (while I'm stuck in Texas. sniffle.) She forwards me quite a lot of information, almost all of it reliable, culled from sources around the parks. (one guy, who originated the e-mail, has a list set up for these) Most of it is more business-related (who Disney is suing or being sued by this week) but every now and then I get sent something like this.

If you actually use this, call me



Hi! Recently a friend of mine down in Australia attended a Animation Features Preview given by Walt Disney Australia....Here is his report...Makes for interesting reading and NOTE: If you don't want to know ANYTHING about upcoming Disney Animated Films, then DON'T read this as there are some great SPOILERS below).... thanks again, Wayne...... Arlen


Wednesday 23rd May 2001 Greater Union Cinema Sydney Approximately 250 people attended the day which commenced just after 9am with an introduction by Mark Scott Marketing Manager The Walt Disney Company Australia. He commenced by saying that The Walt Disney Companies and its various divisions in Australia now all come under the one brand "Disney Australia" with total sales in 2000 of $500 million. This new branding will lead to more integrated events here in Australia. He then had great pleasure in introducing Zoe Leader Director of Communications of The Walt Disney Studio. Zoe's presentation was a wonderful two and a half hour journey through the next 4 Disney animated features after Atlantis. Zoe commenced with a trailer from the "Princess Diaries". A live action movie opening here in Australia in September. It is produced by Gary Marshall who also produced Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride. It is a movie for the whole family. It stars Anna Hathaway (could be the next Julia Roberts) and Julie Andrews. It is the story of a young teenage girl who learns she is a Princess and the experiences she has as she learns to be a Princess. A very funny movie with looks to be may classic scenes.

Feature Animation

Treasure Planet

This was the first time this preview presentation had been made anywhere in the world about this feature.

Due for release November 2002 in the USA and Christmas 2002 here in Australia. The story is loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. The setting for the movie is Outer Space (which in the feature is called the etherium). It is Directed by the same directors as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.

The technology in the movie has an 18th century look. The movie is filled with amazing solar sailing ships (imagine an 18th century three masted sailing ship with Solar Sails not sails to catch wind with to catch the solar wind from the stars, Also the ship is equipped with artificial gravity and propulsion drive and you get an idea of the ships). These ships sail through the Universe as well through the etherium are amazing space creatures.

Main characters:

Jim Hawkins ? a teenager, smart but he has a big chip on his shoulder which we learn came about because his father left when he was very young.

- he is voices by Joseph from 3rd Rock from the Sun. Jim is always getting into trouble.

Dr Doppler ? an explorer and friend of Jim's mother. Voiced by David Hyde Pierce. He is an avid explorer.

Captain Amelia ? Captain of the "RLS Legacy" she looks cat like in her facial features.

John Silver ? half cyborg. Half human and half machine. Hand drawn animation on human half and computer animation on cyborg half. Glen Keene is the lead animator on this character.

B.E.N. ? Bio Electronic Navigator. Voiced by Martin Short. He was marooned on Treasure Planet all alone for 100 years (so later in the movie when he meets one of the people in the movie he cannot stop talking). A very funny character.

Morph ? a cute shape shifter who is a friend of John Silver. He is like a mixture of Flubber and a number of cute Disney characters combines eg Flit, Meeko , Abu.

The story opens with a Prologue as we go 100 years into the past to meet Captain Flint the Greatest Pirate of all time. He plundered the ships of 1,000 worlds and after plundering the ships he would mysteriously completely disappear. It is folk lore that his treasure is on Treasure Planet but no one knows it's location.

We then cross to the setting of the movie to a town with the Ben Pzo Inn run by Jim's mum. At the Inn everyone from all over the region is fed. Great animation as we saw this sequence. Jim is out and runs across an old Geyser who has been mortally hurt Billy Bones. Jim helps Billy to the Inn where Jim is given an orb and Billy tells him to guard it well. Pirates suddenly attack and burn the Inn as Dr Doppler , Jim and his mum escape. Later at Dr Doppler's residence he says that it will take years to understand the orb. Suddenly Jim does something to it and an amazing star map appears (great animation) showing the way though the galaxies to Treasure Planet.

Dr Doppler organizes an expedition to Treasure Planet. We find ourselves at an amazing 18th Century looking port city which is a ringed space station with 18th century sailing ships (actually space ships that sail through the etherium). We saw amazing animation this space port.

We get our first look at the RLS Legacy (the expedition ship). The animation of the ship leaving the port, unfurling its solar sails, the commencement of propulsion and heading into the etherium was outstanding. It journeys into the etherium passing a pod of amazing space creatures that looked a little like whales but more majestic.

Captain Amelia takes Jim and Dr Doppler aside and tells them not to mention anything about Treasure Planet to the crew. The crew comprises some very unusual looking creatures.

We saw the first meeting between Jim and John Silver in the galley. In this scene we also meet Morph ? a shape shifter friend of John Silver.

During the course of the movie Jim and Silver do a lot together and become close. There is one song in the movie and it is a wonderful bonding song of Jim and Silver in it and we see flashbacks to Jim's father leaving.

Silver thinks Jim's great and Jim feels warmth towards Silver. This is the heart of the story.

As the ships journey continues on we see the first Solar Storm absolutely amazing animation. The ship is guided safely away from a black hole. During the storm a character is lost overboard. Jim is in trouble for this as he was responsible for securing the lifelines. Jim thinks it was his mistake but is was one of the other members of the crew.

Later the crew mutinies and the Captain, Jim and Dr Doppler escape to Treasure Planet. Jim heads of and meets B.E.N. the robot and the adventure continues as they find the gateway to the treasure.

- A great animated feature it is only disappointing that we have to wait till Christmas next year to see it. My score 10 out of 10.


Lilo & Stitch

Scheduled to open in June 2002 in the USA and September 2002 in Australia.

Lilo and Stitch is an all original story.


Lilo ? little Hawaiian girl with a vivid sense of imagination and loves Elvis Presley music. Both Lilo and her older sister Nani are orphans.

Nani ? Lilo's 19 year old sister. She works hard at keeping the family together.

Stitch ? experiment 626. He resulted from an unauthorized Genetic experiment. He has no ability to care and is the ultimate fighting machine and the destroyer of cities.

Jumba ? was the alien responsible for the genetic experiment that created stitch.

Politely ? is Jumba's assistant and has only learned things about Earth from a view master.

The story opens with Lilo at the beach and swimming and then realizing she is late rushing to her hula class. She gets into trouble and her sister Nina races home to see what trouble she has been in. She finds the door locked and nailed in place by Lilo and we see Lilo lying on the floor next to her record player listening to Elvis songs as Nani tries to get in. (Disney has licensed 7 Elvis songs for the movie. Three of them are: Heartbreak Hotel; Hound Dog; Devil in Disguise). As Nina tries to get in the house the Social Worker Mr Bubbles the social worker arrives to see how Nina and Lilo are doing. What he finds in a great animated sequence does not install much trust in how Nina is looking after her sister.

The scene changes and we see Stitch imprisoned on a penal ship in outer space. He escapes the ship after a series of classic sequences and eventually crash lands on Earth. After crash landing on earth he wonders onto a busy road and gets run over by a semi trailer. As he is virtually indestructible be is unconscious but his weapons are destroyed. Now unconscious he is taken to an animal shelter by the owners of the truck. In a very funny sequence the other animals in the shelter are petrified of Stitch. The next morning Nina takes her sister to the hospital to get a pet. Lilo borrows money from her sister to buy a pet. Lilo wanders out the back of the shelter to find a pet and she can't find any animals in the cages as they are all hanging from the rafters afraid of Stitch. She finds Stitch who has transformed himself into a Blue Dog. He goes with Lilo to use her as a shield against Jumba and Politely who are hunting him.

Later we see a classic animated sequence when David Nina's boyfriend takes them all to the water and Nina, Lilo and Stitch go surfing.

There is great animation in this feature and (watercolors) used in the coloring of all the cels. There is a real heart to the story of the relationship that develops between Lilo and Stitch.

My rating. This will be a very word of mouth animated feature. 8 out of 10


Peter Pan ? Return to Neverland

The sequel to Peter Pan animated here in Sydney at Walt Disney Animation Australia. Coming Eater 2002 in Australia and March 2002 in the USA.

The sequence we saw was a trailer and opened with Captain Hook kidnapping Wendy's niece Jane and we see them head to Never Land. Jane is 12 years old and doesn't believe Aunt Wendy's stories about Peter Pan and Neverland.

Songs in the movie by Jonathan Brrok. Jane in Neverland wonders how she can ever get home. We are re-introduced to all the characters from the original and with a sprinkle of Pixie Dust the adventure begins.

The animation we saw in the trailer was excellent and one to look forward to.

My rating very good 8 out of 10.


Monsters, Inc

Another release from Disney/Pixar. Coming in November in the USA and Christmas here in Australia.

Again another great story and wonderful computer generated animation from Pixar.

In the land of monsters screams power everything and there is a huge shortage of screams.

Monsters scare because it is there job.

The Characters;

Mike Wzowski ? voiced by Billy Crystal

James P. Sullivan (Sully) ? voiced by John Goodman. He's the best scarer at Monsters Inc. He huge Blue and purple and hairy.

Boo ? The small human girl

The opening sequence begins in the scare floor of Monsters Inc. There is a door for every child's cupboard in the world. We see the doors coming out on an overhead rail and lowered onto the floor and locked into place with assistants next to each door. We then see the monsters come out in a scene reminiscent of The Right Stuff as they line up and approach their door. If any item of a child enters the Monster's world the anti contamination squad arrives and decontaminates the area which is what happens in once classic sequence. One day a little girl comes into the monsters world.

We see the adventures of the little girl Boo, Sully and Mike as they work out a way to get her back to her bedroom and along the way find a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of Monsters Inc. They also discover that it is better to capture laughter than screams.

Another wonderful animated feature from Pixar.

My rating 9 out of 10.

We then had a morning tea break and went back into the cinema to see Disney's next animated feature in it's entirety Atlantis: The Lost Empire.


Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Opens June 2001 in the USA and on September 13th here in Australia. There will be a massive media campaign and a large online promotion on , Saturday Disney and theme windows in The Disney Store.


Milo James Thatch ? voiced by Michael J Fox. He's a cartographer and an expert on the Atlantean language.

Commander Lyle T Rourke ? voiced by James Garner and he looks like him in some ways.

Helga Sinclar ? Rourke's second in charge.

The Expedition Team:

Mole ? A digging expert

Vinny ? An explosives expert

Audry Rominez ? youngest member of the team the mechanical expert

Cookie ? The cook

Dr Joshua Sweet ? Medical

Bertha Pachard ? Communications

A great animated feature with adventure, wonderful lands and vehicles and a great story.

The story begins with a flash back to Atlantis and the catastrophe that destroyed it. We then move forward to 1914 Washington and see Milo making a presentation about the location of the shepherds journal which shows how to find Atlantis. We's unable to convince the board of the museum to fund his expedition. Later that day he gets an invitation to Preston Whitmore's home a friend of his father who give him a present left by Milo's father. It is the shepherds journal. Preston finances the expedition and we the the wonderful submarine the Ulysees. The adventure continues and our team arrive at Atlantis.

Atlantis is a completely new animated feature from Disney and I am looking forward to seeing it again in September. I have purposely not put too much down as I don't want to spoil the surprise and treat that is in store as you see it for yourselves.

Readers Talkback
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  • June 4, 2001, 3:17 a.m. CST

    I hope it works out...

    by DerBeppo

    Sounds great for the most part, but Treasure world sounds a bit like Titan A.E.

  • June 4, 2001, 3:27 a.m. CST

    Too grown up for Disney huh??

    by malinky

    No one has responded to this - are you all too old for disney?? I love Disney but i do hope that these new films dont turn out to be cheesy reworkings of all their previous successes.

  • June 4, 2001, 3:30 a.m. CST

    November, oh so faraway..

    by slav

    Monsters Inc. still sends electrodes to my head saying "need to see it now, need to see it now".

  • June 4, 2001, 4:10 a.m. CST

    Peter Pan 2

    by batjack

    Hi Harry, remember me? The guy who sent you a report in on this last month and you didn't bother mentioning it? Don't remember? Story of my life. Anyway, I'll forgive you. Only because the site's the main reason for geting online in the morning. The trailer looks fab, and the story is intriguing. Question: who's doing the voices? Captain Hook sounds just like Hans Conreid, and the last time I looked he was dead. Cheers, batjack

  • June 4, 2001, 4:42 a.m. CST


    by XBXSSSA

    DEATH TO THE MOUSE!!!!!!!!

  • June 4, 2001, 5:24 a.m. CST

    other sequels...

    by bc1970

    The AP wire stated a while back that a slew of straight to video sequels were coming. Peter Pan 2 was to be one, but was so well recieved that it got bumped up. Tarzan 2, Cinderella 2 and another Lion King (I think) are on the way.

  • June 4, 2001, 6:52 a.m. CST

    Peter Pan 2. Sweet Jesus, no.

    by Cassius the Evil

    Well. Aside from the assraping implied by this abomination, Disney actually seems to be cleaning up its act. Hooray for them, I suppose. I might actually cough up the full eight bucks for Atlantis. Not like it'll beat Iron Giant or anything, though.

  • June 4, 2001, 7:24 a.m. CST

    lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet

    by quim

    Is it me or does the plot of Lilo & Stitch sound an awful lot like Iron Giant? Treasure Planet sounds pretty good, if only to see s Steampunk story on screen.

  • June 4, 2001, 7:54 a.m. CST

    Some Good Stuff...

    by Prankster

    Not that we needed a Peter Pan II, but by all accounts the movie was, like Toy Story 2, good enough to bypass the direct-to-video market for which it was aimed. I hate to sound like I'm supporting these cruddy cash cows Disney is cranking out, but if they would just try to reduce the volume of these sequels there could be some merit in them. "Tarzan 2" for instance--Edgar Burroughs wrote about a zillion "Tarzan" sequels, and most of the screen Tarzans appeared in numerous adventures and serials, so a sequel would be suited to the material. And "Peter Pan 2" could possibly work...but "Lady and the Tramp 2"? "Cinderella 2?" "Hunchback 2"? Come ON. Pace yourself, Disney. Some of these stories are memorable because they END. Oh well, at least their feature film lineup is very promising. ("Lilo & Stitch" doesn't sound like much, but virtually everyone who's seen the work being done is raving about it.) There have been a lot of complaints from within Disney about Atlantis's story being weak, but everyone outside the company who's seen it seems to be pretty impressed (though maybe they're just relieved that there's no singing or talking animals). The question is, can it outdo Tomb Raider at the box office?

  • June 4, 2001, 8:29 a.m. CST

    Well this is interesting!

    by Toonimator

    Lilo & Stitch is the film an insider told me about several months ago while griping that Atlantis was weak. I imagine if a story is even a bit weak, working on it for a couple years won't raise one's opinion... but anyway, he was quite enthusiastic about Lilo & Stitch, and said it's the beginning of a new trend in Disney films, the "other" films I mentioned. One would be the traditional classic, and the other would be new stories, different executions, more experimental and broader in material. L&S sounds too much like Iron Giant? Well, just about any story about a kid & some mysterious figure or wild animal they befriend sounds similar. I think one difference is that Stitch's creators are involved in the story; the Giant's origins and purpose aren't revealed, so while he has his dark side when threatened by weapons, there's not the potential for him being controlled by anyone. The Zeta Project is more like L&S, I think, in general terms. The watercolor painting sounds intriguing; I can't wait to catch a glimpse! I wonder if the scheduling of Treasure Planet and L&S will be the formula for these films from now on... the more mainstream film having a holiday release, and the smaller or more experimental one having summer releases, and a year & a half between each set. It could be argued that this year it starts. Emperor's New Groove hit during the holidays (though didn't receive much hype and has a relatively small scope), while Atlantis is hitting in summer, and is a departure for Disney into the realm of their 60s adventure films. These may be the exception: while Atlantis may be the less-typical Disney, it's got a much bigger scope and fanfare than Emperor's... Anyway, it means more animation and I'm all for it. Peter Pan 2 sounds... well.. like Hook, except Peter never left Never Never Land. At least we won't need to sit through an awkwardly scripted & staged "transformation" of Peter back into "the Pan." If they seriously have turned out such great sequels, they SHOULD have some big-screen time; I think the reason they don't is because of the ambitious Feature schedule they've got going. Still, there are gaps; we're getting another film this month, but the holidays and next summer will be without Disney animation (with good reason; this holiday, it'd compete with Monsters, Inc, not to mention Harry Potter, and next summer you've got Star Wars and Spider-Man). But gaps like that might be good for the D2V sequels they're confident about! Audiences might like the alternative to the Blockbuster-Of-The-Week in the summers; at the very least, the movies are pretty short, so folks might be inclined to check one out in an afternoon after seeing the BOTW :) Whoever mentioned the Tarzan sequels above has it right; that property, for once, is DEMANDING of sequels. Unlike Hercules, at least it lends itself to a weekly Saturday morning series. I hope they don't end up calling it "Tarzan 2". I'm sure there'll be a subtitle, like Lion King had, but keep the feeling of the books & serials, call it "Tarzan & the Lost Tribe of Africans So Many People Think Should Have Been in the First One" or something :) (and to those people mentioned in the subtitle: a) there was a black man in the ship's crew, while Tarzan was a prisoner in the hold, and b) they were in an UNINHABITED part of Africa; the gorillas wouldn't have stuck around if natives were strolling about!) okay, back on topic... "Tarzan &..." just makes sense, like Indiana Jones. Hopefully the ensuing sequels will dump even the single character-performed musical number of the first, and focus on the adventure. And finally, Monsters, Inc. A story that, at the surface, has been done <coughHOWIEMANDELcough> but, hey, it's Pixar. Dem guys know da stuff. All I've seen is the trailer everyone's seen, but I'm excited; I took a class from one of the storyboard artists on the film. In our last session Disney & Pixar had finally announced the title publicly, so he was pretty happy to be able to talk a bit about it. We brought up the Mandel movie, and got plenty of assurances (hey, there were no visuals yet, except some mood-setting scenery!). As sour as my opinions are regarding the tons of sequels being churned out, and on a good deal of the business side of Disney, the animation still manages to awe & inspire me, even when it's another Singing Sidekick-fest. Okay, I'm done!

  • June 4, 2001, 8:32 a.m. CST

    Just Flew In From The Opening Of Disneyland Amsterdam And Boy Ar

    by Buzz Maverik

    It's great. You guys gotta go. In Fantasyland, there's The Mad Hash Cups and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride On Hash. In Adventureland, there's Indiana Jones & The Lost Stash of Hash. In Main Street, stop off at the Hall Of Prostitutes. There was a long line for Hash Mountain, who I went over to the Country Bear Bordello, then rode the Haunted Hashion and The Prostitutes of The Carribean before getting back in line. But for me, I guess my favorite was Roger Rabbit's Hashtown, but I'm just a big stoned kid at heart.

  • June 4, 2001, 9:14 a.m. CST

    Might the guy have just given his mom away?

    by 855K Scoville

    The guy says his mother works in Orlando for Disney while he lives in Texas. I wonder if the original Disney distribution list for the document is small enough that there might be only one female on the list with a son living in Texas. If that's the case, (and assuming the guy really is a guy in Texas with a mom in Orlando), then the guy might just have given his mom away. Police and the press always do does this kind of thing, too. It seems that whenever a suspect is arrested, a newscaster says something like, "the suspect was apprehended based on a tip from a co-worker of the suspect who works on the suspect's same shift". It always seems that such information might be enough for the suspect to figure out who ratted on him/her.

  • June 4, 2001, 9:37 a.m. CST

    that "stich" one sounded kinda like "Iron Giant"

    by Tall_Boy

    though its admitedly hard to tell from a tiny synopsis like that one...

  • June 4, 2001, 9:56 a.m. CST

    Uhh.... the little Hawaiian girl goes to hula class?

    by user id indeed!

    Hey, gravy. Why don't they just make her Japanese and have her go to martial arts class? Or German and fudge making class? Or Chinese, and have her accidentally eat Stitch after mistaking it for a dog? Or gay, and have her be an interior decorator who thinks polyester is "FAAAAAABULOUTH!" Oh, wait, she'd be a lesbian, which would make her fat and hairy, right? HUH?!? Y'know, I went to Hawaii, and the only hula dancers I saw were on the shirts of American tourists. But hey, being Americans, what we think of other countries and people is RIGHT, DAMMIT!!! Shh, listen! You can hear the children of the world crying! Awww, that's cute. "Treasure Planet" sounds pretty boss, though. Next up: "Space Expectations", with a luscious Estella sex-bot! Woo! This has been a Moment with User ID Indeed!

  • June 4, 2001, 10:31 a.m. CST

    Atlantis may be the opportunity we've been looking for...

    by magnumxat1313

    I think Atlantis (and perhaps Treasure Planet, but we'll see) has the potential to rewrite the role of animation in America. When some of my pals from my local realm of geekdom and I started creating stories we thought would be cool to tell we almost immediately decided that live action was out of the question cause we could never show what we wanted to that way. Boy were we dismayed when we started reading up on now to break into the animation scene and get original animation made. Talk about a tough industry. Its got such a central tenant about being kid friendly that it challenges absolutely nothing that involves no death, no harm, little violence, toy marketing, and of course overdoses of bad humor. I don't know about the rest of you but I remeber BATTLE OF THE PLANETS (you know G-FORCE, that bird costume themed anime super team from the seventies) from my pre-kindergarden days and loved every second of the ongoing super-soap opera. With the young audiences that follow live action shows like buffy, angel, and roswell that have incredible fantastic elements don't tell me that young people wouldn't go for good animated fiction. The problem has been that the genre has been to typecast as a means to a marketing end for a particular audience. Now, lets look at the big successful disney films. Aladin (SP?), Lion King, Beauty and the Beast (a personal favorite-so sue me.), etc. They all had not only the kid audience going again, they had the teen, the yound adult, and the dating of whatever age going again. That were just good. Why is that so hard to accept? Get away from formulas and take a chance Disney. If you guys can go out and get guys like Mike Mignola and folks behind Fantasia 2000 to such innovative and wonderful work on stuff then why can't you aim for that kind of independent thinking in all your features. Just my opinoin. I hope that Atlantis breaks the mold and does for animation what the matrix did for science fiction elements in films the last few years.

  • June 4, 2001, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Anthony Quinn / Treasure Island / Space...


    Didn't Anthony Quinn star in a Treasure Island in Space type movie/series. I remember it from my school Holidays... Yeah, here we go...

  • June 4, 2001, 10:52 a.m. CST

    Disney Formula

    by Rudi T

    I'm not surprised that the movie geeks on this site are fired up about the supposed new direction of Disney animation, but I have my doubts. For years, I

  • June 4, 2001, 10:54 a.m. CST

    Atlantis will be a great movie to watch, but...

    by The Killer-Goat

    ...ultimately will not be accepted as a potential turnpoint in american animation. The only thing this movie will prove is that stories can be told without song lyrics or cheesy sidekicks. Which we've been telling Disney & Co. for years. But parents eat the same old regurgitated tripe. American fildom thematics are gonna be stuck on "recycle" setting, just to please each new, uninitiated generation, and when that generation grows to be parents, they'll have "Peter Pan and Aladdin to Treasure Island to see The Little Mermaid and the Dalmations". Part 4. The nationwide general American demographic of 40-somethings and over just doesn't have the imagination to accept change. Hell, people are whining about Final Fantasy because it ain't "traditional animation", it ain't realistic CGI, it looks awkward...etc, etc. Well, just like the American automotive industry, our animation's getting stagnant, too. For every 15 new anime ideas the japanese try and fail/succeed at, Americans only invest enough effort to have 1 success per year or call the whole thing off. "Americans love a winner...they will NOT tolerate a loser..." --Patton. And don't even get me started on the political meddling, aka R.I.P. Batman Beyond: ROTJ.

  • June 4, 2001, 11:21 a.m. CST

    the Disney monster stirkes again!!!

    by Major Blood

    Um, is it me or does Monsters Inc sound EXACTLY like the plot of that Nickelodeon TV show with the really stupid title -- AHHH!!! Real Monsters. From what I can recall the TV show was about a bunch of monsters whose job it is to scare kids and humans. Suspicious? Hmmm.... I'm a big fan of Pixar and I'm damn sure they will do a much better job with the monsters concept than the Nickelodeon TV show, but come on! This is downright theft. I guess Disney is doing what they do best -- unoriginality.

  • June 4, 2001, 11:39 a.m. CST

    Rudi, you assume too much about movie-geeks...

    by The Killer-Goat

    ..unless you've been following these talkbacks for at least the last 2 years, relating to some potentially evolutionary feats in animation. As you say, the problem is in the execution, but Disney ain't gonna stray from that. Too much money invested to rely on the same general audience to buy the same story with different characters and locations, over and over. No double standard for me, I'd be happy to see ANYthing fresh from Disney/Pixar. I'm sure most geeks here recognize Aardman from Wallace and Gromit, which was a big appeal. If Disney intends to keep it's current "formulaic" staple, then you can't expect to "grow up" with Disney because it'll all be the same thing every time. So your tastes and your children's tastes may mature, but Disney's won't. Not if they keep playing it safe. I'm not saying American animation doesn't have gems, but if we want to see a wider or broader range of animation themes, we sure can't rely on Disney to experiment. Which leaves the competitors. But, hey, Disney has a MUCH bigger promotional budget and media reach, so we already know which films are more likely to get commercial recognition. Which again explains Dreamworks titling over PDI or Aardman. How many general audiences do you know who'd recognize PDI sooner than Dreamworks?

  • June 4, 2001, 11:42 a.m. CST

    ..counter-rant, pt 2.

    by The Killer-Goat

    As for Shrek's musical interludes, are your kids older than any of those songs? I heard more parents appreciating the music out of nostalgia. That, to me, shows the creators had more respect for at least a portion of the mature 'demographic' while still catering to the younger crowd. A counter-Disney (animation) statement in itself. By the way, you don't specify what you didn't like about Price of Egypt. For me, it was an incredible movie, sans the singing, but hey, it was a musical. They did it because Disney does it. Same with RtED. If you tell me it's because it was a story that didn't need an animation medium, then you're already a Disney statistic. You might also be implying an expectation that all animation needs to be "fun". Would you ever consider watching an animated "Out of Africa", "Jacob's Ladder" or "Shawshank Redemption", rated PG-13 or R? Or would that need to be "fun"-ned up to be worth watching --with your kids? If animation can't be recognized in the U.S. as a medium in it's own, capable of a wider variety of themes or stories, then it's pointless to expect to judge each film seperately because they all have to fit the same mold in order to be accepted by American audiences.

  • June 4, 2001, 12:24 p.m. CST

    Wow, looks like we all got our soapboxes!

    by Toonimator

    Major Blood... I don't know "AHH! Real Monsters!" except by sight, but I doubt they play it like a working-class joe type of deal. Disney by itself might have overlooked similarities, but Pixar's involved, too, and I'd like to think Lasseter & Crew would be a little more aware. Both companies definitely look to film influences, but outright ripoffs are few. Disney's gotten a lot of flak for Lion King, heck, even Atlantis! but I still hold a part of myself away from the cynicism that's invaded me when it comes to the state of the animation industry and think that, in most cases, Disney's penchant for imitation is unconcious, if that. It's always said "There are no new ideas" so maybe we should be a little less critical. It's possible that similar character designs are subconcious echoes of characters glimpsed at other times. Most plot similarities are stated outright; "A Bug's Life" echoed "The Magnificent Seven" which in turn echoed "The Seven Samurai". "Lion King", "Kimba" arguments aside, borrowed some from Hamlet. Only the bare-bones, but there it is. It's the more blatant imitations that bug me. Dreamworks/PDI's ANTZ. Thrown into production shortly after Disney/Pixar began developing their project, "Bugs". The stars were both ants, the female lead being the princess... hmm. Then ANTZ got on the fast-track to beat "A Bug's Life" (notice the name change?) out the door. I enjoyed the film, really, but I was bitter about the race & the similarities. PDI's improved tremendously since that film, but it did have its moments!, interesting link you found there! Well, so much for a new take on a classic... Rudi T, I think Dreamworks is given so much credit because they're still a young studio. PDI & Aardman don't get nearly enough credit, but there's no question that in Chicken Run, it's Nick Park & Peter Lord's film (hey, there's another echo, CR's made no secret that it's the Great Escape... with chickens!). Dreamworks was just the facilitator. I think Dreamworks got so much credit for Shrek because of Katzenberg's involvement, the anti-Disney jokes throughout the film, and the fact that, in animation terms, Dreamworks (with Katz) is the chief rival for Disney, in the public eye. Had Quest for Camelot not failed, and Iron Giant been promoted the way it should have been, people might still think of WB as Disney's rival in terms of animation. They certainly are in terms of TV, but feature there's not much competition, so Dreamworks gets the praise for going to bat against the Mouse. Pixar gets most of the credit for their films because of Lasseter's team. Disney brings a sensibility to it, but like Dreamworks to Aardman, Disney's pretty much the facilitator, the people that say "Here's some dough, do your magic!" I'm very interested in seeing if Pixar breaks away from Disney after the contract's up, and see what they come up with. I doubt it'll do a 180 and come up with the Die Hard of animation, but i'd like to see where they go when they leave the nest. Has anyone seen the Fleabie progress update for "A Bug's Life"? When Disney wanted to send a crew up to see how progress was coming on "Bugs", John & Lee & all them said "Wait! Let us do it our way. Stay down there." And they turned out a hilariously dubbed progress reel. Before long, I think Pixar, PDI, and Aardman will be doing their own stuff, either distributing directly or through the big guys. Pixar's definitely got enough clout to pull it off. PDI needs another film or 2 out there, but then, I don't know how much in-house development they do. Aardman, well, thanks to Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit have increased recognition in the public eye, and by the time that film's done, they'll be home free and everyone will know how amazing they are. The Chevron ads have done their share to increase awareness, too! As for Disney & its formula... when it's done well, it's great! But with all that talent they have, not to mention money, why stick to JUST that formula? People want to see Disney explore new territory, because in theory they'd have the easiest time. They've got the name, the money, the power to take the risk of doing something new & seeing if the audience responds, but conversely, the public views anything with the Disney name as a very well-defined kind of entertainment, and anything that strays will spawn all sorts of protests and religious boycotts and other nonsense. Which is why the insider who told me about Lilo & Stitch was excited... I guess on the surface it appears not too different, but he was giddy with the prospect of seeing something new, and more of them down the line. Disney's got so many animation studios, I don't understand why they don't just come up with a more exploratory brand name for these different features! They started Touchstone so they could do more adult-toned live-action without marring the Disney name. They've got Hollywood Pictures and Miramax, too. Why not one for animation?!? It seems so simple, but it's a catch-22... they probably wouldn't want to risk it, because expectations are set for the Formula, but they broaden those expectations unless they risk it! Also, I don't know about everyone else, but I thought Mushu was great in Mulan. My only disappointment was all the contemporary references, and the sunglasses Crik-ee wore at the end. The movie began as something of a period piece, whereas Shrek began by not taking itself seriously at all, tossing around the music & pop-culture bits & Disney-slams everywhere, so Eddie's performance fit perfectly. Nevertheless, I laughed my ass off during his scenes in Mulan... "I think my bunny slippers just ran for cover..." "What's the matter, you never seen a black-&-white before?" etc. Also I think the humor in Mulan was unfortunately necessary... without Mushu, you've got a really serious story, and the sheep of America would have baaa-ed their lungs out at how Disney could fail them so miserably. Okay, that's delving into the cynicism I mentioned before, but it's not too far from the truth! THAT'S why so many want to see Disney try new directions. The old adage goes "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but there's been something broken, some tiny piece, in the last several outings pretty much. They haven't quite gotten the magic of the early 90s back. But hey, what if Ford just stopped at the Model T? Perfected it maybe, upgraded it a bit as the decades went on, but what if that was the ONLY car they made? We're human beings. We need change. Disney doesn't have to abandon the formula, just start up something new in addition! That way everyone's happy (not to mention, more artists are employed!!) and I'd sure rather see some more variety in animated films than the onslaught of "See Spot Run" live-actions being spewed out.

  • June 4, 2001, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Rudi T, about POE and El Dorado

    by Drath

    They were not disappointments in my book, nor in yours based on your comments about witty dialogue and good character development(comercially I'm sure is another story). PoE was darker than most children's films, but that's because it wasn't a children's film. Animation is a medium, not a genre, and it can do more than tell the same story over and over again. Now that said, I agree with you that there is a double standard at this site and amongst most twenty-something animation fans against cartoons, ie animation catering to children. I loved Murphy's Mushu and I wish people would stop tossing him into the same group of under-written Disney side kicks as Meeko the raccoon and Phil the Satyr. He was a delight, the best side kick Disney has featured in recent memory. But the trick is, those of us who are animation fans want the medium to escape this kid's movie niche its been in for a while, and Disney has the power to make that happen. They could have given the Princess Mononoke a real theatrical release, but instead they sat on it and released it to two screens in every other state--if that. It could have been a huge film for them to distribute, but it took animation in very different directions. They didn't even try to sell something that new, and it was a shame. They could be making more than just the fluffy cartoons with songs and comedy and I believe they could find the audience for serious animation if they really tried. I'm not saying they should stop making animated films targeted for kids, that's their life's blood and it shouldn't be eliminated. But forgive me for believing that animation is more than kid's stuff. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I think the audience for an adult animated film is out there. I don't think kids' movies need to follow the same formula either to be good and successful either. Have you seen My Neighbor Totoro? If not I highly recomend it to you. As for Dreamworks getting so much credit for the films they didn't do in-house and Disney not getting credit for Pixar's work, you got me. But I want Dreamworks to continue with its traditional animation because, unlike Disney, I love everything they've done.********Why would anyone compare Lilo and Stitch to Iron Giant in a cynical way? Excuse me, but by that logic Iron Giant is just an ET rip off, isn't it? I loved Iron Giant, it didn't get the hype it deserved, but I don't see how Lilo and Stitch deserves criticism for its concept. So far, all these concepts sound promising. I'm glad to hear Peter Pan 2 is considered good enough for the big screen. It sounds like they've learned what Spielberg forgot when he made Hook--Peter Pan WILL NEVER GROW UP! I think he got caught up in his "Peter Pan is a metaphor for me as a director/storyteller" idea and forgot the essence of the source material. The only ending for his Pan sequel would have been for Peter's son to stay in Neverland as his replacement, but that's a pretty bleak ending and Spielberg has vowed never to break up a family again after Close Encounters. But I digress. Anyway, I eagerly await Lilo and Stitch and Treasure Planet, both sound like gems. Monster's Inc. sounds good too, which is getting to be a given when Pixar's involved. I'll just pretend they aren't making Hunchback 2, it looks like a TV show to me.

  • June 4, 2001, 12:27 p.m. CST

    Wow, I wrote a lot.

    by Toonimator

    I'll be signing Volumes I-III of my above post tomorrow at the Marina Del Rey Barnes & Noble from 1-4pm...

  • June 4, 2001, 12:31 p.m. CST

    Sorry, Rudi

    by Drath

    I didn't see those other posts until after I'd posted. Didn't mean to make it feel like we're ganing up on you(it happens on here, believe me).

  • June 4, 2001, 12:56 p.m. CST


    by Dr.Mo

    Saw it last night at The El Capitan. I think you are all gonna love it! More adult than the Disney standard, but still great for ages 4 and up... Great visuals, decent script...very "Raiders" in a way.

  • June 4, 2001, 1:02 p.m. CST

    Hey Reviewer, you failed to mention about Peter Pan 2 that...

    by Sith Witch

    They Might Be Giants did several songs for the film, including the Lost Boys theme for this outing called, "Now That You're One of Us". I do not know anything about that guy you mentioned as having done the music, but TMBG is more than enough to get me into the theatre next March!

  • June 4, 2001, 1:08 p.m. CST


    by Rudi T

    I don

  • June 4, 2001, 1:13 p.m. CST


    by Rudi T

    No need to apologize. I enjoy an intelligent debate -- it's good for the soul. I like the idea of Disney releasing an adult animation under their Touchstone or Miramax banners. Realistically, though, it would have to have a small enough budget so it could still be "profitable" (another dreaded term, I know) for the studio without a huge audience.

  • June 4, 2001, 1:20 p.m. CST


    by butcher666

    The is a test you nerds!

  • June 4, 2001, 1:49 p.m. CST


    by roctiv

    Sorry, but I don't agree with the two posters who think LILO AND STITCH doesn't sound uncomfortably similar to IRON GIANT. It's true that all stories about a kid befriending a mysterious figure or wild animal have similarities, but this one goes further than that. Both these films are animated (and off the top of my head I can't think of any other Hollywood feature animations that used this theme), which puts them in pretty select company, and most important, both of them make the mysterious figure an outer space alien designed by its creators to be a killing machine, who (SPOILER WARNING, if you haven't read other reports on this film....................) eventually befriends and gets reformed by an innocent human child. That in itself makes these two stories a lot more similar than IRON GIANT is to E.T., in my opinion. Apparently, both IG and LAS also feature a scene where the lovable killing machine learns what fun it is to play in water. I am bewildered as to why a modern-day little girl would be depicted as an Elvis Presley fan (it could happen in real life, but in a Disney animation?), but it certainly makes for another IG comparison, considering that film's 1950s soundtrack. And these two films are being released within three years of each other. I am just as skeptical of yelling "rip off" as anyone (it is possible that all this was coincidence), and I honestly truly hope that LILO AND STITCH overcomes this overfamiliarity, but it's going to have to be *very* good to do that.

  • June 4, 2001, 3:09 p.m. CST


    by Toonimator

    I think it'll be a bit more distinguished from IG. As bitter as the insider I spoke with was about Atlantis' story, I think he'd have been similarly annoyed if L&S ended up a lot like IG. Especially since some mutual friends work(ed) for WB animation. The descriptions of the Disney previews seemed unfinished, definitely not proof-read, so I wouldn't be surprised if they're mostly just rushed reports in general terms. Stitch, it looks like, is something more like Zeta, a killing machine that changes. Well, this one might forget, it's kinda vague. IG had amnesia, but it wasn't entirely clear if he was meant as a weapon or as a line of defense, since he only reacted when threatened by weapons; and again, we get no backstory, and have nobody trying to retrieve him. Stop him, yes, but not retrieve... making Stitch again similar to Zeta. He loses his weapons too (which Zeta did in his original Batman Beyond appearance) and I guess he's some sort of alien-looking animalistic creature, but not alien enough that they don't think twice about putting him in the pound, where he views the other dogs & changes appearance accordingly. That's the impression of what I read up there anyway. On the surface there are many similarities, but those can be drawn to ET & other such films, as well... I wouldn't put it past the Folks In Charge at the mousehouse, but I also feel that the industry as a whole should/would respect Iron Giant too much to make a blatant ripoff. The good points we get are a contemporary story with semi-contemp music (hey, Elvis made a couple flicks in Hawaii, right? and with all the young people I know who love the Stones or Beatles, someone loving Elvis isn't that far off), an original story (if not a totally original plot-premise) and yet another "location" picture from Disney. They've hit many different cultures now... of course, I know several people who are still wondering where an Afro-centric story is!!! There's gotta be plenty of material they can work with. I'm gonna try to keep an open mind, because L&S is supposed to be the first of the expansion films.

  • June 4, 2001, 3:25 p.m. CST

    This may be the wrong panel to discuss "other-than-Disney" anima

    by The Killer-Goat

    since it appears your points are specifically family-related, Rudi, but by your statements I'm left with the impression that, to the general American audience, animation isn't meant to be anything other than for family entertainment...and perhaps a small percentage of 20- or 30-something kids that never grew up (yes I'm not a parent --yet). Should animation "know it's place", so to speak? As if to reinforce the traditional "that's just the way it's always been..." ideology. There actually was a time when animation was an adult medium, back when Bugs & Co. were touted in the theatres, and of course WB had a lot of good efforts in the 90's. Not least of which was a series of Batman creations that lasted up until WB closed down their animation studio, likely meant to appeal to teens and even 20-somethings (flying bullets and bloody noses--not fer kids!). I'm expecting more from our own animation studio's because they have the talent but get held back, as you said, to cater to the reliable demographic. And again, I ask: would you have gone to see Shrek without your family? Could you appreciate it deSPITE it's family value messages? Not to force a point, since you could have an open mind and I may have misinterpreted again, but why is animation something to 'outgrow'? The common denominator for animation seems to be families, and so every Disney film recycles. It's little wonder no one's willing to reach outside the shell. "Animation is just for children, and parents. And big kids. That's America for you!" 2 series I have to commend for their efforts here in the U.S. are Spawn and The Maxx. I don't have them on tape but they experimented on cable, and they sure ain't kiddie-flicks. They'd never make it in our national theatres for all the wrong reasons, and it's a damned shame. Titan A.E. STILL didn't succeed as a mature film --it was watered down for the sake of family viewers again. I'm trying not to knock the "family value" animation efforts, because god knows we need them, but it's hard NOT to, when our culture is so nauseatingly over-saturated with them!! And we simply accept, like obedient little consumer-herds, that it must be good for ourselves and our children, without question. The problem is with the overwhelmingly large herd of viewers that always seem to prove Disney right, then reinforce the standard when something "different" or not "fun" shows up. My difficulty with your opinion is that it appears to be your ONLY opinion, a constant and typically regenerative perspective that supports all the rest of the herd, with no foresee-able change in the near future. Thus my statement that our animation pool is stagnant and beginning to mold. Change would be good about now.

  • June 4, 2001, 4:02 p.m. CST

    Why remake "Hook"?

    by Rollo Tomassi

    I have always had an enormous fondness for "Peter Pan", and while I realize I could be stones for saying this, darn it, I loved "Hook". And I don't see any need for Disney to blatantly remake it, especially when they're taking out the most interesting part of the story (Peter Pan growing). This really bugs me.

  • June 4, 2001, 5:02 p.m. CST

    Goatkiller Again

    by Rudi T

    I don't know if you misinterpreted me or I just didn't make my point well, which is not so much about what "should" be, but rather that Disney movies shouldn't be criticized for not being more "mature," and the company shouldn't be criticized for not making serious movies targeted specifically to adults. That's not their game and parents rely on the Disney brand in taking their kids to these shows. Now, that doesn't mean adults can't enjoy these movies and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I think it'd be great to make and market a quality adult-oriented movie (except Disney would have to use one of its other labels). It's just that I think such a movie would have an uphill battle finding a large audience the way perceptions are today among ordinary moviegoers. So you would have to make it really good, at a reasonable cost and market the shit out of it. Where you get in touble is when you spend tens of millions making a "serious" movie, which means you almost have to market it to kids to make any money. No one should be surprised when the kids don't respond, because they're looking for fun, not serious drama.

  • June 4, 2001, 7:39 p.m. CST

    How many Japanese anime series/OAV's is Disney going to rip off

    by Monkey_King

    First they ripped off and re-wrote Kimba the White Lion(Jungle Taitei) and made The Lion King, then Secret of Blue Water and Laputa and made ATLANTIS. What's next? Lilo & Stitch as well as Treasure Planet sound awfully fishy to me. I'm sure I'm not the only one with these thoughts either. Has all the originality left Disney studios?

  • June 4, 2001, 8:23 p.m. CST

    OK, Toonimator

    by roctiv

    You make some good points there, so I'll hold out hope for LILO. I would certainly like to see Disney pull off a really innovative and worthwhile animated film. And I admit that the alien-having-fun-splashing-in-a-body-of-water similarity might be hard for the LILO writers to avoid, considering Hawaii's location.

  • June 4, 2001, 9:45 p.m. CST

    Lest we forget that it's show BUISNESS, not show ART, or show FU

    by NightNdaze

    Disney will only do what they need to artistically to get people in the theatre, which they think will get people to go to McDonald's for the Happy Meal tie-in, which they think will get people to go to Disney World for the new "insert film title" REAL WORLD ADVENTURE RIDE, which they think will get people to buy the t-shirts, the posters, and in 6 months they will buy the video, the DVD (OOH, maybe with new "added" footage...OOH!), which they think they can sell for a sequel and they can just repeat the whole process. These movies are just 1 1/2 hour fucking commercials for their shit. They don't care about the artistry, or whether it's pushing the animation envelope. They just want to increase the price of their stock...I'm sure Walt would be SO proud. Barf!

  • June 5, 2001, 3:11 a.m. CST

    Speaking of Disney

    by roctiv

    here's what a Disney executive said about Sony's faked critic: "We would never, never, never, ever do that." <chortle>

  • June 5, 2001, 3:30 a.m. CST

    Other Disney Sequel Classics To Join Peter Pan 2 In Your Video C

    by Victor von Doom

    "Sleeping Beauty 2": Aurora falls asleep again and Phillip has to do something *really* drastic to wake her up. >>> "The Fox and The Hound 2": Tod and Copper end up in Britain and take part in the anti-fox-hunting protests. >>> "Old Yeller 2": Turns out they buried Yeller in the 'Pet Semetary', allowing the faithful, rabid beast to return home in a *big* way! >>> Sorry folks, I just sort of get tired of sequels squeezed out of films that were complete in and of themselves. Stories open-ended enough to have sequels ("Tarzan 2", rah!) are another thing entirely. Those that have a beginning/middle/end should never be strip-mined because the resulting faint nuggets of worth are never worth it, save for parody.

  • June 5, 2001, 10:35 a.m. CST


    by Flansy

    Good report, thanks. However, I seem to recall having seen all of the abovementioned before... back when they were called TITAN A.E., IRON GIANT, HOOK, LITTLE MONSTERS, and STARGATE. I'm at least grateful that Atlantis seems to have a more mature production-style, a la Titan A.E., but I still don't think Disney has an original bone left in their metaphorical cryogenically-frozen-corpse. (Are they still going ahead with that godawful "SEARCH FOR MICKEY" project as well???)

  • Who said that? Darn I wish I could remember, I just recall Chuck Heston quoting it in a documentary somewhere. I thought it summed up what everyone is trying to say quite nicely. I still say that, given Disney's deal to distribute and dub Miyazaki's films, that they have the perfect opportunity to introduce serious, watchable, animated movies to American audiences that would change the face of how we as a culture look at animation. Science Fiction wasn't taken seriously until Star Wars. It found its audience by being bold, by showing familiar ideas in a new way--opening people's eyes if you will. Animation is a little different, its more than a genre, it's a totally different form of filmmaking--an expensive form. But it will find it's adult audience in the US if it's really given the chance(read: it's a good movie with a good solid marketing campaign and generates good word of mouth). I'm convince that if Americans will go to see a foreign movie like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon complete with subtitles, then they can be won over by a great animated film. Alas, Disney already botched Mononoke's theatrical release and there's been neither hide nor hair of of his other films save Kiki's Delivery Service(which had that family demographic easily, yet still wasn't put in theaters). Without change there is stagnation--without risk there is no glory. Not that the bean counters won't do all they can to prove that statement wrong. Until they really start believing they're missing out on a piece of someone else's pie, they won't take the chance. I really hope Atlantis will give them the wiff they need. I'd say Final Fantasy, but that's not traditional animation, and the word of mouth is that it's not such a great movie either.

  • June 5, 2001, 7:50 p.m. CST

    Bambi 2: The Revenge

    by Infinityplus

    Announcer: Years ago,<cue the flashbacks that fade in and out> we met a young deer and all of his forest friends. Announcers voice gets deeper: In 2001, things have gone horribly wrong <fade to black> Thumper: Bambi? Where are we? BLAM! The screen erupts with 1 second bites of total action scenes blazing on the screen... Then Bambi and the cast have a freeze frame action scene that fades in from the rear of the screen....and we are treated to a really cool logo for: Bambi 2: the Revenge ====================== Hey it could happen :) look at Peter Pan 2 <and here I thought Hook took care of the sequel> Disney: STOP damnit!

  • June 5, 2001, 9:10 p.m. CST

    Now I'm worried about Atlantis

    by Redbeard_NV

    Just saw the latest commercial behind the Disney media blitz (besides the Mattel figures and the bizzare stand-up featuring Thatch, Rourke and other team members with a constipated, err, concernated look on their faces. Listen closely, boomers, and you will hear Styx's "Come Sail Away" on one of the latest 30 second spots. Besides "ripping off" a classic rock hit to promote this movie, it chills my bones how many teeny-boppers wil think it's part of the soundtrack? Sort of like that commercial with the teenaged girl who asks her dad, "Let me get this straight:you're saying that Julian Lennon's Dad and Paul McCartney were in a band together before Wings?" Sheesh!

  • June 12, 2001, 12:35 p.m. CST

    L&S Completely Original

    by Insidor

    If the premise to "Lilo and Stitch" sounds "fishily familiar," it's mainly because of two recurring Disney elements: the fiesty girl heroine (Lilo) and what turns out to be the unlikely hero (Stitch). Otherwise, this is an animated feature for the rest of us, the adults. It contains many grown up themes, such as being orphaned, poverty, depression, loss, neglect (etc.), but of course still contains the necessary classic hooks to keep the kiddies entertained. One nice departure from the formulaic animated blockbuster flicks of the recent past is the absence of Broadway-like showstopping numbers (think "Under The Sea" and resulting tableau from "The Little Mermaid"). Instead, Disney has substituted Elvis as little Lilo's muse and extension of her emotions. (The song Lilo is listening to after her disasterous hula class is, appropriately, "Heartbreak Hotel" -- which she is lipsyncing to, not singing.) Lilo is quirky, and it serves only to make her more real. She's unpopular with her mates (she actually gets into a fight -- fists and all -- with another girl from hula class); she takes pictures of overweight people at the beach, which she considers "beautiful!"; she listens to Elvis on vinyl, she feeds her favorite 'pet' fish in the ocean cheese sandwiches at the appointed time everyday, and, too poor to afford toys, deals with lonliness by fashioning dolls from plants and trees. She's an absolute sweetheart and one of the most original animated characters ever dreamed up. I won't give away too much, but Stitch is a surprise also. A ruthless killer and literal planet destroyer all wrapped up in a furry, blue, 4' creature, all ears, nose, and teeth. After being thrown into the pound, Stitch realizes his only hope of escape is to attract the attention of a human who will free him. In so doing, he tucks two of his six legs up underneath him, leans down on all fours and assumes the general shape of a dog. Lilo, always on the lookout for the strange, different, or outcast, notices the unusal dog and decides that will be her pet. What follows from there is an unforgettable and heartwrenching romp. Another surprise character is Mr. Bubbles, the social worker who's suspicous of the care Nani is giving her underage sister. Think about the name Mr. Bubbles. Now picture what the man should look like. Then think again -- Mr. Bubbles will not be what you expect (was a big laugh for me anyway). A big laugh early on is the opening of the movie. The opening is actually of the penal review of Stitch, in outer space. A committe is deciding his fate, giving us background on his henious crimes and what will be his fate. His escape is hilarious and pretty ingenious (giving us clues to his intelligence and resourcefulness), and the last thing we see is his escape pod being monitored by the committee as it splash-lands down on some planet. The head of the policing agency nods towards the sphere and says, "That planet is eighty percent water, and he hates water. It should be easy to find him on such an dingy, small, ugly planet." -- quickly cut to a montage of incredibly beautiful, colorful, neon tropical fish swimming amidst fantastically bright, clear aquamarine water. Surprise! It's Earth... and "dingy, ugly" Hawaii. A lot of very creative thinking went into this, and a lot of formulaic Disney stuff was shelved to create something more emotional and different. The story is quirky, touching, breathtaking and exciting, and I predict it will be the runaway hit of the season. You saw "The Little Mermaid" three times? Get ready to see "Lilo & Stitch" at least eight.